On this episode, I was joined by Andrew Sevillia, Director of Customer Marketing at Sage Intacct. Andrew has seen the customer advocacy space evolve tremendously over the past decade and he’s really excited about what the future holds. We talk about his favorite tools that have helped him save time on manual work, how he collaborates with product teams to incorporate the voice of the customer, and why you need to include both the business and the personal win in your stories. He is the very definition of a #customermarketerforlife. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Andrew.
Andrew, welcome to Beating The Drum. I am thrilled to have you join us this lovely afternoon.
Andrew Sevillia: Hey, Margot. Thanks for having me. Super excited to be a part of this.
Margot Leong: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and sort of how you got to customer marketing and advocacy, and what you’re doing currently.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. So, long time, Bay Area native, seen a lot of change and progress and the evolution of the tech space and the Bay Area. Got my start working at Napster,
Margot Leong: I know Napster. Very very much so. Yes.
Andrew Sevillia: So, you know, I had a really funny job there. So basically, you know, certain artists would, would send notices that said, look, my music can absolutely not be shared on Napster. So, you know, users got really creative with how they spelled the titles of certain songs. And so my job was actually to go in and come up with like a ton of different ways to spell the word, you know, midnight, because that was, you know, maybe one of the songs that was titled was midnight. And that was kinda, my job was eight hours a day. I was coming up with creative ways to spell the name of a song or an artist.
After that, I actually went back to school and I got a teaching credential, so I was the middle school history teacher. And I did that for a few years. And then I met the woman who would end up becoming my wife, who’s also a teacher. And, we just decided that it wasn’t gonna really work living in the Bay Area on two teachers’ salary. So a friend of mine who I’d worked with, actually at Napster, said, Hey, I’ve got a part time gig managing a community for a software company.
At that time, the community space was very in its infancy. And there really wasn’t a lot of companies out there that were, were focused on building communities and inviting customers and all that kind of stuff. So, I built the community, I invited all our customers and, you know, working closely with customers to attend CAB meetings and interview them for customer stories and continuing to populate the community with all sorts of usable content for customers.
And so, yeah, so that’s kinda how I got my feet wet, so to speak in customer advocacy. Back then it was just called customer references. From there I transitioned to a company called NetSuite, and I was at NetSuite for about five years. I started off at the manager level and worked my way up to Senior Director. By the end of my time there, I was overseeing a global customer advocacy program.
You know, at the end of the day, it’s all about shining a light on who our customers are and the experience they’re having and documenting their success. And now I’m at Sage Intacct, which I absolutely love. It’s been a couple, two years now, I think at Sage Intacct and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience.
Margot Leong: What’s the type of programs that you know, you and your team are currently responsible for?
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah, that’s a great question. So in previous companies I had the opportunity to implement Point of Reference. And so that really was meant to address the need for sales reference, building the pipeline of referenceable customers for sales opportunities. And then also I had worked at a previous company where they had already implemented Influitive. So it was great that I got to inherit this amazing tool that was already up and running and kind of well-built and already had a ton of advocates active in the hub. So that was a great chance for me to get my feet wet with some tools and understand how they work and kind of get to own them.
Because I can tell you that in years past, right, and when I first got my start, it was all very manual. You know, somebody would come to you with, you know, a project they were working on, they needed a speaker for a webinar or hey, we’ve got our big customer conference coming up and we have all these breakout sessions and we need speakers or, you know, analyst season comes around and you need 10 or 15 customers to take a survey. Well, way back when it was just pull a list out of Salesforce or whatever your CRM tool is and just draft your email and then send that email out to tens and tens of customers hoping that you get some responses. What I love about these tools is that they’ve turned the tables on a lot of that manual process, manual work that we used to do.
So now with tools like Influitive, we can post a challenge out there and say, Hey, we need three customers to join us for an event that’s happening in Houston. Please acccept this challenge. So it’s just made it all a lot easier, which frees me up and frees up folks who do what we do to focus on more strategic initiatives, thinking about, where are the gaps in terms of customer stories in a particular industry or that are using a specific module or product. And so it’s just freed us up to do more value-add work, as opposed to the manual sort of drudgery of email and chasing customers.
Margot Leong: To add onto what you were saying around something like Influitive, it’s a different way of approaching that relationship with the customer. It’s basically keeping that conversation going and warm all the time. You know, you have people coming into this platform, checking on things every single day, you know, every few hours.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think, you know, not having line of sight into how many times a customer is being pinged can cause real challenges, right? I mean, you know, these folks are busy, they’ve got things that they’re doing to support their business. And then I’m asking them to take time out of their day to join me for an interview or a webinar or whatever it might be, you know? And I’m just one person, right? I mean, somebody from their account management team might be reaching out to them. Somebody from support might be following up with them, but I mean, there’s, you know, and plus we’re sending out marketing emails to our customers, to get them to buy another module or attend a webinar where they can learn or whatever it might be.
So yeah, I mean, I think there’s, that’s a real challenge is kind of burnout, right? Like you know, you have to really have a thoughtful approach to communicating with customers. And I think, you know, you’re right. I mean, Influitive is whenever the customer wants to engage. Really it’s up to them. They can do it once a week. They can do it multiple times a week. It’s really, whenever it fits their schedule.
