On this episode, I was joined by Ray Lau, Director of Growth Marketing at PowerDMS. Prior to that, Ray led customer marketing at the company, and I was really interested in how his experience in customer advocacy influenced his approach to pre-sales. We delved into what he believes is the ultimate goal of marketing, how he and his team drive customers towards advocacy and renewals post-purchase, and how the PowerDMS advocacy community helped generate over a million dollars worth of opportunities through online reviews. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Ray.
Margot Leong: Hey Ray, thank you for joining us on the podcast this morning. Really excited to have you with us.
Ray Lau: Thanks so much for having me.
Margot Leong: Absolutely. So, I know that you are currently leading growth marketing over at PowerDMS. And a question that I know has been on your mind a lot is around: what is the ultimate goal of marketing. So I thought we’d kick off with that question and just get some of your thoughts there.
Ray Lau: Great question. So the ultimate goal of marketing. So I was at Advocamp a couple of years back, this is Influitive’s conference and one of the speakers that they had was Bill Macaitis, former CMO of Slack, now recently acquired by Salesforce. So this is his quote: ” Marketing’s role is to shepherd the journey of a prospect through the entire buying experience and through the journey as the customer, the bar is to get people to recommend you, not just to get people to buy. All the fundamentals, your cash payback, your magic number, everything just works better when you’ve got a strong, healthy growth rate that comes from organic word of mouth.”
Udi , CMO at Gong, had gone recently said, marketing’s job is to make sales easier. And I agree a hundred percent with that. But what I love about Bill’s perspective on this is that it takes it to a further level. To me, it’s all about the big picture. You can’t become an advocate if you don’t become a successful customer. And you can’t become a successful customer if you don’t properly market to your ideal customer profiles.
So, you know, I love using sports analogies. So if you asked any team what their goal is for the season, I think everyone would say: to win a championship, but how do you get there? You have to get there by winning games, but if you’re only focused on winning games, you might not ultimately win a championship. And so not to pick on Golden State, but you know, like, they broke the regular season record, right. If their mission was, Hey, let’s just win the most games that we can. They accomplished that goal, but ultimately if their goal was to win a championship, they didn’t get to that goal.
I use that analogy to just kind of showcase what is like the ultimate goal from a company’s perspective for that customer, right. If it’s just to buy and just to make sales easier, I think it’s missing half of the equation.
Just kind of going back to Bill’s quote, when you have that as your ultimate goal, it really starts to align everything in the company and forces you to market to your ideal customers, forces you to successfully onboard this customer, forces you to create a great experience for them to want to renew from you and forces you to create such a great experience that they want to tell other people about it, and then help you bring in more customers.
Margot Leong: We’re so used to reading win notifications, talking about how this was a customer win. It can kind of like be a bit misleading as a term because we haven’t actually won the customer at all. Right. Like we could lose this customer at any second. Actually making sure that they’re happy with the purchase is a whole other battlefield. And I would argue the more important one, does your product actually promise on what you’re supposed to deliver? As you said, I’m excited that marketing is thinking about, how can we help to be the steward for this? How can we help to unify this entire process? I think for so long, we just have not really put a lot of emphasis on it. And I’m glad that more and more marketers are starting to get excited about this, especially at the executive level.
Ray Lau: It’s interesting because it might not fall in line with your particular role. Like it’s not marketing’s job to onboard a customer, most of the time it’s customer success’ job. But I think marketing has a unique talent, I think, in helping to communicate effectively in the messaging and it’s really just marketing thinking bigger picture and saying, Hey, our job isn’t finished. We may not ultimately be responsible for the customer renewing, but let marketing be a part of helping to do that and let marketing be a part of the journey in driving them to the renewal and to advocacy and you know, all those other things.
Margot Leong: I know that you recently transitioned into a growth marketing role and I’d be curious, like is there anything that you’ve found really valuable about having the customer marketing lens now that you’re focused on growth?
