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

On this episode, I was joined by Julie Perino, Head of Global Customer Marketing at Adobe. I am a huge believer that customer advocacy can play a much larger role in the post-purchase journey and that we can use our knowledge to help craft an experience that results in happy customers. I was thrilled to speak with Julie because she is a massive proponent of this philosophy, which is why her purview at Adobe includes both advocacy and adoption. We talk about how these two programs go hand in hand, her advice on how to partner with product and success teams, and what metrics her team uses to measure the impact of adoption efforts. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Julie. 

Margot Leong: Julie, thank you so much for joining us on this wonderful afternoon and really excited to have you chat with us on Beating The Drum

Julie Perino: Thanks, Margot. Really appreciate you having me. I’m excited to chat with you today. 

Margot Leong: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role over at Adobe? 

Julie Perino: Sure happy to. So, my current role at Adobe is Director of Customer Marketing for the digital experience business. And how I ended up in this role, I think it’s the culmination of all of the experience and passion that I’ve gained over the years for not only just the software industry, but serving customers and kind of working with customers first and foremost. 

So my career journey has been in technology throughout my entire career, from the moment that I graduated from college until now. And I’ve had the really good fortune of working for a variety of different companies, large and small from very small startups where I was the one woman marketing band to very large companies like IBM. And of course now being part of a large global company, that being Adobe. 

I have sat in almost every seat within the marketing area of a business. As mentioned, I’ve had the good fortune of having opportunities presented to me and certainly opportunities that I have pursued as well, across demand generation and partner marketing and certainly product marketing, to corporate marketing areas like web and PR and have certainly done – that the red thread throughout, all of those  roles, Margot, has been the customer. That’s always been a part of kind of a constituent or a stakeholder that I have interacted with. 

Even throughout the few years that I took a little bit of a turn outside of marketing and I sold for five years, which actually selling – selling gave me a great opportunity to really see things from the other side. And I think it makes one a better marketer to have walked in those sales shoes and also to be talking to those prospects and understanding their challenges and what they’re going through and how the technology that you’re representing can help to solve their challenges.

So, this role at Adobe in particular, it comes from Marketo, joining Marketo as head of customer marketing about four years ago. Had a unique opportunity to join Marketo, a company that I had been long a brand advocate and fan of myself and just that Nirvana moment where you’re not only asked to join that company, but joining it to lead customer marketing.

And so obviously I’m here at Adobe by way of the Marketo acquisition several years ago. It’s actually coming up on two years. It’ll be two years coming up this October. 

Margot Leong: Congratulations. 

Julie Perino: Thank you. It’s been an amazing journey. Prior to joining Marquetto, I was a Marketo user for eight years from the very beginning, from very early days when Marquetto had first brought their product to market. Very early days of marketing automation. I saw the power of it. When I came into Marketo, I was one of those advocates who knew that they couldn’t be successful doing their job without Marketo. I even, I think in my very, one of my very first team meetings, once I joined Marketo, I actually shared my own case study quote. 

Margot Leong: That’s amazing.

Julie Perino: It was very much a full circle moment. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. And you have a really great 360 degree view of marketing because you have been in every single seat. And I think it’s pretty great that you ended up within this role and that it seems like it really feels right to you.

Julie Perino: It does. It feels like a Nirvana moment within my career. I’m so passionate, certainly about the world of marketing, and in particular, how you can really connect the dots to help customers achieve their goals. It is without question, the most rewarding role that I’ve been in throughout my career. And I’m so proud of the work that my team and I do. And it seems to certainly be, and certainly by evidence of your successful podcast, Margot, growing – certainly a growing acknowledgement, I think, within the industry and certainly within the discipline of marketing that customer marketing is critically important for any organization. 

And there are so many reasons behind that, from, you know, certainly driving advocacy, but just taking a step back and, and having a deeper hand in actually, you know, what does it take that, that journey to advocacy? I know that’s something that’s near and dear to your heart as well. Of just how do you work with customers and ensure their success and make sure that they’re successfully adopting technologies so that you’re getting them, first and foremost, successful, right. That they are able to drive impact for their business. And then how do you capture kind of those stories and that passion of your customer to enable them to advocate on your company’s behalf and give them some great opportunity to share their personal success as well.

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. And I think advocacy has almost been relegated to for such a long time is, everybody knows it’s at the end of the customer journey, right. And that it sort of renews itself. And obviously advocacy has so many amazing ways that you can both, you know, increase new pipeline and also make existing customers happy. 

