Transcript: Key Takeaways from PMA’s Customer Marketing Summit with Brittany Rolfe Hillard

On this episode, I had a blast chatting with Brittany Rolfe Hillard, VP of Customer Engagement and Advocacy at WalkMe on some of our key takeaways from Product Marketing Alliance’s recent Customer Marketing Summit. The event is definitely a testament to how customer marketing is taking off and the future looks really bright. We covered so many topics on this episode, including how to define your charter based on your company’s stage, the importance of co-creating OKRs with stakeholders and the vast opportunities available when it comes expanding your skillset and being a more strategic customer marketer. Without further ado, here’s our conversation. 

Margot Leong:  Brittany, thank you so much for joining. I am really excited to do something a little bit different than what we’ve done previously on Beating The Drum, which is very topical. We are going to talk about some of our favorite takeaways from the recent Customer Marketing Summit that was put on by Product Marketing Alliance. So super excited. And this was a fantastic idea that you had to do this. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah, I’m pumped. I feel like  I was just excited to see a conference dedicated specifically to customer marketing and knew that there would just be a ton of nuggets to take away. But I feel like for most people, you don’t have time in the day maybe to go to an entire conference, so I just thought it’d be fun. I’m on maternity leave. So I figured, Hey, I’ll listen to all of the sessions, collect all my little nuggets and then be able to share them out with the world in case you didn’t have a chance to tune into everything. 

Margot Leong: You are doing us a massive service. And the fact that you also did this while on maternity leave, I think just speaks to your passion for customer marketing. 

Brittany Rolfe: It was fun. It was something to spice up my day between breastfeeding and diaper changes. So it was pretty good. And it was actually great that you could listen to things on 2x and all the sessions for sure, like worth going back to. If you haven’t tuned into the conference yet, like, don’t take my takeaways as a reason not to listen to all the other great stuff that the speakers were sharing, but it definitely got me thinking about a lot of different takeaways that I’m excited to discuss with you, Margot.

Margot Leong: I definitely recommend going and listening to the sessions and I think some of the things that we’ll be talking about are definitely takeaways, but also some things that just brought up things that were also on our mind when it comes to customer marketing in general. So lots of good stuff and let’s start with that first one. You wanna take it away, Brittany? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. So, I think everybody who’s in customer marketing might already have a sense of this,  basically in summary that no one really has like that perfect definition of what customer marketing is. It really just means different things to different people at different companies. And I feel like that can cause a lot of confusion, either for you as an individual, trying to be a customer marketer within your organization, maybe it’s causing confusion between you and your boss or maybe with peers. And when you’re talking to other people who are in customer marketing, you realize they’re doing something totally different than you. 

And I think that this conference really highlighted that there’s a lot of different pillars within customer marketing. And I know for me, I heard some sessions where they talked a lot about life cycle marketing and nothing about community or they talked a lot about advocacy and nothing about product adoption and retention. You know, to every customer marketer out there, whether you’re just getting started or whether you’ve been in the role, like having a moment of reflection of saying, what is customer marketing at my org? And it’s okay if it doesn’t have all the pieces, but just getting really clear on like what pieces you do have and where are you going to go with them I think is super important. 

Margot Leong: Something that we talk about a lot on the podcast is intentionality, and I think that this is true in life. This is true in marketing, but especially for something like customer marketing, which was relatively nascent, especially in terms of just how much it’s growing and also the demands that are placed upon us. I think that’s when it’s even more important to like pump the brakes and think about, okay, like, what is the value that I’m providing? And it’s so different based off of the stage of the company. And I think a lot of times, no matter what company you go into, it’s just like, create stories, talk to customers, get the story, you know?

And so it’s never bad advice to try and uplevel as much as possible and figure out what are the actual business goals of the company and in some organizations that are much more mature, that’s much easier, right? But even for earlier stage companies where it’s more opaque, then you really have to dig in and think about where can I provide the most value at this time and be okay with that changing. 