I think you’re right though. I mean, it reframes the conversation and the relationship, because a lot of what we do in Influitive is really just to get to know people on a more personal level. Absolutely, there’s opportunities for them to participate in sales and marketing-related projects. But I mean, I love knowing when Brahm de Plouie’s birthday is so I can send him a card or whatever, right. Like, one of my great advocates just responded to a challenge and I found out he just got married.
So that’s another opportunity for me to show a little love and let them know that he’s not just a customer, but he’s also kind of a friend, right. And you know, that’s one of the beauties of this role is just getting to know people on a personal level, their stories and their history and their background. When you do have an opportunity to get on an interview call or just a check-in call and they immediately are like, Hey Andrew, how’s it going? How’s your summer? How’s your daughters doing, you know, it’s much more of a personal connection than, Hey, I’ve got this webinar, would you please speak on it?
So yeah, I mean, that’s really what I do I love about this job is having the opportunity to, I want to say, even help people with their careers, right. I would never take credit for somebody getting promoted, but I have to think that being named in a press release or being featured in a video testimonial, I think that really does something for our advocates’ own personal brand. That’s a great thing that we get to do and share and be a part of.
Margot Leong: So many things to sort of springboard off of that, right. You know, to your last point, what can help the customer win themselves, and, you know, from a sales perspective, even how you think about selling to a prospect can be broken down into a business win and personal win. And so business win , you know, your company will save this much money or bring in this much more income or whatever, right. And then there’s the personal one, which is often tied to will this person be able to save time themselves so that they can maybe spend more time with their family?
And I think that this whole idea around what we do with customer marketing and advocacy, around community building, and having this like separate focus on just making the customer successful is I think a win in and of itself.
And then during our prep call, you had actually talked to me about this idea that there’s one trait that all customer marketers need to have, which is that they have to enjoy building genuine connections with people. And I don’t think I’ve met anyone within this space that doesn’t just really like talking to people. And, you know, I think that’s, very true. Are there any sort of tips or tricks, things that you picked up, that have been helpful to furnish and nurture those connections from the get-go, really.
Andrew Sevillia: I’m always looking to have interactions with customers. Any good excuse to pick up the phone or fire off an email or whatever it might be. You know, with some customers we’re texting, you know, and we’re communicating outside of just the normal channels. So, yeah, no, I think having the spirit of curiosity and really just genuinely wanting to know about people and their experience and how they got where they are and their journey – that’s a critical skill or desire or whatever it might be if you want to be great at this job.
You know, I go into every conversation with a new customer, just really with a lot of questions and I’m just geared up to listen. You know, some folks don’t want to get too personal too quickly. So it’s sort of like dating, right? Like, you have a couple of calls and you sort of get to know somebody and then, you know, you have some opportunities.
In order to kind of build those relationships, you really have to have a foundation of trust. If you say you’re going to do something, you gotta do it, right. If you say, you’re going to check in on somebody’s support issue, you’ve got to march down the hall and find the person and go get an update and then respond to the customer in a timely manner.
And I think things like that really go a long way towards, Hey, look, I’m not just in this because I need to check the box on another case study. You know, I truly want what’s best for you. And I want to support you. And I want to be an asset. I have folks who will reach out to me and say, Hey, I’m having a little bit of a challenge with trying to get somebody to pay attention to my support ticket or, you know, our renewal’s coming up. And I want to have conversations with customers, but there’s a few occasions where I don’t typically, and that’s like, Hey, you know, I spoke on five webinars last quarter or in the last year, and I did a case study with you and – can you help me get a discount? That’s the one where I’m like, Oh boy.
Margot Leong: It’s very true. I mean, that can be used as leverage, right? I mean more power to them, right, because they have definitely done a lot for us as a company, right.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. And you know what I point to is, okay, that customer spoke on, let’s say five webinars last year and they came to our event and they spoke on stage or they did a case study. And I kind of look at all the ways in which what they did helped to drive new business and try to put a dollar amount on that. You know, if they spoke on a webinar, how many people attended that webinar, how many actually converted to customers? And so, I can help build a case for them. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But at least I’ve done my due diligence and tried to put a dollar amount or put a value around what that customer has done for us.
You know, one thing that you brought up earlier though around giving people time back, it’s so crucial and critical, and we actually launched a campaign last year around a pun or a take on the word, “intact.” So it was called, ” Keep your life intact.” And it was all about how folks have been able to automate and streamline what were manual processes. And then we sort of figured out how many hours that was. And then we asked them, well, what did you do with that time?
And so a lot of folks said, well, we did more analysis and we did more of the value-add work so that we can be better partners to the business. But some folks would actually say, you know, I got to take that vacation or I got to, you know, because of the nature of my industry and around finance and accounting, a lot of those folks are working holidays. Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving. Those are like big times of the year for, you know, my customers. So, you know, for them to be able to say, I got to be home for Thanksgiving this year. Like, you know, things like that are pretty special. It’s nice to hear when people are able to do things that they enjoy as a result of freeing up time by automating processes and that sort of thing.
Margot Leong: Yeah. I think that something that we cannot overlook within this space is that the work that we do and the product that people respond to, it’s not just about, okay, these people are automatons that just work their entire lives for one company. And that’s the win. The win, I think, and how you build the deeper connection is actually more around what’s sort of the personal win, like we said, for the customers, what’s the emotional and human component.
