“When the going gets tough, the tough hug their customers.” That’s the theme that emerged early on in CMO Huddles, and the going at that point in April 2020 surely was tough. As the world shut down, customer retention became a top priority for many B2B brands, with astounding results—customer success strategy revealed itself to be a key growth strategy.
Customer-centric marketing does not only increase the likelihood of cross-sell and upsell opportunities, it also cultivates a healthy set of customer champions who are more than happy to refer prospects (and what’s more convincing to buy than a glowing customer review?). In today’s episode, CMOs Marshall Poindexter of OpenEye Scientific, Jakki Geiger (formerly of Reltio), and Simon Schaffer-Goldman of Case Paper cover the ins and outs of building and maintaining great customer relationships—don’t miss it!
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- How 3 CMOs cultivate customer champions
- Why customer retention needs to be a top priority
- How marketers can partner and align with customer success
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 254 on YouTube
- RTU Episode 197: Rethinking Your Brand Promise…In a Hurry
- RTU Episode 157: From Shepherding to CMOing
- Brent Adamson RTU Episodes (4)
- Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
- Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey B Mackay
- [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Thinkers Live
- [1:45] Marshall on Customer Centric Marketing
- [8:34] Jakki on Customer Success
- [14:25] Simon on Maintaining Great Customer Relationships
- [20:27] On CMO Huddles
- [23:26] Balancing Pipeline Expectations and Customer Retention
- [29:51] Measuring Customer Success Programs
- [36:42] How to Handle Bad Apples
- [40:33] Getting Customer Case Stories and Reviews
- [44:35] Dos and Don’ts for Cultivating Customer Champions
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Marshall Poindexter, Jakki Geiger, and Simon Schaffer-Goldman
[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Thinkers Live!
Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! Yes, you’re hearing me before the Renegade Thinkers Unite intro—you know what that means, we’re going to be playing a recording of Renegade Thinkers Live, a livestreaming show about hot marketing topics featuring some of the CMOs of CMO Huddles and a cool new gin.
Today’s show features CMOs Marshall Poindexter of OpenEye Scientific, Jakki Geiger (formerly of Reltio), and Simon Schaffer-Goldman of Case Paper. And in it, we focus on how to cultivate customer champions as well as why customer retention needs to be a top priority for B2B brands. This is especially true as we roll into 2022—customer-centric marketing can grow business exponentially in a myriad of ways.
By the way, the gin on this show came from Dry Fly distilling in Seattle, WA—their Washington Dry was delicious and uses apples as one of its key botanicals—while we don’t play the tasting on the podcast, it’s worth knowing this fact for the context of our conversation later in the show. Now, let’s get to it!
[1:45] Marshall on Customer-Centric Marketing“First of all, you need to understand what your current customers are doing with your products.” —@mpoindexter @OpenEyeSoftware Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in NYC. Thank you for joining us. When we first started CMO Huddles in April 2020, one of themes that emerged early was, “When the going gets tough, the tough hug their customers.”
No one knew at that moment what business conditions would be like for the remainder of the year let alone the next three months, but what we did know was that every existing customer was a precious jewel that needed to be protected and guarded with everything that you had.
We had to guard it like a precious jewel that needed to protected, a sapling that needed to be nurtured, and in some cases, a damaged vessel that needed to be rescued.
Not that retention wasn’t important before but now it was top organizational priority and CMOs were increasingly likely to have their hand in customer success, either directly or indirectly.
When faced with uncertainty, the savvy marketer focuses on the bird in hand, so to speak. And for the better part of the last year, many companies did just that and something crazy happened—their businesses thrived. Some ended up selling more to their existing customers. Others created so much goodwill that it helped drive new customers via referrals and advocacy.
As it turns out, customer-centricity is in fact a growth strategy. Healthy, happy customers beget more of the same especially if you can turn them into brand advocates. So, the question of the hour is exactly how do you cultivate customer champions?
