Transcript: Using the Customer Centricity Model to Demystify Customer Marketing with Charlotte Lilley

On this episode, I was joined by Charlotte Lilley, Head of Global Customer Marketing at Coupa. Charlotte kicked off her career in sales, founded the customer programs department at Box, and has also led customer marketing at companies like Outreach and WeWork. We talk about the model she developed for customer centricity, how she gets buy-in from marketing, sales, and success, and how this role is a great foundation for a position in the C-suite. I also love her analogy of customer marketing as the orchestrators of the overall strategy instead of the gatekeepers to the customers. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Charlotte. 

 Margot Leong: Hi, Charlotte. Welcome to the show and thank you so much for coming on and joining us today. 

Charlotte Lilley: I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me. 

Margot Leong: Of course. I’d love to hear a bit about your background, sort of the journey that you’ve had over the course of your career in customer marketing and advocacy. 

Charlotte Lilley: I’d love to share. Thanks. Well, as I said, I’m Charlotte and I’ve been in enterprise SaaS technology for over ten years now. It’s pretty much my whole career. I have a background in both sales and marketing, but I’ve spent most of my career building and leading customer marketing organizations. 

My first role in customer marketing was at Box, a company that’s an enterprise content collaboration company, where I started customer marketing from complete scratch. And since then, I’ve been brought into companies to start and scale customer marketing departments at various other companies. So over the years, I’ve run just about every type of customer marketing program from like customer advisory boards to events, to content, online communities, user groups, advocacy programs. What else? Yeah, there’s a lot. 

And so I think it’s interesting and funny because when I started in customer marketing back in 2011, customer marketing was barely on the map. And this podcast is a great indication that now it’s becoming more and more of an important strategy for companies, which I find super exciting. And I think it’s very good news for all of us in the profession. 

Margot Leong: Yes, absolutely. I love hearing about that and it is very exciting to see the acceleration of awareness around customer marketing and advocacy, even in the past, you know, nine, ten years. There’s people that have been doing this for 20, almost 30 years now, when it was just straight up references. And so, yeah, it’s amazing to see the proliferation, the awareness, and, you know, lots more job opportunities because I see companies now really interested. And there’s a lot of job posts, a lot more than there used to be for customer advocacy and customer marketing, which is very cool.

Charlotte Lilley: A hundred percent. Yeah. And it’s exciting too, because now when you describe customer marketing to people, sometimes they understand, at this point. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. Like I have heard of that versus, you know, the previous sort of education you had to do around, you know, what is even customer marketing? Is not marketing just customer marketing? 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah, definitely. 

Margot Leong: Well, I would be curious, right, thinking about the fact that you have been doing this type of work for a while, what is it that you enjoy the most about it? What keeps you coming back to customer marketing? 

Charlotte Lilley: That’s an amazing question. It’s funny because I just spent the last six months on a job search and I spoke to over 50 companies while I was doing that. 

Margot Leong: Oh my gosh. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah, yeah. And I wasn’t in a rush. I was taking my time and I talked to companies about, you know, heading up all of marketing or heading up all of community, and many different variations of jobs at different types of companies, both B2B, B2C, nonprofits. So I really did some exploration and what’s kind of funny is I ended up back in a customer marketing role. 

And I think, you know what, I’ve always loved working with people and hearing their stories. Throughout high school and college, one of my favorite jobs was being a barista at a cafe. And I think I loved it much because it was a community of people who I got to know well and who became good friends. And I became good friends with them as well. And I got to be the person to deliver them their morning coffee, and that’s, at least for me, that’s the best part of my days when I get my morning coffee. And so whoever’s delivering it, you know, I have a bond with them. 

And I think what’s interesting is that customer marketing is very similar to that. We have, you know, our regular customers who have these stories that are unique to them. And I get to be the one to deliver them the really fun opportunities that allow them to shine. It might sound cheesy, but that genuinely makes me really happy. And I often joke that I have the best job at any company every time. I’m like, I get to talk to the happy customers. I get to make them happy. Like, you know, so what more could you really ask for. 

Margot Leong: Absolutely. And it’s funny that you mentioned the barista thing. That really resonates with me because I’ve worked as a barista. I’ve worked at Jamba Juice as a cashier. Honestly, those were some of my favorite roles. Maybe something where we’re similar is that we get a lot of energy from just being around people, but also being the person to sort of deliver something valuable, right?

Like, coffee with a smile. Or just that ability to make someone’s experience just as good as possible within the time that you spend with them. I think it’s so central to what you do within customer marketing, I always think about it as the X-factor. And I think about that as related to something like support, success, customer advocacy is that we get to be a representative of the brand. We get to be a face of the company and we’re very – we get very close with our customers in a very deep way. 