Ray Lau: I think sometimes in marketing, like you just lose sight of like the actual person that you’re marketing to. When I was in customer marketing and leading that, we were sitting in customer success. And so there’s definitely a face that you think about when you’re marketing to your customers, like, you know these people’s names and you know like who they are and you know the person that’s on the other side of the screen. And so just kind of reminding me about the human connection there during more of that early stage has been very helpful for me.
Within this new role, I think what’s really cool about that is I don’t have to just focus on post-sale. I can look into the acquisition side of things and really start to think about how to bring customers in through the beginning stages of that journey. I like to quote the famous 21st century poet, Drake. “Started from the bottom / now we’re here.” Looking at customer marketing, and really looking at like the bottom of that journey. And then bringing it into like what we can do on the growth side.
So, some of the things that I did in customer marketing was focusing on adoption to renewal. So one of the things that we were thinking a lot about was, how do we drive more of those customers to want to renew? So one of the things that we did was we started a “Grow with PowerDMS” series to really start to drive on the customer marketing side, these are the types of things that are going to be helpful for our customers to be successful. And so in doing some of that stuff, I think, has been really helpful in bringing in more renewals and driving more of that upsell and expansion.
Margot Leong: Talk to me about that.
Ray Lau: So what we did with the “Grow with PowerDMS” series was really start to identify, like I was mentioning earlier, some of those milestones, like we know our customers need to know this stuff before they’re a successful customer. With those milestones identified, then we started to think through what is going to be actually engaging for them. We need to give them something that they will actually consume, because you can talk about something all day, but if your customers don’t read it or listen to it or watch it, then it’s actually not very helpful.
So, shout out to our customer marketing specialist here at PowerDMS. Him and I worked together and we created a video series, like he’s very very warm and personable and just very engaging on camera. So we had him just talk through some of the best practices that people should be thinking about when they’re starting to set up their PowerDMS website, and start to think about some of the why’s behind what you’re doing in PowerDMS. And really start to think about, why should I set it up this way? I know that I should do this, but why?
And so really helping customers think through some of those questions in the videos starts to give them a picture of not only like short-term success, but really thinking through long-term success. If I set it up this way, then I can actually automate who gets information and that will save me time next year when I do this again. So the way that we set it up was automated emails that would go out once they hit certain milestones. So like if they were a certain health, or maybe more time-based in their journey, like they’re six months before the renewal date, and they’ve already done some of these things in the software. So let’s send them this email campaign with this video that talks about this big picture idea that will really help set them up for success, and then that starts to position it into, you know, well, I actually do need to start thinking about adding my entire organization into PowerDMS, if I haven’t done that already.
So a really tactical tip that I would give is thinking through what your software or business could help with and really helping the customer see why they should do the thing exactly like how you’re telling them to do it, but really giving them that “why.”
Margot Leong: Absolutely. I mean, it’s all about, what are the benefits inherent in your features that you’re basically trying to push to them? And I can imagine actually, this is where having a customer marketing background and advocacy background goes really well, because instead of demand gen or growth having to come to customer marketing and say, Oh, what are some stories that illustrate the actual “why?” You guys are so tightly integrated that I’m sure you can think of 50 stories from the top of your head that could be easily inserted in there.
Ray Lau: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. So taking some of those examples and stories and then really surfacing them up for some of that front-end side.
Margot Leong: You mentioned the emails piece. Are there other ways that you’re reaching customers? For example, like I tend to be a bit bearish on emails. Maybe it’s just because I’m a marketer as well, but you know, I’ll sign up for software and then I will get those nurture emails and I will never give them another thought. However, I may not be the target persona because I’m maybe not that serious about it, or I think I can do it myself.
Ray Lau: Yeah. So one of the other things that we try to do with our customers, we do think email is pretty valuable and very viable still. Tips and tricks or helpful information or anything like that, you know, they just love that kind of stuff. And so from the email piece, I think that’s very helpful.
But another thing that we utilize at PowerDMS is Influitive to really start to create a different experience for our customers really.
