Transcript: How Customer Marketing Plays An Integral Role in Category Design with Brittany Rolfe Hillard

On this episode, I was joined by Brittany Rolfe Hillard, VP of Customer Engagement and Advocacy at WalkMe, the digital adoption platform. If the name, WalkMe, sounds familiar, that may be because we had Jeff McKittrick, one of their former customer evangelists on a previous episode of the show. Brittany and I talk about the importance of creating your own category, how your customers can help you stay the category king, and how to get people excited about talking about your product. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Brittany. 

Margot Leong:  Hey, Brittany. Thank you so much for joining us on this lovely night. 

 Brittany Rolfe: Thank you for having me, Margot. I’m very excited to be here. 

Margot Leong:  I am excited to get into it. So talk to me about your journey to customer advocacy because I know that this is not necessarily the first thing that you did right out of college. I’d love to know how you ended up in your current role. 

Brittany Rolfe: I’m actually always fascinated when I meet people who’ve been doing customer marketing since day one, or since early in their career, because I’ve actually only been doing customer engagement for a little over three years now. I’m a big believer in serendipity when it comes to everything, but especially when it comes to work. I started in healthcare consulting out of school, learned a ton there, but that ultimately led me, you know, I was in San Francisco kind of at the peak of the tech world getting bigger and bigger and consulting transferred really nicely into customer success, which was at the time, a relatively new concept. 

So, moved over to do that at a company called Yammer, which was later acquired by Microsoft, and within Microsoft, I then became kind of a partner enabler, helping them educate their partner ecosystem on what the heck Yammer was because no one really understood the concept of enterprise social networking, and potentially they might still not understand that concept. I think Slack’s made this more popular. So, yeah, I did that at Microsoft, which then led me to do partner enablement at Dropbox, which then ultimately led me to WalkMe where I’ve gone from partners and channel sales back to customer success, and then, a couple of years ago over to lead the customer engagement team here at WalkMe, so that’s kind of been my weird journey and can’t say that I set out to do any of these things, but ultimately pretty happy with where it’s led me. 

 Margot Leong: I love hearing the arc of that journey. How do you think some of that slots into what you’re doing now? Like how has that influenced you or given you kind of a unique lens in that arena? 

Brittany Rolfe: It’s a good question. For the longest time, even within WalkMe’s marketing team, I was the only person who had been customer facing really on the marketing team, like somebody who had actually worked with our customers or worked with our sellers. I felt like I was bringing a lot of that frontline perspective over into marketing, and I know not everybody puts customer engagement or customer marketing under the marketing org. Sometimes it sits in other places, but I actually thought it was great to bring that over into marketing.

I think what I’ve really pulled on a lot and I think has helped me become successful in this role is understanding what motivates people to do things. So especially within channel sales or partnerships, you’re trying to figure out how to make somebody that doesn’t work for your company sell your products. So how do you get them excited to be talking about your product? And then with customer success, I think it’s something similar too where you’re trying to motivate people who either purchase your software or got handed your software and are stuck implementing it or managing it, you’re trying to figure out how to  motivate them to be successful with your product, take your recommendations, implement, et cetera and ultimately stay with you, right. Renew. 

And then the other thing that I think is really important is an emphasis on ROI or return on investment. Especially within customer success, but it also is important within your partner relationships is, what’s the return for your client or your partner in working with you? Are they getting what they wanted out of the experience? How do you quantify it? How do you maximize it? 

And this is so important, as you know, in customer marketing, telling customer stories. Like if you can get that ROI story outlined with the client when you’re trying to tell their story, now you’ve got gold, right? That’s like really what people are looking for. And so I think I just got well-practiced at trying to figure out how to look at ROI and then bring that to light within a story, and jumped through all the hoops that go with trying to get agreeing to that messaging from the client.

