Transcript: Making Customers Your North Star Using Customer Advisory Boards with Sarah Moody

On this episode, I was joined by Sarah Moody, CEO at Customers Always First, a consulting agency that specializes in designing customer and executive programs that impact the business. Sarah has worked with some of the most successful tech companies in the Valley, including Palo Alto Networks, Hewlett Packard, and VMware, and her services have generated some incredible results, including over a billion dollars in revenue impacted and more than 620 product innovations. Sarah is a force of nature and it was such a treat having her on the pod. We really dive deep into the topic of customer advisory boards, including virtual engagement strategies during COVID-19, the necessity of clearly defined personas for recruitment, as well as her must-have agenda topics. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Sarah. 

Margot Leong: All right. So Sarah, welcome to Beating The Drum. I’m so thrilled to have you join us today. 

Sarah Moody: Margot, it’s such an honor to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me and including me to be a part of this really amazing podcast and program that you’re building. I’m super honored.  

Margot Leong: So happy to have you on board.  If you could start off by introducing yourself, talk to us a little bit about your background and the type of work you’ve done in regards to customer advocacy. 

Sarah Moody: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I really dove in deep into the world of customer advocacy about 13 years ago. I founded my own tech company about 19 years ago, all around product marketing and corporate marketing for enterprise software companies and hardware companies. But I really dove in deep about 13 years ago and just fell in love with the field. 

Just to kind of go back to when I started my company, it was when the NASDAQ imploded, it was 2001, I was in product marketing. And so my background’s been in selling software, professional services. So really understanding what customers need, because I’ve sold to them. I’ve installed software. And then I moved into product marketing and then the NASDAQ imploded. I was like, okay, so. There’s like 60,000 people looking for a job in product marketing. And, you know, there’s probably like, whatever, ten jobs, so what am I going to do? And so I just thought, you know, this is like the perfect time to position myself as an expert in this field and sell my services to enterprise software and hardware companies. And so that’s literally what I did. 

Margot Leong: Got it. And then how did you transition into more of the customer advocacy side of things? Talk to me about that.

Sarah Moody: Yeah, sure, absolutely.  So when I started my company 19 years ago, I did a lot of product marketing and corporate marketing and events and you know, that world. And then I was working with a client and Hewlett Packard acquired the client. And so all of a sudden, like our team got picked up by Hewlett Packard and the Chief Marketing Officer and I’ll never forget the day, I was on a call with the head and they said, Hey, you know, I’ve got this CIO customer advisory board, and it’s this board of advisors, but it’s without the fiduciary responsibilities, is there any way you want to come in and like run it?

And I said, what is a customer advisory board and, you know, tell me more. So that was 13 years ago. And so literally they filled me in on this world and they ran all of advocacy and customer marketing for Hewlett Packard. And that was my first kind of step into the world of advocacy. And I just fell in love with how advisory boards and advocacy, everything we were doing just impacts the business. And so, yeah, that’s how I got into it. Just being asked to run a CIO advisory board. 

Margot Leong: That’s fascinating. You mentioned that you fell in love with this type of work and, you know, sounds like it’s led you down this road of really being an expert. And I’d love to dig in a little bit more as to what really gives you energy about this work.   

Sarah Moody: Yeah. There’s three things that I really love about it.

Like, I love when our customers and the leadership team at my clients, just in general, just get a lot smarter. That they learn from each other, that they learn about what’s going on in the industry, that they leave any meeting or any engagement, whether it’s, you know, exec sponsor program or being on main stage or being in an advisory board meeting – that they all just leave a little smarter is like one of the things that just totally fires me up and gives me so much energy.

And probably the second thing that I love about the world of advocacy too, is that it’s a really powerful set of programs for the field to use to position the company as a trusted advisor and open doors. And drive more revenue, position themselves as a trusted advisor. And so I love supporting the field, because the field is going to help like impact the business and drive more revenue. And so anything to support the field. I think that’s like my product marketing background, anything I can do to support the field. 

And probably the third thing that gives me a lot of energy is how, especially with executive sponsor programs and advisory boards, just the company iterating and innovating and figuring out what they need to do to win in their market and in their space and how to be considered a thought leader. And what does that look like? And so building a voice of the customer, innovative brand in their space and using their executives, or just regular customer advisors to kind of help in that effort. So all those things give me like a ton of energy. 