What I would love to get your wisdom on is, you know, you came in to WalkMe, you were super early. You took on all these different types of roles, but I think you came to it from a true sort of success angle and thought process. So I’d love to understand, just at a high level, how did you think about slotting in customer marketing? Based off of what the goals were? How’d you think about that? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s also one where I’m like the things I would do differently, the list is very, very long. I was given the job with a list of goals and KPIs. You know, there was like a vision from the top down of what my boss wanted me to do. And so I kind of stepped in and started operating and where I wish I would have taken a step back is taking a look at the org and figured out, okay, who else are my stakeholders? What are they expecting of me? What are they missing that could be in my area of ownership and really kind of creating cross alignment so that when it came time for me to want to grow my team to other things, I had their support to do it, versus just being in good alignment with my own boss and hitting the goals and growing the programs that they cared about, but then starting to see other areas of customer marketing grow in other areas of the organization where those stakeholders either didn’t realize I could help them or I existed or whatever, and they just needed more support. 

Like we could have teamed up and said, Hey, we need support here. And like, how do we get a resource that benefits both of us. And we weren’t a huge company. I just think it goes to show I just should have had those conversations probably earlier and figured out where I could be supporting. But part of the reason I didn’t is I was a one person team or one and a half person team. And I couldn’t be taking like a long list of requests from other stakeholders, but I should have been at least advocating for my charter. And that’s where I would say, like coming up with your elevator pitch of like, what you do, you can quickly explain it, maybe have a brand for it, so people know what to come to you with which you heard people talk about at this conference too, like coming up with a brand, a way to explain yourself. 

But I think that elevator pitch to your peers of who am I and how can I help you? And how can you leverage me? Even what’s your roadmap, what are the things you want to add on, but you can’t add on right now. And how can we start to advocate for those things together? I think that all of that will really help you formalize, but getting clear on like what you do own right now versus like what maybe you want to own in the future can really help you.

Margot Leong: What you said about the elevator pitch, I think is very important and the way that I thought about it, and this was a little bit easier because I came in specifically with the advocacy charter and not yet lifecycle. And so for advocacy, it’s basically anything to do with our customers in terms of helping them tell the story for us. And so I have this diagram, it’s really crude, but like, it looks like a heart. And so on one side is internal and the other side is external and in the middle is customers. And so it’s basically like we can use our customers in two ways. One of them is, you know, the more traditional idea of how do you get your customers to tell your story for you? And that can help sales, right, that can help with PR, like all that stuff, right. 

But then there’s the other half that I think sometimes can be left by the wayside, which is how do you make sure that all the things that your customers are doing for you, right. That’s reciprocated by us in terms of making sure their feedback is incorporated in terms of making the product better, which then ends up creating new customers and making your existing customers happier. 

But every time I would meet with a new stakeholder, I would show them this diagram, and I would explain to them, at a high level, this is what I believe in here, and where do you see yourself needing help? Over time, you also end up learning, what are those trigger areas for different departments in which they’re like, Oh, Hey, like I do need that. It’s a matter of getting them excited about what you could potentially help them with. And then, it’s understanding, okay, like what are your goals? I think you’re going to talk about this, right? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. I was just going to say, this is such a perfect segue. But yeah, it takes us into this concept, which they talked a lot about at the conference, which is OKRs, metrics, how do you set metrics, how do you set goals, et cetera. And I think anybody who’s been in this space knows no one has the best answer to this. It’s like very hard. Everyone wants to show like very powerful metrics, influencing revenue, but a lot of us are stuck in vanity metrics or influence metrics and trying to navigate that.

And so I thought there was a lot of really great conversation around some default metrics that you could use, how to think about them. But the biggest takeaway I really took on this was not just creating your metrics by yourself and actually working with all of your stakeholders to create joint metrics with them, which doesn’t sound like now that I’ve said it out loud, you know, even when the speaker said that I was like, well, duh, obviously you should do that. But then when I really thought about it, I was like, well, how many of us are actually doing that. And there’s a reason why we’re not actually doing it, right.

When you look at the list of stakeholders that customer marketing has, it’s a long ass list. Like almost every department in the organization could potentially be better leveraging customer marketing in some way. So it could take some time, but I think at the end of the day, if you really want your metrics to be valued and important, and if you really want those other stakeholders to feel like they’re revenue metrics and not just like vanity metrics. And I feel like getting them to tell you what the metrics are, the metrics that they want your support moving, how you’re going to do it. That’s like the only way I think that then when you do show numbers, they’re going to say, Oh yeah, we do attribute that back to the work that you’ve been doing. And it really feels meaningful. 