But, yeah, I think we both are very excited about the idea that advocacy is in a very natural place to move much earlier in the cycle. In that journey where basically once someone, you know, either clicks buy or they sign the contract, that’s where we can actually go in and move them all the way to advocacy. Because it’s such a natural fit. We know our customers so well, and not only that, in so doing, we almost get to see how you can replicate a happy customer already because we talked to them all the time. We can understand what the voice of the customer is. We can replicate those patterns and apply all of our learnings to help out success, support, lifecycle, all these things on the journey to advocacy. 

And honestly, I think that’s how companies should be thinking about it. Right. Everything post-purchase should be the journey to advocacy. You should be making sure that every customer is as successful as possible, right. 

Julie Perino: Absolutely. It definitely does start there. And Margot, I would even tell you that the portfolio of advocacy programs, you know, certainly that we have at Adobe and I think a lot of companies have, I would argue those can actually be used in the sales cycle as a discussion point, right. As how are we going to help you, number one, that customer wants to know how are you going to help us, first and foremost, be successful, and understand that path to success. You know, how can we, you know, use that actually, pre-sale to win them over even further over onto your side if they’re obviously looking at competitive solutions of just, how is this company going to not only help me be successful, but how are they going to potentially give me a platform to kind of share that success, help my fellow customers along the way, and just really. being able to kind of amplify the great work that they’re doing as a, as a marketer.

So I think that’s really interesting and, and we’re seeing more and more interest in actually sharing what those opportunities are in a pre-sales world. 

Margot Leong: That makes a lot of sense. You know, you’re building a community, you’re focusing on advocacy, right. But the whole point is not only making the champion successful with your product, right. It’s really what is the way that you can make me personally successful, right. Professionally successful. How can we leverage our existing resources to do that?

Which is, I think why community is blowing up and has been for a while. It’s so important. And like you said, if you are looking at the landscape of competitors, which especially in B2B, B2C, it’s crazy competitive. And so, if you are looking feature to feature, it might be really tough because they all seem pretty much the same.

However, if you’re thinking about, okay, what are the additional things that this company can offer, that’s where we can start to see advocacy, community can really have a huge factor. We’re going above and beyond to provide this amazing experience and really help you outside of just the product itself.

 Julie Perino: Absolutely. And I think we take a pretty unique view on the scope of work that we do within customer marketing here at Adobe. And it actually, you know, it’s something that I’m really excited to share because I think it’s, it’s certainly unique within the industry, from what I’ve found, from what my team has found and really talking to other customer marketers across the industry, you know, speaking at industry events and such, but when I first joined Marketo as head of customer marketing, the work that was being done at the time – and there were a lot of amazing programs already in place that I was very fortunate to take on and really just continue to evolve and take forward and level up, if you will. 

But we fairly quickly realized about a year or so into my tenure. And perhaps it was even less than that, that as we were on the hunt, and of course that portfolio of advocacy programs included, you know, traditional things that sit inside of an advocacy set of programs, customer references, and customer stories, user groups, community. We also had a great program that is still in place today, Marketo Champions, that really embrace the top savvy, most knowledgeable users across the globe of Marketo. 

As we were in the hunt for really rich case studies, there was kind of an interesting combination, if you will, of factors that were going on at the time. We had new leadership within the company that was driving a very much a customer-obsessed focus on the business. And of course, we sitting in customer marketing couldn’t have been happier to have that kind of air cover and sponsorship and support from an executive level. 

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 really 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.

So it was just kind of an interesting set of circumstances that evolved the work that we do and expanded the charter in customer marketing to really own a set of programs that we call adoption/nurture programs. And we create those very much aligned to the customer journey, from onboarding to experienced customer to advance customer. We do a lot of interviewing and research with our customers too Margot, what you were talking about earlier is just modeling what does success look like? How are those most successful customers doing? And how did they get there?

So, you know, infusing that perspective into what we do and creating these programs that out of the gate when they sign with us, right , we put our arms around them, whether it’s through an email nurture program, we have really rich in-product guides that we produce that are complimentary to the content that they’re receiving through the email channel, if you will. Webinars and more. So you know, what we found is there’s a very, very tight connection between advocacy and adoption or adoption and advocacy, they really fuel each other. 

