Transcript: What B2B Marketers Can Learn From B2C Loyalty Programs with Liz Richardson

On this episode, I was joined by Liz Richardson, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Captivate Collective, a consulting agency that helps organizations accelerate growth with bold engagement strategies that motivate and activate customers at all stages of their journey. Prior to that, Liz spent over five years at Influitive, leading areas like client services, customer success and customer experience. We chat about why she considers herself a poster child for the impact that advocacy can have, what B2B can learn from B2C loyalty programs, and what differentiates communities with high vs. low engagement. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Liz. 

Margot Leong:  Hey Liz. Thank you for coming on. 

Liz Richardson: Oh my gosh. Thank you for having me. I’m so excited. I’ve been seeing your podcast pop up and listening to some, and it’s an honor to feel like I’m part of this thing that you’re doing, and I’m so proud of you for doing it because there’s not a lot of people focusing in on it. So congrats. 

Margot Leong: You’re so sweet. And I think what’s been really nice about the podcast is  just to see how much the community is growing now and how much it’s been taking off. And I know that we’re going to touch upon this in a little bit, but even the evolution from references to customer marketing, to advocacy, and then just all the applications on the business. So really excited to chat with you about that today.

What I would love to do is start off with a high-level introduction. Why don’t you sort of share that 30,000 foot view when it comes to your background and your journey to customer advocacy?

Liz Richardson: I love this story because I think it’s the story many people can relate to in their journey of falling in love with this practice. I also think I am a poster child for advocacy and what that can do in someone’s life. If you take me all the way back, I’ve always loved relationships and I’ve always loved people and connecting. But when I started in marketing, I started at that really broad connection point. I started in SEO and PPC, when Google ads were still new and cheap, if you can remember that part. 

Margot Leong: I remember that. That was when it was still novel, right. And people were not avoiding the ads. 

Liz Richardson: Exactly. People were still clicking on them all the time. That’s like a message you send out to a really broad audience. From there, really fell in love with community and social and said, yes, there’s a place for social in B2B and how we interact with our customers. And then from there found myself trickle into this advocacy space, which was very, very, very, very new at that time. 

And the way it happened was, I was trying to field a webinar, and we had lots of customers in the higher ed space, and I was trying to do this one specifically for higher ed. And you would pull the people from sales, Hey, you should contact these people and see if they’ll be part of this webinar. And I contacted them and then you wait and see if they respond. And if they don’t respond, you send a follow-up. And then if they don’t respond after that, you have to juggle, should I ask somebody else, or should I wait even longer? What if they respond, and I’ve already asked someone else? 

And so I remember just saying to a partner at the time, Man, I wish I could just tell our customers everything that we have available that they could participate in. And then they could tell me what they wanted to do. And at that point she was, unbeknownst to me, using the platform, Influitive. And she said, well, have you heard of Influitive? I didn’t know she was an advocate, but she was. And so that’s the first time I really talked to someone who was already using a platform to do this type of engagement with their customers. 

I became an early adopter of the Influitive platform, had no idea, because again, not many people were engaging their customers in a customer program that opened up opportunities of, Hey, would you want to get your name out here in collaboration with our brand? Would you want to give us feedback on a regular basis? Would you want to be talking to internal people at our company on a regular basis? So it was a very new space. There weren’t a lot of people doing it and I fell in love with it and it went over beautifully with our audience base, which was IT.

And we were shocked because we were just going to launch this and we said, Hey, you know, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. And man, these mostly guys, some gals, they just couldn’t get enough of this type of interaction. And we knew we had a lot of fans. We knew people liked our product, but what we were so surprised at is, we had only scratched the surface of the named people who were willing to do things on behalf of our company. You have your short list because those are the people that, one-on-one, your sales reps or your CSMs have been able to create relationships with, but those people can be overused, can become overwhelmed and they’re guarding their contacts, so that that doesn’t happen. 