And so I love that, just by a factor of enjoying being around people, which is, you know, something that I hear from pretty much everyone that has come on the podcast, is that you get to influence the way that they see the company, as a result of just you being sort of naturally you and naturally curious and loving to talk to them as people, right? 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah, and I think too, so when I first started my career, I was in sales and that I think is the perfect kind of setup or background for being a customer marketer. And I know now that when I’m hiring on my teams, I love it when the person has a sales background. Not only do I know that they’re going to be kind of like the right, I don’t want to say personality, but more have the right interests to do customer marketing because let’s face it: half of it is sales, you know, you’re trying to sell this like amazing fun idea to customers. But then also, you know, one of your biggest stakeholders is sales, so really understanding how that team works and how they think is also important for the success of your programs. So, I think it’s interesting. And I think most of us in customer marketing probably came from some different background. It’s very rare to start, you know, your career in customer marketing, for those of us who did, I feel like they’re very lucky. 

Margot Leong: The first thing that I really wanted to talk to you about that is of great interest to me, because I love frameworks. I love models, anything where I can think about putting something into like a paradigm, I love it. So, I’m really excited to talk to you about something that you had developed during your time at a company called Outreach, and it’s called the “Customer Centricity Model.” And I know that you also gave a talk about this at the 2018 Summit On Customer Engagement. You know, obviously I know that this is more of a visual framework, but best you can, can you give me an overview of what this framework looks like. And even talking about what was the catalyst to creating it in the first place? However you want to start. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah, definitely. Before I share the framework, I’ll definitely share a little bit about what inspired me to even create it. Before I created it, I was in customer marketing, had been running customer marketing teams for probably about six years before I developed this. And it kinda came from what we were talking about earlier, where sometimes it’s hard to describe what customer marketing does, sometimes it’s hard to describe the scope of it. But I will have to say after I’ve created the centricity model, it’s been one of the easiest and best ways for me to help people understand the full scope of customer marketing.

Like I said before, customer marketing is more prevalent than it has been before, but, you know, what we do is still largely unknown by a lot of people. So for those of us who are in customer marketing, we know that many companies aspire to be customer centric. And also that’s kind of a trend right now. Companies are saying, Oh, we’re customer centric. We want to be customer centric, but very few have actually figured out how to put that into practice, at least from what I’ve experienced and seen. And so my goal with the model was to create an outline that explains to people how customer marketing can be the catalyst for a more customer centric organization.

So that’s kind of the background, and because customer marketing is still somewhat of a mystery to a lot of organizations, there are a couple of big challenges that we face as customer marketers too. So I think we’ll all agree, one of the first challenges, especially for those of us in larger organizations, is that sometimes there are programs that we consider to be customer marketing programs that are being run in different departments across the company. So it’s like, Oh, maybe the PR team has advocacy or customer content is living in the content team. And what it typically means is there isn’t a cross-functional alignment on goals between the groups, and then you end up having overlapping initiatives So the ultimate problem there is that as a company, we don’t show up as a united front to our customers and we end up overusing customers too. And you know, that’s not an ideal situation.

You know, the first challenge is like this de-centralization of programs being run. And I think the other challenge, whether you’re in a large or small company, is that we’re typically under-resourced, that’s definitely my experience. 

Margot Leong: Oh yeah. I completely agree. I mean, it was interesting. I had the guy who used to run this at Intel, which is, I think over 130,000 employees. But I think his team was five people. How they sort of got around this was that they contracted out a lot to agencies and of course they could afford that, they had more of the budget for that, but across the board, I think, no matter how big the company is, like most of the time, totally see this is, yes, under-resourced for sure. 

Charlotte Lilley: What is that? I know when I have three people on my team, I feel spoiled. 

Margot Leong: Yes, exactly. 

Charlotte Lilley: And people are like, you know, I don’t even want to tell people that I have three people because that’s, you know, having too many resources. And I think that sometimes, especially for under-resourced, we don’t have someone really focusing on the strategy. You know, it’s like always ad hoc and it’s like, we gotta get everything done and requests are coming left and right. And it’s all you can do to stay above water. And I know a lot of people listening will definitely feel what I’m talking about. That’s the context around why I felt that I needed a way to better explain the scope and impact of customer marketing in one snapshot. And so that’s kind of where the framework came from. 

Now to the actual framework, what actually happened was when I was interviewing at Outreach, the company I was at when I created this, my prospective boss in the interview asked me, so how are you going to make sure that our most excited users are activated?

And then my CEO comes in – prospective CEO – and he goes, how are you going to make sure that we create a movement with our customers? 

And then the VP of Customer Success comes in and says, what are we going to do to engage with our unmanaged accounts? And I think that is like the perfect example of how everyone has a different idea of what customer marketing does, right? 