So I thought that that was like pretty groundbreaking in terms of just actually going out and having those conversations. And so one, I think it’s going to help you do your elevator pitch, make sure everybody knows who you are, what you’re doing. Two, I think it’s going to create some accountability between the teams, so you actually like agree on metrics. Then you host those quarterly check-ins or monthly check-ins. Your OKR is whatever it is that you’re reviewing together to say, Hey, how did we do? And not necessarily like, Hey, we failed or we didn’t fail, but like, Hey, let’s just stay accountable to these things that we decided were important.

And do we need to pivot or not pivot, especially if you’re at a fast growing startup. I imagine your OKR that you’ve agreed upon are going to change pretty frequently. But if you get out of habit of having your stakeholders contribute to them, then they change and you don’t have buy-in.  It’s back to you every quarter, creating your own metrics by yourself because things are changing so fast. So I really feel like there’s a lot of value to this co-creation component. So yeah. 

Margot Leong: It’s almost like doing a post-mortem, right.  We agreed upon this and like, let’s, you know, talk about how we did right. And this also ensures that whatever you guys have agreed on that can be attributed back to you and you have backup, right? Like a lot of this is about developing those relationships together so that people are also talking about your organization internally. The more relationships that you build, the more that you also get that visibility because they know like there’s some sort of tie with you that is semi formalized in which you really talked about it and you like agreed upon it, and then you check on on it every quarter, versus being like, yeah, like, I don’t know. I work with the customer marketing team and they help me out on stuff. 

Brittany Rolfe: It’s also a great opportunity to then have that conversation with them that’s like, Hey, you are telling me you want these other things. And actually I don’t have bandwidth to do them. Maybe we have need to grow in this space. Like, is this something you’ll help me do, can we combine budgets? Can we combine our voices to be heard? Like, now you have people to support you. And usually, you know, when you talk to customer marketing is they’re like, I’m such a small team and I am really struggling to grow and nobody understands what I do. But now you’ve made all these allies who are telling you what they want. And now you’re kind of saying, let’s get it together. Let’s do this. You know, it’s just really, really clever. 

Margot Leong: I mean, everybody talks about like, yes, we’re super cross-functional. But like cross-functional means not just taking requests from other teams. It means actually being cross-functional partner to the business and to those departments, so like that’s what cross-functionalmeans, you know. 

Brittany Rolfe: And Margo again, you’re killing it with your segues, because I feel like that brings us perfectly to number three which is kind of around this concept of customer marketing, being a request taker versus a strategic partner to the business. And I see this so much when I network within the customer marketing space. You can tell the difference when you talk to somebody who’s like, Oh, I’m a strategic thought leader within my company and people come to me for very strategic programs, or I’m a services org and people come to me with asks or requests for customers, and I just supply the customers or whatever.

And I think at the end of the day, everybody would probably want to be on that strategic side and they just might not know how to be there. It’s kind of like easier said than done, I thought. So maybe that’s a good question, Margot, for you is how do you see customer marketers staying strategic? Like how do they not get caught up in just this services requests game that is out there. 

Margot Leong: I mean, I struggled with this so much in different organizations and to be honest, like I think when I was a little bit earlier, it was also scary to think about like, do I have a valid opinion on some of these things? Like, maybe, I don’t know, right. Maybe it’s better that I’m just a content producer, and I think that mindset sort of sets you back a lot of times. I think that some of the ways that you can be more strategic and really have your team be thought of it that way.

Angela Burke, I just recently interviewed her for an upcoming podcast, but she helps run this program at Confluent, amongst other things. She’s amazing. And so she talks about this exact thing about how customer marketers are thought of as this fast food drive through window in which like different departments just roll up and it’s like, all right. Like I want five case studies with this specific type of industry. And I want 10 videos with this. 