 Margot Leong: Yeah, I love hearing that. And I think that this is sort of dovetails very nicely with the name of your consulting company, which is, Customers Always First. So, I’d love to hear a little bit more about that and you know, how that mantra or idea is the cornerstone of how you think?

Sarah Moody: So when Hewlett Packard acquired my client, I had a mentor who led all of advocacy and customer marketing at Hewlett Packard. And she’s just a remarkable woman. And she was my mentor and she really inspired me in this field. And she’s definitely a thought leader in this space in tech. And one of the things that I learned from her as well as our Chief Product Officer is really the value of making our customers our North Star. And how, you know, even back then, how everything we need to do, whether it’s product, whether it’s services, whether it’s sales, whether it’s marketing, that really infusing the voice of the customer, even back then, 13 years ago, in everything we do. 

And so that just really resonated with me because I just admired that Chief Product Officer and the Head of Marketing so much. And so like that kind of led to, yeah, customer’s always first, like they’re our North Star and then not only that, but I’m a really big Geoffrey Moore fan. And so I love his kind of views around building deep, deep relationships with customers and turning them into fans and like what that journey looks like, how you start to build a relationship, and then you nurture that relationship. And then you really leverage that relationship in so many ways and have your customers be your brand ambassadors and like the list goes on and on.  

 Margot Leong: Got it. And Geoffrey Moore, he wrote, Crossing The Chasm, right? 

Sarah Moody: Yes, yes, yes. 

Margot Leong: Got it. That is a fantastic book for anyone who wants to think about how something like advocacy can really make a difference at companies, right. Because it talks about companies as they transition into being enterprise, one of the ways that they can cross the chasm is by using their customers to basically advocate for them. And references, right? Generating those references are a massive, massive part of that.

Sarah Moody: Yeah, he’s got Crossing The Chasm and he’s got like three or four other books and any one of them are just like, really just make you think in terms of like, okay, customers, what’s that journey? How do I nurture the relationship? And just really, like, I love this whole idea that there’s a whole journey to advocacy. And typically most companies will start off with some form of a customer community. And then, they’ll build out like an advocacy or like a success or reference program. And then you’ll look at advisory boards and exec sponsor programs and all the digital ways that you can create assets and, and just keep impacting all the functional areas and building out like a true voice of the customer. And so I love thinking about it in that way. And Geoffrey Moore thinks about it a lot in that way as well. 

Margot Leong: Fantastic. Well, let’s get to the really good stuff. Let’s talk about CABs specifically because you are such an expert in this area. I would love to understand how you first think about defining success for customer advisory boards and how you talk about that with your clients.

Sarah Moody: Yeah. So how I think about this goes a lot back to working with the leadership team of like enterprise companies, working with Chief Product Officers and CEOs. And I always think about advisory boards as: how are they going to impact the bottom line? How are they going to impact the business? So I always think of them as this amazing lever that you can use to drive revenue and scale. Number two: completely change your brand or reinforce your brand. And number three, invent new products, new services with your most strategic loyal customers. So to me, it’s always a lever to impact the business. And working with the leadership team. So working with sales and working with product and working with the chief marketing officer and working with the CEO. 

Margot Leong: I liked the way that you broke that out because it’s very easy to understand and it’s also very holistic, right? It’s something that I think people at the executive level can really respond to, I think that’s great. 

You have seen customer marketing, customer advocacy, I think, evolve quite a bit over time. I have definitely been at companies where they talk a lot about this idea of being customer-centric, but you know, unfortunately sometimes when the curtain falls away, it’s not truly customer-centric. And I think that does have to be baked into every part of the culture of the company to be set up for success.

 You know, I’m sure that you get lots of inquiries to help companies with their advocacy programs. What are the things that you make sure that clients have in place? It can be really anything, culturally, or how they think about marketing, before you decide to commit and sign on with them. Because I think this is great for any customer marketer to know before they, you know, before they choose a company to work at too. 

Sarah Moody: Yeah, absolutely. That’s an excellent point, Margot.

So I look at three things. Number one, who’s the executive sponsor, like ideally it’s the CEO, it’s the CMO. It’s someone at the C-level. And ideally, it’s a CEO and ideally, it’s a part of the company culture. It’s one of their pillars. It’s one of their values. Customers first, for example. And you know, that is absolutely like number one.