Margot Leong: Absolutely. I am very familiar with Influitive as well. I think it gets people to think in a different way about how to connect with their evangelists. So the customers that you’re putting into your Influitive community, is that people who are immediately post-purchase or is this for advocates specifically?
Ray Lau: So a little bit of both. So we definitely did start with using the Net Promoter Score or NPS, if you’re a nine or a 10, you’re considered a promoter. So we were inviting those people into our advocate program already. That’s always a great place to start, right? With like the people that already love you. The NPS goes out monthly and if they gave us a nine or 10, they will automatically get an invitation to our advocate marketing program.
So we have our promoters covered, but thinking about how do we bring the experience further up into the customer journey. So like something that we’ve been trying out is introducing it during the adoption stage. So like once customers finish onboarding, they can get an invitation to our Influitive instance and then start to gamify the adoption period for them. And so maybe it’s a little bit less of like your typical advocate marketing type of asks, like, give us a review and give us a referral. Because maybe they’re not ready for that yet, but we start to gamify their experience in helping them further their journey with us.
So, what are some things that we could do during adoption that would be helpful for them? What things should they learn? Starting to create a little bit more of, I would say a fun experience for them and gamify that for them so that it’s not just your typical LMS system that you hop into and you have to watch something and then you go and do it in your own instance.
Our customers love the Influitive experience. And so moving that forward in the journey, I think has been helpful and we’ll start to create more advocates as they get used to the platform earlier, and then they can just start to self-identify and as they do more things, then we can start to unlock some of those more traditional advocate asks, like reviews, references, referrals, etc.
Margot Leong: Got it. How do you frame joining Influitive earlier on when they’re not advocates yet?
Ray Lau: What we’ll do more of is just really start to say, Hey, this is a great place for you to learn more about our software, and really position it more from that perspective, like, Hey, this is a place where you’ll get a lot of information. And so on the advocate side, I think there’s a little bit more of like, Hey, give us some more stuff because you’re such a great customer. Maybe earlier in the process, it’s like, what are the things that we can give to you as a customer that would make you a better customer and ultimately a better advocate for us? We want to get into the business of creating advocates. I think the unique value there is so you can separate a little bit from if you have a more traditional help community or support community, is a fun way to learn more about the product.
So it’s not just about getting stuff, but maybe the rewards can be scaled back a little bit and they can be more about getting some more training that they can unlock, or like if you have a users conference, for example, so it’s a little bit more like things that would start to help them as a customer, and a little bit less on like the more traditional gift cards and things like that.
Margot Leong: I think first question for me there would be, let’s say that I have joined PowerDMS, what email do I get that invitation at? Would it be pretty much immediately within, that first email welcome and by the way? Or where does that come in in the journey?
Ray Lau: Yeah. So where we have it right now is more after you’ve onboarded. So we have a pretty robust onboarding program already in place. And so that’s one of the things that we were struggling with was, as a new customer, like you’re getting a welcome email. You got to go set up your account. You’re getting a welcome gift in the mail. Oh, here’s where you go get support. Here’s where you go log your tickets. Here’s where you can talk to other people. At some point it just becomes like, Oh my goodness. It could just be a little bit overwhelming.
So as soon as they’ve onboarded, they would get an email that would start to position like, Hey, we want to help you continue on your journey. This is a fun way to do it. Jump into PowerDMS Champions, and we’ll help you out.
Margot Leong: So I get that email. I’m like this PowerDMS community sounds kind of cool. All right. I’m going to sign up through Influitive. What’s that experience, like that first time experience, that I get jumping into Influitive, what do I see? What are some of the first challenges that you put in for this earlier stage customer, essentially?
Ray Lau: So for the early stage customer, it’s a lot of just helpful things that they should learn in the software. We don’t want to overwhelm them. We want to be very welcoming, so there’s going to be some of the more fun things kind of mixed in there, but we’re positioning ourselves as we’re just a fun place to help you continue to learn more stuff. Just thinking through like, okay, it’s like these three to five things that they absolutely need to do as a customer after they’re onboarded, really starting to create those challenges around that, right? And so that starts to really help them to continue on and grow with PowerDMS.
