I love hosting online classes for Basecamp. Twice a week, our team gets to meet with customers and show them how Basecamp can help them be more awesome. And every time I talk to other support teams about our classes, the conversation always turns to how to get started.
I fully believe that you should be offering classes to your customers this year. So let’s talk about how to get you started with them.
Steps for hosting a successful class
1) Create the class.
You’ve got to start somewhere on this, right? So start with laying out the class itself. Pick the general topic first. If this is the first class you’ll offer, go with a general introduction to your product topic. You’ll want to cover things like the basics of what your product can do to help your customers be more awesome at their job.
After you pick the topic, write out a list of items you want to cover in the class. Then work those items into a natural flow that a person new to your product might go through. From that list, create a script for yourself to follow during the class. That’ll come in handy for the first few classes. Save the improving for when you’re more familiar with how you want this class to go.
Last point on this one – save time at the end for a live Q&A. A class without a chance to ask questions is just a video. By having a Q&A, it becomes a two-way street and gives you a much better experience.
2) Pick a video conference tool.
There’s a lot of them out there. GoToWebinar, Adobe Connect, WebEx, Google Hangouts, etc. I use GoToWebinar because it works well when you’ve got a few hundred people in the class. If you’re looking at a smaller class, Google Hangouts are a great, free option.
3) Set up a landing page with upcoming classes and sign up.
You’ll need a page to direct people to for signing up. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just tell people what the class will be about, give a list of upcoming class times, and include a link to sign up for each class time that you offer. By having them sign up, you’ll have a good idea of how many people will attend each one. Plus, you’ll get their name and email so you can follow-up with them after the class. (More on that part later).
4) Add a link to that landing page on your marketing site and any welcome emails.
The page only works if people know about it. So send it out on a regular basis. Add it to any tours that you have on your marketing site. Include it in any welcome emails to new customers. Getting new customers to take a class will help with any product onboarding that you do.
5) Test it all out!
Don’t let a customer try any of this before you test it out. Check the entire flow from registering for a class to showing up at the right time for it. I’ve seen too many people not test their tech and end up with egg on their face come class time.
6) Record it.
Every customer won’t be able to make your live class times. After you get a couple under your belt, record one of them and add it to your sign up page. That way customers can always watch a class on their schedule rather than waiting around on yours.
7) Follow-up with attendees.
After the class is over, send the attendees a short follow-up email. You got their name and email address back in step three, right? This gives you a chance to say thanks for attending. They get a chance to ask you any lingering questions.
Things to keep in mind
The more you host an online class, the more little things you’ll learn. Here’s a few quick little things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Keep them short.
Even if you offer these classes for free (and you should), customers are still paying by giving you their time. 30 minutes is more than enough for an online class that’s a general intro to your product. More advanced classes make take longer but even then, I’d recommend to stick close to 30 minutes or less.
Make them easy to register and attend.
If customers have to fill out huge sign up forms, you’ll see a drop off in registrations. All you need is their name and email. That’s more than enough to sign up for a class. For the attending part, don’t make them download some video conference app that only works on a specific operating system or browser. That’s just more hassle for them.
Don’t call them a webinar.
Seriously, don’t use the word “webinar”. It’s dumb, stupid, and just sounds wrong. Really, who though putting “web” and “seminar” together was a good idea?
Make time zones easy.
Unless your product is only used by people in one timezone, you’re going to run into the joy of time zones. On your landing page, make sure you show the timezone clearly. Otherwise, you’ll have people like me showing up an hour early or an hour late because I didn’t know you meant Pacific Time for the class start time.
Customers love online classes
I’ve been part of online classes for over two years now and the majority of customers I’ve talked to love them. They love getting free training and having the live Q&A to get answers right there.
Give it a shot this year. I’m betting your customers will love it too.