Key Takeaways: How Advocacy Can Play a Larger Role in the Customer Journey with Julie Perino

When it comes to the customer journey, customer advocacy is at the very end of it. In my interview with Julie Perino, Head of Global Customer Marketing, Adobe, we talked about how advocacy can actually play a much larger part in the entire journey by partnering up with adoption.

You can do this by modelling the behaviors of your successful customers and applying them to your customers that have recently purchased, thus converting them to advocates even faster. The name of the game is no longer just about taking care of the existing advocates—it’s about getting more involved on the adoption side in order to convert customers who have purchased into advocates as well. 

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from our discussion: 

Play up your advocacy program as a competitive advantage during the sales cycle

That customer wants to know how are you going to help us, first and foremost, be successful, and understand that path to success. Can we use that actually, pre-sale, to win them over even further over onto your side if they’re obviously looking at competitive solutions?

How is this company going to not only help me be successful, but how are they going to potentially give me a platform to share that success, help my fellow customers along the way, and be able to amplify the great work that they’re doing as a marketer? So I think that’s really interesting, and we’re seeing more and more interest in actually sharing what those opportunities are in a pre-sales world. 

Advocacy begins with adoption

As we were starting to surface case studies or talk to customers, we found that their use of the product was pretty standard or straightforward. They weren’t necessarily using some of the higher value elements of the Marketo platform that would really give them a unique lift and really elevate the way that they were engaging with their customers. We took it as an opportunity as a team to say, Hey, what role could we have in helping to drive deeper adoption of our products?

And so we partnered with our customer success team at the time, as well as our product teams and really thought about: how do we help to create and support getting those customers successful, because certainly adoption is the onramp to advocacy. If your customers are not successful using your product, they’re not going to be willing to lean in and shout from the rooftops about how great your product or solution is.

Marketing can help to scale the entire customer experience

I think customer experience is certainly everybody’s business, right? Everybody should feel, regardless of what organization you sit in, the customer should always be top of mind and definitely a customer-first focus, but it’s interesting because you do see customer experience owned by different parts of the organization. 

I think it’s about aligning, and certainly we’ve got incredible organizations, like customer success, that we partner very strongly with, and incredible product management teams and product marketing teams that we work incredibly closely with. I think marketing is, more and more, taking a bigger role, a more forward role. It’s really co-ownership of that responsibility to drive customer experience, customer success, and adoption of the solutions. 

I think for us in marketing, we have the ability to bring scale to helping customers adopt our solutions. It’s very challenging to do it one to one, and so how do we in marketing provide air cover to our customer success management team, and to our customers and get that content that we know will help them better adopt out at scale? I think [through] the channels that we talked about: email, in-product guides, virtual events, there’s so many different ways to do it. But scale is something I think certainly marketing can bring to the table […]. 

Customer journey marketing is about hugging your customer from the moment they come onboard

How can we put our arms around them from the moment that they become that new customer, through to success, through to renewal and growth with us? That virtuous cycle. 

For example, when a customer is brand new, what do we want them to do? We want them to engage in their local user group. We want them to engage in community. We want them to engage in Adobe’s Experience League, which is an amazing hub of information and learning courses as for our customers. So we want them to make sure that they’re doing everything they need to do to learn about the solution or the solutions that they’ve purchased, that we’re helping them be successful. They’re also connecting with their peers who can help them as well. There’s nothing like talking to and connecting with a seasoned user of the solution that you’ve just purchased to get really the inside scoop, the tips and tricks of just how to be successful.

And then as they move along their journey, that’s when we know they’ve been successful. That’s maybe when we might want to see if they want to be a reference, or they want to create a customer story or a video testimonial. And then there’s these champion programs that we run as well, so when they get to be an advanced user and they really want to share that expertise at that level and they want to embrace speaking opportunities and such. We have a program for them each step of the way; we always come at it with this customer journey lens.

Truly seek to understand and align your goals when partnering cross-functionally

We had a great Chief Customer Officer when we started to expand our charter into the adoption program side of the work that we do. He was an amazing partner with us. And one of the first things we did was really sit down with him and understand what are his organization’s goals. I think once you seek to understand and align against those goals, and of course, those goals were all about driving customer success, ultimately driving retention and growth, creating those customers for life. 

We came together on that and really talked about how we know this is a challenge, right? Getting those customers to deeply adopt what we call the stickiest features of Marketo at the time, those features that we knew that if customers were using those elements of the product, they were less likely to churn. So there was data that backed that up. Those were some of our many kind of guiding lights. We knew if we could drive deep adoption of the half a dozen or beyond key elements and key features of Marketo, we would assure that value is being delivered, that value is being realized by that organization. 

And what that also helps with too is, as we all know, marketers move around quite frequently. Organizations change and realign. […] So when that marketer moved on, even though they had maybe moved on outside of that organization or outside of that company, we knew that that implementation was still driving value for that organization. Just by way of what they were using and how they were using it. So there’s also some value there too. And just making sure that as that churn naturally happens, that you don’t end up losing that account if you’re making sure that that value is being delivered and certainly communicated up the chain, outside of just that one initial champion that you have.

From the very beginning, we set up a monthly cadence status with that Chief Customer Officer and his direct reports. We definitely took their input and their guidance as we created the programs. We reported out results, and over time, we quickly gained their trust. And when you see the needle starting to move, when you start to see adoption scores increase, when you start to see lifts in key feature usage, you know that you’re driving user behavior in the right direction.

I think what was really gratifying for my team to see is not only was the data telling us that, say if we delivered an in-product guide that really was guiding that customer to use a specific element of the product, we weren’t just seeing a temporary boost in use of that feature or capability.. We were seeing sustained use, which means we were really truly driving behavior change in how the solutions were used. So we very quickly gained the trust of that organization, and it was a true partnership really from the beginning.

Gain deeper empathy for your customers by knowing your product inside and out

I think the other thing that I would recommend, that’s part of the fabric of my team, is they have also become experts of the solutions themselves. So they know. They experienced these solutions firsthand so that when they hear from a customer, that there’s an element of that product that they’re challenged with. It’s easier for them to connect with that and say, okay, how do I then work to create content that will help that customer better understand that capability of the product?

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