Transcript: Using Online Reviews to Drive Endless Value for Your Company and Customers with Lauren Harris

On this episode, I was joined by Lauren Harris, Director of Global Customer Programs at Oracle. One of the areas where she’s driven a ton of value is in leading their customer review team, covering 6+ lines of business, 3 vendors, and over 15 functional areas. Third-party reviews are more important than ever because the way that many customers buy has fundamentally changed. We talk about why you don’t need to be scared of negative reviews, her tips for getting cross-functional buy-in, and why customer centricity and utilizing the voice of the customer will always be a competitive advantage. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Lauren.

Margot Leong:   Hi Lauren. I am thrilled to have you on Beating The Drum. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Lauren Harris: Thank you, Margot. I’m really excited to be here and talk to your listeners.  

Margot Leong: Let’s start off off with having you introduce yourself. So can you tell us about your background and how you ended up in your current role over at Oracle?

Lauren Harris: Absolutely. So, I started out really in kind of project management roles, which I probably deserves a little bit of explanation, but when I went to school many, many years ago, I was at the University of Memphis. So I don’t know if you know anything about Memphis, Tennessee or that area, but it’s kind of a supply chain hub. You know, FedEx is based there – we’re sort of a logistical capital. And so that’s where I went the school. 

So many, many years ago when I came out, I landed into a position over at first a company called Zomax, then AutoZone. Both which were I was doing things like project management-type work and process improvement. And I was only in those roles for just a couple of years. And what happened was, is I was actually reading a magazine at my house and it was talking about the best places to live. And Northern Virginia popped up, along with a couple of other places. And I thought, you know, why not? And I didn’t have any kids at the time. You know, I was early twenties and I stuck my resume out there. And sure enough, within two weeks I got hired at a company called Neustar, which I had never heard of. It’s just a small company in Northern Virginia. And when I got on board at Neustar, very shortly thereafter, I was doing kind of similar work: ISO certifications, process improvement, project management, so that type of thing. 

But what I really found was that although my personality was very – and still is – kind of structured and organized, I didn’t really love that. Like I was drawn more towards kind of the behavioral sciences, you know, what makes people tick. And so that really led me back to thinking about marketing, which is what my undergraduate degree was in. So I went over to some various folks in Neustar at the time and ended up landing a role in corporate communications, and from there went into marketing and really got my kind of foundational experience, doing everything from analyst relations to some events to corporate communications, and then sort of the generic marketing side of the house, you know, demand gen and that type of thing. 

 From there, I moved over to Oracle and I did that by going into one of their executive roles – an executive events role – dealing with executive relations, which I managed that transition because while I was at Neustar, I had started up the first customer advisory board. And so due to that experience, it kind of made a natural pathway to the Oracle position. And, I was in that role for about a year. And then from there, I moved into global customer programs, where I’ve done a variety of things, but it’s really led me to a much more focused role and kind of experience around advocacy and communities and customer engagement.

And that really brings me to where I am now, where I lead the customer review initiative for Oracle. And I am constantly trying to drive value for our customers through customer reviews. I am specifically responsible for the overall initiative all the way, you know, from volume to content, from the data, from the program. And it’s a kind of a passionate area for me because I really am big about understanding our customers and our prospects, and then launching initiatives to adapt to their needs through digital marketing transformation, which customer reviews does. That’s me. That’s my background.

Margot Leong: I think you did a fantastic job of summarizing what has been, you know, an amazing breadth of experience in these areas. And I think that’s something that was really interesting that you mentioned, right, was that, you know, you started off from a project management standpoint, and you had those chops. At the same time, you actually realized about yourself that you were drawn more towards, you know, marketing, behavioral science. That is something that a lot of people don’t recognize until much later on in their careers, I think, where sometimes you just go in one direction because you just think that that’s what I’m good at, but there’s a difference between, you know, maybe what you have the background in or what you’re good at versus what you’re like, I really liked this, you know, and I could do this all day long. 