 Margot Leong: I love that you talk about bringing that frontline perspective over into marketing and this is something that I bang on about a lot.  I think there’s something really, truly to be said for developing that empathy for the customer, because if you’re not figuring out a way to simulate exactly what they’re going through, then it is really hard to bridge that divide. Sometimes I feel like from a marketing perspective, it’s sort of easy to be like the cloud above everything and be like, Oh yeah, like the product is great. And people love us and like, everything’s amazing.

But I think that if you expose yourself to what real users go through, then be able to then talk to them in a much more, I think realistic and real way allows them to understand that you’re more real. This may dovetail well into what you were talking about, which is how do you make someone that doesn’t work for your company excited to talk about your product. That’s something else that they have to do for you, in addition to their full-time job. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. And I think they need to know that, that you understand that, right? Like if you’re just constantly saying marketing jargon to them and they’re like, yeah, but that’s not really what I’m experiencing, or that’s not really how I think about this. I think that’s part of an art of customer marketing. A lot of times what we’re trying to like, have our customers talk about or say is maybe a little different, or you think about it in different ways, and you’re trying to both go on this journey together. But I feel like you need to make it relatable to them, right? You have to bring them along the journey with you, and that’s what makes your marketing real, and not just feel like an advertisement. 

Margot Leong: Going back to this idea of how do you get people excited to talk about your product, what do you think are some of the common themes there? 

 Brittany Rolfe:  I think at the end of the day, people, they don’t want to be boring, right? They don’t want to come across as just saying the same thing other people have said or saying something that they think is cool or impressive, but in reality, it’s not. You know, they’re nervous and  honestly I can relate to them because, as you know, prepping for this podcast, I was like, I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. I’m not sure what I have to talk about, like, I think that that’s just kind of how people are in general, right? If they’re going to talk, they want to sound smart. They want to sound like it’s worth listening to. 

And so a lot of what I focus on when talking to different people is just reminding them how unique they really are, how everyone’s having different experiences and like focusing on the areas that are really their strengths or what they’ve done that’s special or reminding them too right now, like, the world is changing so fast. Technology is changing so fast. They’re probably in a small minority of people who are doing it or doing it well, and I feel like sometimes it’s just reassuring them that what they have to say is worth being said and letting them know that like you’re going to make sure to help them come across in the best way possible. Like you’re their ally, the most important thing you’re protecting is their identity first.

And then your company, whatever messaging they’re talking about, second. And I think once you get that first part out of the way, right? Like reassuring them that they’ve got a good story to tell, and then letting them know that you’re going to make sure they tell it in the best possible way, they start to loosen up , they start to talk more, and then I think that’s where you really get like the best advocacy. So that’s kind of how I think about it and not just for customer advocacy or marketing, but just in general. I think it’s just reassuring the people that they’re you’re number one, you’re working to support them. 

 Margot Leong: Customer marketing is this interesting blend of success and storytelling. Everybody has one thing in common, which is they want to make other people shine. They want to lift other people up. I love that about the people that we meet within the community. 

Brittany Rolfe: You know, and even taking a step back from the relationship I have with customers, I think that’s one of the things I love the most about this role, and having moved into customer engagement, customer marketing is, this is just like the nature of the people who do this type of work. And so one of my favorite things about being in this community is the relationships I built with other customer marketers, other marketers in general. They’re so helpful and willing to talk and share their thoughts and ideas. Your podcast is just a perfect example of this. Just incredible people, and if you reach out to them, you actually hit them up on LinkedIn after, they’ll respond, they’ll engage, they’re willing to do it. And it’s just the best community. So it’s not only like a fun role in working your day-to-day job, but the networking around it is just so, so positive and really a highlight.

Margot Leong: That is so, so true. Okay, so something that I am curious too, is understanding a bit more about, the mission and the charter that you specifically laid out when it comes to engagement and advocacy over at WalkMe. 