And this opened up a beautiful way to interact with customers, which was, Hey, here are opportunities, and they should be just as valuable to you as they are to me or our company. Do you want to participate? Do you want to have that kind of relationship? I just fell in love with this to the point where I became an advocate for Influitive. I became part of their customer program. I became very connected to their team. And one day I just picked up the phone and I said, you guys have to hire me because I love what you do. And I’m extremely passionate about it. So I came onboard to Influitive as their first consultant. And from there, grew a team of consultants and built a really strong service business at Influitive. 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the other part of that story is Influitive did something very powerful for me, which is they connected their customers. Because again, there weren’t a lot of us doing that out there. So they connected me with another really enthusiastic, innovative, creative, talented person, and that was Deena Zenyk, and you guys might know Deena Zenyk, because she  co-authored, The Messenger is the Message, with Mark Organ, the founder of Influitive. That act of connecting your customers with other people in the field and then having your customers propel each other forward, share their ideas, get them excited, create tribe, create community, that did so much for my personal advancement, for Deena’s personal advancement. 

And we started our own customer engagement, customer advocacy agency, and that’s called Captivate Collective. So my whole story is just a picture of what advocacy and engagement with your customers can do. It can propel their career. It can connect them to the right people, which can be life-changing. So I don’t downplay this practice. I think there’s so much power in it when a company gets it right.

Margot Leong: There’s so many good things that I want to dig into there. The first question would be around Captivate Collective. Talk to me a little bit about what the offerings are and what the agency is focused on. 

Liz Richardson: Absolutely. So from a high level, Captivate Collective, we help organizations build, hopefully, bold and engaging customer strategies, even all the way from prospects and then hopefully building all the way to advocacy. So we love to help organizations think about how to engage customers to propel their business forward in all areas of the business. And typically that will be a customer program. It might be customer campaigns. But really thinking about this strategy of how am I involving customers in every aspect of my business. 

On the education side, Deena and I have just loved this practice so much. And so for the last five years, we have continually been putting out educational content. Even when we were at Influitive, we founded the Masterclass series, and there would be courses and we always just got so much pleasure out of that. So when we started Captivate Collective, I knew that we wanted that to be part of it. 

So we have workshops. We’ve started with three topics. We have Advocate Marketing 101 for those people who are just starting to learn. And then we have a couple more advanced for what is our typical network of people who’ve been doing this for a little while, and every time we get off of one of those workshops, I feel like, ah, yes, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I love this space and I love seeing people’s eyes light up when they get it. Oh, I get what this can do for my business. And I see them get excited because this is such an exciting practice and field.

When people start with their customer programs, it is daunting. It’s a lot to think of that. You’ve got to get the internal buy-in, you’ve got to understand what your strategy is and there’s work there. It’s not just picking a fun platform, launching it and saying, you know, we built it, you’ll come. That’s not how it works. There’s so much effort into, Hey, who is my audience and what makes them tick? And what’s the value I need to put in front of them to make this somewhere they want to come, not just once, but they want to come continually? And then bigger questions today are, do we even make them come to us? How do we meet them where they are at? Every time we start with someone, I just remind them: you are about to have so much fun. 

Margot Leong: You touched upon something really interesting there, which is, it’s one thing to launch an advocacy platform, however that looks. But it’s totally another thing to think through the strategy behind that platform. And I’ve been very lucky to be able to launch a few different advocacy communities at a few different companies. And I’ve also had the opportunity to go in and take a look at some other people’s advocacy communities at other companies, and get a sense of what those were like. I’d be curious as to what you think makes the difference between  low engagement versus a very highly engaged community. 

Liz Richardson: Yeah. That’s a great question, Margot , because a platform is a platform is a platform and Deena and I strongly believe you can use almost any platform, right? I mean, some people are starting with spreadsheets and Slack. Great. That is fine. There are things that platforms can bring, like the scale, the  automation, but regardless of what you’re trying to use, it’s really the strategy underneath that is that make or break.

There are communities or customer programs that are extremely engaged at first, like there’s a lot of activity going on there, right? But they may not actually be playing into the bigger objectives of the organization. And so what happens there is that you are not going to get that internal buy-in, or you are going to have short lived engagement, but you haven’t put the strategy underneath to make sure that your customers who are in this program have somewhere to go and somewhere to grow. 