Margot Leong: I think that first touch point for the customer is super important. When they’re jumping in, they’re like, Oh, this is a new portal. If they’ve never heard of Influitive, it’s probably like, what is this? I’ve always found that how you explain it is really important at the get go, that first sort of welcome message. What was that approach there?
Ray Lau: Yeah. It’s one of those things where, as soon as you see it, you get it. But describing it can be a little bit difficult. I actually got this tip at the Influitive conference, Advocamp, from Andy Mackensen. He’s a CMO at Caroo, that was formerly SnackNation. One of the tips that he shared with me was creating a video for your program. So one of the things that I did was create a video that start to highlight some of the benefits for the program, start to show a little bit of the inside, the screenshots in a fun and engaging way, so that people would want to watch the video.
So I don’t know if you remember the Dollar Shave Club commercials but really trying to model a little bit after that, where it’s a super dry sense of humor, but really kind of outlandish things that are happening at the same time. So, happy to share that with the audience.
Margot Leong: I would definitely love to link to that in the show notes. And I think another benefit of doing the video as well as the introduction, is that it’s a great way just to put a face to the community. There’s so many new relationships that get built through Influitive, and I do think that having that face, being able to see you, is really important or else it can feel distanced, right. And I think that people build relationships with people, not brands, really. And I think why video can be so powerful as that first point of contact.
Now let’s talk about maintaining ongoing engagement. This is something that I think a lot of people grapple with when they launch a program, they get really excited. You see all these people that you’ve invited, you look at the feed, like they’re doing all the things. But at some point, you often kind of hit this like leveling off. How did you think about maintaining ongoing engagement?
Ray Lau: I totally get what you’re saying. When you first launch and you see that the number of people coming into this, it’s like a hockey stick going up. And it’s just so exciting to see all the fun things that everyone’s doing. So nothing like that first launch.
Margot Leong: Yes. All the dopamine.
Ray Lau: Yeah, it’s just like, Oh my gosh, like, this is amazing. How do you keep that excitement going? I think another thing is to think about things that are not just beneficial for your company, because you’re always thinking about the reviews, references and referrals, these are the ways that you’re going to sell the program internally and to your boss, executive sponsors, et cetera.
But what benefits now can you offer to the people that are in your program, right? And so, the gift cards and the points and the gamification only goes so far. So another interesting aspect to add to your programs is to think about how you can help career progression. Or continuing to help your advocates be a influencer within their industry and really giving them the platforms to do that, and the ways to do that. So like, sharing on different webinars that you might have and sharing their thought leadership, other kind of avenues where you can start to platform your advocates, and also just thinking about the different ways that you can help them to grow in their career, so whether that’s help them show results for their programs or however they’re using, your particular product, and really share those out in different ways.
I completely agree. It really is all about adding value. I think a lot of people would be surprised at how few people actually really end up redeeming those rewards.
Margot Leong: From what I had looked at, I think it was like less than 15% of people ever redeem rewards. You really have to think about, okay, what are the ways that you’re going to light them up and get excited and get them to be coming back as much as possible.
Especially as you said with the career progression piece, something that I’ve found useful is, are there forums for people that are within this persona, say the IT persona. I would spend some time on those forums, I would get a sense of, okay, what are people just concerned about with, professionally, are there then articles that I could surface that would help them, as you said, with career progression or public speaking, or just a career tip every week. They start to see you as a place where they come back to pretty often where they’ll find something like, Oh, wow, like this was actually really useful for me. And I’m gonna like leave this week with this one tip.
Ray Lau: Another thing that I’ll add to that is asking them what would be helpful for them or getting that feedback, and Influitive is an awesome place to do that as well. So just asking them and figuring out, what is it that you would want to see, what are the things that would keep you coming back? And a lot of times they’re going to be very honest with you and tell you what they’re looking for. So just kind of building around that, making them the hero of the story and highlighting those things for them.
