Transcript: The Earned Growth Rate (EGR) Metric and Listener Questions with Helen Feber

On this episode, we had a returning guest, Helen Feber, Managing Partner at Referential. She’s retiring at the end of the year and as one of the pioneers of the industry, I was excited to get her reflections on the current state of customer marketing. She gives us the intel on NPS 3.0, breaks down a new way of measuring advocacy called earned growth rate, what elements would go into her dream program, and also took the time to answer some grab bag questions from the community. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Helen. 

Margot Leong: Hey Helen, thanks so much for joining. I’m excited to have you on for a round two conversation. 

Helen Feber: Oh, thank you so much. It’s lovely to be back. I really appreciate it, Margot.

Margot Leong: I heard that you will be retiring at the end of this year and I was like, okay, we gotta get Helen back on the show, so yeah, I’m really excited to chat with you today. It’ll be a really interesting conversation, a little bit more informal. I think it’s going to be very enjoyable. 

So the first thing I wanted to talk about, Helen, as we think about the future of customer advocacy, right. Metrics are always going to be top of mind, interesting new ways of measuring the value of advocacy. And so I know this was an area that you were keen to chat about, this new way of measuring advocacy and you called it growth rate. So let’s start with that. 

Helen Feber: Yeah, absolutely. So to be honest, I think I’m exiting at a time where things are really hotting up. So obviously you’ve got this big shift to customer marketing and I think that the latest thing to hit the ground, and I honestly think it’s going to take off in a big way, is Fred Reichheld’s NPS 3.0 or earned growth rate (EGR). He’s just launched a book called Winning On Purpose, where he goes into more detail.

But we take a step back in time almost 20 years ago when he released the original net promoter score, and that had huge uptake. Today, there’s something like two-thirds of all companies now use NPS in some way to help measure their success rate with converting customers to being advocates and keeping themselves honest to turning the detractors back into advocates.

So I think his release of this NPS 3.0 will probably have a similar trajectory. Now, why is this so important? It absolutely relies on the current customer marketing program having some processes in place that quite honestly, I only come across very rarely. And so I think what is going to happen is there’s going to be this massive wake up call, and a lot of programs are going to get caught short. 

And so my word of warning now is get your head around what this is if you’re running a program and start to figure out how you can capture the data that basically the company’s going to turn to you and rely on in order to calculate its earned growth rate. 

And why do they care about earned growth rate? Well it’s turning out that Fred, who’s been doing this now for beta test companies is now very accurately able to determine which companies are being more successful and therefore worth investing in. And the second this starts hitting the bottom line, shareholder happiness and so forth, everyone’s going to be paying attention. It’s only just got launched. So there’s a little bit of a window here for people to wake up and get with it and understand what this is going to entail, but that window is going to narrow very rapidly. 

Margot Leong: You heard it here, folks. 

Helen Feber: So the way it’s calculated, there’s basically two components. Now the first one doesn’t really lie inside of the advocacy program. The first one is net revenue. Some people will refer to this as net recurring revenue, but let me explain how Fred actually calculates it. He basically says you need to compare the customers that are coming back to you, so returning customers, repeating business, and they fall into two buckets. There are those that are coming back to you for year two, let’s say who are buying more. They are spending more money with you. And then there are those that are coming back with you, but they’re actually spending less, you’re losing share with them. 

You have to, in both cases, take total revenues, whether they’re up or whether they’re down. You divide it by last year’s total revenues, since you have it as a percentage and you deduct the ones that have bought less from the percentage of the ones that have bought more. So that’s your first part of the calculation is that net revenue. 

Now the second component, this is where the advocacy program is going to be held to task is what’s called earned new customers. And this is the percentage of spend or revenue from new customers that were earned through referrals from existing customers i.e. your advocates. Now, this is not where your advocates have done a peer to peer call. This is literally where your advocates have told you about perhaps an ad hoc conversation that they’ve had. And then that’s turned into a lead that has ultimately been won. Only those deals that literally were referrals from your advocates are counted in this percent of spend from new customers. Those are the earned new customers. And again, it’s expressed as a percentage of the revenue.