And she said, you know, one of the best ways to do that is basically to always ask why. It sounds obvious, but a lot of times I think because customer marketing, we tend to want to make people happy. We want to be people pleasers, and so it can be scary and this is something I’ve of course struggled with in the past. But she had a really good point, which is that if you want to be seen as a strategic partner, you have to also align on what the goals are in the first place. And also have some opinions as to like, what is actually going to be the most valuable for the business.

I think something that’s really important there too is it’s the consistency around always doing that so that you become known within the organization as someone who’s more thoughtful and someone who is going to also protect their team’s time and do what is again, best for the business, for the customer and really someone that wants to understand fundamentally what is the reason these asks are being made, right. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. I mean asking why, it shouldn’t be frowned upon, right. I mean, it’s going to be frowned upon if you only ask why, when you don’t want to do something or when you’re stressed or whatever, but if you ask why every time, it also forces the other party to like really think strategically about their ask as well, help them really determine like why it should be prioritized. So I think consistently asking why is great. 

I know for me another kind of thought I have here is, as a customer marketer, a lot of times I see them say, okay, product marketing understands our messaging and positioning and like, I’m the customer marketer, but I really feel like once you take that step away, that’s where you lose your opportunity to be strategic.

So if you’re a customer marketer who doesn’t feel like you could pitch the product or explain all of your features and functionality and like why they are valuable and like really know your use cases, then, you know, maybe that’s an area of opportunity for you to grow so that you can move into that more strategic role because what I really see as powerful, and I think kudos to my team who does this really well, is going back to the marketing org, whether it’s product marketing, whether it’s analyst relations or PR and saying, Hey, I want to pitch you on a customer story. Because I think that this customer story really hits on our mission or our values or the messaging that we’re trying to put into the market right now. Or at this event, you’re telling me, this is kind of like the vibe you want for the event, here are the stories that I think you should feature. Versus I think a lot of times we wait for those teams to come to us and say, I’m looking for this and they come to you and they’re looking for like the same thing every single time. Or they’re looking for something so specific, it doesn’t exist.

Like if we flip the narrative and say, Hey, just come to me with an idea, and I’m going to pitch you on the best customer stories. I actually think you can come up with way better PR headlines or event speakers, or whatever when you take ownership over what should be talked about and who’s going to do the best job doing it. So I think that’s a great opportunity to be more strategic. 

Another one, which I haven’t done this personally, but I think it’s really powerful is around user feedback. I feel like customer marketing is a lot of times seen as like, okay, go get me the customers to provide feedback for our product team. But what I’ve found is like, I don’t think product teams always know how to get customer feedback, how to solicit it in a productive way or how to like make the most of that feedback. And so I actually feel like if customer marketers who have the opportunity to be involved in customer feedback programs, said, Hey, I’m actually going to really understand how to do this and do this well. And I’m going to coach my product team on how to do this, then you can really have a strategic role there too. Cause I think a lot of times it’s not like their skill is in other places as well. So unless you hired somebody specifically with a background in customer feedback, I think this is an area for you to step in and really add a ton of value on your team, whether it’s you in particular or whether you make room on your team to master that skillset.

Margot Leong: I think that the ability to also synthesize and comb through feedback is actually a extremely valuable skillset in any position, but let’s say that you’re in customer marketing and you’re interested in potentially trying out product marketing, right? Like that is absolutely something that you need to learn how to do in that regard. And I think then if you go backwards, and you think, okay, what do I need to do to be able to synthesize all this feedback? Well, you need to be incredibly well-versed in the product. And I think not only understanding of the product from a product marketing angle, but do your best, sometimes it’s hard with enterprise IT, right. But in other situations where the product is easier, to use you know, like that should be something that you are inhaling as much as you can, like using your own product so that you can understand from a user perspective, okay, what are the things that they are struggling with? 

And something that I’ve done in the past too, is especially when joining new organizations, I spent a lot of time with the support and the success teams, because they have all these different angles as to what the customer is struggling with. And we, on the customer marketing side, we have the luxury of talking to a lot of happy customers, but we also don’t want to be caught in a situation in which there are times where you’ll be doing an interview with a customer and they’re like, okay, like actually I have a support question.