To answer that question, let’s bring on Marshall Poindexter, the CMO of OpenEye Scientific. Marshall, how are you?
Marshall Poindexter: Great, I am thrilled to be here. Drew, thanks again for the invitation.
Drew Neisser: Oh, my gosh. And thank you for saving me from the from my opening there. But let’s talk about being a customer-centric marketer. Where should this process start?
Marshall Poindexter: Well, first of all, every marketer should be customer-centric. If not, why are we in this business of trying to drive awareness of our companies? But failing that, I think there are three areas that a marketer should focus on to become more customer-centric.
First of all, you need to understand what your current customers are doing with your products. Are they using them, or are they using them well? Are they getting the value out of them? Hopefully, you have a CRM tool that you use to track your customer relationships, but even more importantly, hopefully, the product team at your organization is tracking usage and getting an understanding of how customers are or are not using your products.
If you can find out who’s not using your products, you then can begin to create customer retention or marketing campaigns towards those customers, maybe with some tips and tricks, some how-to videos to supplement some of the in-person outreach that a customer success team might be doing to try to get those customers excited about the products that they’ve already purchased from you so you hopefully get more renewals.
On the prospect side, I think you obviously want to understand who your buyers are and create content that is going to engage them, make them aware of you and make them want to buy from you. Getting in their mindset, creating buyer personas.
And then finally, you’ve got to let your customers tell your story for you through customer testimonials: on video, in print form. If you capture why they’re so passionate about you and your products, they’re going to influence prospects to buy.
Drew Neisser: That was a lot that I’ve got to try to break down, but the first thing that that you talked about was understanding the customer, and then the next thing that you talked about was making sure that they were using your service to its full advantage.
That was one area that I think a lot of CMOs were surprised by. When they circled back at the beginning of the pandemic and they went to their customers, particularly software customers, either they discovered that they weren’t using the product as much or they didn’t know that you could have helped them with this.
I’m curious, in some of the things that you did, was that an important part? As the customer outreach was happening, were you finding some things out like that?
Marshall Poindexter: Yeah, absolutely. Interestingly, customers don’t always tell you what they like or don’t like about your product, so you have to proactively reach out to them or have data that tells you what they’re doing.
I was finding that our customers, some of them were really heavy users. Others were not using it hardly at all. So, we did some surveys, we asked them why that was, and then we uncovered at certain accounts that there were some issues with how they used our software that we could address with training, with tips and tricks, with educational marketing campaigns that helped them see, “Wow, you know what? I didn’t realize that I could do that. Now I can and I’m going to start using that part of the software.”
Drew Neisser: Yeah, and what I think is so interesting is I know we should be doing this all the time. When business is good and you’ve got all sorts of leads coming in and you’re acquiring new customers, it’s easy to lose sight of your existing customers. But there’s nothing like a crisis of a moment where you go, “I don’t know if there’s any new business out there to really bring you back to it.”
But I think there’s an assumption, and this is one that you sort of learned, that you’ve got this customer and they know everything about you already. You don’t want to bother them, but in truth, they really need your help. And they need your help to take advantage of the product that you’re providing them. I think that’s so interesting.
The second thing that you said or actually the third thing you said was getting your customers to do testimonials. That’s something that every CMO wants. We talk a lot about that in Huddles about getting them, but there are challenges to that. Not every customer wants to talk or go on the record or is comfortable. Was there anything that you all did to generate and get your customers to be more comfortable giving testimonials?
Marshall Poindexter: Yeah, I think it goes back to getting them to use your product and getting them excited about using your product. If you do that work ahead of time—what we were just talking about—it’s more likely that they would be open to it.
I mean, sometimes you still run into challenges with large companies with their legal department that, “No, we can’t really endorse your product in a public way.” But there are ways to do that in news releases or as customer references that are a little bit more behind the scenes.
There are lots of ways to get people excited about your product. And then you just have to show them, if you tell your story, you could actually help more people benefit from this product as well. And a lot of times they’re excited about that. They want to do it.