It’s really easy to see the adoption as the onramp to advocacy, but we actually tap into the expertise and the passion of our advocates to help our new customers learn more about how to leverage Marketo. They are really passionate about helping us create content that we infuse into those nurture campaigns, peer-generated content, user-generated content. It’s amazing. We get 3x the engagement on user generated content in those campaigns versus content we create ourselves. So it’s a real gift and one certainly fuels the other. We’ve seen some amazing benefits as a team, owning both sides and partnering, certainly with the business on the adoption side, it certainly takes more than customer marketing to get a customer successful.

But we’re really excited about having a role in driving that as well. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. I mean, there’s so much good stuff to talk about here. I can’t wait to dig in, but at a high level, right? I love this idea that we’re not waiting around for advocates to come to us. We are active players in creating advocates. Right. That’s the difference, right, in terms of how you’re thinking about this. And yes, it’s just very exciting to hear about.

So let’s go back to when you had first joined or, you know, when you said you had this kind of realization that you wanted to get more involved earlier on. Because you partnered with success and product, what was that conversation like? Sometimes there can be silos or you know, different teams have different perspectives on things.  

Julie Perino: Absolutely. And I think that’s certainly a hallmark of the way that my team and I work is partnering, right. We know that any one team can’t really do it on their own, right. It definitely takes pulling together, like you said, and creating shared goals.

And I think we had a great Chief Customer Officer when we started to kind of expand our charter into the adoption program side of the work that we do, he was an amazing partner with us. And that was one of the first things we did was really sit down with him and understood what are his organization’s goals, right. 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 as well, right. Creating those customers for life. 

And that’s really, you know, 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, you know, beyond kind of 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. And what that would also do is help us. 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 really 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 they saw the needle starting to move, right, Margot , when you start to see adoption scores increase, when you start to see lifts in key feature usage, right. You know that you’re driving user behavior in the right direction.

And 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, if you will. We were seeing sustained use, which means we were really truly driving behavior change in how the solutions were used. So very quickly gained the trust of that organization. And it was a true partnership really from the beginning. 

With the product teams as well, really strong relationship with those teams and my head of our adoption programs, she and her team, uncovered a really unique opportunity when we talk about the end product guide side of what we do. They realized that there was a technology that sat within our product platform, Pendo, and realized a unique opportunity to leverage Pendo, to deliver not just – the product teams were creating more straightforward, kind of how-to guides, how to use that specific feature.

But what my team really realized is there was an opportunity to go well beyond that, to really deliver a complimentary type of in product guide more of an art of the possible guide where you could, you know, really present something again, in the context of that user’s work. That was, you know, have you thought about doing this with Marketo? And really getting them to think more creatively and differently about how they might use Marketo to engage their customers. So a really strong partnership with the product team as well. And it’s critical to our ability to execute our programs and critical to our ability to drive success is really building those partnerships internally and aligning on the same goals.

Margot Leong: I’d be curious to think about, or to understand how you feel like marketing could almost could provide this specific lens or sort of what role marketing could slot into. Because if we think about product, obviously they have a real need to, you know, these products are their babies, right. They want to make sure that people are utilizing them so I can completely understand what they’re looking for or what they would need help with. And then success. Obviously they’re also driving towards similar goals, right. You know, they’re much more, I would say one to one. And so they have their books of business and they’re owning that. 

Just wanted to get more of a sense of where marketing can slot into this, because I think there’s a lot of confusion where customer experience can lie.

Um, I think it’s just a bit more nebulous.  I’ve seen, you know, white papers where it’s like, all right, the CMO has to own customer experience and then other places, it’s Chief Customer Officer has to own customer experience. And so, yeah, I think obviously it depends on the organization, right. But yeah, I was just curious how you think marketing should be involved in this. 

Julie Perino: Absolutely. So 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, as you said, customer experience owned by different parts of the organization. 

I think it’s about aligning, and certainly we’ve got incredible organizations, customer success, that we partner very strongly with, as I’d mentioned across Adobe and incredible product management teams and product marketing teams that we work incredibly closely with. So, you know, 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. 

You know, I think for us in marketing, we have the ability to bring scale to helping customers adopt our solutions, right. Like you said, it’s very challenging to kind of 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. 

And so I think the channels that we talked about: through email, through in product guides, through obviously virtual events, there’s so many different ways to do it.  Eventually, we’ll be able to do it in person again, hopefully in the not too distant future. But scale is something I think certainly marketing can bring to the table and I think we also want to help the business prevent that moment where there has to be that save or that diving catch, to keep that customer on board, right.