And if it’s coming from the CEO, typically what I find then is the entire leadership team is completely onboard and it just makes it really easy to get the people and the budget and the process and kind of everything set up to build out all the different programs, whether it’s advisory boards or exec sponsor programs or reference programs, like whatever those are.

And then, number two, is that, I think in terms of program. Like programs impact business. Events, I don’t think of any of these things that we do in advocacy as like an event; it’s an ongoing way of building, nurturing, and leveraging these relationships, whatever that program is. And so, it’s really important that the leadership team think of this as a program, that they have a dedicated owner, ongoing budget, like, budget for a year, not budget for a meeting or budget for a month or budget for a quarter – that there’s like people, process, budget for at least a year, if not more. 

And then, number three is just that the leadership team, especially the CEO, really think about exec sponsor programs, advisory boards, that these are their advisors. These are their advisors without the fiduciary responsibilities. And so looking at these programs in that light and how valuable they can be to impact the business is like a different lens that I see as really successful. Sometimes I’ve gone into clients and they’re like, Oh, my customers keep asking for an advisory board or an exec sponsor program or something, so I think we have to do it. Like that mindset is not going to equate to the wild success that I’ve seen  when it’s a company that thinks, these customers are my advisors, my trusted advisors, and I’m going to be their trusted advisor. 

Margot Leong: That’s a really good point is that if you want to put something like this together, it is not, you know, a one and done thing. There is so much work involved in this, and I think that to your point, you have to be incredibly intentional and aligned around what is the mission. 

What I would recommend people do is that the upfront work in planning something like this, I would do as much of that as possible to make sure that you have true alignment from an executive standpoint. When it comes to doing customer advisory boards, like you said, if it’s just sort of a thing that’s like, Oh, I heard this other company has a CAB and it sounds like a thing that we should have, right? And go do it. That’s not really the best sort of spirit to launch something like this. 

I would definitely recommend to get on board with all of senior leadership and to understand, okay, every single one of you probably has a different opinion on what you would like out of this CAB. And then to make sure that you, as the program leader, has a clear vision as well for where you want this to go. And I think you really have to be concrete about how you drive that, right? Because the customer is always first” mentality has to be layered into all of it, everything. 

The trusted advisor piece is another big part of it, is that you can have a CAB, but then if your executives are not actually taking back that feedback and thinking about how to integrate it, they don’t have to take everything, right? But they have to be genuine about their intentions. That is very obvious to the customer. 

Sarah Moody: Exactly. Right. And customers won’t come back if they see that the team is not genuinely invested in this program and hearing their guidance and advice. Yes. The whole program kind of falls apart. 

Margot Leong: And you know, it’s no fun to just do something that’s perfunctory anyway. Right? Like all, all sides are coming in and being like, wow, you know, why am I doing this? And then the investment is not minimal either. So, you know, you might as well do a fantastic job, right? 

Sarah Moody: Yes. Excellent point. 

Margot Leong: I love this. We’re kind of jumping around a little bit here, but another question that I have when it comes to CABs and we’ll get a little bit more into specific tactics is, you know, we’re all living in this new normal with COVID-19. I’m pretty sure the effects of this are going to last well beyond 2021. I think that a lot of CABs are going to be transitioning to a virtual format, and I know that you’ve been advising some companies on how to think through this. I would love for you to talk about your tips or how you’re thinking about transforming what is traditionally, mostly an in-person, magical program to a virtual format.

Sarah Moody: Yeah. It’s been rather fascinating to, and I love inventing and creating and thinking outside the box, so we’ve really had to do that in this world that’s very kind of face to face and looking at each other in the eye and side conversations over lunch and things like that. And so, you know, first and foremost, like I’ve probably done about three or four of them in the last two and a half months. And what I would say all the customers share with us is: thank you so much for doing this. We’re so happy we’re all together, but nothing replaces face to face. So I will just start off with saying that like across the board, that’s the number one piece of feedback that we’ve heard.

But you know, there’s definitely ways that we’ve been able to build this program and make it virtual and have had a ton of success. There’s probably five critical success factors and I’ve done them for C-levels and I’ve done them for directors and VPs. So I’ve done them for all different types of personas, but I’d say across the board, there’s five different success factors.

