Welcome to Episode 8 of The Advocacy Channel!
Today we’re joined by Scott K. Wilder – an advisor to global technology companies with over 20 years of experience developing customer marketing programs for brands like HubSpot, Google, Marketo, and Coursera. In other words, a customer marketing expert!
Tune in as Will and Scott discuss the importance of coordination between teams to drive customer centricity, how to leverage a product approach to customer marketing, and how customer advocacy doesn’t only include the customer, but also involves your employees.
Check out the full episode below, or keep reading for our favorite pieces of advice from the episode.
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Turning to your employees as advocates
Since it’s not every day you get to speak with a customer marketing expert, we had to start off by asking Scott what customer advocacy means to him.
Scott got us thinking by mentioning that you can’t ignore your own employees as potential advocates. So how do customer advocacy and the employee come together in companies?
When I think about customer advocacy, I think it’s about how you engage with your customers and even beyond to your partners to employees, and really think through what you can do for them, and hopefully they’ll pay it forward and help you.
That employee note is one that I don’t always hear a lot. That’s really interesting. How do you see customer advocacy and the employee coming together in companies?
A few ways – there’s been a lot of research done around the happier your employees, the better they’ll do, and not just on the job, but in terms of representing you with your customers.
But more important than that, these days there’s just a lot going on in the world. It’s necessary that companies focus on what they can do for an employee in terms of their learning, and in terms of their mental and physical welfare. And yes, at the end of the day, maybe they’ll become advocates for the company. But I really believe that if you get aligned and try and figure out what’s going to help the employee, and they feel like they’re spending 8-12 hours a day in a place that they really like, then hopefully they’ll pay it forward, and either promote your company or promote your products.
That’s a super smart way to think about it. It’s not something I necessarily hear people bring together with advocacy, but bang on from my point of view.
As an example, what I learned from my time at Intuit is that they really focus on learning. Understanding what people want to learn in their roles and where they want to go with their careers. And they have this model called ”learn, teach, learn”.
So if somebody learns something that they can teach to others, and similar to that, if you’re really helping them be successful in their careers then they’re going to help somebody else. If you’re going to share your product with your employees and show them how to use it, they’re going to hopefully share it with somebody else.
“Don’t try and boil the whole ocean at once. Start simple, have an MVP mindset.”
Approaching customer marketing programs with a product mindset
Marketing and product are inherently quite related, but it’s not very often that they work together to try and drive a combined outcome.
While customer advocacy programs often start as an initiative by the marketing team, Scott shares how and why he thinks that a product-led approach can yield better results and execution.
What’s really interesting to see is one of the big complexities happening in customer marketing with the fact that we have so many different ways to approach the customer. Now you have to start separating these into different piles of work. Where I look at that is I see continual development around product, and more of a productized approach to these customer advocacy programs where they’re becoming more complex and much more like you are a product manager.
Is that something that you guys are talking about today?
I love the way you’re thinking about it. I do think about this as a product-related journey. And that’s where that growth marketing experience I have really comes into play.
I’ll give some examples in a second, but I think of this as, how do you treat your customer advocacy programs as a product? And that involves everything from the research you’re going to do up front to figure out what people want, how you position it, and what’s the branding behind it.
And then as a product, you want to go into a beta stage and really start trying to figure it out, and you don’t claim to have all the answers right away. I think a really key part of this and a trend in product is to co-create and co-innovate. So think about how you can get your customers or the people you’re marketing to involved in this process.
And that can be during the beta testing stage, or even earlier. What I used to do is invite customers and prospects to my staff meetings so that the team could hear what they wanted. And then you can move into an MVP stage. Don’t try and boil the whole ocean at once. Start simple, have an MVP mindset.
All these things are how a product person thinks. And then, experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Almost take that A/B or A/B/C approach to experimenting.
The next thing is being data-driven. If we’re trying to build a category, we need to be able to quantify our success and figure out how we can fine-tune it. As a simple example, if we introduce a course, you keep track of how many people are in that course, what their progress is like, etc.
And one last point is when I hire people, because I’m so product-focused, I try and find people who can balance that out, because I do think the human aspect is really important as well.
It seems that the product approach is probably the more difficult one to find today and that it’s maybe newer to people in customer marketing. I think you nailed it with taking an MVP approach and “don’t boil the ocean”. The number of well-meaning conversations I’ve had, where someone has shown up with the most complex design you’ve ever seen for a programmer, and you’re just thinking, have we tested that anyone’s interested in this? Have we started with a basic question and a basic conversation? So I love that you’re coming back to those roots and that MVP.
Scott adds that it can be a challenge for customer marketers to think in terms of a product-led strategy because it’s a completely different discipline. If you’re coming out of a marketing background and searching for insights with the product team, don’t be afraid to collaborate and find someone on the team who can guide you!
“If there’s one thing I would recommend, it’s to co-innovate, and co-learn.”
Don’t be afraid to co-create and co-innovate with your advocates
While customer marketing has been written and talked about for a long time, there’s a large group of people that are still just getting into the space and learning the basics, especially as full-time customer marketing positions come up more frequently.
If you’re learning the ropes and looking for inspiration, there are plenty of opportunities to collaborate with those around you. As Scott puts it, you should co-innovate and co-create – not just with other members of your team, but also with your advocates. Customers are willing to help more than you might think!
Once you know what direction you want to go with your customer advocacy initiatives, I’d suggest also getting some of your advocates involved in designing your programs.
And that sounds like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t open up the kimono and share everything that we’re doing”, but I’m huge on co-innovation co-creation. It’s the classic approach of listening to the customer, but in this case, it’s the voice of the advocate.
It’s interesting what you mentioned there, because we do continually hear that people are concerned they need to have everything figured out before they can talk to an advocate or they need to keep things hidden back a little bit.
But it does seem like people who are going to be true advocates actually appreciate being involved. They enjoy it, and they like to co-innovate. So it’s good to hear that again, because I think there’s an undue concern about engaging people too early on in these initiatives.
That’s a really powerful point. And I think as marketers, historically, we’ve tried to control the message – control everything. And a good product person is going to really lean into asking, what’s the customer experience?
We’ve talked about how the space has been around for a while, but there are a lot of people who are new in their journey as customer marketers.
If there’s one thing I would recommend, it’s to co-innovate, and co-learn.
Listen to the full episode for even more expert advice on excelling in customer marketing.
Special thanks to Scott for being on the show! Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.
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