So I think that’s really just an interesting point to think about, but the reason why I’m super excited to chat with you today is that we are going to devote this entire episode to what you are an expert in, having worked on this at Oracle, is the topic of user reviews, and I’m sure that you could write an entire book on what you’ve learned. You mentioned during our introduction call that you really believe in the power of user reviews and that these types of programs can tremendously impact a lot of parts of the company and in a way that you actually had not necessarily experienced before.

So first off, talk to us about what makes you so passionate about the power of user reviews? 

Lauren Harris: You know, the customer review program is so unique. A lot of people look at this and they think about it just in terms of kind of the market representation, you know, we need to be on those sites, but it is so much more. I would say that in all of my roles across everything I’ve done from the beginning to now, I have never seen an initiative that has so much potential to fill customer need during the buying process and giving them exactly what they want. It really is impacting. It has the, you know, when you actually start going through the value props that can come from customer reviews and what an organization gets from it, as well as what you can give to the customer, it’s almost unending. It applies across the board.

And the reason and for that is, going back to when I first started this, and really still to this day, I’m always doing research, but I did a good bit of research on buying and even advocacy and what makes people do things and, you know, behavioral-type things that go into this. And what we know is that buyers, you know, they don’t trust sellers, they just don’t. They really prefer a do-it-yourself-style journey with raw, kind of unaltered feedback from their peers. And they want good and bad, not just a pretty story from, you know, our marketing team that’s been slicked up. They want transparency and they’re actively going to third-party sites to find it. Reviews have the opportunity to provide the content that buyers are looking for and they help to re-establish that trust between buyer and seller. And I think they can have a really prime spot in any customer-centric organization, or at least an organization that is trying to be customer-centric.

Margot Leong: Yeah, I think this is really interesting because reading some of your posts on LinkedIn about this topic, you mentioned that there’s power in not just only having positive reviews, right. You know, five star all the way, right. And I think that’s definitely a shift from when user review sites were first on the scene, right. Everybody was like, we only want five star reviews everywhere. What is the value of having a mix of different positive and maybe like, you know, negative, or sort of neutral reviews? What is the value of that based off of the research that you’ve done?

Lauren Harris: So it really goes back – if you kind of walk it back, like five steps, it goes back to that trust gap that we’re seeing, you know. TrustRadius did some really great research on this and I think it was their 2019 Buyer’s Disconnect Report, if I recall. It might’ve been 2020, but 89% of buyers don’t trust their sales reps. And the reason for that, or a big reason is because of lack of transparency. And what they mean when they talk about transparency is not just opening the kimono and saying everything bad about everything, but to have more recognition of where the customer is, the problems that they face and being honest and open, more like a partnership of trying to help them resolve it.

And in some cases that might mean saying, you know, maybe we’re not perfect in this little area and buyers, if they feel that an organization is confident enough to be a true partner and to allow them to share the good and the bad, then they build trust and they begin to work with them more, build loyalty with that brand. You know, I think that the reviews, it’s a fantastic opportunity to allow that transparency and not be scared of it more or less. 

So in the beginning, when I started this, I had so many conversations with folks kind of nervous about negative reviews, you know, what if they’re not perfect. And I would say that, you know, at least within my role, we’ve really come a long ways on that and kind of taken on a different view where that’s not really an issue anymore, because people understand that not all reviews are gonna be perfect and that we get value from the negative reviews. You know, a lot of times they have constructive criticism and things that we can learn from and ways that we can build out our products or processes to better meet the customer experience. But I think the biggest thing is from a customer perspective, they just want truth. And so this shows that we’re acknowledging it and we’re listening to what they want. And we’re brave enough to give it to them. 

Margot Leong: Yes. I really resonate with this because, you know, I started off in customer support and one of the really interesting things that I learned about that was that we don’t have to be afraid of customers who are unhappy because that doesn’t mean they’re always going to be unhappy. I think a lot of customers, to be honest, give a lot of leeway to products that could be better because they believe in the vision and they think it can improve their lives. 

I think it’s more about a topic that you and I really care about, which is, is the company care deeply about the customer to make these changes, right. And to respond and to, to deeply, you know, sort of inhabit that need to care about the customer. Customers can be really tell that and I love this idea that user reviews, the transparency of it, can be an advantage to show people that, yes, it’s not all like unicorns and ponies and roses all the time. But that’s sort of the natural state of affairs, but we are committed to continually making things better. 