But in each of these cases, I got up and I drew a triangle. And I broke this triangle out into three parts. And each part represented a different tier or group. And so imagine that triangle and on the left side of the triangle, I named each of the different categories of customers. So it was like, for the purpose of this conversation, you know, tier one are the most valuable customers up in that tiny part of the top of the triangle. Tier two are kind of those hardcore advocates. And then tier three at the bottom, that larger group, are those users who are customers, but they may not feel one way or another about the product, you know? So those tiers on the left are kind of describing the customers. 

And then on the right, I aligned different programs to those customers. So, for example, on the top, in that top tier customer band, I think customer advisory boards are really aligned with tier one customers. And then for the tier two hardcore advocates, things like user meetups and the reference program are really great programs that are aligned to those types of customers. And then on tier three, it’s really those one to many kinds of programs, so like a customer newsletter or lifecycle programs. So that was the way that I tried to explain customer marketing and how we can make an impact to those people. 

And I do think there’s a couple of key points about the model that are important to mention. First is that it’s meant to touch the whole customer base. So when I think about customer marketing, I don’t think of it being like, Oh, this is only for some customers. It’s like, no, customer marketing is for all of your customers. So whether it’s your top tier, most important customer down to the end users who may not even like your product, you still need to be thinking about them and thinking about how you can engage with them. 

Margot Leong: I think that is a really, truly important distinction and something that I have not seen talked about enough within customer marketing circles. I think that what is probably becoming more important or there’s a realization within the community is that everything post-purchase is something that we should be able to influence, right? The journey to  advocacy. is also just as important as advocacy itself. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. And when we usually see, you know, when you see that typical lifecycle model where it’s like, educate, engage, and then you sell them, and then they’re a customer, and then advocacy is like this last little bit at the end. I think my next model’s going to be redefining that with advocacy across the whole bottom, because as you and I know, as customer  marketers, sometimes we’re talking to customers in the prospect stage, telling them about all the cool things that they get to do once they become a customer. Which actually helps get them excited to be a customer and helps close the deal. So that’s advocacy and that’s happening across all the different stages of the lifecycle.

Margot Leong: Yep. I totally agree. I love that. 

Charlotte Lilley: And the second key thing about the model is that it showcases how these programs build upon one another to create a movement by moving those tier three customers into tier two, and tier two into tier one. You know, you want to be able to create that upward movement and make sure that you’re, I don’t know, nurturing these people to be the advocates that you want.

And I think the last key thing about this model is that it can be used to build a lot of different kind of structures. So I’ve used this model to build an org structure and kind of explain why I need headcount. And so I aligned different team members with the programs with different tiers. 

And I’ve also used it for really big projects, like, at Outreach, we had our big user conference. And so I wanted to make sure that we had different ways of engaging with every type of customer at the conference. So I took that same triangle and created the different programs and the different tiers for what we were going to do to engage with customers at the conference. And, you know, I think that the best part is that it’s scalable for any team, whether you’re a one customer marketer at a 20 person startup, or if you’re at a big public company with customer marketing teams all across different regions.

Margot Leong: I love that it is very much geared towards the understanding that this is not one size fits all, right. And so the way that you’re going to be talking to customers at the very top of the triangle, and what you’re going to be framing for them as benefits, is totally different than what you’re going to be doing with the advocates, right? Oftentimes the sort of day to day champions, the admins of the product, who, again, they react very differently to different types of programs. And then of course, right, the field piece at the bottom, they’re really around, you know, let’s get them to the advocacy part. There’s adoption, there’s lifecycle, right. All of that is so important. So I love that this can encompass all of that in a very, very nice framework. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. And now at my new company, you know, it’s two years later, which is currently larger than Outreach was when I created the model, I’m going to be using this, but I’m going to break it out into more than three tiers. I’m going to be getting more nuanced with the programs. Again, that just speaks to the framework being a scalable process for really just socializing your programs and creating alignment between departments. And creates kind of that one common language for a holistic customer experience.

Margot Leong: I love the idea that, you know, this is something that you can share with other departments. This is something that more and more customer marketers are actually starting to bump into that I’m hearing about, especially at larger companies where different departments, as you said, own different parts of the customer journey. When you present this to different departments that are probably going to be part of it, how do you sort of frame that? How do you get their buy-in, essentially? 

Charlotte Lilley: That is very difficult, but it’s possible., 

Margot Leong: What? You know, you can’t just say like a magic word, Charlotte. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah, no. And you know, to be honest, I’m still learning this. I think it’s different based on the company that you’re at, but for me, what’s always been successful is, one, when I first start at any company, I meet so many people internally and just kind of get their sense of, Hey, I’m here to head up customer marketing, would love to hear your thoughts on how, you know, you’re working with customer marketing now, what you love and what you think could be improved. And I basically create a strategy based off of the feedback that I hear. And none of it’s a surprise to be honest, but every time I go into a new company, there’s sort of like a new organizational challenge that is most important.