[8:34] Jakki on Customer Success“Customer success is everybody's job, right? It's cross-functional ownership.” —@jakkigeiger Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Jakki Geiger, the former CMO of Reltio and star of Episode 197 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hi, Jakki, how are you?
Jakki Geiger: Hi, Drew. I’m doing well. How are you?
Drew Neisser: I am great. Let’s talk about where customer success fit into your role at Reltio.
Jakki Geiger: Absolutely. Ultimately, the chief customer officer owns the KPIs for customer success. C-SAT or NPS scores. But I personally believe that customer success is everybody’s job, right? It’s cross-functional ownership.
For the CMO in particular, I feel like the customer experience starts with the buying process. That’s really where I spend a lot of my time, trying to figure out where are those friction points in the buying process that could be eliminated to make it easier to become aware of the company, to get educated, so you’re considered, to make it easier to make a decision about whether our company is the right company to meet your challenges that you’re trying to deal with. And ultimately making a decision and becoming a customer.
I feel fortunate because what I try to do is I try to develop personal relationships with customers. I try to get to know them. I have this belief that customers are not companies, customers are people.
The talk track and how a company approaches discussing customers—is it ABC Corporation or is it Bob Smith, the chief data officer of ABC Corporation? And what is Bob trying to do? What are his goals? Why did he buy this technology? What are the outcomes he’s after? And how can we all work together to make sure those outcomes are realized in the timeline that they’re supposed to be delivered?
I truly believe that the CMO does have a really strong role to play in customer success and in delivering a better customer experience and even doing some evaluations after win losses. How was your buying experience, whether you chose our solution or you didn’t? How was it? What could we do to be better? Because ultimately you want to continue to improve that customer experience, which increases your chances of customer success.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, and we could talk or debate this notion of where customer success sits in the organization. I think we’ll come back to that. But it’s funny, as you were talking in the beginning about making buying easier, I could just hear Brent Adamson of Gartner, who has been on the show a couple of times, and he just talks about: “Make buying easier. Buying is broken. You’ve got all these people on the buying committee. What can you do to make it easier?”
I can’t emphasize enough. And what’s so interesting about it—here we are, we’re talking about hugging your customer. But what Adamson’s research showed was the buying process is so broken that by the time the customer actually does buy the product, they already hate you. It really is an interesting thing if you can make it easy for them to acquire.
And this isn’t something that is a slam dunk. I mean, we’re not talking about buying Word, which we all understand and know. Often, these are complicated sales.
The second thing that you mentioned that that made me think a lot was about this personal relationship. I know a number of organizations have CMOs along with all the execs who are executive sponsors. Did you have that? And was that part of your program?
Jakki Geiger: Absolutely, yes. We had an executive sponsorship program, so I was able to develop some personal relationships with our customers. I leveraged those in a couple of ways. I think it’s really important for a CMO to understand how to bring the customer story out to the employees, how to inspire the employees with what customers are trying to do, and then the value that they’re getting from the technology.
I would often invite customers onto the weekly stand up and I would do an interview, kind of like Drew you’re doing with me. Help shape their story to begin with. Do the heavy lifting of helping them put their slides together and their talking points so they felt comfortable and confident talking about it, and then just opening up to questions so all the employees could get more engaged and bought in to helping that customer be successful.
Drew Neisser: I love that idea. And honestly, I hadn’t really heard on any show, not once has anybody talked about bringing their customer to a town hall. That’s just a revelation to me at this moment. I have to pause on that.
And then, further, making that really easy—help them with the slides, rehearse it to make sure that they look good. I love that idea. That takes being an executive sponsor one more step because you’re at that point really helping them see, “Wow, we really did accomplish something cool together.”
That’s so interesting. Just give us a sense of, at any given time, how many customers might you have that you were the executive sponsor of?
Jakki Geiger: We kept it quite small. At Reltio, we had about 100 customers total. And these are the customers—global 2000, big deals—so it was really important that we kept a small ratio of customer-to-executive. And then the extended leadership team also had their customers that they were working with more closely.