And all of these things are just so important to connect together, right, is if you want to be the master of everything post-purchase and trying to scale that, it’s actually getting very down in the trenches and really, really understanding the product through your customer’s eyes and really not just only through your happy customers eyes, right? So it’s all of the aggregation of all of these things that are just really important to make you like the most well-rounded in this regard. 

Brittany Rolfe: But I just only want to talk to happy customers.  It’s a good reality. Like if you’re only talking to happy customers, I mean, even aside from the product, then you’re not really figuring out how to improve your customer marketing programs, that concept applies to everything you’re doing. Like if you’re only talking to the customers who join your meetup about what they liked or didn’t like, well, what about the 98% of your customers who didn’t join the meetup, you know? 

Margot Leong: Totally. And to be honest, like, I think we often find too in talking to customers, is that no customer that advocates for you is a hundred percent satisfied all the time, there’s all sorts of nuance. And like maybe they have a few support issues open, right. Or maybe there’s something that’s actually a bug that they’ve been complaining about, right. 

We need to also be on top of that and also know how to communicate about that in a way that is also like not super awkward when someone brings it up, you know? So I think that’s important, but I have to take my hat off to you, Brittany, because you have helped to segue into something that one of the other takeaways that I was going to save towards the end, but I think this is such a good segue. But it’s thinking about how to be a strategic as possible for your own future as a customer marketer.

And so if I think about different customer marketers I’ve interviewed in the past, some of the best ones are ones that have had so much different exposure, not only within marketing, but within all these different departments. So for example, you have had experience on the success side, partnership side, also like you did consulting in healthcare, I believe, right?

Brittany Rolfe: Yep. Good old healthcare. Don’t miss it at all. 

Margot Leong:  I’m such a big believer in this, right? Every different type of experience that you have, that’s what makes you unique, right? Is maybe you have some resonance with customer marketing, but that all these different experiences, you’re the only one that gets to combine them to create this whole new flavor. And I’m super thankful for the time that I spent previously in like journalism, corp comms, like PR support, community, social, content, like all these like random things that a lot of times I just did because I was in early stage a lot.

And it brings such a different lens to how you are as a customer marketer, you can speak that language. Like I can imagine for you, like, of course you had that previous experience and relationship on the success side, but like, you can speak that language. Like you can build those relationships so quickly with success people. Because you know that, like you’ve walked and talked it right. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah, I mean, especially when you’re in customer marketing to do a stint in customer success, I think it just adds a ton of value. But you know, even just within other areas of marketing, I feel like you can kind of do like little internships, you know? And you don’t even have to like fully move over into the role to do it, you can just better partner with that team for a period of time to actually look at it with curiosity versus just like, Hey, you want something from me? And I want something from you. Let’s just get this project done.

And instead, really take the moment to say, okay, Hey, since we’re going to be meeting more about this project, let’s take a step back. And you like, teach me more about how you do what you do, why you do it, et cetera, and customer marketing, because it works so closely with all of those other teams, you have this unique opportunity to really take it all in. So like, if you want to get a better lens into the analyst world, you have that opportunity. If you want it to get a better lens into PR, you can do that too, you know, and as you take a little extra time to learn those people in their jobs and how they do it, now you’ve strengthened your skillsets. And maybe you haven’t done it yourself, but you’ve done it enough to like really be able to speak to it and understand it, which I think is pretty powerful. 

Margot Leong:  There’s a great podcast called Manager Tools, all about some of the nuts and bolts of being a manager and working with direct reports, but something that they talked about, which always stuck with me is this idea that, of course this is a bit different in a sort of a post COVID world, but you should never eat lunch alone. Like at least once a week, reach out to someone in a different department and just be like, Hey, like I just want to get to know you were a little bit more, get to know and understand what your department does. I just want to kind of pick your brain so that we can maybe work better together in the future and I can be of more help. 

And you know, I think this accomplishes like two very important things. One is that you are allowing yourself to be more strategic, to learn how to speak the language of different departments so that you can just be faster. You can be more nimble, like you can just work better from a sort of professional context. 