And that’s really honestly like what we, as people just want anyway from our companies, is that continual devotion to making things better. So if companies decide right that they’d like to embark on this project to increase their user reviews, what are your thoughts or recommendations on how they should approach this?

Lauren Harris: So, I’ve had so many conversations with so many people that are getting started at this, or have been doing it for a little while and there’s a thousand different ways that you can go about it. I do know that some organizations launch campaigns specifically to generate reviews, and while I can see the benefit to doing that, my recommendation is really not to, but rather piggyback off of the happy touchpoints that you already have.

So for example, if you have some sort of go live celebration or at least acknowledgement of going live, or if there’s a point in time where people renew, or if there’s some sort of a recognition program or anything. Anything where people have hit a specific milestone, where they’re more likely to feel sort of energized in the moment to share a review. And there’s some other logical places, like if your company runs surveys or anything like that, you can piggyback off of the survey process, you know, when they send their, you know, thank you note or whatever it may be. Virtual events is another great one as part of the confirmation package. You know, whatever that digital process looks like, as well as the, you know, at the end, the things you know that they get there. 

I’m a big believer in utilizing the channels that you have. Now, I will preface all that with saying that we have used physical events a good bit. And so this has been a pretty big shift for us. I’m excited about it and I think it’s the right way to go. I think that it’s less intrusive to our reviewers and it comes as a more natural flow for them or user experience when they’re working with us, versus having kind of one off asks. Now that said, I still do think that a physical event can definitely be a good place to ask for reviews if you have an environment in place where you are touching customers, not just prospects. So I think that you can definitely use them whenever we go back to physical events, whenever that happens, I think it can come back into play.

Margot Leong: Yeah. You’re basically identifying, right, the moments of delight that can happen where someone has hit an emotional high point, and they are never more primed to pick up the proverbial pen and write something for you then at that moment. 

I understand the need sometimes to be like, okay, we have something that’s time- specific, time constrained. We, you know, need to generate this many reviews within this time. I have been in that situation and it is a highly stressful process, and so, you know, I think that if you are going to commit to doing something like this, you know, it has to be programmatic as well. And really it’s the ways that you automate it, like you’re saying, right, where you’re identifying the moments in that sort of customer journey where they feel the greatest happiness, that you then sort of swoop in and make that, sort of turn that into a reality so that you’re accumulating and almost automating these reviews coming in, right? It’s this compounding interest that you’re like, I’ve set up these systems and it’s sort of automagically happening, versus being like, all right, we only do this three times a year and it’s like an all out sort of assault  to get this done.  

Lauren Harris: Yeah. And that way it’s scalable. If you only have one or two products, which I know a lot of folks do, then you can do what you just described, where you kind of, everything’s more of a personal engagement to get the stuff done, but when you get up to any kind of size, you would need a team of 20 to be constantly trying to figure out, where do I need reviews and what should I go do? And how do I reach these people? So it’s all about putting those processes in place – I call them “always on” campaigns. It’s just plugging in to the natural way that our customers and our buyers do business with us from all perspectives, not just review recruitment, but across the board, in terms of the way that we use the content and everything else that comes out of reviews.

Margot Leong: Absolutely. And I think within the field of advocacy and customer marketing in general, something that’s very common is that if you’re not always thinking about how to make things more scalable, you are very much at threat of getting buried in one-off requests. This is just sort of another principle, right? Or way of thinking about it is that you always have to be thinking how can I scale so that I can spend less time on one-off things and more time on this strategic work, how you’re thinking about, you know, doing user reviews, for example. 

So in, you know, a situation like this, I can imagine, especially for companies that have a lot of employees, a lot of different departments that also touch the customer, I’m curious as to, what sort of teams do you think companies should consider partnering with to get their assistance? 

Lauren Harris: Yeah, there really are so many. I feel like when I first started this, the list just grew and grew and grew.

Margot Leong: You’re like, I didn’t even know these teams existed.

 Lauren Harris: No, exactly. You don’t know. All of a sudden you’re like, Oh wow. They could use this too, and, oh, they could too. And I basically took on a job title, my own kind of self- named title of Internal Sales. That’s what I became, is running around and getting buy-in and support for what I was trying to do. 