And I think something that’s really interesting too is that you’re having conversations with customers all the time, there can sometimes be, you know, a bit more difficult conversations to have. And I think what’s cool about being within customer advocacy is that you get to be in more of a neutral zone because you’re not in sales. You know, our whole thing is that we want to help the customer ultimately, right. They’re advocating for us, but we’re also advocating for them.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah, I agree. I think that’s another key characteristic of somebody who’s going to be very successful in this role is you genuinely have to care. You know what I mean? It can’t be lip service. And people are smart enough to be able to detect when you are being sincere and when you’re not.
I’ll give you a couple of examples, where, listen, I had a first call with a customer. And they are in kind of a high-end quick serve restaurant business that has locations across the United States. First call. I mean, immediately this customer was telling me how terrible the software was, how unhappy he was, you know, had he to do it over again? He wouldn’t have picked our software. Relayed that message to the powers that be and made sure that his account got the attention that it needed and really turned the whole thing around.
And now when I talk to this guy, he’s like, you are part of my family. I consider you to be a close friend and somebody who I can trust. And it’s amazing to see some of these situations turn around in such an extreme sort of way, and to be a part of that is very delightful, right?
You know, going back to the other thing we were talking about about, folks getting their time back. I have one customer who, their business is cruise ships on the San Francisco Bay. And she freed up her time to do analysis and really think critically about the business so much so that the savings that they were able to generate – not only through Sage Intacct, but other savings, enabled them or allowed them to buy another cruise ship. And that was really, I was like, wow, that’s powerful. So that would be a great example of using that time to do more value work to analyze the business and improve.
There’s another one I wanted to tell you though, where he’s a CFO down in Atlanta and he wanted to run a triathlon. Through automation, through process improvement, he was able to free himself up to actually train and run in a marathon.
Margot Leong: That’s amazing. I love stories like this where it runs the gamut, but you’ve got the business wins and you have the personal wins. And when I think about, the relationship that we get to build with customers, it’s quite unlike anything out there, maybe outside of success that is following that journey as well.
Andrew Sevillia: I think you’re right. I think, you know, sales, the way it works in a lot of the companies that I’ve been at is, you know, you’ve got hunters and you’ve got farmers, right? The hunters are out looking for new business, trying to close deals. And then once the implementation is complete, the account gets transitioned over to a success manager, an account manager or something like that. And I don’t want to speak poorly of those. You know, I think every role in the company is important and it has a strategic function and there’s a purpose, right?
But when I think about the accounts when they get transitioned over to the success manager, they’re thinking about renewals and they’re thinking about upsell opportunities and yes, they’re doing check-ins and sort of making sure that all is running smoothly. What I get is I have the luxury of being a part of the relationship from inception all the way through years and years of the customer being on the platform or product.
And so what I really think is interesting is if you kind of take a snapshot of a customer’s experience, let’s say, six months post go live and they can talk about improvement in processes or how they’ve been able to calculate or benefit. And, you know, how their life is better, right.
And then you fast forward, maybe another six months and you do another interview and take another snapshot, and they’ve really gotten comfortable with the product and they feel like they own it and they’re using it every day and they’re pushing the envelope in terms of what it can do and they’re integrating to other applications.
And then, you know, maybe two years down the road or three, they’re like veterans now, right? They’ve used the product for a long time time. And they’ve probably done a case study or a video testimonial or spoken on webinars, something like that.
So you know, it’s like a journey and you get to kind of document that journey and be a part of their experience. And of course this is great for Sage Intacct, but I think conversely it’s also very powerful for the customer to be able to go back to, maybe their board of directors and say like, Hey, we implemented the software and here’s the money saving or here’s how we’ve used it to grow our business or whatever it might be. So you know, I think it’s definitely a win-win, right?
Margot Leong: Yeah. I completely agree. And I think that the best people in this space are constantly thinking about how can I garner that win-win, and I’m not going to ask my customer to do anything unless I feel fully comfortable that they will get something out of it, right. That the relationship is going to be completely honorable in that sense.
You know, you said that you had a customer that wasn’t initially maybe as happy with the product. And then over the course of time, you were able to be a part of really helping them get a better and better experience and them becoming an advocate. I started off in customer support and I think that’s partly why I have such a bias for the customer, but it’s not always that the customer has to be a hundred percent happy with your product all the time to just be an advocate.
You know, what you learn in support is that customers who are not always as happy or maybe start out unhappy, that if you get to be a part of making that experience better, they actually have even higher product affinity and brand loyalty, because the product got better over time and addressed their concerns, right.
Andrew Sevillia: Outside of just picking up the phone and calling and asking someone how their experiences is, I mean, I mine, you know, the online reviews, the G2s, the TrustRadius, the Peer Insights, not only for positive happy customer reviews, but also for the not so happy ones, right. If somebody is going to take the time out to write a less than positive review, I think it’s our duty to take those and flag them up to the appropriate teams, whether it’s the account manager, the support team, whoever it might be. And then proactively support that customer in helping to turn their experience around.
I think it’s really important to respond to those reviews and say, we hear you, we’re looking into this, let’s get you in front of the right folks so we can address the challenges that you’re having. Again, I think it’s that thing that goes back to any excuse to have a conversation with a customer, whether it’s positive or negative.
And I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, customers who are having, who may be in the NPS or in other ways, they’re telling us they’re not having a great experience that we have turned around and turned into having a great experience. You’re a hundred percent, right. Those ones end up becoming the best advocates, the ones that want to participate wherever they can. It’s something really powerful in helping someone go from not having a great experience to having a great experience.