We tell this story in our Advocate 101 workshop, but we sat in a Starbucks one day and we said, okay, we’ve seen so many programs now. What makes one work and one not? Even if they’re using the same platform, what makes that happen? And we do think about, okay, there’s that relational aspect, right. Have you thought through this program and your audience as humans? Not just personas. That’s a great starting place. But are you able to glean who these people are as people and what it is that they desire? What it is that motivates them, so that you can build offerings to play into that.

Everyone has a choice of every moment that they spend, and they’re going to spend their moments where they see the most value. Why is this the most valuable place for them to spend their time at this moment? If you have a very general value proposition, and your content or your opportunities are very, very broad, and are not segmented, and personalized, you will struggle for the ongoing engagement side.

On the flip side, you can build a lot of activity really fast, right? Maybe you make it super fun. Maybe you start with some giveaways, like there’s lots of great tips and tricks for getting that engagement, but sustaining it can be so hard, or proving the value of all this activity you’re doing. Again, if you don’t have the strategy in place to say the whole purpose of this program is to … to what? A lot of people come in and they’re like,  I want reviews, references, stories, referrals, any kind of goodness, like give it to me. I got it. It can generate a lot of activity, but if you don’t know the underlying strategy behind why you’re doing what you’re doing, both for your customers, and then also on your organizational side.  It’s great to have a bunch of numbers on a page, but do those numbers actually play into what’s most important for your organization?

And so what we’ve seen are some people are so good at the relationship side, right? So it’s very easy for them to create these relationships. You have to have some sense or love of just connecting with people. And some people do that beautifully, but then maybe they struggle on the other side, right? Like they have all these great relationships, but budget cuts come and the program’s not seen as a priority or a must have. 

On the flip side, you may have someone who, they’re just focused on numbers. They want to crank things out and they don’t understand that advocacy is a journey. And why we’re seeing like this expanse of what is customer advocacy and the role that it plays is because people are realizing, Oh, you before I can even get them to the advocacy point, they have to be having success with our products. They then have to want to stay with us. We built some type of loyalty with them, and then we can get them to this point of advocacy. So it’s not like a light switch you turn on, and you can expect all the goodness to keep flowing in and sustain itself. If you aren’t putting in that work also on the relational side of, do I know who these people are? And making sure that the value proposition is always personalized to what their needs and desires are. So, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work.

Margot Leong: You mentioned the difference between personas and humans and I think that for for some people, the distinction actually can be hard to understand. Something that has has helped me, and I’d love to get your thoughts on this is, I actually come to it from a naturally skeptical point of view in the sense that why would someone want to do this?

So I’m never assuming that someone will just be like, of course I would do this because I want to be a thought leader. I think what’s really interesting too is you mentioned that the first time you worked with this sort of advocacy program was with an IT audience. One of the last companies I was at was also a very deeply IT audience. A lot of them have no interest in becoming thought leaders. So then a large portion of what advocacy people are told to sell customers on, that’s just removed from you. 

So what are the other ways that you can get people to do this sort of thing? Just because you start a platform does not mean that people will come, or even if they do come, what I have seen is that there’s a novelty factor. And then maybe people get excited for like two weeks and then people all drop off. How can I continue to provide you with the kind of value that keeps you coming back? That can be in the form of maybe thought leadership opportunities, but that can also be connecting you with the product team, giving feedback, other things that further their career, even if they want to rise up internally within their own organization.

What I’ve seen in the past is that people that have support background, success background, or community background, once you sort of let them loose upon an advocacy program, there’s kind of a different level sometimes of being able to really run with it and keep that engagement. Because I think that you’re, again, always thinking about why would they be a part of this and how can I meet them as much as possible to make sure they’re going to want to keep coming back? 

Liz Richardson: At the end, what do you want to help your customers do? As an organization, as a customer marketer, you want to help them be successful. So people who are used to trying to help people get to their success goals would have that natural inclination or view. So when they would come to a program like this, they would say, how can this program help the participant get to their idea of success? And that’s going to look different, right? Not everyone wants to be a thought leader, like you said, but what’s interesting about that IT program , you find the people who really are hungering for that. And there’s a lot of value in that because those are the people who are ready to go out and they’re ready to tell their story with your story attached.

When someone says, I’m ready to put my personal brand and tie it to your company brand, I am making a huge step in my relationship because now that it’s part of my personal story, I don’t want to rip it out anymore because it’s part of what has gotten me to the level that I’m at today, and this is part of my story. And they’re going to be very fiercely loyal. 