So basically what you do is you add your first calculation, the net revenue to earned own new customers, ENC, and then you take away a hundred percent to get your final figure. And the higher that final figure is, the more successful you are as a company.

So this is where most programs don’t do a good job. They are not in regular contact and they haven’t provided feedback mechanisms for the advocates to let them know about these ad hoc conversations, people they’ve spoken to, that potentially will become new customers. A few companies do it. I would say, Gainsight, gosh, must be at least five years ago, Nick Mehta talked about how they were tracking it. And he was the one that originally came up with the 10x multiplier. Basically they’re tracking it to the point that they were able to see that advocates will bring in 10x the revenue the advocates themselves with spending with Gainsight. 

That number did get ratified by a number of other companies that also started doing it, but they’re few and far between. The vast majority of programs are not set up. They don’t have the processes in place. They’re just not in regular contact with their advocates. That nurture communication feedback isn’t happening. That’s going to be the giant hole that this NPS 3.0 points out and companies that get it right do have phenomenal growth rates. They really do. 

At one point a company called Apptus here in the bay area was really growing incredibly fast just because of its advocates and they didn’t need to increase the number of sales reps. These advocates were essentially out selling for them. It was phenomenally successful because it got this portion nailed.

Margot Leong: Usually there’s some sort of trend that accelerates an interest in getting deeper on these types of numbers. Is there anything that you’ve now seen that is sort of a trend that’s forecasting this, or is the catalyst for this? 

Helen Feber: Well, I think in terms of the focus on customer marketing, I do think the pandemic fueled that. There was a sudden realization of a lot of new business was rapidly disappearing. And, all of a sudden, you’re very reliant on not only maintaining your install base, but hopefully getting them to spend a little bit more and hopefully getting them to help talk with other people.

And I think over the years we’ve seen this trend of buyers are more and more reliant on guidance from trusted peers and so forth. It’s just transferred more and more over the years to respected peer opinion, so you’ve got that going on. 

And then, interest wise, in terms of financial side of things, you know, it’s been desperately low. And when somebody like Fred comes out with, I have this new way of investing, he talked about 26% interest rate on the companies that he had invested in that had decent growth rates scores. We can start investing in companies that have got this decent EGR. So, that’s going to get a heck of a lot of attention just because of who Fred is. And I think, timing wise, he’s just brought it out at a time when people are feeling like they’re not getting the kind of financial return that you’d like to see. 

Margot Leong: We’re recording this in mid may when our wonderful bull market has basically come to an end, there’s a downturn that seems to be coming. And in that kind of market, the interest in existing customers will actually just continue, you know. Companies are tightening their belts, right. They’re not necessarily looking for new software. They’re actually looking at their existing software and trying to see, okay, what is the value I’m actually getting from this? They’re probably going to go back and reevaluate all of their vendors. Having all of this in place and thinking about this to see how you can win is going to be extremely important.

Helen Feber: And I think customer marketing itself, although it’s been growing phenomenally, it’s very inconsistent in terms of how it’s being applied, what jurisdiction it has, what functions are under it and so forth. So, you know, in some cases I see a customer marketing department being a sort of glorified way of still pitching products at customers, other times it may not even have advocacy under it. And other times it does have advocacy included. 

The way I like to think about it is the advocacy side of customer marketing needs to happen from the moment a new customer is signed, but in the early days, the advocacy programs needs to be internally advocating for that new customer, not asking a bunch of stuff of them, but helping them along the onboarding journey, I mean, maybe taking various snapshots along the way, check in with them just immediately after purchase, almost like a sort of win interview to gather the information to be stored for later, in terms of the why. You know, a check-in perhaps after professional services or whomever has done the implementation. That’s good intel information. There may be adjustments to processes that can be recommended to professional services just as they might’ve been to sales after win information. And I think the check-in with customer success perhaps after an appropriate timeframe, but maybe something like six months. You’ve learned from the check in with the customer after implementation as to what measures they feel have been put in place to measure ROI. Six months later with the CS in place, check back in what are those measures look like? Are they showing that you’re getting ROI you were expecting? 

