On this episode, I was joined by Leslie Barrett, Senior Director, Customer Marketing and Evangelism at Sendoso. She’s also a Top 25 CMA Influencer and runs the customer marketing focused newsletter, CMA Soulmate. Leslie was on the podcast more than two years ago and she came back to share how her role has evolved since, her framework for career progression and getting promoted, as well as some insight into the foolproof model she created from marketing attribution that truly demonstrates the ROI of customer marketing. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Leslie.
Margot Leong: Hey Leslie, thanks so much for coming back on the show. I am really, really excited to chat with you.
Leslie Barrett: Of course. Have you ever had anybody come back?
Margot Leong: I have had a few people come back. But Brittany Rolfe Hillard wins so far. She’s come back three times now.
Leslie Barrett: Yeah, she’s a good one.
Margot Leong: Exactly. I think we last spoke more than two years ago. So many things have happened since then. On the customer marketing side, like you have done so many great things for this community and as well, you have since been promoted from the time I last spoke to you from Senior Manager to Senior Director of Customer Marketing and Evangelism at Sendoso. Tell me a little bit more about how your role has evolved since we last spoke two years ago.
Leslie Barrett: I can’t believe that was two years ago. That seems so crazy. And yeah, like getting promoted twice in that time. So my role has definitely changed. Before I was really focused on customer advocacy and community and only doing what the customer needed at that time and hey, which I still do, it’s just I tie it into overall company goals now.
And if I’m doing something, I like to be able to check in with other departments on their needs and how I can plug in my existing programs into their needs. I’ve been doing a lot more big group reference events, so taking my advocates and putting them in front of prospects to close deals, so that’s what I’ve been working on the past two years.
Everybody who’s read my CMA Soulmate newsletter or any of my eBooks knows that I am like a crazy lady for metrics. And so I really got in the weeds with my own proprietary attribution model that I teach.
And I like this role a little bit better because it’s both like I am contributing to the company’s bottom line and I’m also creating a thriving community as well.
Margot Leong: It would be interesting to know, just from a title perspective, right? I think there’s a lot of mysteries sometimes around like, okay, what does it mean to be a senior manager versus what does it mean to be like a director versus a senior director? I’m also curious about what are the other skills that you would say that it takes as well to be at this level and if there’s anything that surprised you about it, anything where you’re like, I had to prepare, get better at this specific thing in order to show that I could move up into this type of role and what it required. Just curious what your thoughts are there.
Leslie Barrett: This is a great topic. I wrote an ebook on the customer marketing and advocacy career framework and I got promoted to director by using my own framework. And so I spent a year putting in a format that all of us could use and what I believe maybe the secret sauce to getting promoted to a Director level is looking at, it’s just a mind shift from a marketer who executes campaigns and then moves on to the next, to a business person who executes marketing, right?
So I’m looking at everything as how am I helping the overall company and plugging into each department and bombarding those executive calls. Just showing up on them or presenting it in all hands and just getting your face out there.
As some people have seen, I’m very loud and proud on LinkedIn and I’m dressing in pinata outfits and doing crazy stuff. And, most importantly, I’m working together with those VPs of Sales, CCOs, VP of Customer Success, to really understand what gaps and white space we have and then I go ahead and fill it.
And then also it’s really cool to when you’re having those conversations, see where a need is, but nobody’s asked you to fill it and then you go and fill it. I think taking initiative in those areas are so important. So obviously everybody wants to see numbers, but that relationship building internally is huge.
And the reason why I put that framework together is because no one has managed us before. We’re all just stepping into the management role. And we need help too, because we just came up from like a manager to a director level, so we need help.
And so that framework really just fills in all of the question marks that could come up. Do I give this person a promotion? I don’t really know how this whole career ladder works.
So I feel like I filled a big void and I do receive emails from time to time saying I got the promotion because of you, or more importantly, I got the job that I wanted because of your framework and all that stuff, so it really fills my love tank when I get love notes like that.
Margot Leong: What are you seeing as some of the most common challenges that people are experiencing when it comes to career progression in this space?
Leslie Barrett: Oh God. So many. We all need a single source of truth and something to carry with us to look at, to believe in, because this job can get really hard because no one really understands it fully yet. So when you increase your responsibilities and enhance your skills and your knowledge and your abilities, like you need to document that somewhere. It needs to live somewhere with you and your boss and that you have a clear path of what is expected of you and where you are at in terms of like your next promotion. So just having the format there is huge.
And then the second thing I would say is all the measuring and metrics that you have to show at this point. We’re in a economic downturn and cuts are being made. And we went through a massive RIF at Sendoso and I’ve saw so many customer marketers getting laid off and I was like, oh, I’m next for sure. Just because my imposter syndrome was kicking in.