They’re going to be your strongest advocates likely, but success for another person in that program might be, Hey, I really wanted to take a break today and connect with other IT people and tell some really entertaining jokes that only IT people would understand. So I’m really looking for tribe. I’m looking for a way to find some entertainment or connection value, and that’s okay. 

Maybe success to someone else is, I really need to reach a certain status so I can get this perk. If we trickle into B2C a little bit, it made me think of a loyalty program, like with airlines. I always give this example. I’m not super tied to Delta in any way. I have no reason to be. I haven’t had a personal life-changing experience with Delta in any way, but I always fly Delta. Why? Because success for me is when I get those free seat upgrades, that is really meaningful to me. When you’re traveling a lot, it helps me be more comfortable and more successful in my work. And so that is an okay outcome for me in that type of program. That’s who I am and that’s what’s important to me. 

You can start with personas. Like we can start with an IT persona and say, okay, they tend to be kind of competitive, which is fun. They’re really smart. They have to help a lot of people all the time. You can start with some of these generalizations, but then you’re going to find that, Oh, Peter. Peter actually wants to go out there. He’s looking to get to that next level in his career. He wants those speaking opportunities. He wants beef up his LinkedIn profile. 

And you might find that, Mary, she doesn’t like the spotlight, but she really likes helping other people. And so I need to find the opportunities that make sense for Mary, and then I need to find the opportunities that make sense for Peter. And not only do I need to find the right opportunities for Peter and Mary, I need to give them to them at the right time. I’m not going to ask Mary to go help a bunch of people with my product, if she’s just had a really bad experience or maybe she is really underwater at work. So there’s also this additional layer as you think about personalization and relevancy, it’s the right content to the right person at the right time as well. 

And, like you said, Margot, it keeps coming up. What’s going to get them to come back in two weeks? Well, they may not come back in two weeks. That’s the truth, right? Because there’s a lot of digital things happening to people, especially right now. There’s a lot of static out there. Are we going to need to expand our thinking now and think about, maybe we need to reach them and meet them where they’re at, and not keep expecting them to come back to us?

Margot Leong: Are there any examples around starting to meet them where they are and sort of not expecting them to come to us? 

Liz Richardson: I think so. I think we’re starting to see it. Not very prevalent, right? And this is one of my beefs about customer advocacy programs and just the way they were derived. It was very much in the marketing side, sales side. You give a reference, you give a referral, you give a testimonial or review, whatever it might be, and your status as an advocate grows. And somewhere along the line over the last ten years, because that’s kind of been the length of time we’ve seen this practice really, really start to grow. It got decoupled from the sense of, what is their customer journey? What are they doing as customers? So did they renew? Did they upsell? Are they a thousand dollar purchase or a million dollar purchase? Are they adopting your software? Like all things that they’re going to need to be doing to see continued success to stay with you as a customer. So you might have like a 100 level advocate over here, who’s really like the customer, as far as how successful their customer journey is going , and we’ve kind of decoupled those two journeys instead of bringing them together. But we’re starting to see some of that come out, right? 

So as customer advocacy programs broaden, and they start to say, okay, it’s not just advocate marketing in a sense of, how can my customers helped me to market and get that pipeline filled? But it’s customer advocacy in a sense of, how can I make them successful? First, give them a differentiated experience, make sure that they see value in our relationship and then get to that place of advocacy. It’s a broader mandate now, and it’s trickling into all different fields inside of the organization. We’re seeing those lines blurred between customer success, customer marketing, advocacy, experience, all of that.

I think what you’re starting to see are programs that need to, or want to play into that success side, the celebration side, the experience side. And we would be all for that. So just quick little examples: so I’ve been using Vimeo to make some of our videos and the other day, and I get an email and it’s like, congratulations, Liz, you just uploaded your fifth video to Vimeo. I dig that kind of thing because we’re starting to see people celebrating that customer journey as well. And when we can look at those milestones in the customer journey and tie them to their advocacy journey, then it starts to get really powerful.