The advocacy program can be handling all of that because customer success does need to be focused on the customer using all the bells and whistles of the product. So there’s no true overlap there. But I think it can then allow the advocacy program to generally start to turn the tables down the line of being able to say, okay, it looks like you are starting to get the ROI. Let’s talk about how can we help you publish that internally? Maybe initially it’s just an internal case study that the customer is able to take back and prove the success of the solution and then move that into public pieces. 

And then that relationship is built, so that down the line, you know, maybe on regular checkpoints, certainly with key brands, maybe quarterly checkpoints with the customer. And that’s where you’re asking those questions about, have you had the ad hoc conversations that we find out who you’ve spoken with and those get fed into the sales funnel, maybe even that advocate becomes the sort of buddy or mentor for those companies as they sign. It can be a proper, full interconnected circle. 

At the moment, though, advocacy seems to be being held out until implementation is done and customer success has had a chance. They’re all sort of being held at arms length, and yet if working together, it could be so much better for all the departments and the customer.

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. You know, if you think about the entire customer journey, you know, you think about advocacy as the thing at the very end, but it is true that the handoff can be abrupt and jarring from, let’s say success to marketing, the customer doesn’t know this person. Where’s the chance for those deeper relationships to get formed? I think that there is an interest now in really thinking about customer marketing as everything post-purchase and once you’ve agreed to use the product then where can advocacy get involved to start building that relationship early.

How would you frame coming in that early for that new customer? Let’s say if you were to have a conversation with them about what this means or like where you can be helpful, how would you explain the value of what you would provide at that earlier point? 

Helen Feber: As a customer advocacy program, we want to understand what we can do as a program to help them not only onboard efficiently, but get the most out of their relationship with the company, with the vendor. It’s turning the tables. I’m an advocate for you. You know, let me help you get the most out of this. 

And I can feed back information, whether it’s feedback around sales, professional services or customer success, to make sure that they’re all operating in an optimal way when they’re engaging with you. If you want to be mentored or buddied with an existing customer, let me help you do that. I can get you connected. I can help establish those relationships for your success. Those kinds of things. I think it’s that turning the advocate thing on its head. I know ultimately the advocacy program is around getting customers to speak on behalf of the company. There’s no reason not to advertise that from the outset. 

There’s no sort of independent auditor or so forth to help the customer and you can play that role in advocacy. And I think it’s for the betterment of the company, because if there’s something screwy around the way the sales handing off, for example, to professional services, that’ll get picked up and that can get improved. If there’s something screwy about the way PS hands off to customer success, same thing. That can get handled and improved. 

So it’s for the betterment like I said, for all departments, it’s just a case of breaking down some of those barriers. And it’s probably got to come down from management, but it’s a case of the advocacy program being introduced right from the get-go, so the customer feels safe and has an extra voice in house. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. I love that. If this runs sort of in that ideal fashion, customer advocacy can have more of that bird’s eye view on how the whole process is meant to run versus basically it just getting handed off from team to team and not really thinking about how all of that comes together. At that early stage with the customer, a lot of it is about, Hey, like who’s going to be the person to make sure that my concerns or things get voiced to product. That’s very unique to marketing is that you have access to all these other areas of the business and you can think about how these areas can be helpful to the customer for whatever they need.

Helen Feber: Exactly. And then for the strategic ones, that’s when you can start to build out the co-marketing plans. So that’s where you look at them and go, okay, we already know we’ve got these upcoming activities where we’re going to need voice of the customer support, you can then start to build out: these things make sense. It jives with their marketing messages, their marcom will get on board and you can start to work those strategic accounts that will be public. 