Margot Leong: You mentioned that you really feel like you found a home actually at Sage Intaact in part, because they’re so customer centric, which is the dream, of course. Can you talk to me a little bit more about what you mean by that?
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah, I mean, it was very clear in first step, reading the, job description, in the interview process, you know, and I got to meet with the CEO and the CFO and the CFO. I mean, I got to meet with the- leaders of the business and the message –
Margot Leong: That’s huge.
Andrew Sevillia: It is, it was, you know, it’s not just a couple of folks from across different organizations. I met with the guys who are turning the levers to make the business, help them make the business grow. And the message that I received to a person was, we want to be a customer-centric company, you know, and I think a lot of companies say that they’re customer centric, but just having you know, a mission statement that includes “make customers successful,” but there’s more to it than just that, right. It’s not giving up. Constantly trying to improve the customer’s experience, you know, help them to become wildly successful. And I think that finding a company like Sage Intaact, where it’s truly in their DNA to be customer-centric and shine a light on their customers.
So when I came in, that was what I was told. That was my charter, was whatever you need, we are here to support you. Whatever organizations you need to get in front of, we’re here to help you. And, you know, I was, embraced coming into the business. You know, also from a budget perspective, it was , what tools do you need? What can we do to help you document our customer stories and broadcast them.
And so, yeah, I think when you’re evaluating businesses or prospective employers, it’s really important to kind of look at their customer page, are they, you know, documenting their customer stories? What’s their PR plan for promoting those stories? You know, are they including customers in their demand gen, kind of across their website? Are they, do they have their customer logos? I mean, you can’t just put a customer logo on a website, right? Like you have to ask permission and typically a customer is not going to give you permission if they’re not having a great experience. So there’s things to kind of keep in mind and, you know, look for when you’re thinking about where you want to go to work. And Sage Intacct has checked all the boxes for me.
Margot Leong: I’m so happy to hear that. And like I said, like that is the dream. I think for me personally, it’s really hard to work at a company that at the very least is not committed to doing right by their customers. You end up sort of losing that passion for what it is that you even do because you know, your whole point is to be there to help the customer, right.
And I’ve also seen it where there was the commitment to the customer early on, and that as the company grew, that became less of a concern. And so then you also hear from your previous advocates starting to say, Hey, like, this is going to be a real problem. I can’t keep advocating for you if you guys are not committed to fixing your support, or making some of these things better that we’ve talked about for a year or two now, right. And so that is also I think something to be aware of is that within companies, there are incentives that are larger than ourselves, and they may not necessarily be aligned to taking care of the customer, you know?
Andrew Sevillia: A lot of companies claim to be customer-centric, but what does that really mean, right? I think a big part of it is constantly trying to get feedback and genuinely listening, right. So like part of our Influitive hub, we have challenges that are built around, give us feedback on the latest version of the product or what are some things that you’d like to see changed or made better or whatever it is, right. And then taking that feedback and giving it directly to the product management folks.
And you know, we also have a Salesforce community where people are submitting ideas for improvements to the product. And then, you know, those things get voted on. And I think if they receive a certain number of votes, then that suggestion or idea actually gets flagged up to the appropriate teams and they sort of model it and all that sort of thing. So yeah, I mean, I think if it’s just a, like a one off, Hey, wouldn’t it be great if the product could do this, I think it kind of needs to be something that’s a consensus around among a large group of customers that are advocating for some improvement or change or whatever it might be.
Margot Leong: I think it’s huge, you know, when you have, as you said, a customer-centric organization where the PMs, right, product really cares about getting that feedback and really sees customer marketing and advocacy as sort of that conduit. When you have those challenges in Influitive, how do you pass that feedback to the product team?
Andrew Sevillia: You know, within the latest version, there will be updates to specific modules or, core functionality, whatever it might be. And so we have challenges that are built to address the customer’s satisfaction with those, whether it’s modular or the core functionality. And so, there’s all kinds of release materials, notes that come out in advance, videos that kind of take you through, you know, how to use the new functionality.
So then, it’s typically shortly after the release comes out, we solicit explicit feedback on, you know, again, the modules or the core functionality. And then I take that to the person who is kind of the head of product management. You know, we kind of go over it together and then they take that information and they sort of digest it internally and try to really be thoughtful about the next release, and how they’re going to, if there’s a common theme or pattern that they’re seeing, address those things. And I think the idea of being a partner to the business , it just can’t be understated. We have this line of communication with customers, whereas a lot of teams in the company don’t necessarily have that. We have this ability, this superpower, where we can leverage the voice of the customer to impact change and to incite change. There’s so many really powerful things about this role, and I think part of it is, you know, you just need to be given the authority to do those things, right? Like, or maybe you don’t need to be given the authority. Maybe you just need to take it, right?
If you don’t, then you’re dealing with silos, right? You have folks who think that the product’s great and you have people that maybe don’t think it’s so great. And it’s like, let me share some data with you. Let’s all get together and talk about this and not just go with what our gut instinct is. Let’s sit down in a room and talk about, you know, why is this customer not having a great experience? Or why are they having a great experience, right? Like how, how can we replicate that?
You know, we have the ability to break down those silos and bring people together. And because the nature of what our thing is is to interact with customers and be the voice of the customer internally. With great power comes great responsibility, and I think it’s incumbent upon us to take that voice of the customer and share it broadly across the business to really try to impact change.