Margot Leong: I am such a proponent of this, and I don’t even know what to call it. Julie Perino over at Adobe, I interviewed her recently and she calls it customer journey marketing. Which is where marketing can bring their sort of lens from a scale perspective and try to replicate the one-to-one perspective that customer success and support has, and try to broadcast that out at scale. 

I also think that the evolution here, number one, advocacy, they’re probably some of the best people to be able to also take on this adoption piece and think about everything post-purchase because they know what their most successful customers are doing. They can sort of look at how they got there and then try to model that behavior back for the people who just bought. 

I think the other piece of it is that because you also get to be more involved in that journey and also potentially having the ability to bring together the customer experience side of things, you really get to own a lot more of that journey right from post-purchase. And I think that all of that also bleeds into turning what we do from a nice-to-have to a must-have. You’re not only getting to talk to people at the very end, when they’ve already become advocates, you get to be involved in turning them into advocates. And I think that’s such a crucial switch to be able to make. Because the faster you turn them into advocates, the more advocates you get. 

I think it’s such a win-win and to a topic that we’re going to go a little bit more into, you’re totally right. B2C has spent a lot more time thinking about the lifecycle piece then B2B has. Can you share some of those lessons that you’ve learned from studying some of these B2C programs and how we can apply these on the B2B side?

Liz Richardson: Loyalty programs, they’ve been around from like the 1700s, where I think someone early back then started handing out gold coins when you would buy something from a store and then you could come back and use them. But then you really saw that progress. There were stamps given away that people could collect from different stores and then they could cash them in and get their rewards from a catalog. 

And then if you think about the early 2000s and how we all used to collect those loyalty cards on our keychains? These big brands started giving away these loyalty and the idea of like, Oh, we found something that motivates people’s buying behavior. That’s what loyalty was about. 

And then what we’re seeing today is, I hardly ever even make a purchase without checking to see if there’s some kind of loyalty program I should go ahead and sign up for, because it makes total sense that I should get some kind of return on my investment if I’m going to go ahead and make a purchase here. 

So what can we bring over from loyalty? B2C is definitely not the same as B2B. There’s higher touch, there’s relationships involved, whereas B2C is all about scale and low touch. But there are some practices and characteristics of loyalty that we absolutely should be feeding on. 

So first of all, loyalty is focused on that customer journey, getting you to that next level, getting you to that next purchase, celebrating when you hit those milestones.  And that’s even just a simple thing that we could bring over to that side. 

Also, there’s a lot of clarity with loyalty that we’re really missing on the B2B advocacy side. When I join a loyalty program, it’s all spelled out for me. This is exactly what I have to do to exactly get what I get. I feel like what we’ve been doing over the last or so years in the B2B advocacy space is offering a value proposition that may or may not happen for that person? Correct? Like, hey, be part of this program, get opportunities, be rewarded. 

And the opportunity isn’t equal for everyone inside that program, nor is it clear that everyone’s going to get as many opportunities as the other people. It’s really loose, so that there’s a lot of wiggle room for us B2B marketers and what we’re able to provide for that customer. It’s not going to be as cut and dried, but there’s a lot more clarity we can bring to our B2B programs to make sure that people understand like, yes, when I do this, I will be able to have these opportunities. And when I put a value proposition out there that the customers are going to get chances to do X, Y, and Z, I need to make sure that these are being fulfilled. 

 Another characteristic from loyalty that I’m just really hot on is ease . It’s so easy to sign up for a loyalty program, there’s really no barrier. A lot of the time on the B2B side, maybe we’re being a little bit more picky on purpose. That’s fine. There’s room for exclusive programs for certain B2B customers, but even the process of advocating for you or engaging for you, is it easy? Do we reach them in the moment where it’d be so natural, so organic to have them advocate for us at that point in time? Or are we kind of making them come in and inorganically do something.  

One more point I’ll bring up from loyalty is that immediate value. A good example is Target, most people in this will have been to Target and you get to the checkout line and they say, do you want to be part of Red Card? You’re going to get 5% back on every purchase you make. Well, if I shop at Target regularly, which I do, I’m almost just wasting money not being part of that program. And so it’s a no brainer for me to be part of that program. 

Think about Starbucks. Not only do I get to earn stars, but when I sign up on my mobile phone for rewards, that’s how I’m able to use that mobile app and order online. Well, that’s a no brainer. I want to order online, so I don’t have to wait in line. 