So, to get to your question, so the teams I would recommend right off the bat would be marketing, of course. So if you’ve got product marketing, demand gen, content marketing, whatever all those groups that you might have, or if they’re all under one bucket, whatever it looks like – they have a huge role to play here in that they need content. And that’s what reviews provide, you know, they provide raw, unedited customer comment. So it’s fantastic for those guys in terms of feeding the content machine. 

References and advocacy teams, they’re great with this too from multiple perspectives. They can help to recruit reviews. They also can amplify the content that comes out, and they can also receive a funnel from reviews. So reviewers can become advocates, they can be nurtured or references, whatever the case may be. 

Then on the data side, you’ve got competitive intelligence, voice of the customer and your brand team. All those can benefit from reviews as a additional complementary listening post in the organization. 

And then I would say systems, I don’t know if I want to call them a team. It could be 20 teams, or it might be just one, depending on how your organization is set up. But ultimately, you have to embed the full review lifecycle into the way that you do business. And that takes a systems approach. And we talked about the scaling out of the review ask, but in addition to that, you know, all these other things that we’re talking about, it’s not scalable to pick out a piece of content and email it to, okay, these four people might benefit from this, so let me send this. And these two people could benefit from this. And, oh, here’s a little piece of data. Let me send that. That  just doesn’t work. 

You have to integrate it into whatever systems you have. So if you have content management systems, obviously that would be a great place. If you have CRM systems, you know, wherever you’re using content or tracking data, you really want to integrate what you’re getting from customer reviews into that, so that the voice of the customer and what they’re asking for and what they need is actually coming into the organization and going everywhere that it needs to go without having one or two people, you know, trying to pull ad-hoc pieces and emailing them out.

Which I think would probably be just about impossible, but you might be able to do it in a smaller company, but not definitely not a bigger one. 

Margot Leong: Something that I think would be interesting because the role, as you said, of internal sales applies to, you know, obviously not just user reviews, right, but honestly, within customer advocacy and customer marketing, we are so cross-functional. When you’re approaching different teams to get their buy-in, how do you think about the strategy there? 

Lauren Harris: You know, I will tell you, I went through a lot of this. And I tried many different things and what I found, where I felt like I really hit my success was when I stopped asking other people for permission and really became a thought leader on what it was that I wanted to do, meaning that rather than going in and having almost more of a passive approach to position what we could do, what value it could be to customers, or what value it could be to the brand or whatever it might be. I turned those conversations upside down and started to speak with more authority, to say, this is what I know to be true. Buyers want this, they want this, they want that, you know, we have this data. And so here’s what we have to do to meet that requirement or whatever it is. 

And I found that over time when I started doing that, it really became much more accepted as standard, versus my first way of doing it. Everything was always more of a conversation, which, a conversation can be great, but you can have conversations for years and never actually get anywhere. So I felt like that was really where we hit a turning point with folks that I would talk to frequently, and in terms of getting them to kind of buy into this. 

Now from a more tactical standpoint, I also think it’s really important to identify who you need to talk to. It’s almost like cold calling or something like that. You have to think about what value you want from the program because you don’t necessarily have to go in looking to hit every single thing. You might pick and focus on content or maybe focus on data, or maybe you do try to do all of it, you know, I don’t know, but whatever that looks like, you then have to identify, well, who owns that, and start figuring out the same way you do when you’re trying to network on LinkedIn or whatever it is. You know, you try to find the person who knows somebody. So then you’re thinking, okay, well, this person that I know knows them. And so you start making those connections and booking time with them and having these conversations. 

And I think that, you know, kind of going back to my project management upbringings, I suppose, that’s where the ability to put a plan in place becomes paramount. There is no way we would be able to achieve these types of things and put in place the strategies, if you don’t eventually have the execution side. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, it’s great to have the big ideas, right. But I think, it’s execution that ultimately gets these things done. So, you know, what’s really interesting in what you said about the buy-in piece and how you were talking to people, it’s almost like you were sort of painting the vision of where you’re wanting to go, right. Being a leader in that way. 