Brittany Rolfe: So this is something that’s really evolved over my three years in this role, and just like networking with a bunch of other customer advocacy folks, community, et cetera, as like, what is everybody’s mission? What’s everybody’s charter? You know, I want to create the best mission or charter for my team, and what I’ve realized is, it really changes based on the company. It changes depending on who the team reports to and what their areas of ownership are, and what the main KPIs are for the team. 

At WalkMe, especially when I was starting, we were going through, I think, a little bit of an identity crisis. We were more of like a customer success role before and then it was kind of morphing over into being more marketing. And so what does that really mean? And how does it fit into the bigger picture? You know, every year I feel like I’m trying to refine it more and more. But the biggest thing, I would say, that my goal for what we offer the organization is that we are a strategic partner to our marketing messaging, and it’s not that just we’re taking requests from product marketing or analyst relations or demand gen or whatever it is, and going out and finding a customer story that fits that need or going to create a program that helps to achieve that goal. 

But it’s actually looking at kind of the organizational goal we have and saying, okay, how can we actually achieve this? Like knowing our customers, the way we know our customers, what is the right way to go about this? What’s the messaging that’s going to resonate with them. Who needs to be saying this messaging? If we say it the way we want to say it, is it relatable or is it going to fall flat because our customers don’t yet think about it the way we think about it. Do we need to do more education work or whatever? We’re really trying to  translate the big picture marketing concept or jargon and like distill it down and offer the perspective of like how it’s going to land with our customers. Then we have a bunch of different programs that help bring initiatives to life, like events, our community online and offline, our advocacy and storytelling.

So there’s a lot of different components, but I would just say the biggest thing that I really have tried to maintain as our mission is like, we’re a strategic partner. We’re not just kind of like the, you know, assign us a project or assign us a program. We’ll go bring it to life. But instead, how can we really accomplish this goal? I think that that’s been really fun and I don’t see that everywhere.   

Margot Leong: Yeah,  absolutely. You talked about this idea of basically translating the big picture and distilling it into this perspective of how that will land with the customer. This is a really interesting way of looking at it because I think a lot of times the way that people think about customer marketing is actually more extreme, it’s more like us to prospects, utilizing existing customers to tell our story to prospects to get new customers. 

The way that you’re talking about it is actually like, are we making sure that what we’re saying goes through the no bullshit or the bullshit detector with our existing customers. Am I translating that properly or kind of thinking about that in the right way? 

Brittany Rolfe: A hundred percent. And I think a lot of people, they think about customer marketing and they think about exactly what you just said, which is like, how do we leverage our existing customers to sell more to new customers? That’s just never been the way I thought about it, and I actually feel like that, even in the past year created some like internal identity crises of like, wait, what  Because what I think we’ve really been focused on is like, how are we like creating a category? How are we bringing our customers into that storytelling of creating the category? And how is that helping us to drive retention and growth within existing customers, as well as within the market and with prospects. So I haven’t always been as lead gen focused as maybe other customer marketing orgs.

And I think the thing where we have so much room to add, and it’s kind of a 2021 charter, is on like the lifecycle piece. So how do you actually automate more of that customer life cycle to help drive cross sell and growth and retention, which we haven’t done a ton of. We’ve really focused, mostly like events and activities and programs to do that stuff, and now we’re trying to add in kind of more of the life cycle moments that matter to automate some of it. But I do feel like customer engagement and customer marketing can own two different hats of net new business, as well as retention and growth. 

Margot Leong: Yes, exactly. And I love this concept of basically when you think about the way that marketing applies to it, it’s not necessarily that you are marketing to your existing customers. It’s more that you’re taking the more marketing lens of scale and thinking about how can we leverage the skills and the skillset to basically take the good intentions from support, from success, and like, how can we broadcast that out in order to ensure that we maintain retention or increase retention with our existing user base.

