Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Help your customers become better

Engagement and churn are topics that companies have to think about all the time. How to optimize the on-boarding to keep your users in the platform, how to make your product either addictive enough or providing enough value to get them return.

A customer who doesn’t know enough: either about the field they are working on or your product, uses your product less and is a churn-risk every day. On the other hand, a customer who is a power-user and expert in what they do get more value out of their tools and are willing to invest in them.

Investing into the customer education beyond the normal quick on-boarding by sales or customer care is a strategy that pays off in increased engagement and revenue. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how you can do it.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Smartly Connect

Smartly.io is a Finnish company that builds tools for the world’s top Facebook and Instagram advertisers. They help their customers getting the best possible result with their digital ads.

Their pricing is based on the monthly ad spend on Facebook’s ad platform. So it’s easy to see the correlation: the better ads their customers create, the more they are willing to spend, thus increasing the revenue of Smartly. They benefit from their customers being the best experts in social media advertising.

Smartly has a great Customers team that helps their customers not only by fixing issues in the platform but actually helping them optimize their ads and become better. And in addition to that, they started running Smartly Connect events.

Smartly Connect brings together top advertisers in the area to learn and share knowledge. They also get a direct access to their customers for feedback and learning from them so they can further build the platform. For a customer, attending Smartly Connect gives access to industry experts, Smartly’s product team and tons of valuable knowledge to apply to their daily work.

(Disclaimer: I used to work at Smartly in 2015)

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Buffer Slack

Working in the realm of social media is also Buffer who has a different kind of approach to educate their customers. Buffer runs a SaaS service helping social media managers to queue up their posts, share posts easily across different medias (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+) and gain access to post analytics.

The education part of the puzzle for them is a global Slack community of digital marketing experts. Currently a community of almost 5000 experts and enthusiasts, Buffer Slack is a perfect place to learn, teach and network. In the Slack they have weekly activities such as a Community Mastermind every Thursday where members share their insights, experiments and learnings from the previous week and offer each other ideas and support.

While a Slack community is not a direct sales channel, building a community around your current and future users is a great way to engage and upsell with a long-term strategy. As I mentioned in the introduction, customers who are experts in what they do, tend to use their tools more effectively. And it’s a great way to gain direct feedback from your most passionate users.

(Disclaimer: I am a happy Buffer user and a Buffer Slack Community Host alumni)

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Twilio Developer Evangelists

For companies building tools aimed for developers, evangelism/advocacy team is a good approach. Twilio builds an API service that allows you to connect via SMS, voice and video.

API technology is bit more complex to start using than the tools that for example Buffer or Smartly mentioned earlier offer. So it makes sense to ensure that your target audience knows how to use it and inspire new, potential customers about the opportunities.

Last month I talked with a couple of Twilio Dev Evangelists about their job and the approach Twilio has in helping developers to integrate Twilio to their applications. By being active experts in conferences, meetups, workshops and hackathons they provide insights and direct help for developers who want to get started or struggle with the integration.

Imagine a situation where you’re working on an integration with platform X and you run into issues. In which case would you be more likely to become a happy, paying customer: the one were you know a dev evangelist from the company who can help you (or one is in the event giving you a hand) versus one where you end up googling for Stack Overflow posts and banging your head to the desk.

(Disclaimer: I’m a new Twilio user who loves how easy it makes my life. I recently built CVilio — a resume via SMS.)

Photo by Entis


It’s about lunch time when I’m writing this and that brings me to my next example: recipes. You can have the most brilliant food ingredient or the best sauce but if nobody knows how to combine it with other things to make a tasty meal, you’re missing out on sales.

Finnish market chain Kesko has a store brand called Pirkka with a couple of thousand different products. In their stores, they distribute a bi-monthly newsletter full of delicious recipes and have an online bank of 7000+ recipes (in Finnish only).

It’s even more important for smaller brands: a Finnish startup Entis is creating the future of insect food and a regular Joe probably has no idea how to cook with crickets (I sure don’t). Entis runs an email newsletter with recipes for their forward-thinking customers. This way they can not only educate their customers but also bring their product to their mind again and again.

(Disclaimer: I’m hungry)

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