Number one is have a really strong facilitator. Someone who really understands how to drive conversation, how to facilitate and get people talking. It’s a really different world online as we know, versus face to face. So , a very outspoken, engaging, understands the business facilitator – number one. 

Number two ,is doing a lot of work upfront on the agenda to really drive interactivity and engagement. So a couple of things that I’ve done is, and just to talk about like length of time, like I’ve done three and a half hour meetings to six and a half hour meetings. And I’d say across the board, what customers have said is like, you could have done this for a little bit longer. Like we’re all at home. You know, you’re our trusted partner here, you know, Mr. Technology Company or Mrs. Technology Company. Like it would be great if we could spend more time together. 

So what we’ve done for the agenda that’s worked really well is definitely infuse like icebreakers and lots of breaks. So no more than 90 minutes  and then we’re taking a break. But in terms of driving interactivity, every single agenda session, I’ve made sure that we have customers that are in the call that are willing to ask questions, share their point of view. They’re not like on the agenda and they’re not like a customer case study. It’s more like seeding customers to drive conversation for all topics and seeding customers that are willing to ask their peers, Oh, hey Fred, like, what do you do in this area?  That’s been a critical success factor in terms of driving conversation. 

Number two is we’ve sent in advance, seven days in advance, lots of discussion questions and areas where they need to go meet with their teams and really come equipped to the meeting with the answers to the “homework.”  

And then number three is we found a lot of really amazing technology online, like Poll Everywhere, Mentimeter. There’s a whole suite of tools where we can drive gathering qualitative and quantitative data. Like I’m a data junkie. So that’s why it’s so important to me to get both types of data out of these meetings. And those are just some of the few ways that we’ve been able to do that to meet the interactivity objective. And then, you know, using a really cool platform. I mean, Zoom’s been amazing – how it’s just iterated and evolved and added more security and it’s got polling. And so just having a great technology platform has really helped as well. We tried a meeting on Teams. We tried doing a little one on GoToMeeting and just, those were in my opinion, as robust as Zoom. That’s probably like another critical success factor. 

And yeah, we just did lots of polls and icebreakers, like what’s your superpower. Oh, and we encouraged everyone to be on either camera or virtual backgrounds. So that worked a lot, like one of our advisory board meetings, like we kick things off and one of the CAB members left for like five minutes and he came back and he’d gone into his wine cellar and taken a photo of his wine cellar and turned it into his virtual background. It was just a great conversation piece, you know. And then another one, another CAB member, like pretended that they were on their golf course playing golf. And so we’re just having fun as we switch to this new virtual world, while also sticking with the objectives: data, advice, building the relationship, leveraging the relationship, nurturing the relationship with our most strategic accounts.

Margot Leong: Oh, my gosh. There’s so much to get into here. Like these are fantastic tips. I think in order to have a really good CAB, especially in person, you have to have the customer chemistry, right. They have to get along well with each other. And you know, to have customers that are going to go out of their way to realize that part of the success of the CAB relies on people within the CAB helping to push those conversations forward. 

Sarah Moody: Right. 

Margot Leong: Because there’s nothing worse than crickets. Right. And so, you know, I’m curious about how you think about that from a recruitment standpoint. And then also do you specifically get customers that you know would be open to this ahead of time? To be like, Hey, like can you help me out here and seed some of these questions, keep conversation going. 

Sarah Moody: So, first of all, back to your point, like I always think about the mission, like, one of the missions that I had for a large enterprise security company was: we want to go from being a firewall company to a cloud security provider, which is a huge mission and journey. And we used an advisory board for that. Once I know that mission, the first thing I always do is sit down with the CEO and the chief product officer, and really clearly define this persona. What’s their title? What’s the role and responsibility? What are they doing publicly out there? Are they a thought leader? I also like building a board of advocates, in-betweeners, and skeptics; I don’t want a hundred percent fans. I want people that are really going to push us as well.  

Once we have that clearly defined persona, my next step is always to go to the field and I get on the phone with each account manager and I have a whole line of questions around: I don’t want warm bodies, I want smart, innovative folks who think of themselves as advisors. If they don’t think of themselves as an advisor, like think board of advisors, but without the fiduciary responsibilities, they’re going to come to one meeting and then guess what? I’m going to retire them. So I have like a really high bar in terms of who sits around the table. And I make sure that our account team knows that you and I are in this. And if you and I don’t put a rockstar in that seat for our CEO and our chief product officer, like we’re going to have to go find someone else. 