Margot Leong: What are things that you just would be like, look, if I could create my ideal advocacy program, what would it be? And maybe we can also categorize this by stage or different requirements, but I think giving people some examples, things they haven’t thought about before, would be really interesting.

Helen Feber: I actually said to my own team, because we’ve not worked with the perfect program, I think it’s high time Referential creates that for its own customer. And we had an all hands a week before last, so I’m actually in the process of trying to pull all that together with my team, we’ll have some of our dear clients be sort of alpha testers of the program.

But honestly for me, I think some of the elements I’ve seen is, and Cisco’s one, for example, where I witnessed advocates being brought in to help give guidance on even things like internal systems. That might’ve been an accounting system or something, but the advocates were brought in to have discussions around what they didn’t like about the current system, what they hoped Cisco would choose in a new system. Now that has nothing to do with Cisco’s outward bound selling products or anything, but it was about having customers help drive the business to be better for its customers. And I loved that. 

You know, I liked Salesforce. I loved hearing how Mark Benioff runs his keynote speeches by some of their MVPs each and every time before he gives it, because he wants that customer feedback and they give him guidance around what should be emphasized or demphasized or things they feel he’s forgotten. That guidance from the customer base on how the messages are going to be delivered is brilliant. You’re turning your customers from advocates to evangelists when you start involving them in the way you do business. 

I love how some companies will look at, so this is what we’re planning on doing next. And one of the very next steps they do is to say, okay, let me see to a customer, how would this feel? Oh, hang on a minute. We’ve got two rather disjointed things about to happen. It’ll feel like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. That pulls in everyone across the company to say, what does this feel like if I was the customer? That customer centricity is really hard to embed and yet companies that can get that right, that’s the ones that Fred’s after because of the earned growth rate. Their installed base is just going to naturally advocates and again, it becomes a very large percentage of the install base that start to advocate when they realize that company is driven by its customer’s opinions. 

Margot Leong: I think the theme that I’m getting here, right, is not necessarily about putting together, the perfect process or structuring it in a certain way. It ties back to having a more familial relationship with your customers to the point where it’s friends, right. If you were thinking a bit more outside the box in terms of how to include your users in all aspects of these conversations. we’re thinking about launching a new pricing model and I want to talk to some people to get your thoughts. It just doesn’t have to be like so polished and perfect. It’s actually that your customers value it more because they feel like they’re seeing how the sausage gets made. Yes. And that actually is more valuable and gets people to advocate more and to feel more invested. 

Helen Feber: Exactly. It’s critical for the advocacy program to have a direct relationship and contact with its advocates. And I know that for big programs, it might be you know, some kind of know mass communication and so forth, but nonetheless because of advocating for the customers, because of building that trust, then having that direct relationship where you can say, we’re thinking about this, you launch that out to the advocates, the ones that are interested, sign up and get involved and engaged, but having that direct connection.

And of course, all the time, you’ve got to be keeping customer success and sales updated. I’m not saying you’d go behind their backs, but I think too many times now, sales is a gatekeeper and it’s actually stopping customers engaging in things that they would love to do. They just never got the opportunity because the rep held them at bay. And I think that’s got to change. That’s not helping the relationship. People can be very pissed off with their sales reps and be happy with customer advocacy. I’ve seen it. 

Margot Leong: Very good point. 

Helen Feber: And especially if you’re helping them gain that full leadership and exposure within various industries and functionality circles, all the rest of it. So their own career is growing. They can have very different relationships with different people in the company and still be a phenomenal advocate, even if they’re at loggerheads at the time with their rep. We’ve got to move some of those barriers out of the way. 

Margot Leong: I did a podcast last year sometime with Leslie Patterson at Genesys and she put together this structure with her program where basically she has what’s called like engagement directors, different regions and they do exactly this, but you know, she said, the caveat is that in terms of scaling it, you have to hire more people. They develop real friendships with the advocates and then they just have no problem getting any feedback. They have no problem. You know, they have an endless supply of customers willing to do things because they’ve broken past those barriers and really see them as friends. A lot of advocacy teams being still pretty small, is there a way to achieve this without necessarily just adding more and more people to the team? 