Where I would prefer is that we start with focus on retention and then we go back out to prospect. The focus on retention is what’s going to make your users happy enough to want to even help you, basically to help advocate for you, right. Versus sometimes I think you’re started to be the other way around, which is like, okay, now you are this customer marketing person or team, like go out there and find happy customers. It’s almost the reverse I feel. 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. Well, I also think when you take a step back and you look at your marketing organization, so much of the marketing organization is focused on that lead gen, right? I remember first starting the role and it was like, okay, where can I add the most value or make the biggest impact? And it was like 30, 40 people are focused on lead gen, adding, you know, my one person adding there. I don’t know that I’m going to move the needle. Whereas if I can focus more over here or over here, then maybe we can cover more ground or I can make a bigger impact or whatever it might be. 

Sometimes I think it is looking at like your marketing org and thinking where can I help the most? Not that having customer stories to include in your lead gen efforts isn’t super important. It is really important. But how can you better enable the folks who focus on that all the time to leverage what you create, while you can focus on filling gaps or creating new programs that don’t already exist.

Margot Leong: Yeah. And I think you have a very good point here, which is it also depends on what stage of the company you’re joining at. And I think that is, probably one of the biggest considerations, to look at in terms of like where you can be the most helpful. Definitely a more established company may have a lot more resources pointed on existing users, and so then it’s okay, basically figuring out how can I connect all the dots here and basically help with both sides. But then maybe actually at the super early stage, there’s maybe a lot more that can be done in terms of understanding existing user personas, working with product marketing on that, and then also helping to retain, basically. So it definitely based off of where you’re coming in at the stage of company. 

Something that you had mentioned that I I’m really excited to delve into is actually this category piece, right? You talked about, how are we creating a category and how are we bringing customers into that? So, let’s back up a little bit, because category creation is like a whole very interesting beast. Let’s talk about creating a category. So first off, how do you define that? What does that mean? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yes. So, you know, I’m just going to say here I am not the master on this concept of category creation. I did not come up with it, but I personally love it. I find it fascinating and I’ve really, really enjoyed learning more about it in theory, as well as applying it day to day in the work that I do. 

 But the concept of category creation, it’s basically a business strategy that focuses on positioning a brand new problem out in the world, out in the marketplace. And while talking about this problem to everybody, you’re also positioning your product, your whatever it is, your software as the solution to that problem. And maybe that sounds kind of obvious, but what you’re trying to really do here with category creation is saying, we’re not giving the world something better than what the world already had. We’re actually giving something completely different than what the world already had. And because it’s so different, you actually need to do all this market education, so people can see a problem that maybe they never even noticed that they had before. You’re trying to sell people something that they didn’t even know they needed.

But then once they hear this problem that you’ve observed and now you’ve shared with them, they can’t unsee it. They’re like, Oh my gosh, you’re right. That’s this crazy problem. What do I do about it? And then you say, okay, and here’s what you do about it. Here’s the solution to your problem. And that solution ideally is whatever it is that you have. 

There’s an awesome book, the first book I think on category creation is called Play Bigger. So  most of what I know about category creation is from this book and I highly recommend folks to read it as well as follow their podcasts and their blog and whatnot.

But the reason why I think it’s the most important is, especially, you know, if you’re working in early stage company, is that the category kings are usually who takes 70% of the total market value in that category. So your goal is really to be category king, and if you’re not category king, you’re basically nothing. I think a great example of that is Uber. So Uber came out, they positioned themselves as something different than a taxi, which they could’ve done, and they marketed this whole new concept of ridesharing. They became the king of it. And they take about 70% of the total market share. And there’s other competitors in this space, but you call it an Uber, right. You say, I’m going to call an Uber, even if you’re calling a Lyft or something. So it just goes to show the power of being that king.

It’s really just about telling this story of a new problem to the outside world. Ideally, you’re either entering an existing category, something that’s already been created by somebody else, which is easier to do, but then it’s harder to oust the king, right. Or you’re creating a new category, which is a ton of work because nobody knows what you’re talking about. But if you’re creating it and you’re controlling the narrative, it’s a little easier to own it once it’s been established.  Your company is making that decision of, are we in an existing category and how are we going to play against the king if we’re not already the king, or do we need to create our own new category and try to position ourselves as the king of that? Which is high risk, but high reward. 