I’m not afraid to ask anyone to do anything, so then the next step is just asking the customer to join the board. Oftentimes, I’ll just go through the Chief Product Officer or the CEO and then they’ll send the invitation, but then I’ll always go back and sell them on the value and close them and then, you know, welcome to the board.

Margot Leong: I think that that is a really good point to make, right. You have so many different factors pushing and pulling on you as to what type of customers to recruit. It is really important to know the persona that you want inside and out. And this can be complicated. You know, I’ve been at CABs where you have like the mix of mid market and enterprise, uh, and they can’t really talk to each other. It’s hard to sort of get everybody on the same page, right? So I think the intentionality has to be there around the persona. 

And then in addition, the personality of that person. It’s not just who field thinks generally would be great, or even a customer that has raised their hand to be like, I would love to be on a board.

Sarah Moody: And also too, Margot, I think that one of my kind of design elements too, is I’m building at exclusive private club. I’m building a club, it’s membership, you’re an advisor, there’s a charter. And I think that really helps weed some people out too, who are not like, yeah, I’m in it. They’re like, no, I just want to go to a boondoggle and just show up once and then be done. So back to intent and back to mission of both the advisory board in terms of impacting the business, but also the mission of the board and that it’s a club of like-minded peers. That’s a part of my mission too. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I love that. The question I had too, around the virtual format, for those customers that are asking questions and getting a little bit more interactive, is that something that they just sort of do naturally, or is that something that you’ll sort of reach out to them ahead of time? Because you’re closer to them and will be like, Hey, because of this format, I would just love if you could be even more of yourself and help out with this. 

Sarah Moody: I go out to them in advance. 

Margot Leong: That’s great. 

Sarah Moody: I make sure that it’s an ask and they know they have a role, even though they’re not on the agenda, they can’t be multi-tasking and doing whatever during this 15 minutes that I need them to be really engaged and they’re so happy. Advisory board members love being advisory board members. And so they’re so happy to take it on, but yeah, it’s the art of everything that goes on behind the scenes to make it all look like it’s just magic. 

Margot Leong: Yes. Oh my gosh. I think that’s customer advocacy in general too.

 Um, yeah, you know, as we said, right, if you’re choosing the right customers, you don’t have to be as afraid of making these asks to them because they also see it as part of their charter for joining something like this. And they’re honored to be a part of it, as long as you are giving back what you have promised. 

Sarah Moody: Exactly. And to that point, we start off every meeting with a scorecard and here’s what you said, and here’s the impact your guidance has had on the company and our products and customer success and how we’ve organized the fields. So we always start off with like, thank you, and here’s what we’ve done. 

Margot Leong: That’s something that I have heard from customers that I’ve talked to that have been a part of other boards. They say one of the things that they wish that vendors would do more of is closing the loop. Showing that the time that we invested in this process and being part of the board, like we’re actually helping, right? 

Sarah Moody: I actually had one general manager that I worked for. He ran a big security business unit for a large software company and he knew that I mandated we had to start with a scorecard. And so he literally would grade himself. He would start the meeting with all these CISOs, with like, I give ourselves a B- in product innovation, so it was wonderful to see, but you know, chief product officers and CEOs, they know that they need to be accountable. And so once you just plant that seed, they’re just more than happy to be like, of course. Done. 

Margot Leong: Something I want to spend a little bit of time on as well is structuring an agenda, and how you think about that?  

Sarah Moody: Yeah. Yeah. I can even just stick with the general manager who ran this billion and a half dollar business unit. So the advisory board was for CISOs. And so how I always think about agendas is: what’s the best set of quotes I can get from the customer at the end of the meeting, like, what does success look like? And one of the metrics for me of success is hearing feedback from the customers that says, wow, you are innovating. Wow, I love what you’re doing. Wow, I’m learning from you. Like you are a thought leader and I’m learning from you. So when I hear those types of things, I’m like, okay, we’re starting to do our job here, which is great.