It’s about starting them out on that right foot from the moment, like you said, that post-sale journey from the moment that they sign that contract,  how can we help to be part of that team across the company that helps them drive success, so that they are quickly realizing the value and getting value from what they bought. And in turn, really being able to do the work from their seat as a marketer in helping their companies drive success, as I mentioned, you know, certainly giving those advocates really that platform to share their success is something that has been a really incredible gift.

You know, as an example, our product champions, right, our Marketo Champions, we’re starting to create champion programs across all of the experience cloud products. Our product management teams really tap into them for insights and, you know, to kind of help guide product direction or just feedback on certain key features or things that they’re thinking about. So, so critical to have that outside-in perspective to be infused into everything that we do. You have to listen and learn from that voice of the customer. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I think that this idea about incorporating the customer into as many aspects of your company as possible is incredibly important. Basically, we’re not just resting on our laurels, right. We’re like, all right, built a product, our customers, many of them seem happy with it. All right, we just kind of keep moving on. It’s really more about a lot of customers like the product, but they could love it, you know, 10 times more, if they knew about all these opportunities in different ways that they could be using it.  I think it’s sort of the next frontier. I mean, would you call this lifecycle marketing or would you say it’s something different in a way? 

Julie Perino: That’s a great question. I would prefer maybe the term customer journey marketing, right.

Margot Leong: Yeah, I like that.

Julie Perino: Right? Because I think, again, it puts it in kind of a customer speak. It’s really like, 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, right. Kind of that virtuous cycle. 

So yeah. I think about it. And again, we align everything that we do, even on the advocacy side. I know we talked a little bit about how we align our adoption programs, which can also be called retention marketing, right. It depends on what terms you’re using, but adoption obviously leads to retention, so sometimes they’re used interchangeably. That’s why I touched on it. But, you know, the advocacy programs that we create as well, Margot, we align those as well to the customer journey. 

So 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, you know, 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.

And that 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, you know, move along their journey, right. That’s when we know they’ve been successful, that’s maybe one 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, you know, they want to embrace speaking opportunities and such. We have a program for them each step of the way, which is, I think again, we always come at it with this customer journey lens.

Margot Leong: I mean, how rewarding that must be to be involved, to have advocacy and adoption be tied so closely together because you know that a lot of the advocates that are coming in, right. That was intentional. T 

You know, you mentioned the company that you’re at has a very customer-obsessed focus. And I would love to hear a little bit more about that. 

Julie Perino: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think you’re hitting on something that just, that needs to be part of really the core values and really kind of the heart beat, right. The heart of that company. And that’s constantly sitting, you know, whenever you sit down, I think to, regardless of what organization in the company that you’re in, always wearing that customer hat and looking at things through a customer-first lens.

And I’m so proud because my team definitely, well, really it’s our job, right, to do that, but I think we’ve also been advocates within even my own company are, you know, of just making sure that we’re always asking the question of have we gotten a customer point of view on this. How would this land with the customers or let us go out and actually talk to a few of our advocates and see how this lands with them, right. See what they think, right. So it’s always having that voice of the customer in your head and always letting that be your guide. That’s the North star. And I think if you abide by that, if you follow that, it will always lead you in the right direction. Without question. 

And so I think if it’s not, if it doesn’t become part of a company’s DNA, and like you said, not every company that I’ve worked with either has had that philosophy, that approach. And I just think that it certainly affects outcomes and success and just there’s nothing like talking to and engaging with those incredibly passionate advocates. It’s so energizing, right? It’s so energizing for any of us that work in this area of marketing. But I think, you know, if we can be, ah, I’ve got the word. If we can be the evangelist within our company to really always make sure right that customer point of view is infused into everything that we do. Again, I don’t think you can go wrong. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. I mean, you know, advocates for our advocates, right? 

Julie Perino: Absolutely. 100%. 

Margot Leong: You know, it’s interesting because I think it’s a longevity game, right? I think it’s about optimizing for long-term success. If you’re thinking about the customer right, then it is longevity. I think the hard part is, especially within tech, you know, there’s a hot new company every few years, right? And the focus is always on new growth, new growth, new pipeline, I think in a way that can be detrimental to marketing because I do think a lot of marketers care very deeply about the existing customer, but the incentives are sometimes not aligned, right, for them to focus on that. I think retention is always sort of punted to the side. Yeah. As you know, right. 