Margot Leong: This is so interesting because WalkMe, right, like nothing like this really had existed prior. WalkMe is that true category creation, but I’d love to hear a little bit more about how you guys have thought about this at WalkMe.

Brittany Rolfe: You know, I’m a big believer in serendipity. I look at the four different companies I’ve worked at in my career to date. And all of them have actually been category creators. All of them were kind of creating their own little category that was new to the market that needed education and so when I kind of think back, I’m like, Oh, you know what? I think I was just really drawn to these companies because they were evangelizing something new and, you know, looking at a problem from a different way. And with that comes a lot of unique challenges in working with prospects or partners or customers, because there’s so much education that needs to happen as part of the relationship.

And so I’ve been at WalkMe almost six years. I know it feels like a long time when I say it out loud, but I think that I stayed as long as I did, because I was like, Oh my gosh, we’re creating a category. Like I have to stick around for the ride. How does this play out? We didn’t kind of coin the concept of a digital adoption platform, which is this new category of technology until I think it was 2017. So I’d been working at the company for almost two and a half years before our president, CMO was like, okay, we’re creating this thing called DAP. It’s a digital adoption platform. And I was skeptical. I was like, okay, what are we doing? I wasn’t yet on the marketing team, I wasn’t part of customer engagement yet.

I was working with customers and I was like, our customers don’t know what this is. This doesn’t make sense to them. They’ve never heard of this phrase before. It really has been understanding, okay, from the moment you decide, you’re going to be creating a category, what is everything that goes into it and how are you going to achieve this?

It’s been a couple of different moving pieces. One is, okay, we’ve got to keep the lights on, right. We have to keep generating leads. And if we’re just out there marketing this category that nobody knows about, we’re not going to sell anything.  No one’s searching for the term, digital adoption platform. There’s no SEO for that. So we have to be advertising in one way that continues to bring in leads and bring in business, while at the same time, we need to be creating a category, which is an entirely different set of activities around market education and analyst education, partners, et cetera, building out the messaging. 

I would say like a year ago, I feel like we really made some incredible market momentum around the category itself. And now the goal is okay, well, how do we make sure we’re the leader of that category? We can’t just have created that category and then pass it over to somebody else to own it. There’s going to be other players in the space, but we need to make sure that we’re the king. And so what are kind of the different activities we need to be doing to make that happen?

 Margot Leong: You’re keeping the lights on, right. Where you’re advertising in one way that still speaks in terms that the general audience understands, so that you keep bringing in leads, but then you’re also sort of like building up this new idea in the meantime, so that hopefully eventually that will become the thing that they start to look for in the future, right.  Something that immediately comes to mind is, I could see using your customer evangelists as ways to start getting that messaging out there. Talk to me about how customers fit into this category creation strategy.

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. So I mean, category design and category creation within our organization, it’s like a huge effort from across the entire company. You know, everyone has been working on helping to make this happen, especially within the marketing organization, and customer engagement really supports a lot of those efforts. So, analyst relations, PR, not just find the customers that can help reinforce the message we’re trying to communicate, but also helping those customers tell the story the way we’re trying to tell the story as well, right, so this goes back to that topic of customer engagement, customer marketing, really being strategic.

If we’re just waiting around for AR /PR to say, go find us this story, we need it for X, Y, Z. We wouldn’t be able to deliver on their requests ever because the market education, the market message that we’re trying to put out, we’re ahead of the game, right? We’re writing the future of what the messaging should be. And our customers aren’t necessarily, they don’t view it the same way we do yet because they’ve never heard of the category we’re trying to talk about, or they don’t think about it in that way yet. 