Margot Leong: One of the last things that I wanted to get your thoughts on is around one of the initiatives that you had within Influitive that you felt as though had, one of the biggest impacts on the company’s ROI, which was the reviews that you were able to generate. I’d love for you to talk to me more about what that process looked like and what the value you saw there was.
Ray Lau: So, that’s one of the biggest things that our program has been able to do for us was just generate so many reviews for our company. So before we had Influitive, before we had an advocate program, we had zero reviews across the major websites: Google, TrustRadius, Capterra, G2 Crowd, et cetera. Since launching the program, we have now over 500 reviews. So, you know, it’s interesting with some of these reviews is that in Capterra or TrustRadius or G2, like once you start to get feedback into that, they start to just look at who has the highest ratings and who has the most reviews and things like that. And they’ll start to just say, Hey, you’re actually the leader in this category. And so we’ve been named leader in a couple of different categories. Capterra, we were the number one compliance software. We actually got another award, I think from TrustRadius recently that talks about how we have the best rated software and support out of the different software that we’re compared to.
So, it’s been such a huge win and it’s interesting because we knew that our customers love this. We had high NPS, all this other stuff. And we’ve always heard our customers have always said, we love you. How people have heard about us is from other customers telling them about us. But it’s interesting because if we didn’t ask for the reviews, we just wouldn’t get them. And so for us, just having a program where we’re consistently asking our customers and new advocates, would they provide some feedback and some reviews, it’s been a game changer.
Margot Leong: What I’m curious about too, with writing reviews and sourcing them from within Influitive is, how did you find the quality of those reviews to be? So, a hypothesis potentially would be okay, like they’re motivated by gamification. They’re going to write two sentences, right. Just to get the points or whatever the reward was. How did you find sort of that quality of reviews that came in as a result?
Ray Lau: The quality has been outstanding. It’s been top notch and there’s definitely nothing in our challenges or anything like that, where we’re saying, give us five star reviews and you’ll get more points or anything like that.
Margot Leong: You said in our pre-call that a million dollars worth of opportunities have been sourced from these review websites. Talk to me about how you’re able to sort of connect those back. Right. So did you work with like demand gen to understand how that sort of flowed back to the reviews in terms of leads generated or opportunities generated?
Ray: Yeah, for sure. There are TrustRadius and G2 Crowd, those are great platforms, but those require you to pay a pretty substantial amount to kind of get the lead generation aspects of those started. It was a little bit different with Capterra, they operate more on almost like a pay per click type of list. You could have leads come straight to your website with a landing page identified and you would know those were from Capterra. So that’s been a tremendous source of where that million dollars in opportunities has come from.
And it’s interesting, Capterra for us in our industry, we’re PowerDMS policy management software. So our organic keyword is policy management software, and Capterra naturally has the number one organic search result on that. So, when people are searching for that, they’re going to see Capterra’s listings for policy management software.
And we can be in that kind of top tier based on our pay-per-click, but then our reviews now really make us stand out. So we have over 200 reviews on there and the next competitor might have like 50, right.
You know, you’re looking at the number of reviews, not just the five star reviews. There’s actually been studies that have shown that perfect ratings usually kind of triggers some kind of doubt in people’s minds, how valid those are. So with the number of reviews and the high ratings that we have, I think that really gives people a sense of assurance on like, wow, this has been vetted. There’s social proof on here. We can go into some exploratory talks. And, you know, for us, it’s been tremendously beneficial and some of our biggest customers have come from that kind of channel.
Margot Leong: Well, I think on that note, this is a great place to wrap up. Where can our listeners find you if they’d like to connect?
Ray Lau: Yeah. So the best place to find me is on LinkedIn. So Ray Lau, and happy to talk more whenever you want.
Margot Leong: And Ray, I’ve noticed as well, is pretty consistent about putting some really helpful tips just in general, when it comes to marketing and sharing his thoughts on LinkedIn. So I found that to be really valuable as well. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Ray. Really enjoyed the conversation.
Ray Lau: Thank you very much. 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.