So at Box, we were having our first user conference. So of course it was getting customers on stage and then case studies. And then later I created a reference program. At a company I was at called Percolate, they really needed a customer appreciation program and they needed to increase their case studies, so that was what I did first. And Outreach, what they really needed was the scale of engaging with all of their really excited users, they had a ton of really excited customers, and so I created a digital community. And so I think it comes down to first, just listening to what people really need and what they’re saying, because we, as customer marketers have all these tools in our toolbox, you know, it’s like, what do you need, a reference program? I’ve got that. Some content? I’ve got that.

And they all build upon one another. And I do think –  I have many thoughts around there’s a way to create a scalable foundation that needs to happen first, no matter what, but then what do you add on, on top of that? So, but for me, making sure I’m always on my stakeholders’ team meetings, is I think one of the most important ways to get buy-in and get people on board with, you know, your programs and your asks . So even if, typically there’s like a monthly all hands for sales, so I will come up with something to talk about on that all hands, because it’s easy for them to forget that you’re there. And so it comes back to that kind of like sales personality, where I’m not shy about making sure that I’m in front of people. And I think that that’s been one of the reasons some of my programs have been successful. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. How often would you say that you are getting in front of other teams? Let’s say like on a monthly basis, right, or a quarterly basis. You know, I’m guessing that, success is probably one of the teams, like marketing, obviously. Sales. Yeah. I would just love to get a specific understanding of that. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. Those are the three key kind of stakeholders. Marketing: always every meeting. Right? So any all-hands meeting, you want to be able to talk to what your programs are delivering, how it’s supporting everyone else cross-functionally because everyone needs customers for their programs. 

And same thing I would say on a monthly basis is, I would say ideal, if possible. I mean, if your company is really large and you only have a quarterly all-hands and the agenda’s really packed, I can understand how it would be harder, but the other tactic is usually there’s sort of either regional lead meetings. So, you know, just doing kind of more of a roadshow style, and then that you will likely be invited to be a part of the larger all-hands, because what you’re saying is really valuable and you’re helping them. So they’ll be like, Oh, you know what? You should actually present. 

But I would say my tactic has always been to talk to the leader of that organization. So whether it’s, you know, the VP of Customer Success or CRO on the sales side or, you know, Chief Customer Officer if you have one of those, is coming out of the gates, like in your first one on one with them and saying, Hey, this is what I’m here to do. I’m really excited. Typically, you know, customer success or sales is my number one stakeholder and partner. And I would love to just go on your all hands meeting and share a little bit about customer marketing. 

And ahead of that, do your research and your homework and interview, you know, at least 10 or 15 people from that team and have those insights that they’ve given you in your back pocket, and use those to create the presentation that you’re presenting to them, so that, you know, you’re speaking their language. So I just, for example, launched our first customer marketing strategy at our marketing meeting recently, but, you know, whatever I said in that meeting, I’m not going to use for the sales meeting or the customer success because, because … audience.

And then the other trick that I love doing is having something to offer, so on the sales side, announcing a new contest or SPIFF. Or on the customer success side, announcing access that they get into their own customers or whatever it is, just always have some sort of offer because they’re busy, and they’re like, Oh, it’s another marketing person who wants something from me. But if you come in and show your value from day one, that’s just going to set you up for success in the future. 

Margot Leong: I really like that. I love that it seems like you’re going into every meeting with a specific idea of, what is the brand of customer marketing that I want to convey? So that every time someone thinks about customer marketing, like this is what comes to mind. So you’re constantly reinforcing that. 

And at the same time, right, it’s always providing value. And you know, whether that be through something that they get excited about, right, which is, you know, money, like a SPIFF or a contest, right. I think actually a lot of people don’t think that way about presentations or meetings is that you go in thinking that, okay, I have a few main objectives that I want to achieve and this is I tie everything together. And that’s sort of your own sort of little framework for how you’re approaching meetings, right? What does success look like and how am I driving success in every action, including, you know, being as top of mind as possible through these meetings. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah, exactly. And I liked your point earlier too, just now, about having sort of like a brand or a way that you want people to think about customer marketing. In this last meeting that I presented the customer marketing strategy to the whole marketing org, I came up with a slogan for customer marketing. And I announced it as this big announcement, I was like, ‘So happy to announce our customer marketing charter. And it’s one voice, one customer.’ And, you know, came up with it in the shower. Great idea. 

Margot Leong: I mean, to be honest, that’s where a lot of the best ideas do come from. 

