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Provide Free Technical Training To Increase Profits

Technical product training, things like Splunk, Cisco, Ubuity, Azure, and similar, should be free. All of it, not just bits and pieces. Not only is it a good marketing tactic, it makes financial sense. Here's why.

Product training is essential to the proper operation of your product. Without guidance users may incorrectly implement or manage the systems. Worse, they might make security mistakes. Manufacturers typically include some amount of "free" training with a sale, but this limits the trained operator market, i.e. labor, to people already employed or already working for a company that uses the product and purchases training.

As a hiring manager with a purchasing budget, this is problematic for two reasons. First, if I need to expand my team or replace a resource, I have a lag associated with getting the new person trained. Second, I can go to the market and ask for someone skilled in X, but that's going to be a very limited market, and due to scarcity, resources will be at a premium. This is not good for me and becomes part of my consideration for product purchases.

Product training needs to be high quality and accessible. Poorly training resources produce bad results and your name is associated with it which impacts sales. Poor quality also means the trainees will get less out of the material. Nobody listens to boring instructors or reads incomprehensible technical instructions.

Good training instruction and materials, however, pave the way for fast adoption and time to utility (TTU), the point at which an implementing organization sees financial upside. This means if you are providing free limited time trials, people can hit the TTU within the window. Failing that means either more pre-sales touches, which adds cost, or a lost account. So this TTU thing is important and quality training is the key.

Inferior training may show up on secondary training sites like Udemy or LinkedIn. It is essential that your company provide better, more accessible training or people will turn to those sites and obtain (likely) inferior training which reinforces a bad resource pool and failed test implementations that equate to lost sales and reputation for you, the manufacturer.

Any training provided must be high quality because it is impossible for me to discriminate in hiring, and I could end up hiring someone who is less skilled and then have to put them through training regardless, so no net savings over hiring someone unskilled. Worse, they may actually have learned something wrong and do damage.

And if you try to repress the secondary market without providing an alternative, you'll get killed in the market. Nobody likes a bully, least of all technical people, because information wants to be free. Your training needs to be more available and better than anything else on the market.

The competition may provide free training and free training systems, which, yes, does permit the bottom rungs of the market to operate freely, albeit without support, but most importantly, creates a saturated marketplace of skilled practitioners, allowing me to hire cheaply and easily whenever I need to. This is good. And that bottom rung isn't costing you a dime, because they wouldn't have purchased your product at any profitable price. So free training is a net win across the board.

Finally, there's another key business reason for providing free resources: you are able to control the quality. You're able to monitor a much larger product use, identify markets, improve trend awareness, examine key metrics that contribute to improved operation and sales, and even enhance your bug detection. Oh, and you also benefit from being able to hire skilled personnel, just like your customers.

So why isn't it all free, manufacturers? Why try to generate a marginal amount of cashflow when it's provably counterproductive to increasing your sales? When there are obvious, clear bottom-line reasons for providing free access? Do the smart thing and free the training.

And what can we as consumers and purchasers do to encourage this? Ask. Keep asking. Ensure it is incorporated into your purchasing and hiring cost calculations. Pressure vendors to provide free training for the life of the product. Solicit feedback from your trainees on the quality. Incorporate all of this into your metrics, so that the next time you turn to the marketplace to fill a need, you get the optimal result. That's what competitive advantage is.

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