But also I think number two is that so much of success I think is built on relationships. If I think about the experience I’ve had at previous companies , one thing I do regret is that I did not do enough to constantly be building and strengthening relationships outside of my department, and this is really important, especially as you get bigger. And I think we’ve both experienced this because we’ve both been very early at companies and we’ve both seen them just massively grow in size.

And when you were at a smaller company, it was so much easier to turn to the engineer sitting next to you and being like, Hey, like, can you help me with this, right,  and as you grow bigger, you just tend to stay with your own department. You tend to stay with the friends you’ve already made, but then there are so many situations in which when you get bigger, it’s like, Hey, you need to work with sales ops for something. And it’s like, yeah I don’t know anyone in sales ops at all. 

Brittany Rolfe: I especially feel like COVID magnified that, right. Like before you actually did kind of have the lunchroom where you could kind of like sit with new people or bump into people in the hallways. And now it’s like, you only are joining calls with people that you have, like either team calls or like you have a specific reason that you need to talk to them and there’s less of that informalness going on. But it’s very possible to do now, even without that in-person going on, you just have to make the effort, you know, keep your eyes out for the people that you think would be worth getting to network with.

Margot Leong: Yes, absolutely. And I would say in addition to that, right, don’t just kind of keep it within your peer level, right. Talk to people that are a bit more junior, pick their brains, have the courage to talk to people who are like a few levels above you to just pick their brain. I feel like there’s so much serendipity in terms of how you work nowadays. I remember situations in which I hung out with someone in a different department just randomly and then I wanted feedback right from someone in that department, and I was like, Oh, actually, like I have an existing relationship with someone. And like, there’s so many things and favors that people can ultimately end up doing for you because you had taken the time to build that relationship, but think it’s just being open and friendly and being like, I can learn something from literally anyone, right. And so like, let’s just rack up that list. I think you honestly find so much more success due to relationship building versus a lot of other ways that you could do it, you know?

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah, I agree. That’s a good reminder to do more of that in my own life. Once I go back to work, it’s hard to make the time, but it’s worth it when you really do go into it with a curious mindset to learn, I think. Well, on the topic of thinking about your own future and how to be strategic, we had two other takeaways from this event that I think really tie well into growing your skill sets.

The first one, in my opinion is, it’s like a buzzword. You hear about it all the time, which is when you’re thinking about customer life cycle, there are a lot of different ways to engage your customers. You know, people are so hot on omni-channel communication, but my question is, how many people are actually doing it. And it’s in particular, you know, talking about in product communication. I work at WalkMe and product communication is something that is super near and dear to my heart. I think it’s really important. But when I listen to lifecycle marketers talk, or as a customer of so many products, I’m like, why is everybody only talking to me over email? And where is the in product communication? 

And so I feel like there’s kind of this huge skillset gap that companies have of customer marketers or product marketers who are comfortable transitioning their communication tactics into the product. I think people want to do it. Maybe they do it very, very lightly, but at the end of the day, they’re still an email first communicator. And I think that’s a huge mistake.  I think that there’s probably good reasons, you know, oftentimes marketers are not super product techie. They’re not comfortable with the technologies. Maybe that would get communications into the product or maybe the product team owns it themselves, and you haven’t built that relationship to support the product with this activity. 

But I feel like if you’re looking to grow a skillset and you want to be a more strategic business partner, the stats are out there. In-product communication is way more effective than email communication, so why aren’t we doing more of it? You know,  anybody listening, let’s make this a 2021 goal to actually do this and not just talk about doing it, and do more of it because I think if we’re looking at adoption metrics, if we’re looking at the metrics that matter, it’s not how many people opened an email. It’s how many people actually use the information in that email to go take an action that ultimately resulted in retention, upsell, cross-sell, whatever it might be. Where you’re going to see those important metrics happen is in the product usually. So that’s kind of one interesting side note I had is like, we talked about it during this summit, but really who’s doing it. Let’s get there. 

Margot Leong: Yes, absolutely. And so much customer experience is ultimately dictated by the product. And in many ways I feel like the trend appears to be people are just tuning more and more noise out, right. And so it’s like, maybe I’m just very jaded, but I’ve rarely read emails that vendors send me anymore. Because I just don’t have the time, I can’t be bothered. 