Margot Leong: Yeah. I could not agree more. I think that, you know, whenever you get the opportunity to build something out, I think as, as both you and I have. You know, the way that I think about it is it’s 50-50. 50% is externally focused, which is all right. We’re talking to customers, we’re telling their stories. A lot of this helps for air cover, sales, right, bringing in new prospects.
The other 50% has to be the win-win portion, which is, why are customers even advocating for us, right. There is the expectation of the fulfillment around, our voices can help to amplify, but they also should be helping to amplify change internally within the organization, right. We are also figuring out where else can we put in customer input to make the company something that your customers will continue to love and evolve with and grow. That is really what’s going to propel the company from a long-term perspective, and keep customers coming back, which especially as we know within SaaS is incredibly important nowadays. So I really love thinking about that.
Something that I also was curious about is from a product perspective, you know, you guys are taking that feedback, bringing it up to the product team, and then they’re thinking about, okay, what are the themes? How do we address this? Are there ways that you’re thinking about then closing the loop with customers to let them know that what they’re doing, the work they’re putting in is then getting acknowledged and reflected back in the product?
Andrew Sevillia: So at our annual customer conference, our CIO gets up. and talks about here are the things that we heard from you, right. Here’s the top 10 most requested in the past 12 months or whatever it might be, you know, improvements to functionality or making the product more robust and here’s what we’ve done. And so then he’ll kind of walk through a demo of, “you asked for this, we built it,” you know, so that’s super rewarding and customers clap. I mean, it’s a big deal, right, when, you know, you’re a part of the process that’s helping to evolve the product. With the quarterly updates and releases, you know, we’re taking customer input and feedback and trying to make the product better. So it happens a couple of times a year.
Margot Leong: I think that’s great. And, from a psychological standpoint, like I’ve had the chance to launch Influitive at three different companies, but to be honest, I don’t really go in for customer communities myself. So like, if I were invited to a customer community, I typically won’t do challenges. It’s just like, I don’t know if I’m too jaded around gamification or whatever, right. But I usually just tend to spend my time on other things.
At one of my companies, you know, I had my team run a survey within our Influitive members, asking them, okay, you know, for the most engaged ones, why do you keep coming back? Like, what is in it for you? You know, I mean, people are checking, you know, Influitive, you know, every hour or people are doing hundreds of challenges and you know what a lot of them said, what really resonated was this closing the loop. The fact that they get the chance to talk directly to the product team or to give their thoughts on product. And they can see that something that they requested showed up in a future release. That is insane. Like you said, I can’t even overstate just how valuable that is.
Can you imagine if you’ve got a direct line to, you know, one of your favorite consumer companies and you got to talk to a PM and you know, you said, I want to change this and then, you saw it happen. It’s massive and I think there’s the one side, which is we are helping them from a career standpoint, you know, around thought leadership, speaking opportunities. But at the end of the day, they became advocates for one reason, which is that they liked the product. The product is everything when it comes to continuing to nurture that relationship and, you know, like you’re proven, like you’ve shown, right, closing the loop and the ways that you make sure to push that you’re closing the loop. To spread that message is incredibly important to show them that the investment is worth it in the end.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know at a really high level there’s the gamification component to it. There’s the incentive piece to it. But you’re right. I mean, I think, here’s the thing. You’re not going to join Influitive hub, an advocacy hub, if you’re not really happy with, or you, feel like the product has really improved, you know, your role or your function or supported you, whatever.
I think you’re right. I mean, I’ve been a member of Influitive’s VIP hub since probably they launched it and I’ve maybe logged in like three times. I might have 5
Margot Leong: points.
I’m really bad at this stuff.
Andrew Sevillia: I know, I know, but I know some other people that are in our role, that do what we do and they’re in there every day and they’re going through all the challenges and all the channels and all the things that Influitive is doing. And it’s really amazing to see how far their product has come over the last couple of years. I mean, you know, I remember going to Advocamp five or six years ago, they used to hold it in San Francisco and listen to Mark Organ talk about his vision for advocacy and what it’s gonna mean and how it’s going to change the world and all that. I mean, it’s true. You know, having a tool that you can use to really harness and leverage the voice of the customer is just super powerful.
I mean, we ask that question too, like, why do you keep coming back? And I think it’s, a mix of things, right? It’s the fun challenges that are sort of, what book are you reading? Or, you know, where do you go on vacation? I mean, and those are the kind of getting to know you challenges, but those are, those take just minutes, right? I mean, you can knock out 10 of those in a short period of time.
And then I think when it keeps them coming back is, you’re right. Having their voice heard. Having questions posed to them where we’re asking for explicit feedback on their experience, and then taking that feedback and using it, leveraging it internally.
And then last, but certainly not least is, you know, this is an opportunity to help gain more notoriety for them, right. To kind of build their brand and get their name out there by participating in marketing-related opportunities. Listen, I think Influitive has fundamentally changed this role. You know, I’ll continue to be a proponent and an advocate for Influitive, even though I don’t really participate in their in their hubs.