Charlotte Lilley: It’s true. And so, but for us, you know, what I noticed at Coupa was that it’s a larger company. And so kind of that typical problem that I mentioned earlier about a lot of different initiatives are happening. So a lot of us are reaching out to customers, but we aren’t necessarily aligning on the backend.

So I really wanted it to be clear that anytime I talk to a different team at the company or, you know, I’m trying to push for centralization, just reminding them, you know, one customer, one voice. We want to come as a united front. And so I want to be able to put that, you know, at the end of each email and put it, you know, when I see someone do something great, be like, yes, good job. Like one customer, one voice. So that’s something that I’m really excited to start doing at Coupa, which is actually not, I haven’t done that before at another company really. 

Margot Leong: I love that. And from just a general marketing standpoint, right, branding your own department in that way, having a slogan, it can cut through the noise. And especially, you know, at a company which could have over a thousand employees, a few thousand, I find that the internal selling, the internal promotion becomes sometimes just as important or even more important than the work you’re doing with customers, right? So anything you can do to brand yourself is really, really important. And the good thing is that the marketer hat assists with that, I think. 

Charlotte Lilley: Margot, we could do a whole podcast on internal promotion. I agree with you. It’s so important. That’s also a differentiator, you know, in the successful programs that I see versus ones that aren’t as successful. 

Margot Leong: Yep, exactly. I mean, and what we do is, I mean, massively cross-functional right. So it’s like, we cannot be our own independent operators as much as sometimes we would like to be, because we are so reliant on other people’s existing relationships to even get us in the door a lot of times. So the importance of internal promotion, as you said, can be the difference between a successful program, and something where you have to fight a lot more.

And I love that you have this really diverse background where you’ve done sales, but you’ve also really thought about other parts of marketing in addition to customer marketing. And so I think all of that diversity of experiences really informs how you can be a better customer marketer. And part of that is really because you have sat on some other teams, you have a different lens and you know, how to sort of put on those different hats and, you know, really step in their shoes and think about how do I frame this? How do I angle this? How do I best partner? 

So for the teams that you partner, the most with, I would love to understand how you think about assisting them, right. And how maybe some of your prior background has helped you think about that. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. And in my experience, when you’re thinking about how customer marketing can add more value across the organization or just within the greater marketing team, I think it really comes down to the goals of the organization. So what are the large goals that the company is trying to accomplish? Some examples could be international expansion or going upmarket and selling to larger enterprises. That was the case, you know, at Outreach.  

Or maybe the company’s trying to create a category and then be that leader in the category. And so one example from my background is at Outreach, like I said, our goals at the time were, you know, going up market and expanding into new geographies. At this point, it wasn’t international. We really wanted to target the West Coast. And so it was interesting, this is when I was running enterprise marketing, and in order to kind of accomplish those goals, some of the tactics that we did is we came up with a new messaging campaign. So I actually hired an external creative agency to come up with this messaging that would resonate with enterprise buyers and larger companies. I think our messaging to date was just more broad in general. So we wanted to get more nuanced. With that messaging, we did out of home advertising on buses and billboards, on Highway 101, which is like a right of passage for tech companies. And we launched our ABM strategy and we hosted and sponsored a ton of events. I’m talking, we did 70 events in one quarter.

Margot Leong: One quarter? I was thinking maybe a year or something.

Charlotte Lilley: You should have seen my spreadsheet. It was unbelievable. And I was “running” all of them and not having to go to all of them, but facilitating everything from the invite strategy, to who was going to be there, to the leads that came through, to the followup. You know, all of that for 70 events, which was really, really impactful. I wouldn’t advise it though. 

But you know, breaking down these different elements, you know, customers and customer marketing are a big part of all of these. So if it’s an event, of course, customers should be speaking at the event. If you’re doing out of home or online advertising, you should be incorporating customer logos, quotes, photos of the customers, anything that’s relatable to someone else as a proof point. Of course, if you’re developing an ABM strategy, you have to be using current customer wins and stories and getting those characteristics to show you and sort of guide how you’re going to market to your target customers, the ones who you’re trying to get to. And getting broader, if you’re, as a company, trying to launch a new product, beta customer stories and quotes should be part of the proof points for success, right. 

And then if you get on a more macro level, and you’re trying to create a category, customers need to interface with analysts, need to get them in front of them. They need to be interviewed. You should be doing analyst case studies. 

And then of course, if you’re expanding into a new country, customer marketing is typically one of the first things that that area needs. You know, you get a couple of those initial customer case studies out the door so that the team has those proof points to work with, as well as some events where you’re getting customers and prospects kind of chatting with each other. So that’s kind of, you know, when I think about my experience in enterprise marketing, these are the things that I was thinking about. And customer marketing is completely infused into each of those different areas, but I think there’s a lot of other ways to be sure you’re partnering with cross-functional teams as well. 