And so when I think about agendas, I want to start the session off with like, welcome, round table. What are your priorities? What’s keeping you up at night?  And then also the scorecard, of course, grading ourselves in terms of what we’ve done. And then I want to shift into kind of what’s going on at the company. And the business impacts at the company, and our strategy and direction. 

And then I always loved thinking about, okay, what thought leader, whether it’s like, a VC or someone out there in the industry, who could come in and talk about the industry and how rapidly it’s evolving. And so I’ve had great success bringing in venture capital kind of thought leaders to talk about a market and the industry and what’s going on and  the direction. 

And then typically what we’ll do is we’ll move into portfolio strategy and product strategy. But every single session, I always think about in terms of like, I want to hear from the customer. And what’s their journey and  how are they becoming more secure using our platform and what’s their journey been? And then I think about, well and now it’s time for our journey and what’s our strategy and what are we doing? And then I typically will have a session around hot, new technology and innovation and demos. 

And, oftentimes we’ll do something like a Shark Tank. So it’s even before things have been funded, like seed ideas that, you know, those people that are often a lab thinking about the security market and where it’s going. And so I’ll set up a whole Shark Tank program where you know, those smart folks will come in and we’ll pitch ideas and we’ll give the CISOs hundreds of dollars and then they get to vote and like, why did they want us to fund this idea and would they buy it and what would we need to do in the partner ecosystem? And how would you deploy it? So we get everything around that seed idea, and why you funded it. So that’s another really great thing that I love to do. 

Lots of interactive exercises, gathering data, surveys, and then I always love doing like an open round table. So just having either one of our team or even having a customer, just be the moderator and the facilitator of like an open session. What’s top of mind? Where do you want to learn from your peers? What’s going on in the industry that you want to talk about? And they love that unstructured time to learn from each other, to take parking lot ideas and go a little deeper in them. And then always something in the evening where we come together and have dinner and just continue the conversation. So that’s it at a high level. 

Margot Leong: This always goes back to, right, is what is the value of being on a board like this? They’re learning things from you as their trusted advisor that they can take away to help make their business more competitive, right. I love that and always sort of keeping that in mind, because I think we have to remember as the people that are running these programs and as the companies that are putting the investment into them, we are supposed to be at the forefront of our industry. And so we know what the smartest companies are doing. 

And so we should always be thinking about, okay, like what are sort of, not maybe the secrets, but the trends we’re noticing, right? Like anything that is of value that we can mine from ourselves and also our connections, as you said, right? Bringing in VCs to provide them with stuff that they could not get anywhere else. That’s super, super interesting to me. I love that. 

Another question that I had is the follow-up piece. Talk to me about how you think about this.

Sarah Moody: So one of the first things I do is within 24 hours, an email goes out to the internal team about metrics and scores and initial feedback. So that’s step one. And then within seven days, the advisory board members receive a full report that literally shares their guidance, their insight, all the results to the surveys, all the quantitative data, everything’s graphed, all the investment ideas, all the shark tanks kind of laid out like where they guided us, what we should do in terms of the partner ecosystem around that seed idea, for example.

So, everything’s mapped out, they can see the collective set of data and then they can see, okay, we’re going to meet with you again in five months. Like what have you done? And then our team uses that report to go and drive our portfolio strategy, our partner strategy, our success strategy, so that report’s used as a plan of record to drive all the functional teams over the next X number of months. 

So there’s a high level executive summary and then there’s like detailed notes. Kind of back to the fact that, you know, I view the field as a really important partner in this program. So I typically just want the Chief Revenue Officer in these advisory board meetings, but the field will get at the whole transcript around what their customer said and what questions they asked. And so that’s another deliverable for the field that doesn’t go to customers. And then all the feedback gets tabulated into a Google spreadsheet for us all to have at our ready as an internal team. 

Margot Leong: Got it. Got it. We talked about metrics at the beginning and success. And so let’s talk about some of those specific metrics that you talk about when it’s results for the CAB. In our prep call, you said: revenue impacted, number of innovations, and brand ambassadors. So can you break that down for us a little bit? 

Sarah Moody: Yeah. Yeah. For example, like number of innovations, how I quantify that is through two different ways. Like big picture. One is: is what we end up building with our customers, for example, we built a whole, like one of my clients, we built a whole container line, like set of containers with our customers, as well as what product management goes back and builds after the advisory board meeting. So it’s actual products that we build. For example, we built out a whole like identity governance product line with another client of mine. The advisory board said, you know, you need to make your whole product stack simpler. So we innovated and build out user nameless and password list functionality. So innovations is not features and functions. It’s like, we’re innovating, we’re building products, we’re partnering with a company around a new product. So that’s how I measure innovation. 