So when people build their B2B advocacy programs, there’s a lot of value propositions put out there of the intrinsic value of being part of it. And maybe you’ll get to earn some rewards, but is there a no-brainer reason that they should be part of your program? Or that just like you might get this value, you might not? But is there a hook that’s strong enough that in that moment it’s like, Oh my gosh. Yeah, absolutely. If I’m part of this program, it’s gonna make absolute sense because I’m really going to get this return on my investment or my time investment of being part of this program. 

So clarity, ease, immediate value, and that customer journey and personalization, which I would align to that customer journey where, I’m getting the right offers, the right opportunities, the right celebration at the right time. Those are all things that B2C does really well. And they’ve learned how to scale it, which we also have struggled with on the B2B side. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. There’s so much there. And I think something to point out too is with loyalty programs is that they kind of give you the opportunity to engage in loyalty, even if they have no clue whether or not you are an advocate. They just kind of like putting it out there and if you want to participate, awesome. If you don’t want to participate, that’s great too, but we’re not assuming right that you’re not an advocate, whether or not you’re part of a loyalty program. And also something that’s really interesting too, is that people that may join the loyalty program, they may not necessarily be like, I scream about Delta or Starbucks from the rooftops, but I do find the value there and I will continue to return as a result. 

And that does impact the bottom line, but I don’t have to be like that’s different from an advocate, who’s going to go out and tell their friends. So the distinctions are fascinating there. And I love sort of this idea that it doesn’t just have to be, okay, the advocates are all the way over here and they do specific things, and that there’s a whole collection of customers that, maybe they just don’t even have the time to advocate. Maybe they’re just satisfied with the product, but there are definitely things that can be done for them that will impact the bottom line. And so I, I do think that B2C has dialed in on this, where as you said, it’s scale and like every potential customer is welcome to join any program that they please.

Liz Richardson: From an advocacy perspective, we started this space calling it “advocacy” because it was for those people. The practice really started with, let’s find our happiest people and let’s leverage them to grow our business. But as things have progressed and as SaaS has become so prevalent and that yearly retention becomes more and more important as we have things like pandemic, where we have to ensure that our customers stay loyal to us through hard and difficult times, or even help us grow our business in ways we can’t reach.

As these things have become more important, and the scope has just crept and crept and crept and gotten wider and wider and wider, we have had to look at the things of, okay, are we helping them be successful? Are they loyal? And now, are we growing them into advocates? Are we producing that advocacy to then fill that pipeline and speak to our prospects or even scale CS?

And loyalty doesn’t really focus on that. Like, if you think about your Hilton rewards or your Delta rewards, they’re not really trying to get me to go shout from the rooftops. Those programs have really been focused on getting Liz to buy again. How can we look at customer experience and how can we bring this together and create programs that really speak to all of these things?

I tried to look for, okay, what’s a company that’s bringing this all together. And it’s hard to find them. There’s only companies who are bringing pieces.

I did find a B2C program though. The company is called Tarte and it’s a makeup company and it looks like it’s younger girls, but I was fascinated by what they’re doing. So first of all, they speak to the loyalty side. You get points for buying, for signing up, for completing your profile. You get birthday gifts and member-only sales, et cetera. So they’re speaking to that loyalty side, then they’re speaking to that advocacy side. They actually award and reward and build status if you write product reviews, if you answer questions for other users on social media, if you do quizzes and surveys, or if you refer other people to Tarte. 

And then on top of that, they’re building in that customer journey side. So you get points for logging in weekly, for opening your emails, for requesting more information about a certain product, exploring weblinks, and hitting your anniversary. They are looking at, okay, how are we motivating, rewarding, celebrating our customers in a more holistic fashion than just, okay. We’re trying to get you to your next purchase, or we’re trying to get you out on social media talking about us. They’re also trying to make you successful by making sure you’re opening their emails, that you’re logging in, that you’re doing this and that. So in my mind, this is one of the best examples I’ve seen of bringing all of this together, and I’m on a mission for B2B to start doing this more actively. 