Helen Feber: I mean there’s the tiering of programs. I think that the main tier, the bottom of the pyramid is really all those advocates that could only be private. You could still have them in as part of a community. You can still connect with them in a more broader, automated way, but give it a sense of personalization. I’m not huge by the way on point systems. For me, customers engaging because they feel benefit in the activities is the main thing.

But I still think there are ways to connect, I mean at the simplest level or smallest programs, we use a private LinkedIn community just to be able to have a broader conversation with a wider number of people on that main tier. I think for the second and first tiers where it is customers that are willing to be public, first tier being perhaps your top brands that are willing to be public, that’s where you’re best off throwing headcount at it, making sure that you are building those personal connections.

 All of this comes down to, if you can show the ROI of the program, in this case, especially if you are able to start rapidly tracking the leads that are coming in from your advocate, so that you can participate in these earned growth rate and NPS 3.0 scoring. That’s really going to help show that the program can have a phenomenal bottom line impact. And once your management staff get their heads around the fact of how valuable the program is, you’ll get the funding and if necessary, get the growth that goes with it to make sure that it continues because that’s going to be a massive driver. 

Margot Leong: With any marketing program, typically, if you are able to prove ROI, it’s like any other channel. Even if it’s a newer channel at the end of the day, if they see the ROI, like there will be some assent and understanding that, Hey, if you would like to see more returns like this, provide us with more budget and it’s actually maybe even more efficient than what you’re spending to acquire a new customer, right.

Helen Feber: Exactly. It is hard for any other department to say, oh, well, it wasn’t all advocacy when the referral is coming from the advocate and being fed in and tracked as having come from the advocacy program. I’ve had people say, oh, well, You can’t say it was just advocacy, the use of peer to peer phone calls that help reduce the sales cycle. We’ve actually got some data that’s pretty hard to refute, but you will get people that will refute it. Or you’re saving X time by having a program. Well, that’s nebulous, that’s just the reps getting that it saves them an hour a week. So you get the naysayers on some of the current kind of ROI metrics. And I think this one would be really hard to dispute. 

I mean you can start to grab money from demand gen if your advocacy program is spun up so well that you’ve got lots of advocates bringing in new leads. You don’t need demand gen anymore. They can just join your program and help build a customer relationship. 

Margot Leong: With these two metrics that you’re talking about, especially with the earned new customers, you mentioned that few companies are actually equipped at this time to properly track this. So which begs the question, right? What do you need to have in place to track this? What do you recommend people start to put into place? 

Helen Feber: Well, a lot depends on what existing systems they already have, but obviously most have got some funnel. And at the very basic level, even if it’s Eloqua or Marketo or one-on-one marketing systems or maybe they just have something, an ERP system. I mean, Salesforce is very prevalent. Maybe it’s just a field, only on the lead, in Salesforce, that flags this came from the customer advocacy program. Ideally you want to track it back to the advocate. Gainsight said, you want to try and track how much business the advocates are bringing in.

But ideally yeah, that’s at the very basic level. And it could be that to begin with your advocacy program has to manually enter those leads based off of the conversations they’re having. You know, yes, it’s a bit more data entry, but well worth it. 

Margot Leong: I think sometimes the hard part with referrals, right, is that okay. There are definitely programs that can track this programmatically, but in my experience like if it’s done via word of mouth you actually can’t really track this that well. 

Helen Feber: It’s all down to the conversations that you have with your advocates. 

Margot Leong: That’s exactly what I’m saying, right?