And so a lot of it is trying to understand like, okay, what are we trying to do? What are the goals here? And then going to find the customers that would be a great fit and then really doing this joint education process of us understanding the customer, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, why they’re doing it, and then helping them understand this new concept, how they fit into it, how what they’re actually doing is so much more than they even realize and painting them the picture of their future in the perspective of a new category. It’s definitely a little bit harder of a process where the ideal customer story for the category doesn’t always exist and we have to go create it. It’s actually something I love because that’s the fun part about elevating the customer that you’re talking to, they want to be doing something unique. They want to be doing something interesting, and they’re so excited to work with you to shape their narrative because they’re like, Oh, you’re right. I am doing something incredible. And how do I phrase this differently? Or how are people thinking about this or whatever. And it really is this awesome collaborative process, and it ultimately goes back to the client. 

But back to your point, having the customer involved in this process, it really makes the category come to life. It turns it from marketing jargon into something that’s relatable, authentic, real, practical. And when you are then out there talking to analysts or PR or other prospective companies, they can actually say, Oh, this isn’t just the marketing team trying to shove some concepts down my throat, but I can actually see how it is an application and I can see myself in that situation and I could see why I should be buying something like that or doing something like that, et cetera. So you can really visualize it in application. It just makes the whole thing real. 

Margot Leong: There’s two ways that we’re talking about this here. Number one is, how are you exposing this messaging or this idea of the digital adoption platform, the new category to those existing customers. And then the other is, how are you getting those customers to then talk about and spread that word in the real world. And so what are the different channels in which you’re connecting with customers to expose them to this language, to get that feedback and to expose them to that? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yeah. And so keep in mind, we’ve been doing this for like three years now, right? So it’s changed. The answer to that changes a lot based on the phase that you’re at in the process. In the beginning, it was a lot of repetition to our customers. It was a lot of re pitching to existing customers what we are, versus what they thought we were when they bought us. So there was a lot of reeducation being done and reinforcement of the concept through all of our existing channels, so our newsletter, our pitch decks, our QBRs or EBRs.

And then we’ve got our incredible AR person who’s working with all of the analysts and working his way up the analysts ladder, right. Starting with tier three up to tier two, up to tier one, ideally over time. But as we’re getting more analysts validation, it’s kind of feeding all of the new reports or the new articles back out to our customers so they can see, Oh, this is a thing. It’s growing, you know? 

And then, you know, especially when it comes to acquiring net new customers or kind of like growing within an existing customer, just changing the way we pitched a lot, like changing how we explain our company, telling that problem statement or point of view, making sure that everyone’s telling the same story and we’re not just telling the easy story of what we were before we created a new category because it made more sense or it was easier to explain or whatever it was. So those were kind of some of the things I think that, especially in the beginning, we did a lot of, and now that we’ve made such an investment in that and the category’s really become a thing, we don’t have to do so much explaining, which is nice, but you mentioned  a lot of different types of programs that I think have helped us, like our customer advisory board, definitely getting input from customers on, how does the messaging resonate or here is our messaging. Maybe you’ve never even really heard it for the first time or how can we say this in a way that better relates to you and getting their feedback? Just like I mentioned at the beginning, they look at it and they see something different than what we see. Where’s the gap and how do we help close that gap within the market? 

Margot Leong: Talk to me a little bit about how you’ve worked with some customers to frame the conversation. 

 Brittany Rolfe: Well, I think, first and foremost, this is probably my favorite part of the job. In working for a company that is creating a category, you can create a whole generation of new thought leaders and new professionals. I mean, you think about Salesforce, they did something similar,  the trailblazers created this whole industry around being a Salesforce admin, or the skillsets required. It’s crazy what they’ve done, right. And a lot of what we’re doing is taking a page out of their book. In that regard, the thing I love is that our customers actually are thought leaders, like I’m not just spewing them a bunch of BS and stroking their ego and telling them they’re thought leaders. 