Margot Leong: Yes. if you thought customer marketing was cross-functional before, wait until you start getting you get into the adoption side of things. When I look at the skillset from an advocacy perspective, I do think some gaps that need to be filled in when it comes to moving over to the adoption side, I think number one is data-driven. How are you going to think about personalization, if you are also not understanding how to collect this data in the first place. That’s historically where advocacy has probably struggled a bit more is this data-driven piece, and I know that we’re getting better. We’re thinking more about it outcome-based versus output based, but it is a pretty specific shift and usually one that you just don’t really get trained on it within customer advocacy. That’s not really something that we think about as much. So I think that’s one piece there. 

And another piece is the familiarity or the understanding of more marketing operations, more the technology side, because if you’re going to start to own, or even dabble in more pieces around lifecycle there’s a lot of different channels in which you reach your customers, like email marketing. I can understand where you’re coming from when you say the scope is massive because you’re combining this area in which, okay. This person’s really good at the relationship building, but then there’s other skills that oftentimes you would build those if you’re on the pipeline generation side. It’s a very different mindset, right? 

Liz Richardson: It is, but you know what? I find it so fascinating and exciting. One thing that I’ve really loved, being part of Captivate Collective, instead of tied to a specific platform, is just the opportunity to explore all the tools that are out there now when it comes to advocacy and engagement.  I love to figure out the scale side of it. I do think that people in this space are going to have to become more savvy on that and more creative about how these systems speak to each other. What is the data you need to personalize that journey. And where does it need to go to? What’s that cycle that has to start spinning?

But I also think on the product side as well, Margot, we’re going to see a lot of innovation, and we’re going to see platforms that enable you to scale your customer engagement. And we’ll hopefully be bringing in a lot of this data to the customer marketer, so it is a little less cumbersome. We’re moving away from making our customers be part of all these different avenues and channels, and make it much more simple for customers to interact with B2B companies. And that might mean on the backend, there’s some more complexity for the organization. 

I think we’re reaching that next generation of okay, Advocacy 2.0. Or do we even call it advocacy? Engagement 2.0. That is a much bigger thing, and now it’s exciting to be here again because we get to be pioneers. We’ve been here long enough, we know what works, what doesn’t work. We know there’s need for a broader perspective. If you love this, right, like we love this, that should be exciting because you get to architect and I love to build and architect and build something nobody else has built before. 

Margot Leong: You had mentioned earlier, you’ve seen programs that are able to successfully navigate that question around, is this a nice-to-have or is this a must have? And so I’d love to get your thoughts as to like what are the best ways to position it that results in the program being thought of, absolutely, like this is intrinsic to our business’s and organization’s goals.

Liz Richardson: Okay, great question and a hard question. So I guess I would take it back to what we talked about for a minute and start with the strategy. What is the most important thing for your organization? What is it that you’re trying to drive? And yes, I know you’re trying to drive growth and retention. But when your organization is looking year by year at those initiatives, everyone is rallying around, what are those? Do you know what those are? 

And then as you go from that top level, down to departmental goals, down to your own program, is that aligning all the way back up to the top? Do you know the part that you are playing? If you know you’re doing a lot of good stuff, but you don’t know for sure where that line goes up to, then you need to take a step back. You need to look at the goals of your organization and then the strategy of your program, make sure they align. 

But everyone is always trying to get that internal buy-in, so making believers of the people around you that, Oh, yes. What we are getting out of this is extremely valuable. Well, you need to go to the people internally at your organization, and you need to make sure that you have their buy-in, their support, because it’s starting to creep and expand and grow so far, that collaboration aspect is becoming more important.  So it’s imperative that you are able to articulate, what is the value to your colleague over in sales, to your colleague over in PR, to your colleague over in CS and your colleague in product Are you able to articulate what it is that this program is going to drive that is going to benefit them and their objectives and their goals in such a way that it’s a no brainer. And if you’re getting this feeling that people aren’t quite buying in or believing this, you haven’t found out what’s most important to them, just like you do with your customers. 

And so when we think about what’s coming out of the program and how to have that resonate with others, specifically leaders, right? Leaders want to see the data and we have a lot of great stories in customer advocacy, and they are so necessary of how we’ve been able to impact a customer or how a customer story has impacted other customers or prospects. But it’s not always hard and fast data. It’s hard to produce that data. We can go to, I got a hundred reviews ,but what does that actually mean? You have to have some creativity right now because not all the tools and software are in place that are going to do all that calculation for you.