Helen Feber: Yeah. You don’t sit there and say, have you got anybody you want to refer? That’s not the conversation you’re having. I think the conversation, if it’s like a quarterly check in, the conversation is along the lines of, oh, by the way, in the last quarter, have there been any moments where you’ve talked about Acne Company. Oh, when did those conversations occur and who were you chatting with? And you’re jotting down. You may have to do the research in LinkedIn to figure out that it was Joe Blow from XYZ company, but so many of the times it is just they’re watching their kid playing soccer, talking about some business issues.

And they suddenly said, oh, well, yeah, I use blah blah or they are really good. And all of a sudden that all other parent is starting to think about and research the solution. It’s not a hard referral. It’s a soft lead. But I tell you those soft leads often payback big time. So that’s the way to capture them. Have that regular part of the conversation, they’ll get in the rhythm of it.

The other thing is you’ve got to do the feedback. So if they have mentioned Joe Blow from XYZ and that becomes another customer, that’s where you connect back to them and go, by the way, I know you mentioned you had a chat with this, Joe Blow some time back and guess what?

They’ve signed up as a customer. Can I connect you so that you can network together? Right? And, and now you are helping both parties and the advocates have mentioned it, they’ll mention more now. So it becomes self fueling if you do the feedback loops 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I totally agree. And if you’re looking at the way that B2B referral programs have worked, they kind of mimic B2C, but I don’t know if that’s the right way to think about it where it’s okay, like here’s my referral link. It’s very unlikely that I will be in a situation where I’m going to be like, oh wait, let me grab my referral link.

Helen Feber: Yes, exactly. 

Margot Leong: I guess you’re trying to meet them where they’re at, where it’s a retroactive understanding versus just being like here, like proactively, like refer us. And then if anything happens, that is actually mimicking the way it actually happens in real life versus forcing something on someone where you’re probably not going to get a ton of leads coming in. Because again, it just doesn’t work that way in real life, you know? 

Helen Feber: And you run the risk of actually turning them off. I don’t like it when I get referral stuff stuck under my nose. That’s just not how I like to operate. So you don’t want to put the customer off and make it a negative experience. 

Margot Leong: It totally tracks back to some experiences I’ve had in the past with customers where if you’ve built those relationships, all of a sudden, they’re like, oh yeah, by the way, I like totally got you guys a new customer. Like I was talking to my friend who works at this company and I said, you should do this. And they signed up and I was like, I would’ve never known about this. No clue. And you can totally check that box. Even if you do it manually, that is so valuable. That’s the whole point, basically. That’s massive. 

Helen Feber: And I think the more you can make some special moments for your customers, that’s a real important thing to do. So it can be simple things. I’ll give you an example, actually. So at the end of the year, when it comes to Referential, what we do is we like to think about each of our clients and something that’s kind of a new year gift, but something that’s more appropriate to what’s going on in their lives and that kind of thing.

But what we accompany with that gift is a letter and each of the team members that works with that client writes down what they’ve appreciated about the manager of the program through the year, and is a paragraph roughly per team member. And we assemble those into a letter that then goes with the gift.

And the reason we do it is because there are so many programs that are kind of orphan programs. The other organizations around them don’t really understand advocacy and so they don’t get the feedback. And it’s really the first time that as a manager of a program, you hear what your team think of you in a positive way.

 And this last year one of our clients, Becky Leung with Anaplan, she actually posted a picture. I’m not sure which social media channel she did it on, but apparently she posted a picture of her letter with a picture of the gift at the side of it and said, something to the effect of: it just made my day to receive this. And that act alone has brought us in a new customer because another lady, Alex, reached out to us and said, I saw that post, I called Becky up. I asked about Referential and I was really impressed with what she had to say. And so I’m reaching out to you because I think I’d like to work with you. 

I mean, wow. It was one of those lovely moments for us and it was just like, wow, that was such a nice thing. I mean, but just thinking really about Becky, but it brought back new business for us. So you never know. I think you always have to think about, can I make a special moment just to help seal the relationship.