Like really, because what we’re trying to do is new and at the forefront, when a customer embraces it and tries to run with it and be successful with it, they are taking a risk and, and they’re sometimes some of the first people that tried to do something this way or that way or whatever it is. You’re really actually learning from your customers. So that’s one thing I would say for any customer success org or any customer marketers is like, if you’re not embracing the thought leadership of your customer base and trying to take the lessons they’ve learned and the victories, et cetera, and publicizing it or sharing it , even not for marketing purposes, just for general customer success. There’s so much you can learn from them and that should be also what’s shaping your product roadmap and shaping your marketing messaging is the things that they’re sharing with you, it’s just so valuable.

You know, when I’m first meeting a customer advocate and I’m establishing a relationship with them and trying to help them figure out what their digital adoption story is going to be, it’s also just reminding them that they’re basically creating a new category for themselves professionally. At a company like WalkMe, our customer might be somebody who’s in the learning and development organization or in HR or in sales or in product. And within their current realm, their current persona, they have a defined career, but if they start to embrace digital adoption more and think about their job in a different way, they could actually be headed on a totally different trajectory.

Even if they stay within their current realm, they are going to be different than their peers because of the way they think about problems and solutions because of, in our case, digital adoption, WalkMe, but it’s going to give them this competitive differentiation, so it’s kind of helping them realize that too, like, Hey, you know, If you lean in more to this, if you embrace this more, this is setting you apart from the thousands and thousands of other people who do your job and really helping them to embrace that.

And that’s something, you know, I also think is very relatable to customer marketing is, there’s not a lot of marketers with customer marketing background or customer engagement background, and the more this community leans into these roles in the skill set, the more we can differentiate from other marketing peers or other customer success peers or whatever it is. It’s a concept that really resonates with me at least, and so I love applying that into the work that I do. 

And even if you’re not creating a category, like let’s say you’re already in an existing category and you know, you have customers, maybe you’re not the category king, whatever. But I assume if you work for that company or that product, you believe that you’re helping your customer do something better than they could be doing elsewhere. And I think it’s that concept that you really have to invest in, which is like how can you be so proud of what you’re helping your clients do, making sure that they’re successful so that you can help them tell the best story of themselves in their professional role. I think we should all be trying to figure out how to do that. That’s like the ultimate win for me.  

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, there’s so much gold that comes out of even talking to a customer for 30 minutes or an hour, like the wheels are always turning when you’re talking to customers and you’re like, Oh my God, like, that would inform a product decision or like, Oh my God, that would be amazing to do as a blog post or like, Oh my gosh, this person knows so much about this. Is there anything else that you wanted to add, Brittany, before we wrapped up the conversation when it comes to this category piece?

Brittany Rolfe: Maybe there’s one other thing and I’ll try to keep it short, but you know, there’s a ton of different challenges that arise with creating category. One is, is it even the right decision for your company? And, you know, it might not be your decision at all, right. It’s probably coming from above you, whether your organization is going to go in that direction or whatnot. Once you do make the decision, in this initial phase, especially, you can’t be in the category alone. I think we see this a lot with SaaS companies right now is everyone’s trying to create a category and differentiate themselves in some way. And they claim they’re the only person in the category or whatever.

There’s this comfort level you have to be with like, okay, I’m going to create a category and I’m going to have to welcome some type of competition within this space. Right. That’s what’s going to make this category real. it’s always such a race like, what do you have versus somebody else who’s similar and how quickly can they build that or add that or whatever, how important is it? 

And so for me, I think one of the biggest competitive differentiations within the category and the thing that’s going to make your company king is your customers. So when I look at WalkMe, I think, okay, well, we have the most customers of a digital adoption platform and we have the largest community of customers engaging in sharing, and our customer stories, when we look at the stories that we’re telling, we have not just incredible logos, but incredible people. 

And so when I look at this concept of like, how do you create a category, and then also go into becoming a leader of the category. I feel like customer marketing is so crucial in both of them, but especially in being the leader. I feel like your quality of customer, your relationship with your customers is really what can differentiate you from anybody else in that space.