But then I remembered I’m seeing a 389% return on my department, including operating costs and headcounts. So I doubt they would let me go. So I think the metrics, the measurement and proving the value of our job, hands down, could be like the number one struggle.
Margot Leong: Even in the past, let’s say, five et cetera years, that has evolved so much already in terms of, you have to come much more prepared with how your department really does drive real value instead of numbers, case study type metrics, especially in this type of situation.
Leslie Barrett: Yeah. Speaking about the metrics part of it, let’s talk about marketing attribution. I think it’s great, there’s a lot of tools out there. DG is seeing some good results with those tools, but the problem with those is that everybody at the company has to be using it in the exact same way. It has to be all set up. Your data has to be clean. And so it is really hard. I don’t think we’re there yet. I think platforms are getting there, but how is sales going to use your CRM the same way marketing is and there’s a big struggle there.
So I just was like, oh, well there’s gonna be a better way. So I came up with my own marketing attribution model and went through it with my biz ops team and my CMO and it really blew them away. And so every time I would share it with any customer marketers, they would be screenshotting it and they would be like, oh wait. Go over that one more time. And I was like I think I may have something here. This is great.
So we can all agree that customer marketing initiatives make an impact on our bottom line. Like we know that. A single case study, a review, a reference. Those aren’t worth a hundred percent of the revenue attribution.
But we can agree it is part of the reason why they purchase and why sales is always asking for more. And if you listen to those Gong calls, you’ll hear the salespeople discussing those case studies. I know people are reading it and those deals that are coming in, there needs to be a way.
I can give you the model, an example. If anybody ever asks me like, what’s the first program I should set up at a company? I’m always like, oh, your reference program. Done. Easy. That is how you start proving your value from the first deal closed that a reference was on.
So hopefully you know how to track how much closed won revenue your program is influencing. If not, I have an episode in my CMA Soulmate newsletter, it’s episode 12, and it walks you through everything: setting everything up, the reports, step-by-step screenshots of the custom Salesforce fields, all that good stuff.
So then what I did was I booked a meeting with my CRO and I brought on our revenue ops. And you had already presented this to your boss and your CMO, so they are already on board with it. But then I came up with a percentage to allocate to each individual initiative that I’m doing, right? What do we do? We do references, we do case studies, reviews, events, referral program, individual campaigns, like it’s crazy.
So then I give some recommendations to them when we’re trying to come up with a number to allocate to each program. And I say this in my course, I give you industry benchmarks to go in and propose.
Because they don’t know, this is like a whole new thing to them. I get so crazy in my course, I get so micromanaging. Here is exactly what you say. Here is the email template that you send. Here is the stuff you put in the calendar invite when you’re meeting with your CRO.
I just share everything. I don’t think anybody in customer marketing should ever be creating anything from scratch. And so that’s where I come from with all my newsletters. You have all my program docs, all that stuff. This is the one thing that I’m gating, right? This course, and it’s really fun.
So then let’s go back to that reference program. Okay. I wanna come to an agreement with my executives on how much revenue to allocate. Okay? So like revenue influence is great. I’m like super glad it exists, but I have an obsession and I need to go further. So I need to know the direct allocated revenue from each initiative.
Okay, so let’s just take that reference example. The spreadsheet that I give you in my course, there’s like 25 plus things to measure and report on ads, all the formulas, and it’s great. So there is a column there for your program costs, right? So you need to know what were your rewards you were giving to your references? Are you using Reference Edge? What platform fees are there?
So you know, in order to see the ROI of something, you need to know how much you had spent on it.
Let’s just say that you spent $5,000 in rewards and platform fees for the year, but you also influenced $1 million. Great job. But you and your CRO and your CMO and your rev ops said that you can now allocate 25% of that revenue that came in to Customer Marketing Department.
So amazing, right? That’s 25% of $1 million. That’s $250,000. And the ROI, you spent $5,000 on this program. But now you can see that allocated revenue is 250K . Now you can see your return on investment is something crazy, like 7000% ROI. And then you add all those up from each initiative: the customer stories, reviews, events, all that stuff. And then you are able to pop out your customer marketing department return.
Let’s go ahead and jump back into that allocated percent number. I just wanted to make sure everybody has the same definition there. No, this is not a new concept but it is for sure a really reasonable way to attribute revenue to your programs. In that example, we said that 25% of the total deal can go directly to a customer marketing initiative, and that’s like a pretty nice percentage.
And I for one, think that percentage is fair because had you not produced that reference, there’s no way a prospect would have felt comfortable moving forward until you produced that. But you still need to have that conversation with your executives.