We’re beating the drum for retention and retention is just a fancy way of saying, have you yourself used the product that you’re trying to sell. Are you really thinking about it in the lens of a customer, versus are you thinking about it as I’m just trying to sell this product?

 So something else that I had a question on was, your teams involve or include advocacy, they include adoption and I love how unique that is, and I love that perspective. You know, if there are people who are currently listening, who are, you know, more within the advocacy space, but are interested in, in trying their hand more at adoption, what was it, customer journey marketing. Are there skills that you would recommend they sort of learn or take on? Yeah, absolutely happy to share some thoughts.

Julie Perino: I think the first thing they would, I would say that they would need to do certainly would be to go connect with their customer success leadership and their product leadership. And talk about what challenges they’re seeing with customers, kind of adopting their solutions. Go out and of course, talk to customers, talk to customers who are wildly successful, talk to customers who are struggling or who have even churned, right. To find out what those challenges are. So kind of educating themselves on just the point of view, certainly of the customer.

I think the other thing too that I would recommend that’s part of the fabric of my team 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 kind of work to create content that will help that customer better understand that capability of the product, and I think is a great opportunity to learn different aspects of the business and, you know, look at things through a different lens. I would definitely encourage them to, again, really kind of dig into the data too, to see what’s going on with features of the product that are, that are most challenging. And again, just really partner. I think it’s about listening and learning to other parts of the organization. 

Then most importantly, listening and learning from customers. So really it’s customer marketers, marketers that are driving advocacy programs, we know how to talk to customers. We do it every day. So it’s really just having a little bit of a different conversation with them about, you know, maybe some of the challenges that, or having, or what would have made it easier for you? Faster for you to onboard? 

Talking to customers that are successful or a bit down the road. What would have been helpful for you within the first three months? The first six months, right. Really doing that listening. 

Margot Leong: This is all about empathy. As marketers, we’re often taught empathy is, so that we can sort of relate to our target personas and then we can, you know, write the things that help sell to them or whatnot. And this is really about empathy from a true product and support perspective. You know, you have to be an expert in the product that you’re using because if you’re talking to customers, I think you just never want to be caught off guard. Right? If someone’s talking to you and saying, Hey, this feature is a little wonky, do you know about this?

And I think that the expectation is not necessarily that the product has to be, you know, every person has to be a hundred percent is that in love with the product all the time, right? That’s not the point.

Julie Perino: Yeah, exactly. And it’s not reality either, right? Exactly. No product or solution is perfect, yeah. 

 Margot Leong:  I love that you talked about, you know, we have to become experts in both the great right. And the bad and everything in between. 

Julie Perino: That’s right. And, you know, maybe even if there’s not that opportunity to dive deeply initially into actually becoming an expert yourself on the product or, you know, certainly having strong working knowledge, also learning about and really getting inside of those core use cases, right. So I think just understanding that use case or those core use cases really enables you to have a very different conversation with the customer, right? Whether you’re trying to draw out their success story, their customer story, et cetera, or whether you’re actually trying to help them adopt it more deeply. Really understanding that and taking the time to do that, becoming a student in that way, I think is incredibly important. It builds so much credibility. And like you said, it builds that empathy, which is so critical. 

Margot Leong: Exactly. And a tip that I have in that regard is, if you’re new to a company, if you are marketing towards a certain persona or are you trying to get to know a certain persona, maybe you don’t have a lot of customers to work with, or you don’t have that relationship to be able to ask them the candid questions, right.

There’s probably someone within your company that is the target persona anyway, right. Have that conversation with them and you can get really deep into those questions. So, they very likely tried to use the product, probably have some thoughts on it, you know? So all of that, think a little bit outside the box in terms of what are the existing resources that I can leverage.

And you start to realize, like there’s a lot that exists already to help me get to know my customers. 

Julie Perino: Absolutely. It’s just walking a mile in their shoes, as they say, or just really understanding what they’re going through. What are their challenges? How does your product or service help to solve those challenges? Yeah, it’s invaluable. I think it takes a lot of work, right. It takes investment, but that’s what enables you to really drive impact for your company. 

 You know, you mentioned something a few minutes ago that I could perhaps touch on or provide perspective on and that’s kind of the conversation around new business revenue versus kind of retention revenue. And that challenge.