So for example, one thing that’s been successful for me in the past is creating an internal sales advisory board, which is amazing for getting closer to the sales teams and making sure you have their input. 

Margot Leong: I really like it, I’ve never heard of that idea. I mean, maybe it’s more like, you know, no one has called it a specific thing, you know, like an internal sales advisory board, but no, tell me more. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. And there’s definitely a way to go about it. So of course you should have a brand. So I created stickers that people could put on their laptop to showcase that they’re part of this special group. I had their managers nominate them. I said, Hey managers, I’m doing this program. You know, it’s for customer marketing. It’s making sure that we’re doing everything that we need to be doing to service your team. These are some of the benefits of the people being a part of the board. And could you nominate someone?

So I really made it into like a special thing where it was like, Oh, you’ve been nominated to be a part of this advisory board by your manager. It’s internal customer marketing, right? Like they should be able to talk about that in their performance review, just like a customer would talk about being an advisory board member on their LinkedIn. So it’s like, how can we do what we do for customers internally. So that’s the one thing that’s like really, really effective. And you can create not just a sales advisory board, but maybe you create a cross-functional tiger team. And it’s the same thing. You make it into a customer tiger team and you brand it, and you have people from product and sales and customer success. 

I actually did that at Outreach. And that was really, really successful too. 

 Margot Leong: It’s funny because I know you’re really passionate about community and I actually, I see like some of those community wheels turning in terms of how you think of like, you know, branding this like little community you’re basically creating for people to be proud of, that they’re part of like this internal sales advisory board and you made stickers. Which I’ve literally never heard of for something internal, but I can imagine, you know, stuff like that goes down a treat. 

Charlotte Lilley: It does. Yeah. And it goes a long way. You know, people internally want to be, we’re all humans. That’s the thing about customer marketing is, we all want the same thing. And so for us, we have the skillset to be able to not only maneuver, you know, how we would like customers to get involved with our companies, but we can use those same tools and tactics and strategies internally. 

Margot Leong: Yep, absolutely. And so talk to me a little bit more about sort of how you leverage or utilize the internal sales advisory board.

Charlotte Lilley: We would meet on a monthly basis and I would bring to them either new kind of programs. So for example, we were launching the reference program and I wanted them to look at the technology and give feedback into what would work, what wouldn’t. I’d also at that time, say, by the way, I’d love for you guys to be the internal ambassadors for this. So if someone is asking you for a reference, tell them to go through the system. So, you know, it’s dual-sided but outreach for our tiger team, I actually leveraged that team for our customer awards. 

So at our conference, we were doing what we called the Nucleo Customer Awards, and we got a slew of applications. And so we came up with a judging panel and then each tiger team member reviewed 10 to 20 of the applications.  And we usde that team as, you know, our judging panel for our customer awards. And what’s great is then they feel really involved and connected to the customer, like they feel proud of the awards because they were a part of it.

So another thing is, I think with customer marketing, we tend to work, almost in a silo because we’re always working so fast and we need to do things and our team is very independent. Or at least in my experience, we’re independent from even the other parts of marketing. So how can we make other people feel like they’re a part of our programs and that they have their own fingerprints on it too, both internally and externally possible. So, I would say, make it consistent, make it fun of course. You know, host the advisory boards monthly. Same idea as getting onto an all-hands is always have something to bring to them. Always have something to offer to them. Always have something you’re asking of them. Make it as fun as possible. Brand it. And it can be really effective. 

Margot Leong: I mean, even when you talked about the tiger teams being a part of the panel to review the applications, I could feel something in me like psychologically. I was like, I want to be part of that tiger team. Like, that sounds really fun. Like it’s one thing where it sounds like work I would not mind doing regardless of kind of how busy I was. Because it doesn’t sound – it sounds just kind of fun. And I think it’s kind of amazing, you know, what you can do to influence other teams to sort of partner with you and help you, if you approach it, I think in a really thoughtful and like intentional way. And you’re sort of getting them to be part of like this little bit of a larger movement outside of themselves. And I think that is a really effective and neat tactic. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. And with that tiger team at Outreach, we haven’t really touched on digital community much. We could talk about that a lot, but I was able to also get them involved in our advocacy digital community platform. And, you know, so they would actually be the ones to create the challenges and they would be moderators and they would engage customers through there. You know, one of the things with digital communities, it’s hard because you need people who are dedicated to moderating the community or else it’s going to kind of become like crickets. And you don’t want a quiet community. And so how can you scale out internally the resources that you have for supporting that community? And so the tiger team is definitely a really great option for that as well. 