Going back to that total that you got 250K to add that in to your ROI, you just paid for yourself, most likely. I don’t get paid $250,000. You paid for yourself and then some with one program. So I’m always feeling, at least I cover myself with the reference.
That’s how I have had to think for years. In 2016 or 2017, I got laid off from a customer marketing position and it rocked me to my core. And it was horrible. So now I go into every job like I’m gonna lose it. And so that’s why I got so crazy metric lady on everyone because I don’t want anybody else to go through that and feel that pain because I’m pretty sure customer marketers love this role. And the only reason why we wouldn’t is because somebody doesn’t see the value and they give us a hard ass time and it just all gets annoying and too much, and then people quit. Or it just isn’t a good fit anymore because they don’t see the vision and they don’t understand. Anyway, I’m really on my soapbox right now.
Margot Leong: I mean, the way that you put it in those really stark terms is okay, because honestly, I don’t think people really think about it like that. Which is am I covering the cost of myself? Am I covering the cost of my salary?
Leslie Barrett: They should.
Margot Leong: Right? And I think that’s a very fair way to think about it. Because in this current economic situation, when everybody gets reduced to basically names and lines on a spreadsheet, looking at salary costs to be able to justify your worth and then some, right? And then it’s a stark way of looking at it, but I think it’s a also a very fair way of looking at it. And it did lead to basically forcing you to really reckon with, how should I think about truly quantifying this value?
Leslie Barrett: I was just gonna say like with case studies, like how annoying is a case study? I worked on one for two years and the guy would only take calls on a Saturday and I had to jump on him on a Saturday and I was like, oh my God, it’s been two years. This is crazy. And I hung on just because I have a personality disorder. I like to say that I cannot give up on something and I’m just like a, a dog digging and I just have to finish it.
And so case studies are sometimes a real biotch so I wanna know how many people are reading those and then all of those never ending review campaigns for G2, Trust Radius and all those vendors. And we’re super lucky that our CRM is gonna pop out that influence number for the reference program, but that’s not the case with our reviews and case studies and some other CMA programs. So that’s what I teach and it just offers a clear path on calculating the revenue impact of all of our programs, so it’s pretty cool.
Margot Leong: You’re basically taking the types of principles that we all should be aware of as marketers, right? thinking about how do I actually quantify what work I’m doing in true business value for the company? I create this content, I create these programs, and they like get pushed out this way, Then how do I take that result of the output and then start going backwards to understand who do I need to talk to in order to tie all the threads together to get that attribution?
And you get that and then you understand the framework, you’re like, yeah, I can plug these numbers in all day. That’s so cool.
Leslie Barrett: I like to call myself a big clown at our all hands. And I’m always showcasing the results of my programs, but sometimes you don’t have anything to report on. I don’t know the ROI of something that I just put on a week ago because I have to let the deals come in. What are you talking about?
So I like to go ahead and present on advocate versus non advocate metrics because those are always powerful. So powerful. And it shows that your program is aiding in a higher percentage of something versus the whole install base or your other customers who are not in your program.
And so what put me on the map at Sendoso is when I told everyone at an all hands that our advocate retention rate is 20% higher compared to the rest of the customer base. 20%. Like that’s crazy.
Margot Leong: Was that averaged out over the course of how many years?
Leslie Barrett: That was one year. I do have the 2022 numbers, but I think that was 2021.
And then advocates have a 95% utilization rate, so using all of our features and functionalities and their contract size is 25% larger. And they spend more in the Sendoso platform, 10x more. Because they’re in this community and we’re constantly top of mind because we’re having so much fun in the community and they’re getting the inspiration to send more.
Our advocates have like way more stickiness, right? We have two times the integrations because we’re constantly sharing other use cases and as DG brings on more tools, you see how they can plug into Sendoso and create automation and so all that stuff.
You can see all of those stats if you have tools like Tableau, Pendo, Amplitude, analytics, so if you don’t have a data or a biz ops person, ask to work with a contractor. I don’t know how much budget would be because I’ve been spoiled and have had these ops people to help me. But it will prove the value of your job in between those big campaigns is my whole point.
Margot Leong: A constant theme of the podcast and talking to a bunch of people about this is that in order to move from sort of execution to being seen as more strategic there also has to be some understanding of your own worth and what you bring to the table. And part of being strategic is is not just being like, all right, yeah, I’m gonna work my ass off for two years for a case study, which I have also done right? And then to be okay with not knowing what that even nets out.
