A Ground-Up Approach to Customer Marketing Strategy & Program

Missed our Meetup with Diana Yanez-Pastor from Cloudera? Here are her Best Practices for Building a Customer Marketing Strategy from the Ground Up

A while back, at our Customer Marketing meetup in San Jose, Diana Yanez-Pastor from Cloudera joined us to share her insights and best practices for building a customer marketing program. Diana is a customer marketing superstar and an expert in strong customer relationships focused on key messages and measurable results. She shared great insight on how to build customer marketing from the ground up – here are some of the top takeaways:

1. Deliver a holistic approach to a global customer program

Start a program by thinking about all levels, starting from executives down to the line of business (LOB). Make sure you use customer programs to build out the experience for each of these core personas, and don’t forget to create a story around the importance for each – this is crucial!

Think about different ways to really engage each group over a long term. For executives, you could use techniques such as conference keynote speaking events, while for LOB users, you could host events like  breakout sessions or webinars for customers to take part in.

Remember: By highlighting what the customer is doing as an organization, your own technology shines through at the back-end, without the need to overtly pitch or sell your solution, products or services. 

2. Identify key company-wide objectives and how you will achieve customer engagement throughout the customer journey

Many customers ask us, how can I choose the right organizations for references and building brand advocates? Start by looking at key industries that are important for your company. Obviously, big names are always going to be valuable, but don’t forget to consider the little guys. Many times, these are the companies doing something disruptive, or cool, which can be a great opportunity to showcase innovation.

Sharing the process with sales and the customer is a very important step, and does this often.

  1. Customer nominations come into the program, typically by the Sales team, but could also be other parts of the organization.  In fact, the more these teams can work together – the better.
  2. Work with the nominator to understand the business use cases and then set up a thirty-minute call with the customer,  talk about the advocacy program, customer opportunities, so we are able to articulate the innovation they have achieved.  
  3. A promotion plan is suggested and put into action for high-touch customers. This plan could have between 3-5 activities, spread out over 2-4 months, to increase exposure to the great things the customers are doing.
  4. Set a foundation for the program to scale. This is a best practice in and of itself. Things to think about consist of: how will you use this engagement to build a stronger advocacy program overall,  can you replicate or expand this process to new customers or sectors, and will you use  a platform or automation to take the pressure off your sales teams making it easy for them to engage with you?

Another question we get asked a lot is, “What is the value to the customer – what’s in it for them?”. Well, there are different kinds of advocates – each with their own incentive that speaks to them from creating videos, stories, webinars, and putting them forward for analyst or industry awards..

Some companies like to give practical or tangible incentives, such as conference-style swag, discounts to training courses, and free passes for events. However, many customers also like to take part in advocacy because it helps them to learn from others while promoting their personal brand or that of the company.  They’ve implemented some cool technology, they’ve achieved some great wins, and they want to share that with the world and encourage others to follow suit. If you tell the customer story well then your own technology will naturally shine through all the while the customer’s innovation and how they create a better experience for their customers is promoted – it’s a win-win.

Top Tip: When you’re building references, put the focus on celebrating the customers success and innovation and use that as the focus, be customer-centric.  

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on the 4 types of advocates and how to communicate with each!

3. Engage stakeholders executive support down to the users

This graphic can help you identify how to drive collaboration inside the organization.

It helps to think about advocacy and references as something that is valuable at every stage, not just at the point of closing a deal. When you interview customers and stakeholders, ask about their experience across the whole journey. How are customers engaging with the company from the first time they visit us? How are we providing customer support? How are we enabling them to meet and exceed their goals, and improve experience for their users?

Reference selling is a key component of most all businesses spanning from the beginning, maybe in an RFP, or towards the end.  Activities include investors or business decks for testimonials, earnings or to include quotes. Think about how you can use advocacy for building marketing materials such as press releases to storytelling videos,  or even with something as simple as putting a logo on your website.

4. Build a pipeline, and train stakeholders so they understand the value

If you’re doing it right, you should end up with a wealth of references, case studies, quotes and customer stories. Sounds like every customer marketers dream, right? Actually, this can sometimes cause its own problems!

With so much data, how can the sales and marketing team find the right stories, or use them effectively? Training is essential here. Make sure new sales team members are aware of the resources available to them, and know what the process is for using them. Here’s where technology and automation can help to save time and streamline your operations. Simply put, the higher the matches – the better the fit. If you’re speaking to a bank, look for a story from a bank. If it’s a small bank, look for a small bank. If it’s a small bank from a specific location – that could help too. Fitting the right reference or customer to the situation at hand is essential.

5. Genuinely put customers at the center of the experience

The success of your program will depend on your authenticity to really champion your existing customers and put them at the center. To do this, you could use launches, webinars, campaigns, awards and recognition. Think about national events such as Global Customer Appreciation Day, which takes place every October and can be leveraged to drive brand awareness, reducing churn and driving true loyalty.

6. Show the metrics

Of course, your customer marketing strategy and program is only going to be as good as its results. These can be split into key areas. Ask yourself the following questions, and make sure that you have a system set up to provide the answers.

Business: Have you influenced revenue, or brand image?

Sales: Are the numbers for closing deals improving over time? Can you track ‘influenced’ revenue or reference requests?

Customer: Have you showcased innovation? Achieved advocacy, customer retention or reduced churn?  

I hope you found that valuable. Don’t forget to check out the full presentation, and we hope to catch you at our next webinar!

What’s been your experience building customer marketing programs? I’d love to hear your top tips in the comments, or get in touch if you want to hear more of mine!