Margot Leong: You know, what’s interesting too about that, right, and I think it brings up another great point is that we are not super into gamification, just for ourselves. But as you said, other people’s brains light up, like when they do it and they really respond to it. And so I think also just being aware of the people that don’t respond to this, are you invited to Influitive and maybe signed up and then never got into it, is making sure to still capture those people somewhere. Just because they’re not constantly visible on something like this doesn’t mean they don’t exist and can also be leveraged, and utilized in many ways. That’s something that I’m always trying to make sure of is that we capture them somewhere, right.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. I think, you know, listen, if you think about all of these different channels and data that’s coming in, right. Influitive is one channel, but I’m also looking at NPS data. I mean, I’m looking at reviews, I’m looking at a lot of different pieces of information to help me target customers for the right opportunities. And even today, I was in front of Salesforce, looking at a list of customers and sort of reading the notes –
Margot Leong: That’s our lives.
Andrew Sevillia: You know, never going to get away from that, right. And, you know, chattering to the account managers and saying, Hey, anything I need to know, like give me a little inside scoop on this customer. Can I reach out to them? I’ve got an opportunity. So you know, as, as much as Influitive has fundamentally changed how we do this job, I mean, you’re never going to get away from pulling lists out of Salesforce and sending emails and waiting for people to respond , you know?
Margot Leong: I’m curious to understand a little bit more about the persona that you work with as well. What are some learnings that you had from, you know, say working with the personas that you work with on a daily basis. First off, what is the persona?
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I guess I’ve been fortunate and that I’ve been in the kind of finance accounting space for a long time. So I’ve gotten to know the roles pretty well. So the CFO, Director of Accounting, Controller, Staff accountant, and it’s really different across the different titles.
It depends also on the size of the business. So like smaller businesses, the CFO might be more open to participating in some form of active advocacy. Because they’re, you know, trying to get more recognition for their brand, not just their personal brand, but also their company. And then as you kind of move up the sizes, it’s not that easy to get a CFO from an enterprise, global, you know, maybe public company to get on a call with you and that’s – typically it’s someone lower down the food chain.
I think there’s a lot of factors that sort of play into who is the right person for you to try to target, depending on again, maybe even industry, right? Like financial services. It’s typically a little bit of a challenge to get somebody to talk about how they’re using your product, because that’s such a regulated space and there’s a lot of information that needs to be protected. But you know, when you’re talking about, let’s say a hospitality, like a restaurant or hotel chain or something like that, you know, those folks want to get their story out. They see the value in it.
Typically I’m working with a controller, who’s responsible for, you know, a lot of the finance kind of functions that my software tool supports. And those folks, maybe they been in the controller role for a couple of years and they’re looking to, you know, move up to the next rung. And so this is an opportunity to get their name included in the press release or in the case study or whatever it might be, right. So they see the value from a personal brand perspective.
And so, yeah, I mean, a lot of these folks are interested in gamification, right? Like, yes, we have people that we’ve invited and who have signed up for our Influitive hub, who never engaged in any of the challenges. And then you know, we’ve got people in there that are in there multiple times a week that are pinging me, when is the next challenge is going to be published.
On a side note, we actually solicit ideas for challenges from our customers, and so that kind of takes some of the burden off of us to like constantly be thinking creatively about the next three challenges we’re going to be creating.
Yeah, so, I mean, from a persona perspective, it’s not a one size fits all. And you know, what I do is, I mean, I leverage networks and relationships that other people within the organization have. So, for instance, the CAM or the account manager, I might say, Hey, you know, I see that you, based on the emails that you’re exchanging with this customer I can see in Salesforce, would you mind introducing me into the Director of Finance or whatever it might be? So that’s another thing is don’t be afraid to leverage and use whatever advantages or tools that you can to help you get your foot in the door with customers.
Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. I also think understanding the persona is really crucial. And so, being able to leverage the existing resources that you have within a company to understand that persona is really important. I never want to launch a community where I don’t know how to speak the lingo of my audience. You’re committing to be part of a tribe. Tribes have certain types of language that signal your inclusion in the tribe.
So we have to know the persona in order to know, what are the inside jokes, right? What do you care about? For me, it was okay. I need to talk to our technical evangelists and people that have done this work. And I want to understand, okay, what is IT like? How are they thought of? Did they get a lot of respect within their organization? Do they love what they do typically. Like, what are the inside jokes? What do they read? And then that’s really how you form the basis for the language of the community as well.
Andrew Sevillia: Well, I’ll tell you, I mean, you know, school, I went to college and I got a history degree. I didn’t know anything about accounting when I first got in. You know what I mean? So it was definitely an education for me. And it was talking to a lot of people, not only internally, but also getting on calls with customers. And just hearing them say the lingo and then going back and trying to understand what did they mean by that, you know? Having the luxury of having been in the same space for so long, I just absorbed it.
I can interview accountants and ask them specific questions about their job and their role and how they do their, you know, what their philosophy or their strategy and all that kind of stuff is. I can fake it pretty well. I’m definitely not an accountant. But I know enough to be dangerous.
You know, and I also, what I do is when I’m doing customer interviews is I’ll actually bring in people onto the call that really do have that industry – specific knowledge or the product-specific knowledge. Yeah. I mean, listen, my ego’s not that big, right. What I want to do is just do a great job. Maybe that’s another trait of a great customer advocacy person is you don’t have a big ego. It’s not about you. It’s about, you know, supporting the business and delivering great content and making the customers look amazing, right.
Margot Leong: It’s very true. I think the low ego piece, combined with this natural curiosity about people, a lot of that really helps because we’re really in it for the customer. That’s everything to us, right?