Margot Leong: So I think this is really, really interesting. And I love what you talk about when it comes to the fact that customer marketing is typically under-resourced, right. And so when you think about scaling your efforts out to a much larger company you know, there are ways to work with other teams and get their buy-in. You know, as you mentioned from a community standpoint, helping to moderate, you know, all of that. I think it’s really important to underline this point that customer marketing is not like the only gatekeeper to customers. And we should not, we’re not like being the only middle person between the company and the customers. I think to be able to think about how you can work with other teams to get their assistance by getting them excited about what they can do with customer advocacy is so important. 

And I think the good thing is that actually everybody is curious about customers. Everybody wants to be more involved with customers. And so I think it’s a matter of like, how are you bridging that essentially, right. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. You said that so well. I think of customer marketing as the orchestrators of what should be going on. So we should come up with the strategy, you know? We should have a strategy. We should be tracking. We should be aware, but like you said, I mean, we’re always super under-resourced. So I have grand visions for all of my customer marketing programs. But with resourcing, it’s just really hard. So how do you think about how you leverage these other teams and these other people to get sort of a mutually beneficial outcome?

I think on that point, there’s something else I’ve done, which has been effective and really fun to get customer stories flowing. Typically, you know, your customer success team has all of this customer story information in their heads, you know, they don’t capture it anywhere centrally. Maybe they leave the company and then all that customer info has gone with them. 

So one thing that I’ve instituted at all of my companies is what I call “Storytime Happy Hours.  

Margot Leong: Okay, this is the branding stuff. I’m like, I love this. 

Charlotte Lilley: Have you noticed a theme of fun? That’s like very important to me. 

Margot Leong: There is a theme.

I think, like I had something similar at another company, but I think I internally was like, it was something around like increasing company empathy. So I love this idea of story time, happy hour. 

Charlotte Lilley: And it was just that. I would block two hours of time on people’s schedules, and I, of course, would make everything easy for them. That’s, you know, the key to success is do everything ahead of time. So I created this big template and a Google form that was basically, you know, the case study questions that I would ask the customer. Have that all ready, brought a bunch of, you know, beer and pizza when we were in real life, and put on some music and said, okay, everyone, this is what we’re doing today. You’re going to write out as many of these customer stories as you can. And for every story, I’ll give you 50 bucks cash.  

Margot Leong: What? Oh my God, this is, this got like 10 times better. 

Charlotte Lilley: And you better believe they were like, quiet. They were like furiously typing, you know? So, and then, you know, because I want the different teams when they hear from customer marketing or when we ask them for something, – because we do this a lot – for them to know, one, it’s going to be thoughtful. It’s going to be easy. And I’m not going to hate it, you know? And in fact, hopefully I’ll like it more than my normal day to day job, you know? Or at least I’ll like this task more than I like other tasks. So that’s important to me to create that type of experience. And so it’s a win-win, right? Like it’s a win. Well, it’s a win, win, win, because it’s a win for the customer marketing team. We get all those stories and we didn’t have to go search for them. We didn’t have to burden the customers. 

On the customer success side, they don’t have to be burdened. 

And then on the company side, we have all of these new stories that we’re able to share, which is great. And you know, it’s a centralized place. And what’s even better is then you have the centralized place and then people can start self-serving because it’s a searchable area that you’ve stored these stories in. So then, you know, they’re gonna come to you less for requests, they’re going to go to the customer success team less for requests. So it all builds upon itself that way. 

 Margot Leong: That sounds extremely effective, and something that, again, I would also like to be invited to these meetings. 

Charlotte Lilley: You’re more than welcome to come. 

Margot Leong: Were there any other thoughts or tactics or tips that you wanted to add? 

Charlotte Lilley: Just a couple small ones. I think it’s really important to make sure that you’re always on the new hire training to talk about your program, whether it’s for every new hire or just sales hires. I think it’s really, really critical that they hear from you on day one. And of course, same thing. You’re going to tell them about all the cool things that you’re doing, and then they’ll get excited, and then from the get go, you have a fan and you have someone who knows who your team is and where to go. So that’s really, really important. 

I would say, just in terms of the internal promotion, you know, when we go back to the office, there should be customers and quotes and logos all over your walls. You know, bring in customers to speak to the company in person, you know, create an internal speaker series. People get a lot of value out of that and then posting frequently on all the Slack channels to promote your work and your stories is all really helpful for getting other teams to be aware of what you’re doing.

Margot Leong: You know, a theme coming up is, that I’m hearing a lot is like, because customer marketing is so cross-functional, we have to be not necessarily shameless, but like in that similar ballpark around promotion of what we do, right. The reminder that we sort of exist. Because the bigger the company, you know, the more that you have to navigate that. And so, you know, the idea of, okay, like, let’s block time in the calendar, like let’s get onto Slack channels, let’s cover the company in customer quotes and remind them. 