Lauren Harris: Yes, absolutely. I, you know, because you go into these or, you know, whenever you’re, any job, any organization, we’re always – and don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being polite – but we’re always wanting to be polite and get everybody’s buy-in and let everybody, you know, have a role to play, and you know, that’s fantastic. That’s awesome. But at some point somebody’s actually got to stand up and say, what’s the right way, you know, or what do we think is the right way? Where are we willing to take a risk here? Where are we going to go forward? 

And in this specific instance, that’s where I stepped in over time. And it also just came very naturally because after doing this for, you know, whatever, it was a couple of years, I really just became quite passionate about it. You know, I started digging up data and research and you know, all these things and really learning about it. And the more that I learned, the more secure I became in what I wanted and how I thought the value could be brought into my organization, and for that matter, elsewhere. That confidence definitely helps when you’re doing this. 

Margot Leong: The passion always translates, right? I mean, you can hear it in your voice.   Another question I had was, especially in larger organizations, there are so many teams that end up touching the customer. There’s a lot of, I’m sure, email communications that are going out, like there’s a lot of things that happen on this customer journey. How did you think about balancing review asks, automating that against potentially other asks around acts of advocacy? 

Lauren Harris: Every now and then, I mean, keeping in mind that most of the time when I make a review ask, we’re plugging into existing communication. So it’s not incredibly intrusive. It’s just part of their interactions, but that’s sort of in a natural way . But that said, I think that there’s a couple things here. One, when I started this, I did some research into the type of person that becomes an advocate. Now I will preface this with saying that not all reviewers are advocates. That is definitely not the case, but I felt like they were definitely correlations there.

Margot Leong: I agree 100%. 

Lauren Harris: So I don’t mean to imply that, but a lot of times they’re kind of similar in the way they tick a little bit. So I did some research. Forrester does some great stuff on this, or at least they did back then. I haven’t looked in a while, but what I read was that, there’s certain types of people who want to advocate. You know, I think there’s three different kind of advocate personas. And by the way, none of them are actually for incentives, not one. That’s never the point. They’re usually, you know, there could be personal branding aspects, there’s the teacher persona, you know, really wanting to share knowledge, you know, that type of a thing. 

And what I realized from doing all of this is that, these people, they actually want to advocate, like they are looking for opportunities to do it. I mean, not that they want to have really long drawn out projects that take hours and hours of their time, but they want to share their knowledge for one reason or another, whether it’s personal branding or to share with their community or whatever the case may be. And so asking them to do a review is a really easy way for them to do it. And it’s something that not only are they able to contribute and share their knowledge, but it also hits social branding, you know, for their personal branding aspects, they can plug their review in LinkedIn or wherever they’re active.

So I think that, you know, it’s our tendency to think, Oh no, we’re over asking, but I just don’t, I don’t believe it. I think it’s okay. Now with all of that said, I do think that you can annoy customers if you have 10 different people asking them to do 10 different things across 10 different channels. So while I don’t think asking them to do a review is particularly annoying or anything to really worry about, if you don’t have a holistic way of managing your advocates, or those that you’re nurturing as advocates, then I think that you could possibly burn some bridges there. So I think the key is to ensure that you’re, you know, have some sort of centralized system to make sure that you’re not over – well, I don’t want to say overasking, but just to ensure that they’re engaged, almost more with the partnership between the company and the customer, versus just everybody in the company emailing out and saying, Hey, will you do this? Hey, will you do that? I think there’sa pretty big difference there. 

Margot Leong:  Another topic that I think would be really interesting to talk about is, okay, so you’ve generated these reviews, and they keep on coming, which is fantastic. But in one of your LinkedIn articles, you talked about how, “when reviews are incorporated throughout and standardized in the way that we do business from marketing to sales, advocacy, and customer experience, that’s when the most value will be realized.” I’d love to get your take on what you meant by that. 

Lauren Harris: You know, when we were talking about buy-in, I mean, this all kind of goes very closely back to that, but we have all of these groups or systems, you know, whether they, whether it’s technical processes or it’s business process, you know, people, it’s almost irrelevant. That once you decide what value you are looking for, you have to ask that question. That would be my biggest tip is right in the beginning to decide, this is what we’re going to do right now. Like our phase one of this, so that you’re better prepared – it’s a question I wish I’d asked myself way back when I got started on this. 