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. No doubt. But you know, I think that’s another thing is, is you got to surround yourself with experts, right? And so I’ve got a film production crew that I’ve been working with for many years now, and they can take just about anything and turn it into gold. I have a short list of tools and a shortlist of people that I bring with me to every company that I go to work for, because I know they’re going to deliver amazing results and I’ve gotten past the point of like the audition. I know who I want to work with.
Margot Leong: What are some of those tools, right? Like Influitive, you know you’ve used Point of Reference.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. I mean, we’re using one right now with Zoom. Having some conferencing tool, whether it’s, you know, Microsoft teams or Zoom or whatever it might be, so that you can record the interviews. I mean, I think that’s so critical. I remember way back when I used to record the interviews on my phone, right, I’d be in a conference room and I put the conference phone on speaker and record on my phone and then I would go back later that night, and transcribe that interview that I recorded on my phone. Those days are thankfully long gone . I use rev.com, and it’s so simple. Like I get the download of the interview. I load it up to rev. Within four hours, I get the transcript back. And then from that, I can, you know, write a case study. I can write a blog post. I can pull quotes out that could be useful for some data sheet or white paper or website or whatever it might be.
And then what I do is I keep all of those transcripts, right, so that if anybody ever comes to me and says, Hey, I’m looking for a software company that uses our contracts module. I’m looking for a quote. I can quickly run a query and pull out all the quotes where a software company mentioned, you know, using contracts. And it’s just life-saving and time-saving.
I think there’s a lot that you can do with the online review sites. So like, TrustRadius has this backend tool called TrustQuotes Marketing Platform. So let’s say, you know, a hospitality customer writes a review and they mentioned, you know, something around multi-entity currency conversion, or, you know, something that’s really juicy. Well, I can tag that quote. And then I can feed it into the reviews widget, which we have placed on certain pages on our website, where those quotes are kind of cycling through on a product page or on an industry page, right. TrustRadius has that, G2 has it, and so leveraging the quotes is also, or the reviews is also something that I think people should do more of, you know what I mean? Like that’s a gold mine right there.
Margot Leong: We talked previously about how tactical this role can be if you are not putting in sort of the right processes and efficiencies to think about it, and you can’t really scale what you’re doing. To what you said around the quote piece, something that I found really effective when it comes down to it, there’s definitely a lot of the work that we do within this space where it’s like, Hey Margot, or Hey, someone on the team, do you have a quote from a customer that’s publicly approved, is this geo, this industry, this specific product feature? And yes, a lot of the times, I know that like off the top of my head and I can pull that up as a case study and then send that over.
But it’s really sort of the context switching that I think can be a killer, because it’s just sort of naturally inherent in this role. And so the more that you can scale out some of those processes and make it more self-service, the better. Something that I did at a previous company was, think about everything from a quote perspective. So you have all your case studies, right? You’ve got all your customer stories and obviously those can be filtered by geo, industry, et cetera.
Well, think about the quotes in that context as well. So build out some sort of spreadsheet or repository where it’s, you know, you have the quote. You have like what you need from an attribution standpoint, which is name and title. And then you have literally every single like category that it could be placed into, and then you can filter.
If someone’s like, Hey, I need a quote from a customer within this industry and the geo or whatever, then you’re just like, here’s the link to this repository. You can filter it to your heart’s content. These are all publicly approved. Go have fun. Use them how you shall. And you can share this with partnerships, channel, like web, you know, demand gen, right? And so that is something that is a bit more tactical, but I found very helpful as a way to again, think about scaling out some of this stuff.
Andrew Sevillia: So you’re reading my mind right now, Margot. That was kind of like the first order of business when I came into Sage Intacct, was let me look at the library of case studies and stories that we have. And let me just take a spreadsheet and basically dissect all of the case studies. You know, list out that the title of the company with the hyperlink to the case study. And then it’s like all the information in the case study and within the cells, right? So you’ve got, typically a case study will have three or five quotes and those are all in different cells. You’ve got the name of the person that was quoted. You’ve got their title, you’ve got what industry they’re in, what region they’re in, you know, all that information.
What I do is for all the new SDRs that come on board, I take them into a room and I go, here’s your Bible, right? If they’re having a conversation with a prospect and they want to know what are some of the successes that existing customers within that industry or within that region or within that size have had, here’s where you go. We call it the value metrics sheet. It’s available to just about every team across the business.
And then, you know, there’s another tool that we’ve recently put in place. It’s a CMS tool, it’s called HighSpot and you know, you can set up these spots that are industry specific or product specific or whatever they might be. But all the case studies are searchable in there. Like the text within the PDFs is all searchable. It’s just made my life so much easier having HighSpot in place.
Margot Leong: The more that we can do from a sales enablement standpoint to help, I think the better, honestly, and I think for SDRs, it can be very intimidating when the prospect you’re talking to definitely knows more about what you’re selling than you do. And so what can you do from a customer evidence standpoint to make that as easy as possible?
Andrew Sevillia: So a couple of things on that, the SDR/BDR, that is hands down, that’s the hardest job in my opinion. Every day you’re just grinding, sending out emails, trying to set up meetings.
You know, it is our responsibility to promote these stories internally. So what I do is, you know, every two weeks, we call it the Fortnightly Customers Newsletter. Send out a newsletter internally, and it’s just one story. Basically a summarized version of the case study, you know, ” Hey, super excited to announce that we have this new story and it’s available on the website. Here’s the bullet points around success. Here’s the challenges they had previously, yada yada yada.” And I try to make it short, sweet and just like, easy to kind of remember. I think that’s the other thing is we’re creating, I mean, I’m creating 15 new case studies per quarter, and if you try to like force the organization, the sales team, whoever to remember all those, that’s not going to happen, right.