And that’s why I think it’s so much more than just like, okay, how do we use logos to generate leads? It’s like, Okay. How do we really make our customers the best customers, the most successful customers, the customers who are really changing their careers because of what we’re doing with them. Even if you’re not creating a category, I think you can take some of these concepts into the work you do with your customers and it’ll change the way you think about customer marketing. 

Margot Leong: Yes. Definitely like + 100 to, you know, your thoughts on it being a competitive differentiator. I actually think that part of the reason why customer marketing is becoming much more popular now is I think companies are realizing that it’s really easy to pare things down to features. And as you said, it’s a race. And so like what can you do to stand out? I think one of the only ways you can is really in, how do you treat your customers? There’s so many knock on effects and good things that happen if you have invested in your customers and it’s something that has to come from internally within the company. 

 I’ve seen plenty of companies that basically have not necessarily been treating their customers that well, and then they try to add on a community or they try to add on these other things that are in that vein. And the inertia is preventing them from doing a lot with that because they’ve already gained a reputation for not being that great for customers. 

Looking at a company like WalkMe that pretty early on, wanted to invest in being very, very customer first, it’s really amazing to see what happens there. And you know, all of this takes time, too, right? So you have to like put in the work and the years. But that will pay dividends if you are thinking long-term and you sort of started now versus like, yeah. In five years, we’ll like, think about the customer piece, right? 

Brittany Rolfe: I like to think one of the driving factors behind a lot of the programs we’ve done, or the initiatives we’ve launched or whatever, is this idea that like, because we’re creating a category, because we’re a new product, a new platform. And you know, now we’re not as new, but especially in the beginning, but even now, no one’s ever done digital adoption before. And so every time we try to think like, okay, what do our customers need from us? I go back to like, okay, if I’m a customer, I just want to know I’m going to be successful. Is the company doing everything that they can do to make sure I’m going to be successful with it at the end of the day, that I’m going to come out of hero? 

And so all of our programs have really been about knowledge sharing, education and thought leadership, and that’s the heart of our customer community. It’s the heart of our webinars and our events. It’s all like, okay, how do we bring up this community together? Because we understand that you’ve probably never done this before, so let’s make sure that everything we’re offering you is aimed at your success. 

And I do think that sometimes, you know, with communities, you want it to be fun and there’s rewards and there’s incentives and there’s whatnot. But at the end of the day, I think most people just want to be successful at their job. And so how do we prioritize that? I always put the things that are going to help the customer learn and grow and be more successful at the end of the day over all the other things that we could probably be doing. 

Margot Leong: Yeah.  I can’t think of a better way to end this session of the podcast. But last question of course, is where can people connect with you if they’d like to chat further? 

Brittany Rolfe: Yes, they can find me on LinkedIn. I would love to be connected. Like I said, I just absolutely love this community. And I think there’s so much to learn from everyone. So I’m looking forward to hopefully making some new friends, having some coffee dates or whatnot. Don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m also in a couple customer marketing Slack communities that I would be very happy to invite anyone to join as well if they’re interested. So let me know. 

Margot Leong: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for coming on the pod, Brittany. Really appreciate it. 

Brittany Rolfe:  Thank you for hosting this podcast and for all the listeners out there, Margot doesn’t know I’m going to say this, but I really want to do an episode where somebody else interviews Margot and she talks about all of her amazing thoughts and initiatives, and one day we’re going to get her to do this. 

Margot Leong: I can’t, I’m too scared. I appreciate it. Maybe in like five years, I’ll like, feel comfortable. 

Brittany Rolfe: Wow. Anyways, I’m so grateful that you have created this. I have listened, I think almost to every episode and I’ve just like taken away so many incredible nuggets. I have a notebook where I write down all my thoughts and ideas while I’m listening, so thank you. 

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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