And from that, once, you know where you’re going to focus, you know, it goes back into the buy-in and you know, of course you have to do that and you have to get the folks’ support and whatever you’re trying to do. But ultimately when I make that statement, what I’m really talking about is, you’ve got content. You’ve got data. You’ve got account-based marketing data. You’ve got all kinds of stuff coming out of reviews that you can utilize that will allow the organization to connect in a more human way, which is positive representation for the brand and it helps to build, it shows transparency, therefore it’s helping to build trust. 

I mean, just the benefits from this are so well-rounded, it’s unbelievable. And to actually take advantage of that, you have to plug it in. It’s not enough to just go get buy-in and have people shake their heads. You actually have to integrate it into the way you do business. So that might mean for example, I mean, it really depends on the organization, but if you’ve got a content management system, rather than going out and trying to work with every individual in your company that happens to use content, which would be probably inefficient to do, why not go plug into the content management system and then run some sort of education campaign on how to utilize the content from that system.

That’s just one example, but the concept is to look at where you’re going to try to plug in value. And figure out how you can do that in a way that it just integrates naturally, and to the way that the company already works. Don’t create new data stores and new channels of information and require people to leave their world, their realm, to go find your stuff. Embed it into what they already do.

So if you have competitive intelligence, why not plug the data, already have that coming into the data store that those guys already use. Or same thing for content, have that funnel, that natural funneled content coming in. Voice of the customer feedback, it should be integrated into the way that they already get their other data inputs, whether that’s surveys or whatever it might be.

Anyway, the point is, you know, first identify the value, get buy-in and then really figure out where you plug it in to make it scalable. And so that everything’s not just an ad hoc, kind of one-off request where we’re asking people to disrupt their day, but it becomes just part of their standard, you know, just the way that they come in in the morning. You come in in the morning and you look at content management and you pull some content, you stick it in a slide and there you go. Or you put it in your demand gen campaign or whatever it might be. You didn’t have to go see me, that wasn’t required because it was right there in front of you. 

Margot Leong: A great theme throughout this whole episode, right, is that it’s all about, what are you doing to embed things into existing systems versus trying to reinvent the wheel, especially at an organization where you have so many different departments. Everybody has their own way of doing things. And so in order to provide the most value, it’s really, as you said about plugging into sort of what’s existing. And really, I think a lot of times we can get stuck in this idea of, okay, we had this idea that we need to go get, you know, more user reviews. Okay. We got more user reviews. That’s great. And it’s done, right. 

And so what you’re talking about is really how are you taking these reviews and making them, basically just providing them as another available resource that can be utilized by so many different departments. I mean, there’s so many ways that you can utilize it. One of the companies that I worked at, we went through our reviews and then did kind of an audit for the product team, right. So that they would see, you know, analyze what the negative feedback was, what the positive feedback was and pull out some themes that maybe would be helpful for them to continue to iterate on the product and make improvements, so there is so much that you can do with this. 

And one of the last things I wanted to talk about is this idea of customer centricity. And I know that you are incredibly passionate about it. First off, what does this term mean to you? How would you define it? 

Lauren Harris: Yeah, so to me, customer centricity, it’s not a program. I mean, like you said, it’s not a program, it’s not an initiative. And while I think that you can, and likely should, have evangelists and you know, maybe even a small team ensuring you stay on course, I think it’s really a cultural foundation to the way a business operates, where the business listens to their buyers and adapts. I mean, it’s really that simple. I mean, you know, obviously it’s incredibly complex once you get into the details of it, but fundamentally it’s a foundational premise that in all aspects of the organization, you’re listening and you’re adapting to what actually customers, what they really want, not what you’ve always done, you know, necessarily. 

For me, I focus on what impact this thinking has had for marketing, and I think at a really high level, we as marketers already have so much data about what buyers want, this is where reviews comes in strong. I mean, there’s obviously lots of things that you can do for customer centricity. So reviews is one little small part of this, but since we were talking about reviews, they are a very natural plug for lots of the things that we are learning about what our buyers want. 