Brittany Rolfe: Sometimes I’m actually happy when they send me an email, because I’m like, Oh, this is a good reminder to unsubscribe. And then I like unsubscribe. It’s like the opposite of what they want. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I could probably go on about this for days, but I think there’s a weird mentality around like how to talk to customers and how often to talk to customers. And I think a lot of it is very much like constant touches, like touch them all the time so that they remember that you exist. If you did the experience right in product, I don’t think you’ve got to remind your customers that you exist all the time. I take a lot of issue too with like, if I look at newsletters, are the things that you’re putting in the newsletter, are you just putting them in? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah, fill up the space.

Margot Leong: Exactly. Like I got four columns, like I got these boxes. I have to put something in there. You sort of lose sight as to would the user actually find benefit from this? I’ll see in newsletters from vendors that they put in customer stories and I’m like, that’s great, but are the things that you’re showcasing, does an existing customer wants to read this case study? This is like a semi rant, right. 

Brittany Rolfe: No, the newsletter, it’s a hot topic for us always as well. Like you want to add value when you write it. And sometimes I think you’re just not sure how. And I think we need to go back and say, if this isn’t going to add value, why are we pressing send on it?

Margot Leong: Yes, yes. One more thing I think marketing does not do this enough, which is you know, your success team and your support team, talk to customers all the time. Right. And they have the ability to have a person be behind that. So if that’s a personalized experience and I, as a marketer am doing a scalable experience, which I’m just sending out mass emails, I actually would much more value the fact that someone is building some sort of relationship with the customer. How can I take their communication and think about how can I leverage that? So whether that is working with the support team to say, okay, like, we’d love to do a survey with customers to get their feedback. Can you add this to your signature, right? Or you know, when you send this out to customers or when someone gives you a five-star review on the CSAT side, here’s a template for you to follow up and immediately asked like, Hey, do you mind writing us a review?  Because people still value that communication with a real person, and the ask goes so much further when it comes from someone that they trust. So like how can you utilize those other teams that talk to the customers all the time to also help you connect with customers? Get feedback, hit your goals as well. 

Brittany Rolfe: Well, I’m taking notes cause that’s definitely not something that I do. And you have inspired me that, why am I not doing that? Well, this one might also be something that not everybody is doing, but I think it adds a lot of value, which is an idea that Charlotte had spurred me on when she mentioned in her session that, you know, when she worked for Outreach, her customer marketing team learned to use Outreach to do customer marketing related asks and this really took me back to this thought of like customer marketing is kind of always trying to buy their own software or always kind of complaining that like the software that they have doesn’t work well for them. Like it’s hard to do blah, blah, blah. And I totally agree. 

But at the same time, your organization has already invested in a ton of pretty powerful software, usually, and you just don’t know how to use it. And I feel like every customer marketer could probably take a step back. Think about the top 10 applications that your organization has or that your dependent teams use and really actually go figure out how to use that. You know, you have an intranet, do you know how to use all the features and functionality of your intranet or your collaboration tool or your CRM? Probably not. Take some time, really become a power user on those systems and then figure out okay. Can I use these systems to better do what I’m doing or do I actually need to go out and buy different software to make this happen?

And I think Charlotte’s example of using Outreach to do this, like my company is an Outreach customer and we should be using Outreach to do this. Or you know, Lindsay Molina at Slack, she has built an amazing customer references management, sourcing the pipeline, submitting stories, tracking asks, fulfilling requests in Slack. Like my company has Slack, how can we better be using Slack to do this?  Same with Salesforce, how much can you build the processes you need in Salesforce? So I think everyone could probably be honest with themselves and admit that they’re not a power user in all the tools that all of their dependencies use, and if we put a little more effort and we could get a lot more out of those tools, and not need to suffer so much through like the lack of technology, I guess. 

And then another point is like this might even free up budget, or you can think of your budget differently to use budget to bring in a consultant, which is another point that Charlotte made that I think is so important because usually customer marketing teams are small teams. But like you have a huge list of different types of projects that your company wants you to do, and you might not be the expert on all of them. Now does that mean you have to go out and hire headcount to do every single thing? No. How can you hire consultants to help you scale so that you don’t have to have such a heavy team, but you can still get stuff off the ground in a quick and efficient manner and with those best practices. And I really reflect on that. Like, I’ve networked a lot to build an arsenal of best practices. But I probably could have gotten to the same place faster if I had used my budget to bring in consultants to help my organization do that. So, those are kind of some interesting thoughts I had there that I feel like tie back to building your own skill sets as well. 