Margot Leong: Yes. I could talk about this all day long. It drives me crazy. 

Julie Perino: You know what, you and I both, right? Because the investment that’s focused around driving new business is intense, right. And it’s that recognition of just the importance of retention.  I don’t know if it’ll ever be on equal footing, candidly, but what can we do, right, as marketers to make sure that the value of retention marketing and focus around customer marketing, really is elevated as it relates to, you know, when organizations are looking to invest across the marketing mix, making sure that it has a seat at that table, not a back seat, but a front seat.

Maybe the analogy is better, like if you’re riding in a car, we want to be in the front seat. And I think there’s an aspect to deeper investment in retention that interestingly and again, it’s not necessarily difficult to connect these dots, but you know, the organization is, you know, it’s always very focused on bringing in new business, no mystery there that that will always be there, as it needs to be. That’s how you fuel a business. 

But once those new customers are signed, how are you going to put your arms around them to drive success? And if you don’t have the right level of investment in retention marketing, in focusing, having a hand in helping them drive adoption and success, those new customers are going to be much more likely to churn, right? If you think about kind of a funnel concept, right? You’re pouring all of these new business customers in the top. You don’t want them to kind of leak out the bottom of that funnel. You want to retain them. You want to grow them. You want to drive success. 

There has to be a healthy investment in both, or I guess what I would say is a more balanced investment in both. And I think interestingly right now with the current environment that we’re operating under, there’s been a little bit more of an awakening in that regard, so it’s a virtuous cycle, right? I think that’s how I view it. 

Margot Leong:  Yeah, it’s really important. And I do think that actually COVID is going to fundamentally change the way that we’re going to think about this, because there’s just a lot less places you’re going to get new pipeline. Everybody’s fighting over the same companies now. And so I think people are really going to start to think about their existing customers very differently. They’re like, Oh, you were here all along. 

Julie Perino: That’s right. And I came up with this humorous turn of phrase that my team got a good laugh out of, but I said, I think retention is the new demand. Hopefully what it will drive, Margot, is just, I think, a more balanced investment. W We want these customers to stay with us, to grow, and flourish, with hopefully our technology beneath them, right. Elevating what they do and how they engage their customers.  

Margot Leong: Yeah. I mean, like you said, a more balanced investment, You know, if you think about the overall customer journey, it’s 50-50 anyway, right. 50% is getting them to purchase. 50% is purchase to advocacy and then, you know, getting in new customers. Where do you think that companies are within their maturity in this regard, I guess in terms of being truly customer obsessive? 

Julie Perino: Yeah, I think we’ve all seen, and it comes from the world of B2C, right. We’ve seen the high bar that companies for customer experience. And so I think in the B2B realm, it’s been a positive forcing function to say, how do you create a similar type of experience, right. Elevated experience because customer expectations are through the roof. Right. And how do you continue to caretake that experience that experience over time so that you are differentiating your company by it?

You know, as we all know, if you listen to some marketing messages, if you look across competitive products, sometimes there’s not a lot of deep differentiation or at least at a surface level. So how do you create that differentiation at a customer experience level? And I think that’s what a lot of companies are striving to do. It’s certainly not easy. You know, it’s gotta be part of the company’s DNA. You can’t just flip a switch one day and say, Oh, you know, we’re going to do this. It takes investment. It takes executive sponsorship to make it happen.

It’s interesting. You also can’t get away with just like window dressing it, right. Or messaging it without truly delivering on it because your customers will call you on it all day, every day if you’re not really living that brand promise. I think we’re seeing that right. And those that are not intentional about it, those that are just giving it lip service, they’re going to fall behind, right. And they’re not going to survive. I think we’re at a completely unprecedented times right now as it relates to the business environment and companies, you know, it’s never been more important to put that customer first. I mean, certainly what I have have been telling my team over these last few months is our work has never mattered more. Everything that we do each and every day on behalf of our customers is of the highest value.

I mean, I think you can tell how passionate I am about the work that we do and that my team does. You know, I’m crazy proud of my team. But it’s truly never been more important right now to just have empathy and do the right thing by the customer and have that customer first mindset, because certainly those are the companies that are going to win going forward.

Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. And you just can’t have different departments trying to take this on separately if you do not have the real willingness from an executive perspective, because, or else it’s just like trying to turn around the Titanic. Right. You know? Oh, you’re, you’ve got all this momentum going one way and you’re just sort of one team or person. If the entire company does not have a commitment to it, it is a real issue, right. 