I mean, you know, we’ve talked about content and plugging into kind of the standard operating procedures of the business. If you get it a little bit more granular, you know, think about the types of assets that your buyers pull. Today’s buyers, you know, you and I talked about this on our call last week, you know, we have a generational differences. I think it’s three out of five buyers are now millennial and they don’t want to buy from our pretty, vendor-led journeys and our website. They want a more do-it-yourself-style journey that they run. So it’s more of a democratic style and that’s the type of thing that we as companies have to adapt for, you know, that change today. And then whatever’s coming next in two more years, because it’s never going to stay the same. 

And I would say that when we talk about customer centricity and we talk about advocacy, all these terms, they all kind of get thrown around together. But to me, customer centricity is the foundation. And you really need it. I don’t think you have to have customer centricity to have a positively performing advocacy program, but I definitely think that you should, and it would make it a lot easier if you do, because if you have customer centricity, then everything else kind of flows naturally on top and it’s easier to plug in all of these various initiatives.

And then of course, if you have a true advocacy program and you’re in a customer centric organization, doing something like customer reviews becomes, you know, really par for the course, it’s just kind of a simple initiative at that point. It’s just plug it in, because you already have your advocates and your company’s already operating under a culture of caring about the customer and adapting.

Margot Leong: It’s interesting to me because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently as well, which is, the whole reason why a company is generated is for the customer, right. It’s fascinating to me that I don’t know if it’s misaligned incentives around companies having to, you know, if you’re public, you have to grow X amount per quarter, right? If you’re venture-funded, you have to massively grow, constantly. And so then maybe the focus is not on continually making your customer happy, but it’s continually getting in new customers. 

And so, like you said, right. Customer centricity. I mean, I I feel like you, and I both think this is a given and we just assume this is the way it should be. And I do think that this is something that for people within the advocacy space, we really have to be aware of, especially when we think about where we’re going next. I think that you’re going to have a much better time doing whatever work it is that you do within this space if you are at a customer-centric organization, or else advocacy will just get siloed, like so many other things, right. Where you’re not plugged into everything, everybody’s just doing their own thing. That’s a real red flag.

Lauren Harris:   Yes. And you’re absolutely right. I mean, we really, every company should be operating under that culture and you know what you’re describing when you talk about, you know, driving more towards kind of almost the short term approach of trying to get, just to bring them in, bring them in and get the sales and that type of thing. And, you know, it’s unfortunate that that happens because the fact of it is, is that the real winners of the day are going to be the ones that take the longer term approach, which they might not bring in the customer initially quite as quickly as their competitor down the street. 

But they are investing in the customers that they have. They understand what they want. They slowly adapt, or hopefully not so slowly, to what their customers need. And before you know, it, they’ve got a serious competitive advantage that that other place never had. It’s definitely something to pursue in my opinion, because a lot of folks, you know, they haven’t gotten it right yet. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity here. 

Margot Leong: I completely agree. And you mentioned, right, this idea around adaptation, and utilizing the voice of the customer to help continually push you there. Something I really liked about one of your posts was that you said, you know, the buyer’s journey is not changing. It’s already changed. You know, a lot of places are behind the curve on this. We’re still thinking about marketing to people sometimes in the same exact way as we were marketing to them five years ago, th years ago, right? Relying on the exact same ways. And there’s a lot of research out. There’s a lot of things that you can do to listen to your customers about how they buy, how they think. And I think that definitely advocacy and customer marketing can play a great role in that.

But I think this is a great place actually to wrap up on this idea of being customer-centric. Really enjoyed this conversation, Lauren. If our listeners are interested in connecting with you, where can they find you? 

Lauren Harris: Yeah, absolutely LinkedIn, LinkedIn by far. I am on Twitter, but honestly not incredibly active there. So LinkedIn is where I focus.  

Margot Leong: And I will add a link to the show notes so people can find you there as well. But, you know, I had such a tremendous time talking to you, Lauren. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Lauren Harris: Yeah. Thank you, Margot. This was a lot of fun. A nice break of my day, really. 

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, 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 Take care, everybody.




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