And then ambassadors is, I think a brand ambassador, so I think really broadly, like it’s customers willing to engage in a traditional customer advocacy program and do blogs and podcasts and case studies. But it’s also like just writing thought leadership pieces that have nothing to do and don’t even mention the company that get published in social media. And so ways that our customers can build their own personal brand that have nothing to do with the enterprise company is another kind of big metric. So I measure that in terms of like, pure customers, like we got 300 customers who are willing to do any sort of work in any of those areas. 

And then the third kind of category that I look at is revenue impact. So how I measure that, let’s just go back to that client of mine that was a firewall company and evolved to being the leading cloud security platform provider. That revenue impact was through acquisitions. So we bought five companies, and so that was, you know, X revenue. I mean, they were all startups. So that was, we bought X dollars. But also, too, how we measured it was, we looked at the existing business and so the existing business was growing at 22%. But the new products, like containers, and the new companies that we were buying, that business was growing at 179%. So we compared, the cloud security and all the stuff we were buying and building there, compared to the firewall business, and that was the difference. 179% versus 22%. 

Margot Leong: You know, I like that because other metrics I’ve seen for CABs, they tend to be a bit more sort of quarterly. It’s like from CAB to CAB, what is the revenue we impacted in terms of upsells and cross-sells for that specific audience, or how engaged are they, but the stuff that you’re talking about is more just at a company level, it’s more at a business objective impacting level. It has a much larger impact, right? It gets to things that the executive team really cares about.

I think one point that I wanted to touch on too is that in sort of helping out your customers and some of these thought leadership pieces that they’re writing, it does not have to be only counted if they talk about you, you know, if they talk about the vendor. And I think that is something that I am vehement about, which is that if you want to provide value for your customer, you have to follow the golden rule, right?  So you have to do what is best for the customer and not always think about tit for tat. 

Sarah Moody: Exactly, exactly. I mean, I’m always thinking they want to promote their brand. They want to promote their thought leadership. It’s about them. You know, it’s kind of back to that North Star, really building an honorable relationship with them with a lot of intent. Like don’t make it about me. I want to make it about you and how can I help you succeed?

And so, yeah, we had a staff of writers who literally would ghost write articles. And it was the easiest ask on the planet for these thought leadership pieces. I would get a hundred percent response rate because they’re like, of course ,  you’re going to help me promote my brand and my thought leadership? Done. 

And then you get it published on social media and in some way, shape or form, guess what? If you’re saying, for example, you’re Tesla and you’re now more secure and, you know, people are going to put two and two together that it’s like ABC Tech Company, right. So it’s like, you can find a way to like put two and two together without asking the company or without asking the customer to say, please say my company name. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. And I think this is a great way to close out this conversation is going back to the North Star of customer’s always first, right.  Part of it is the metrics that you talked about, we’re utilizing customers as our trusted advisors as a way to impact the company in earth-shattering ways. But I also think it’s the relationships that both you and I have built with customers is a massive part of that. And I think it’s the integrity with which you build those relationships that ultimately ends up paying dividends. You just have to treat the person right. You’re changing the relationship and the nature of that because you are treating people in the way that they should be treated. 

Sarah Moody: Exactly. 

Margot Leong: I had such an incredible time chatting with you, Sarah. My last question for you, of course, is where can our listeners find you? 

Sarah Moody: Well, Margot, it’s been absolutely my pleasure and truly an honor to spend this last hour with you, so thank you so much for asking me to join your program. And if anyone wants to learn more about what I do, just go to LinkedIn and just look for Sarah L. Moody, and you can learn about everything I do in terms of impacting the business, using our many tools, and customer advocacy.

Margot Leong: Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you so much, Sarah, and take care. 

Thanks for tuning into this episode of Beating The Drum. For more interviews with advocacy leaders and tips on creating customers that will sing your praises, head on over to our website, beatingthedrum.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review us. If you know someone that would be a great fit for the show, I would love to hear about it. You can reach out at beatingthedrum.com. Take care, everybody.

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