Margot Leong: It makes an impact because it made that person feel wow, like they really acknowledge me and thought about me in a way that I don’t see most companies doing, they just think sort of the status quo is fine. When actually that’s not going to hurt you, but it’s also doesn’t make them want to remember you and actively recommend either. It’s a big difference for something that just takes a little bit more thought, not necessarily a ton more effort, but that’s the gap, right. Between, I would say like ordinary and extraordinary. 

So the next thing that I wanted to do is this grab bag topics. These are topics of interests that are gathered from the community. Just going to throw some of these out there and see if you have any recommendations or thoughts. So the first one I wanted to talk about is this one. So, many customer advocacy teams seem to be maybe one or two people at the most. When you’ve seen larger advocacy teams, what does that structure look like? What type of roles you typically see once those teams start to grow out? 

Helen Feber: I’ve seen it done a number of different ways over the years. And I think it’s a lot down to company culture to determine which is best. 

Sometimes it’s split out by function. So you might have a sub-team for purely recruitment, a sub-team or call it a help desk that’s purely for fulfillment. You might have an asset expediter or two that are handling all of the materials that are in production. Sometimes there’s operational oversight on a more small project basis. I’ve even seen almost like an auditor role coming in to make sure that everybody’s staying on track and aligned.

Sometimes you see a split by vertical if the marketplace for the company’s products is very verticalized, then I’ve seen it also where you split the advocacy team up so that they gain a specialization in whatever the verticals are because then they got more understanding of the customer advocates’ environments, as well as understanding better the kinds of questions that are coming in when you’re trying to fulfill a request and that’s another split. ‘

And the third most common that I see is where it is along the tiering of the program, where there are groups of people focused on the top tier. Usually it’s anywhere between 30 and 40 accounts per person to be able to build the relationships, have the regular check ins and have those ongoing co-marketing plans that are constantly being adjusted, updated, refreshed with the second tier being wider, perhaps up to a hundred accounts. And then for the main tier, again, that’s often broken back down into fulfillment being its own elements separate from recruitment. But those are the three most common splits that I see for larger teams. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s say that customer marketing includes both advocacy and lifecycle, right. Then you can think about it in terms of, as you said, touch. And so maybe tech touch where it’s just accounts in which in SaaS would be considered more like freemium, right. And so these are free accounts. You don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to take care of them, but at scale you can take care of those relationships whether it’s email or in-app or whatnot. So I like this idea of thinking about it by touch.

 Okay. Another question is aggregating customer feedback across teams. So, there’s all different touch points that different teams have with different customers, different parts of the journey. I even just think about a specific example, right, which is customer advisory boards where you are collecting all of this feedback. And then a lot of times it’s okay, I’m just gonna throw it to product and then how do I also know if any of this is even being implemented. So that like my job is to try and close the loop with customers to make sure that their time being spent they feel is actually valuable.

How have you seen feedback getting sort of aggregated and is there a repository or like, how do you make sure that basically there’s the feedback level? And then it’s communicating that back as overall trends from a customer standpoint, and then communicating that back to whomever the stakeholder is, and maybe at the executive level, but yeah. How have you seen this being done at companies because so far everyone I’ve talked to, it seems a bit messy.

Helen Feber: The mess is prevalent just about everywhere. The mess is real. Some use some of the CSM platforms, Gainsight being one of the more popular ones there where, you’ve already got the dashboard that a lot of different departments feed into. And then sometimes advocacy also has its own dial on that dashboard.

 And then there’s the abilities, usually within those systems, to store additional documents. So you might have a writeup from a customer advisory board or, in a planning session that the reps have and those kinds of things. So as long as there’s a central place to store those, it does mean that that anybody that has access to that system can see it all. And then of course, there’s good old Salesforce ERP systems.

I mean, similar thing, you can attach documents, the better ones set up different types of tasks or activities so that you can search on different types of activities, but it does allow the account team to see that there’s perhaps a customer advisory board going on and their customer’s part of it. And again, you can usually attach documentation. 

Is there a single platform or any platform that’s emerging as the right one in this space? No, not yet, unfortunately. 