I mean, I think it’s really important to remind people of why they are working at a company. I think that it’s actually something that most companies don’t do that well, especially when you’re thinking about the people that are, I think probably some of the most siloed from customers, let’s say like engineering, you know, finance, legal, right. There’s a mission or reason why they want to come to a company, and you know, I often find in talking to those different departments, I could ask them what the company does, but it’s very surface. And I think for them to be able to actually hear about it through the lens of a customer, I think gives them a bit more pride, it allows them to stand up a little bit straighter. 

And I really love that because then they’re taking sort of that pride in what the company does for the customer, they’re infusing that back into their own work. And they’re taking on the customer lens, which is really what developing culture at a company is. That is part of the infusion of customer centricity, you know. 

Charlotte Lilley: Nail on the head. Definitely. Yeah, especially like you said, with those departments, like engineering, they may not know how their day to day work is impacting the greater business and their customers. So I actually did an internal speaker series at Outreach and the feedback I got the most was from product and engineering, which I thought was really interesting in terms of like, Oh my gosh, that was really great. I’m so glad I heard from the customer. So there you go. 

Margot Leong: The best thing, like you said, you know, we can feel very lucky to have this job is that we get to tell these stories. Like that’s what gives me energy about this role and this function is that talking to customers is so, so important in terms of this role and the fact that we just naturally get joy from it, is such a driving factor for me. 

Charlotte Lilley: Yeah. And I think selfishly for us – this is something that you and I talked about before –  is that I believe that being a customer marketer sets you up for future high-level roles, like a, like a CMO or as a Chief Customer Officer or even a CEO. I truly believe that customer marketers have the perfect set of experiences that set us up to be leaders in a company. You know, I’m not just talking about marketing again, but like these other big time roles, because one, we work across almost every department in the company. Everyone needs customers for the most part, right, like we were just saying. And in order to enable them, we need to know how their programs work and what their goals are. So we’re exposed to all of that and we can connect the dots on how it’s all related. I think we’re in a very unique position that way.

And secondly, I think that, we know how to create a customer-centric organization. We’ve talked about that this whole time on the podcast. And so we can tell the company story through our customers and put customers at the heart of everything that we do. So, especially in this day and age, every company is striving to be more customer-centric, but few can really walk that talk. And I think customer marketers are the future of creating customer-centric companies. 

Margot Leong: Well, you know, I may be a little biased, but I do like hearing this, I think it’s so true. And I think having the lens of the customer does put you in a very unique place because customer marketing, as much as we call it marketing, it’s kind of not really. Like it’s, you know, I think having a marketing lens and a background in it can help you think about, as we talked about branding, but because it’s also so sort of service oriented, because you also have to play almost like a success and support role at times as well. And sales, like it’s a really sort of fascinating blend. 

And I think that’s partly why it’s taken some time to get more traction, because I think we’re still pretty early in the maturity of companies understanding why this is important. I think partly just because it’s hard to define where it sits. You know, like it can sit in a lot of places and to its detriment, I think sometimes, it’s because it can be so hard to define because it affects everything. I also like that you’re framing it in a different way, which is that because of that, like this can set you up very well in the future for a role that can encompass a lot of different areas. And I love that. 

 Charlotte Lilley: I have a very strong vision for customer marketing to have a seat at the C-suite table. So I know there’s already Chief Customer Officers, but they’re typically for the customer success and support organizations. I don’t know what ours is going to be called, but maybe it’s advocacy officer, but we always have a pulse on what’s going on with customers. And from before they’re customer to after they even leave, when we’re still friends with them, so we deserve, you know, a seat at that table with the rest of the C-suite. And so I’m with you. That’s my vision. Let’s make it happen. 

Margot Leong: Yes. And you know, it’s funny because talked to one of my mentors and a good friend who, was the former VP of Marketing over at Segment. And she thinks that customer marketing and advocacy should just be its own separate pillar. And I was like, yes, like let’s, you know, shout this from the rooftops. And Charlotte, I love that you’re part of the vanguard of this movement to get more visibility for what we do and you know, that eventually we can get sort of the seat at the C-suite. So, I think this is great and just a perfect place to wrap up the conversation. So the last question I have for you is, where can our listeners find you if they would like to connect? 

Charlotte Lilley: I think LinkedIn or email is best. 

Margot Leong: Okay, great.

Well, I will put your LinkedIn into the show notes so that people can find you. I will also link to the customer centricity model that you had put together. And there’s a great post accompanying that, that covers that very nicely. Thank you again for coming on, Charlotte. I really appreciate it. This was fantastic. So many good, I think strategic high-level stuff, but really good tactical tips as well. 

Charlotte Lilley: This was really fun. Thank you so much for having me. 

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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