Moving into the mindset of no, I have to know, I have to figure this out. Same thing with, you know what? In order to properly do my job, not just being like a content machine, but actually to properly do my job, meaning that I need to really understand the utilization rates or the analytics, all these things.
Then it’s either I need to connect with someone in biz ops or working with a contractor and not being afraid to ask for these things. Because essentially, it’s very stark terms now. It’s clear. Your job is on the line, so trying to set yourself up for this longer term success and not being afraid to ask for that earlier on, I think is fine. I really like this.
Leslie Barrett: Yeah, I always get so afraid or they’re gonna say no anyway. There’s definitely no budget for customer marketing. But it shows initiative. Worst case scenario, you look like you know what you’re talking about.
Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. Worst case scenario. There’s no harm in at least putting it out there. And asking for it, you know? Is there anything else that you wanted to add on the subject?
Leslie Barrett: I went three years at Sendoso without a promotion. Or two and a half or something like that. And it just made me feel, and through no one’s fault, in startups, there’s so much turnaround and that you just go from boss to boss and nobody know s. Go over to CS, they’ll manage you. Okay. Here, they brought a new CMO on, he’ll manage you. Oh, you’re going more into advocacy and community. Go back to CS. And nothing was documented that I was doing. And so I took it into my own hands with both the measuring piece of it and the career framework.
And I do believe that those two, they’re like a power couple and at least you just feel like you’re on the path to either a yearly promotion or securing an additional headcount so you could do more and prove even more value.
Margot Leong: There’s the things that we had talked about earlier on, which is documenting the metrics, proving value. But then there’s also, you mentioned, I get on these calls with the executives, you’re presenting at all hands. I do think that a valuable part about this is promoting the value as well. Oh yeah. That sounds like something that also is pretty important.
Leslie Barrett: I don’t know how many times a week I say on LinkedIn, always be advocating for your advocacy program. If you don’t have anything to present on, just get in front of people. If you can’t get on a company all hands, right? Because I know I’m at a small startupy company, and so I can, but if you’re at a bigger company, then go to the CS all hands or the sales all hands and just start presenting.
If you are thinking right now, but I don’t have anything to present on. What are you talking about? You have the entire customer base and all the cool stuff that they’re doing with your platform. And there’s some customers that are seeing success and there’s little pocket stories that you can tell.
Oh, guess what? This customer is doing this and they’re striving for this. I’ll be back next month to tell you the results. But if anybody has a prospect that wants to talk to this customer, they’ll be good at X, Y, and Z.
If you have a reference program and you have a new reference that just came on board with you, then you can say, Hey, guess what everybody? We have a new reference and he’s gonna be great at closing competitive deals. And there’s never a lack of stuff that you can present on.
Margot Leong: And I would always say like, when in doubt, humanize. Humanize the customer, right? Because we are in such an amazing position where we really get to know the customers as people versus entities to either come into the pipeline or to close or to push through some sort of funnel, right?
I think a lot of times actually people seem divorced from the value that the software is actually providing to the customers. I think like when in doubt, present on something, you can humanize them as people and really showcase the value that the product is providing both personally and professionally.
And then you can tie that to the things that you’re talking about, right? Which is like, and by the way, they are X percent more retained or their utilization rate is this of course, like that’s a nod to how this program works. Like a shout out for the awards that I’m doing or whatever, right? And you can tie so many things as reminders to an emotional story, right? People are gonna remember that and remember you by dint of doing that. So I think that’s great.
Leslie Barrett: And it’s a huge community play too, is introducing our new advocates and going a lot further than their usage of the platform. What do you like to do on the weekends? Maybe there’s somebody near you.
And what came out of that is we’re trying to plan something regionally or locally where we get a bunch of our Super Senders together and they go on hikes together or like walks together or putting together some funny like punny names for this outing. Me, the CEO and our customer life cycle person is trying to come up with these funny names. So far, we have Pipeline Pathfinders, the Trail Blazers, well that’s a little Salesforcey. Power hikes or Super Sender Summits.
So we want these people to get together even if I can’t go out and fly out there. So we’re really just trying to make a fun community.
Margot Leong: I love that. I know that we are coming up on time so Leslie, if people want to connect with you, What’s the best way for them to do that?
Leslie Barrett: I’m firstname.lastname@example.org, so you can always shoot me over an email. I’m on LinkedIn. I post crazy TikTok so if you like those, that pops up a lot. You can find all my resources there, like the newsletter, the CMA Career Framework, the course, and coming soon, I wrote a book on account-based customer marketing.
Margot Leong: That’s awesome. Leslie, I’m really excited to hear about all these great things you have for the community and huge kudos to everything that you’ve been building. I think that’s really, really tremendous.
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.