Margot Leong: Just randomly a thought came to me, which is, I haven’t seen this at any org before, but it would be really nice. This is totally dependent on how technical the company is and how technical the product lines are. But like if you’re at a more technical company then, basically customer marketing is able to help to source the customers and to try their best to aggregate the feedback.

But a lot of times because you don’t fully know the product in and out because you basically, how could you, it’s so technical. The translation of that feedback, right, product maybe has to do some more heavy lifting. I think that where I see a gap and maybe an opportunity is something around, like a customer trends whisperer or something. There’s so much good stuff that you get from your customers, whether it’s trends that they’re seeing in the space, right. Things that you understand about their buying journey which has massively changed over time or how they’re seeing competitors in their space or all of these things. And I think there’s still a lot of data that you’re not fully capturing and thinking comes how to disseminate it in a way that would be valuable for the company. And of course the company has to care and to listen, but I think it’d be so great for like, there to be something where these are the trends that we’re seeing our customers talk about when it comes to this, this, and this, and this can help us inform our product in this way. This can help us inform our marketing in this way. And it’s just seems to be very siloed. There’s no sort of overarching thing that I’ve heard about yet where someone is able to disseminate this in a way where, the executive team is like, wow, like this is really valuable, really listen. So I was like, maybe someone listening can think about pushing this forward somewhere. Intelligent AI, you know? 

Helen Feber: Yeah. I think it’s going to happen after I retire though, Margot. 

Margot Leong: Okay. The last one that I wanted to talk about as well is, for people at companies that have strong sort of alliances or partnership teams, how do you sort of work with them to drive customer advocacy activities? So there can be sometimes overlap and maybe worrying about stepping on toes. This is not something I’ve personally had as much experience in, but I was just curious if you’ve seen anything here or anything to share there. 

Helen Feber: I have seen it happen. I think that the key thing is communication. You’ve got to sit down between the two organizations and really look at what are the process steps, where is the overlap and agree on the common ground and then the rules around how to behave in that common ground and have that open dialogue to reach agreement and then follow it and monitor it to make sure that everyone’s behaving in the right way. There might be some change management that has to happen, so forth then. 

If one party’s no longer taking the lead, it’s absolutely critical that the other party fully shares all information gain whilst they were taking the lead. So trust has to build up that this can work. I’ve actually seen it work really well in the past, but it does take a lot of communication and a bit of change management. The more explicit you can be in the written and preferably a pictorial presentation of the process, that’s where the change management’s successful. People stop the behaviors they previously had and pay attention to new ones.

Margot Leong: Well, Helen, this was amazing. I’m so happy that we got to chat before you officially finish. Is there anything that you wanted to say just in regards to anything you excited about for customer marketing, anything that you’d like to leave our listeners with? I’m all ears. 

Helen Feber: I think it’s a phenomenal space. So much has happened in the last few years, apart from getting more attention to it, you know, more mind share with the executives through the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals, we’ve got the certification capabilities for people that want to add to the qualifications in this space. I think that’s huge. And that’s something that I’m personally proud of being on the oversight committee and helping that come to fruition. There’s so much going on, obviously the new Fred Reichold metric, I think that’s going to bring about a new set of behaviors that I think will improve customer advocacy and customer marketing programs. 

Margot Leong: And so Helen, what’s next for you going forward once you’ve retired?

Helen Feber: Well, I’m very much into certain types of gardening. Yeah, I’m going to be planning out my plant guild and doing some sustainable gardening and so forth ahead of me. So I’m very excited about that. 

Margot Leong: Thank you, Helen for coming on and just really appreciate everything you’ve done for this community. You know, you’ve been at the forefront of this. You’ve seen it evolve. You guys have helped to develop the certifications and it’s pretty amazing. So thank you again for everything you’ve done for the community. 

Helen Feber: Thank you. And I really appreciate your podcast, Margot. There’s been some absolutely brilliant ones. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. 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, 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 Take care, everybody. 



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