So I have 50 customers give feedback on our marketing messaging. Okay, what would that have cost me if I had gone out and done some market research. Was it as good or not as good? Maybe, maybe not. You might want to put some qualifiers in there or not, but you can start to hone down in, okay, this is the value or the cost reduction that I was able to produce. Or maybe we were paying some people to contribute to our blog, now I’m having customers do a lot of that writing. What’s the cost savings involved in there?

 Of course, referrals and that’s easy, but are you tracking every time one of your customer advocates has a reference call, or one of their stories is shared. Are you tracking the influence there as well? And then as the program starts to expand and we start looking at things like customer success, customer experience, there are things you can start measuring as well. What is the retention or upsell or cross sell percentage when it comes to people inside of your customer program? And how does that differ from people who are not inside of your customer program? What is the satisfaction rate, or just happiness rate of your customers who are in your program, versus people who are not outside your program?

One really far-fetched idea we had for one of our client communities was basically, if the mission of the community is to make sure that this group of people feels supported, connected, has an affinity to the brand, but really an affinity to each other. What if we just ask them how they’re feeling about their job? Are they finding happiness in this role that they have? And is it growing as they spend more time inside of the community? So that’s pretty far out there and that’s a little bit fluffier, but we were really having to start to dig in. Okay. We’ve got to show: what is the return on investment for having a program like this? And that’s going to take some creativity right now, but there’s definitely ways to do it with a spreadsheet and some thought. 

It’s really important to make sure that you get down to numbers so that when you’re going out there to your organization and getting that buy-in, which is going to win over the hearts and minds of the people, especially leaders inside of your organization, so that when the time comes for a budget reduction across the organization or whatnot, or there’s extra money to spend and the company has to decide where to invest that, it makes sense for the organization that everyone’s behind: this is something we are absolutely gonna continue to invest in because we know what the return on investment is. Just like we know what the return on investment is in demand gen and whatnot. So that’s where we’re trying to get. It’s not an easy road, but again, we’re going to have to elevate our practice and we’re going to have to do the hard work to do that. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that you don’t have to go it alone, right? Like there’s so many departments that you touch within customer marketing, where you’re helping them, whether it’s sourcing customers for this or for that. And so I think even spending the time with the person who leads your demand gen, and just getting a little bit more of an understanding of, okay, how do you measure success? Having a wider lens on how different teams measure success is really helpful because it just allows you to start expanding your horizons a little bit more and you start to get more ideas around ways that you could be measuring that you never thought about. 

Sometimes also what happens with customer marketing is that you can come into an organization, the marketing leader really believes in customer marketing but the CMO tenures tend to be relatively short and you could get an, a new CMO that could be wondering, okay, I’ve never heard of customer marketing or what is this for? I think it’s better to be always trying to think about, how can I get ahead of this if this were to happen, right? 

Liz Richardson: I think that’s a really good point. We have seen so many programs falter when the champion leaves, whether that’s the person who owns and made this program their baby, or the boss ahead of them who was giving that air cover and pleading their cause. So you’ve got to put some of those marketing skills to use for your own program’s brand and make sure that you’re giving it that future protection that we talked about. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Liz, I mean we’re only really at the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the other potential topics that we could chat about. So, last question of course, is what’s the best way for people to connect with you?

Liz Richardson: So you could go to our website and learn more about what we do, which is http://www.thecaptivatecollective.com. Don’t forget the “the.” But if you’re interested or people have questions, people LinkedIn message me a lot, just like, hey, do you know someone in this space or what do you think about this topic? Or I saw that you posted about this. I love for people to reach out. I’m a people person. And we’d love to have anyone who’s interested come to our workshops, which are on Eventbrite and advertised on our LinkedIn company page.  

Margot Leong: Absolutely. And I will put all of the things that you mentioned into the show notes, so that people can easily reach out to you, but Liz, it was such a pleasure. We’re going to have to do a round two for sure. It’s really nice to think about that next frontier for customer marketing and customer advocacy, and the infinite possibilities that are available in this arena.

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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