When I look at G2 or what G2 is doing so well — and I have done this in the past with G2 — I don’t want to be G2. I can’t. I’m a human. So instead, I look into the people at G2 doing the things I’m trying to achieve.
And I say, what are they doing? I look into those humans that are succeeding. How you stand out is by capturing that story.
At Influitive, we do Upshot stories with Dan Kalmar and Kim. They write first-person stories about the customers in the company. They write case studies, conduct interviews, and produce compelling stories about the customers rather than how a company talks about its customers and how their product saved the day.
I mean, look at what is a traditional case study. We all know this — we look for our best name brands with the best metrics or actionable, reportable KPIs, right? We say let’s show them here. We all know how to tell a good story about ourselves. We all know the important metrics to talk about to our ideal customer profile. So that doesn’t stand out.
What stands out is a person talking about their experience. That’s why customer reference calls, prior use with the product, and what the reviews say are crucial because they come from the customer’s mouth. So how can you tell stories from their perspective?
I use this analogy a lot. Nobody gets out of the movie like Star Wars and says I want to be the Millennium Falcon. I want to be a lightsaber. I want to be a blaster.
No, you say, “I want to be a Han Solo.” But if you say you’re Han Solo, you know you’re flying the Millennium Falcon. If you want to be Princess Leia, you’re using a blaster.
So, put the company in the perspective of a tool that helps them succeed. Then your prospects and industry will see you in a different light. And that’ll break through all of this noise because they’re seeing how successful your customers are from their perspective, not yours. That’s how you stick out.
If a company wants to stick out with customer advocacy, where should it start?
So one, you already have your low-hanging fruits. We, you, and every company already have the advocates they’ve targeted, right? You can start there.
You can return to those same case studies you’ve created and reposition them. Next, you’ve got to develop programs. One of the things is we burn out our customer advocates. We go back to them repeatedly because we don’t have enough of them.
We’re not expanding our advocates at the rate we’re trying to boost sales. So, say you need 40% growth year over year. But are you expanding your advocacy program by 40% year over year? Are you investing the money into your advocacy and customer marketing programs to grow at that rate? I guarantee you’re not.
I’ll give you an example. I got hired at one company, and I’ll keep the name out, but we were responsible for 35% to 40% of all net new revenue. It had to come from our existing install base.
I was on a marketing team of 75 people. Our customer marketing team had five. We were responsible for almost half, but we had five people on our team. Think about the load that we were undertaking. Did we get 35% to 40% of the budget? Nope! Did we get 35% to 40% of the slideware that went in front of executives even? No.
Many customer marketers are dealing with this right now, where they have an extensive set of responsibilities. Their charter is huge. They are hamstrung when it comes to succeeding. So, the next thing you must invest in is that part of your company. You have to invest in the ability to expand at the rate at which you’re trying to grow, at the rate at which you are expanding.
Look at Salesforce and how much they put into their Trailblazer community. Think about how much they invest in that, and guess what, who sells that? I barely ever get sales reaching out from Salesforce ever.
But I will tell you, I get it from many other companies nonstop. So it’s word of mouth, building that community, and investing in community expansion because you can’t just expect it to grow organically. You need to nurture and foster it to build scalable programs.
You talked about the budget. How does a customer-led focus fit into the current economic climate where companies are constantly under pressure to hit revenue targets?
Yes, we’re trying to hit these revenue targets, and we know that the market is shifting. But customer success exists because we want to retain and expand customers. We want them to upsell, cross-sell, and expand with us. But all of our marketing dollars are historically put into advertising, demand generation, and new logo acquisition.
A good thing for the customer marketing world was COVID, and I know it’s a terrible thing to say. When COVID hit, we could no longer sell door to door or attend events. For the first time in a long time, companies started looking at reports to find out buyers who were more likely to make decisions and renew contracts. As companies took this seriously and want to sell to existing customers, they jumped the gun.
You have to follow a value chain because you can’t sell more to an unengaged customer. We all have done that and pushed them further away. So, you need to focus on lifecycle marketing. How do you get customers to engage and adopt?
Focus on onboarding. How do you take your customers’ experiences and put that back into education? In onboarding, one of the fastest ways to help improve the adoption of your training materials is to put customer voice into your training materials.
An example of this is what we had in our academy. We had a learning path that involved turning on AI and machine learning components in our product. It took a line or two of code and a toggle button inside the admin panel. Our customers in the securities and exchange (SEC) compliance and healthcare sectors weren’t comfortable because they needed to know exactly how everything worked. People in these sectors were skipping that learning path.
I captured a couple of hospitals that have already adopted it and experienced better results. I took their stories and put them before the learning path. So, once you get to that stage of the learning path, there is a video to watch from customers talking about the benefits. We upped our engagement rate by like 43% on that. I can’t remember now; maybe it was 70%.
We forget to take our customers’ voices and lead people. How do we help introduce them into the community? How do we make them those internal champions? That’s where marketing plays a strong role.
I feel so bad about customer success managers because they’re treading water. They have more accounts than they can handle. I’m yet to meet a customer success manager who has time to learn something new. They’re struggling. Sales is stressful too, but they get a lot of support from marketing.
Marketing focuses on the post-sales side, and customer success managers are pulling slides from different decks. They have to become the marketing manager, the agent, the sports agent, and the coach. And it’s stressful. Plus, they must be guardians of the accounts they own because everyone’s trying to touch their accounts more.
“Start by investing first in the infrastructure of scaling marketing programs for the post-sale experience. You must invest in it, or you won’t meet your revenue targets.”
Vice President of Customer Marketing & Advocacy, Influitive
When you put more dollars into advertising and experience diminishing rates of return for every dollar you invest, you’ll see an inverse hockey stick trend. Because the spray and pray method is just too noisy, especially in downturn economies like we’re in. These diminishing return rates burn out not just your prospects but also employees.
Then you have this downward spiral. You must let go of senior people to clear up more budget and hire lower-level people who cost less. You have this backward cycle that you start rolling on. We see it happening all over the place.
At the same time, we 100% know that customer-led companies grow 1.8 times faster than their peers. Customer-obsessed companies grow 2.5 times faster than non-obsessed ones. And that’s annual.
Having that customer-led approach fuels all the good practices you need to run the rest of your company. The more you expand with your customers, the more you share goodness, and the easier it is to get new customers because existing customers refer you to new customers when you aren’t in the room.
Be customer-first in all you do to gain an advantage that your competitors can’t minimize.
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