Are you itching for more real-world advice from experts in customer marketing who continue to innovate and educate? So were we! Welcome to Episode 11 of The Advocacy Channel with special guest Leslie Barrett from Sendoso.
As the Director of Customer Marketing and Advocacy at Sendoso, the leading sending platform for personalized gifts, branded swag, eGifts, and more, Leslie is passionate about the power of customer advocacy and finding new ways to surprise and delight customers.
In this episode, learn about her journey to becoming an award-winning customer marketer, how she develops advocates from the beginning of the customer journey, and the important lessons she’s learned along the way. Tune in to hear Leslie’s invaluable knowledge, experience, and tactical insights to boost your own success in customer marketing.
Check out the full episode below, or keep reading for our favorite pieces of advice from the episode.
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How do you develop advocates from the very beginning of the customer journey?
(Listen from 11:30)
When it comes to creating advocates for your brand, why not get started right away?
After hearing from others who were struggling with customer marketing, Leslie realized that timely education and information weren’t standard practices when it came to communicating with customers.
Leslie took on the philosophy of having something in the customers’ inbox as soon as they’re thinking of it and providing them with relevant content at the relevant time in order to build trust. She found this to be instrumental in ensuring success when asking customers to, later on, join an advocacy program, because the trust and recognition are already in place from this regular communication and familiarity.
When it comes to knowing and understanding what exactly the customers need and when, Leslie makes a point of not guessing, but doing what she calls a “ride-along” (14:00) with those customers who appear to be thought leaders, are keen to innovate, and who don’t mind having her ride shotgun during their onboarding experience.
“We basically say, ‘Hey, I’m Leslie Barrett from customer marketing. I really want to go on this journey with you to better improve the onboarding journey for our entire customer base. If I can be a part of your journey and get five minutes from you after every touchpoint during the onboarding journey, this is going to be monumental for the entire customer base.’” (14:40)
She does this by going on Zoom calls and checking in with them either by email, survey, or on Slack to ask questions like: (15:51)
- Was anything unclear during that last call? Was it too much of a fire hose?
- What did you feel like you needed more of?
- What types of content would be good at this stage?
Gathering this information from real customers not only helps them feel like their opinions are valued but helps improve the next iteration of the onboarding experience for new users, ultimately increasing their success with the platform and their willingness to advocate.
Leslie adds that when undertaking an initiative like this, it’s important to emphasize why it’s a big deal, and how it will improve the experience for everyone. “I would think that most people would be open to it because it’s helping them at the same time. But it’s all in how you position it with why it’s important, how it will benefit them in the end, and why it’s going to be a big deal for the rest of the customer base.” (16:40)
“If I build my program off of those three pillars of advocacy, then my members stay happy and active. They stay engaged. I didn’t know how critical it was to build out those pillars and to share that with your boss, get their input on it, and really stay focused on what is going to move the needle for your department.”
When is the right time for a company to be looking at an advocacy program?
(Listen from 19:20)
Whether you have 10 customers or 10,000, you might be wondering when is the “right” time to start an advocacy program.
Leslie advises that if you’re considering whether or not to get started, being scrappy isn’t a bad thing here. Especially when it comes to gifting, you don’t need to be offering name-brand apparel and gifts at every touchpoint, or have the most complicated and expensive software to go along with it.
As cheesy as the saying goes, it really is the thought that counts when engaging your customers. Leslie gives the example of Jelly Belly’s themed with Sendoso’s brand colors that cost a dollar per pack and really hit the mark, as well as a small “getting started” handbook she found memorable from Slack that sits nicely on your desk instead of a big folder full of paperwork. (21:40)
The lesson here is that expensive doesn’t always translate to effective. It really is about creating that moment to engage with the brand beyond just a sales call or an onboarding call. Whether you get started with just using a spreadsheet or a free Slack community, the effort to build and recognize your group of advocates can take you a long way.
How do you stay focused when it comes to building your advocacy initiatives?
(Listen from 30:45)
While pioneering a customer advocacy program in her organization, Leslie learned that knowing how to protect your department is important to help you move forward and keep the community growing. “I didn’t understand how important it is to build out the pillars of your advocacy program in order to protect your department.” (30:50)
To stay focused on what will move the needle for her department, Leslie established three advocacy program pillars (30:57):
- Learning and career development
- Peer networking
- Rewards and recognition
It’s not uncommon for an advocacy program to get watered down and have it be hard to pinpoint the value, so having a clear vision and strategy helps showcase your program to the rest of the company, communicate what the boundaries are, get buy-in from your management team, and most importantly, keep members happy:
“If I build my program off of those three pillars of advocacy, then my members stay happy and active. They stay engaged. I didn’t know how critical it was to build out those pillars and to share that with your boss, get their input on it, and really stay focused on what is going to move the needle for your department.” (31:54)
When you execute your advocacy efforts with a clear and communicated vision, it makes it easier for others to understand what is or isn’t within the scope of your department, so that you don’t feel like you need to say yes to every ask that comes up.
“You don’t always need a full-blown case study with metrics and all these big stories that talk about the customer’s entire experience. You can just give sales little snippets that are going to help them with their talk track and their own storytelling.”
What key lessons have you learned on your journey in customer marketing? What advice would you offer someone else?
(Listen from 33:49)
From SDR internships to morph suits, Leslie’s journey to becoming an award-winning customer marketer has been an eventful one. To hear it from an expert and close out the episode, we asked what she would have done differently or what she has learned along the way. Aspiring customer marketers take note!
Having reflected on her journey, Leslie mentions wishing she had enabled the sales team more: “I really wish that I would have enabled the sales team a little bit more. I was so focused on enabling the customers that I kind of lost sight of the fact that our sellers are going to need to know the success of our customers.” (35:06)
There is so much focus placed on creating full-blown case studies and video testimonials and reviews, but ensuring the sales team can succeed comes in many different formats that can be developed faster while having just as much impact.
“You don’t always need a full-blown case study with metrics and all these big stories that talk about the customer’s entire experience. You can just give sales little snippets that are going to help them with their talk track and their own storytelling.” (36:40)
Two of her original initiatives include “pocket stories”, little snippets about a customer’s positive experience coupled with a Slack channel dedicated to sharing them with the sales team as they come up, as well as “Storytime with Leslie” – a weekly session to discuss and dive into a success story that is coming out.
Making sure the sales team can succeed is ultimately the way to make sure that the company succeeds.
Listen to the full episode, How to Develop Advocates Right From the Beginning of the Customer Journey, for even more expert advice on leveling up your customer advocacy initiatives. Special thanks to Leslie for being on the show! Connect with Leslie on LinkedIn.
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