Margot Leong: The Charlotte you’re talking about, right? This is Charlotte Lilley who runs customer marketing at Coupa, yeah. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yes, and she’s the best. And she knows I think she’s the best. And also I think her podcast with you if anybody hasn’t listened to it, go back and bring a pen and paper with you because she gives so many incredible nuggets in that session. So highly recommend you listen to her podcast. But yeah. 

Margot Leong: I mean her yes. Her frameworks, like she’s a framework queen. And I’m like, okay, I have to figure out how I can think more in this way, but super strategic. 

Brittany Rolfe: And really creative and fun. So yeah, I can’t say it can’t say enough good things. 

Margot Leong: This is a really salient point because I’m definitely guilty of this. I have bought the fancy tools, and in many ways, it’s nice. But I think pushing you outside of the comfort zone into these areas, it’s only a good thing to learn how to be better at the tools that all the other orgs are using versus trying to bring something new in. And that’s not to say that something new can’t work, but just consider the options. 

And I also think like you and I were talking about this earlier, right, is it’s also dependent, I think on stage, but sometimes at larger companies where you have more budget, that can also actually be a disadvantage because then you’re automatically just thinking, okay, like I want to spend this on software. I got all this budget. And actually, you can be much more thoughtful about budget if you are like actually let me strike this off the list and I can use an existing tool in a really creative way. And then I can use that for programs. This is another segue I can use that for programs that bring more value to existing customers.

Brittany Rolfe: Yes, which at the end of the day is what we all want to do, right. Like I think customer marketers at their heart want to accomplish that. And sometimes budget is a hard one. You can’t figure out like how to get the budget you need to do at all. But yeah, there was a lot of great talk around how to how to bring more value to your customers, so Margot, what were your highlights that you heard from everybody? 

Margot Leong: I mean, I’m constantly like excuse the term, but like beating the drum about this. 

Brittany Rolfe: Plug.

Margot Leong: I’m so obsessed with what can we do to just help our customers’ lives be better. And that can be personal,  professional and like, it doesn’t have to be related to our product at all. In many ways, I prefer it doesn’t. And so you and I talked about this as the value of thinking about being in your customer’s shoes, understanding what their feedback is, understanding what their challenges are from a professional level is what can we do and what can we offer that can help them at all these you know, all these different roles, levels, and titles.

Kalina Bryant talks about in her session around executive programs is, at Asana, they have these peer round tables for executives, and she was very emphatic that these not be about selling the product, the just be about learning from each other. So what can you do to carve out programs or just initiatives that are purely about providing something of value to your user and your customer that again has nothing to do with the product. 

The speakers from Nutanix, they created this program called Nutanix Select for some of their VIP customers, which is where they offered free classes taught by someone on the Nutanix side, maybe it was professional speaking or you know how to do X, Y, Z and anyone from the customer’s team could join, not just the advocate. And you’re just strengthening those bonds with the customer. You are letting more people within that customer’s team know that you exist and you’re just building up that brand loyalty, I think that just goes such a long way. I’m such a huge, huge advocate for this. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. I mean, think of like also for you, that’s something you would want, right. So it’s pretty powerful when you can make that happen. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think that we covered everything that we wanted to cover in terms of the takeaways, what do you think? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. I had a lot of fun tuning in to the summit and appreciated all of the speakers sharing, and it definitely sparked a lot of thoughts as I was reflecting on how I could apply what I learned to my own organization. And so I hope these takeaways are insightful for your listeners as well. I’m sure everybody would take away something a little different, but but yeah, these are my highlights. 

Margot Leong: Thank you so much, Brittany, for listening and relistening in many cases to some of these sessions. It’s obvious that you are so passionate about this, you have so much wisdom to share, and I’ve really enjoyed this discussion.  

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks 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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