So you just have to really like be strategic, I guess, around the stories that you want to promote internally? Of course, all of these stories are available on HighSpot, they’re all available on the website. I break every story down into a case study slide, and those are all available everywhere. But you know, doing the internal promotion around these stories is also critical. We have a mandate – my CMO will pull you aside and ask you what are three customer stories, right. So you gotta be, you know, if you see them coming and you don’t have your three stories, you know, you better walk the other way because he’s going to ask you.
It’s so critical that folks in sales and marketing can retell these stories, have your elevator pitch, right? I have definitely been in an elevator and somebody asks me, what do you do? And I’m like, well, let me tell you a customer story.
Margot Leong: Yes, yes, exactly. That’s where I always start. Like, if you’re working a conference booth, if someone asks like, what do you do, right? Or what does this product do? I mean, I always root it in a customer story. You know, I might be a slightly more long winded, but the context changes everything .
I like this idea too of, you know, we’re talking about, okay, how do you get the attention of the people that you’re trying to help basically like help sell better, sell more or whatever. And I like this idea of leading by example as well. So, you know, if you have a chance, I advise people to present on all hands a customer story and tell it in a very compelling way, because usually what I’m trying to do is I’m going to, I’m trying to use this really as a way to like talk to sales and be like, if you told it in this way, as much as you’re enjoying this story right now, I can bet you a prospect would like it even more.
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. No, it’s amazing that you’re bringing this up because I literally had that experience like a week ago. I presented on the marketing all hands and I had my five minutes to tell a customer story and I had a slide and I was speaking to it. But I wasn’t really like telling the, you know, so much the business story as hey, let me tell you about Brent. That’s my advocate. Let me tell you about his life before putting in, you know, our solution. This is how painful his work experience was, and you know telling the story through his lens, but at the end of it, the CMO called me afterwards. He’s like, you did a great job with that. Thank you so much. Let’s make sure we do that every, you know, marketing all hands.
And then, you know, at sales kickoff, we actually do it twice a year, and so typically at one of the sales kickoffs, I’ll get up on stage and I’ll bring in a couple of customers, but this is more about the selling journey, talking about what worked, what didn’t work, what’s some advice you would give to salespeople? It’s learnings like that.
Margot Leong: You know, I’ve done those customer panels at SKO before. And I mean, oftentimes they turn out to be one of the highlights, right. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing it directly from the customer. I think it’s huge.
And so I really like thinking about how do I also implement the cultivation of internal empathy for the customer within the company. I want every single department, not just sales, right or specific departments that work a lot with us to know what the customer does. I want legal to know. I want accounting to know, because I feel as though when you become a bit prouder of what your product does and you’re tied more to the customer, you care a little bit more about your work.
Andrew Sevillia: You know, I think you’re right. I mean, we don’t go to work every day just for a paycheck. I mean, I’m definitely invested in my customers’ success and helping them to have a great experience and, just providing excellent service. And so, you know, I think a lot of people are like that, a lot of people are good people and they want to see the people who are trusting us with their data to get a return on that, right. To have a great experience, to help them as they scale their business, as they grow, as they achieve their aspirations. If that’s not one of your core values, maybe you should look for a different line of business or something.
Margot Leong: A lot of companies put a lot of effort nowadays at least into putting together culture and mission statements, et cetera.
I think that to know, and to be a little bit more connected with what your product actually does for the customer, it does make you, I think, stand a little bit more proudly at the very least, right. And if someone at a cocktail party asks you what you do, then you can draw back on a customer story,
Andrew Sevillia: Yeah. It’s so funny. You mentioned that because I have a 10 year old daughter and she was like, Daddy, I know you work for a tech company, but like, what do you do? And I’m like, I tell stories, you know, at the end of the day.
Yeah. I mean, that’s really what, yeah, listen, we’re all storytellers. I’m telling you a story right now, right? I think there’s just so much power in the voice of the customer and being able to harness that and relay it and just do amazing things, right.
And what I also I love about this role is that you get to be so creative. You really get to tap into these things that a lot of other functions don’t get to do, right. You get to be a movie maker, you get to be a storyteller, you get to be a design person, right? It’s just super powerful and it’s like, Oh man, I can’t imagine doing anything else now. You know what I mean? I love my role and I love what I get to do way too much to ever give it up. So you know, customer advocacy, customer marketing, you got me forever. I’m yours. You win.
Margot Leong: I think this is you know obviously one of the best endorsements for this type of role and the value of it. A On that note, I think this is a great place to wrap up. But you know, last question for you is, for anyone that would like to connect with you, Andrew, where can they find you?
Andrew Sevillia: Sure. I mean, the best place is probably LinkedIn, you know, Andrew Sevilla. What I think is really great is that there’s a lot of young people that are getting interested in this role, that are thinking like really you know, innovatively about how to do this job and how to do it better and how to do, you know. So it’s kind of fun right now because there’s this whole new crop of folks that are getting interested in this role, that I have so much to learn from.
Margot Leong: Yeah absolutely . Andrew, this has been such a pleasure talking with you. I really enjoyed it.
Andrew Sevillia: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m super excited about what you’re doing and keep doing it.
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.