Julie Perino: It’s right. And it’s been almost two years that my team came in through the Marketo acquisition into Adobe, but I think what was so wonderful, really from, from the get go is, everybody that we connected with, we could sense that that customer first mindset was there. So we’ve been, we’ve helped to be that connective tissue and driving that more holistic view around the work that we do.  

Margot Leong: So one of my last questions, right, is the measurement piece. What are some areas that you think that we can measure this customer journey, adoption/retention piece  more easily?

Julie Perino: Oh, what a question. Yes. I think that’s, certainly in the realm of customer marketing, probably one of the biggest challenges is, you know, demand generation, the instrumentation of that work is so well established and known, right. And I think the instrumentation and measurement of customer marketing is just, you know, has been challenging, right, of connecting those dots. 

So, you know, in particular, on the adoption program side of the world, there are several ways in which we measure the impact of our programs. The first is a boost in product adoption scores. So we have some incredibly brilliant minds inside of Adobe that are behind kind of creation of these product adoption scores and kind of the algorithms and the way that those are measured. But that is certainly a way that we measure impact is, are we seeing an uplift in, again, that usage of that product and adoption of that product and sustained usage. Right? And usage along the lines of, as I think I mentioned a little bit earlier, of key feature usage, right? Those key features within any given product that you know are sticky, are driving value for customers, right. And making sure that you’re centering learning and kind of adoption content against those key features.

So, boost in product adoption score, certainly lift and key feature usage. Reduction in at risk retention revenue, right? So when we do see certain customers that are kind of below that threshold of adoption score, or for other reasons, we know they’re at risk of churning, right. How many of those accounts kind of in that category, have we been able to kind of lift up? 

Now, you know, one would argue there’s a lot, again, there’s a lot of people that are putting energy towards that account. It’s not just us through our programs, it’s the CSM team, et cetera, but kind of measuring back through. And again, this is something that we’re working on instrumenting much more tightly, but we know we need to do it, right, is just connecting the dots back to retention revenue and eventually growth revenue as well. Because happy customers are willing and wanting to expand their use of that given product, or maybe add more products into the portfolio of products that they have from your company.  

And again, there’s other measurements that are through, in particular, our email nurture programs that we’re watching as well. You know, the content engagement metrics with kind of the emails, and engagement metrics within the in-product guides, right, that help us, guide us, what content is working best and where do we need to double down on. You know, let’s do more of that content, less of this kind of content.

So, you know, there are some measures that are more traditionally used in kind of a demand gen world that we also track as well, right? Because these are truly nurture programs, just a different type of nurture. 

I think what’s really been great too, and again, you were talking earlier about, you know, skills required if you kind of want to dive into the world of adoption and retention marketing is really going deep into the data. I will tell you, there are members of my team that are side by side with those product teams, understanding,  you know, what are the ingredients to these product adoption scores? They’ve even partnered with the product management team to help them develop a product adoption score for kind of an add-on piece of, you know, one of our solutions. So they’re in the weeds, right? They’re in deep. And again, I couldn’t be prouder of my team and just how their hunger to learn, and learn on behalf of doing better for our customers, helping them drive success and just doing what we need to do to be that great partner to the business to help move the needles. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. I mean, that is music to my ears. I love hearing that and I can’t think of a better way to wrap up then on this note, right, of constantly doing better by our customers and thinking beyond what we think of as “traditional advocacy.” And thinking more around how can we leverage our expertise in customers to get them in earlier into the journey. I love this expression of wrapping your arms around the customer. 

Julie Perino: I use it a lot, I know. 

Margot Leong: Giving them a massive hug, you know, and being stewards. Helping to protect that experience. So, Julie, this has been, I mean, such a pleasure. I always get so much energy after talking to you. 

 Julie Perino: Margot, thank you so much for having me. I get so energized by these conversations as well.  I’m excited and I hope I inspire other customer marketers to think about how can they think bigger on behalf of their customers. And as we’ve talked about, not just that moment in time where they become an advocate, but what is that journey to get there? And what is that journey to them driving success with your product or  solution or service? This discipline of marketing is really growing. And I think there’s so much opportunity to really think, as I mentioned, like way outside of the box of what you would normally think about how customer marketing is defined today. 

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

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