Drew Neisser: Some of that, I imagine, there’s some chemistry involved because it must be a little weird. You’re talking to your customer, and yet there’s a lot of other things they have going. So how do you make sure that you’re being helpful, but not just a pain?
Jakki Geiger: I usually start with, “I am one of your advocates within the company.” And I attend the business reviews, so when they’re discussing the roadmap of what they’re planning to do and then how our company fits into that roadmap, I’m there. I’m one of the key executives understanding what they’re trying to accomplish. And then if they come into any struggles or challenges, I can help advocate for them and help communicate within the organization why it’s so critical to help them at this moment in time.
Drew Neisser: Are you the bad phone? I mean, is that the idea? That they call you when there’s a real big problem and you can organize? You’re the one throat to choke, as they say, for the customer?
Jakki Geiger: Yeah. We don’t encourage that to be a standard practice, right? There are processes in place to follow. But if those processes are not working for you, then there is a bat phone that you can call.
[14:25] Simon on Maintaining Great Customer Relationships“We actually started a customer rewards program called #OnTheCase, celebrating our customers who really go above and beyond for their customers.” —Simon Schaffer-Goldman @CasePaper Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Simon Schaffer, who is the CMO of Case Paper and star of Episode 157 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hey, Simon, how are you doing?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Hey, Drew, thanks for having me on the show.
Drew Neisser: Oh, my gosh. It’s great to see you. I know you used to visit your customers all the time before the pandemic. What did you do to keep up those relationships during the pandemic?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Well, one of the things we did during the pandemic, we actually started a customer rewards program called “On the Case” really celebrating our customers who really go above and beyond for their customers, really highlighting the story that we’re telling them that they’re actually executing on a day-to-day basis for their customers.
So really highlighting both what they do for their customers and their communities and their employees. It was really something to highlight how they’re going above and beyond for the people that they’re interacting with on a day-to-day basis. We did that around the country and then we paired that up with onsite visits from a distance if that was something they were into, or it was a call like this where we got on with ownership and really had a conversation on a personal level. They really, really appreciated it, especially last year.
Drew Neisser: And that’s so interesting because a lot of CEOs might not have launched an awards program when you had to do it virtually, but nonetheless that you did.
Now, I happen to know a fair amount about this awards program, as you know, and I know that you had a lot of fun with it because your brand is about a lot of fun.
I don’t know if you can remember off the top of your head what some of those awards were or are, but I think it would help because humor is very much part of your brand. I think that bringing humor even through the awards is just such a cool thing.
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Well, one of them was like, “We Give a Sheet” award and we had nice laser-engraved wooden plaques built. If you’ve ever won awards, a lot of them are very fancy and they’re crystal, so we said, what can we do that’s going to be different? That’s going to go on the wall and they’re going to look at it or people are going to come through and you see these awards and something’s going to jump out of you that’s just going to be just out there compared to what’s normally there.
There was also a lot of excitement around the actual award that they got that had a lot of fun with it. It wasn’t just, “Hey, congratulations, you won.” It was also done in a way that was very unique from what they’ve usually expected.
Drew Neisser: This is so much part of your brand and how you think about and celebrate your brand with a sense of humor, at least I think it’s funny being a punster myself. Let’s talk about that—as a customer retention weapon, the use of humor and being human in your relationships and conversations with them.
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Now more than ever, smiling and laughing are so necessary. Last year, more than ever. There was such a human element of this, of understanding there’s tough days, everyone’s having tough days, and having a moment where you could just laugh or smile—those become so important.
Being able to deliver that in a really human way and highlighting especially how to laugh really became a center point to everything that we were doing around how we’re relating to our customers.
We brought this into our sales strategy, too. We had salespeople who, you know, one of their activities, one of their focuses last year was actually to do handwritten notes to customers. Some of them scoffed and said, “Oh, what is this going to really do?”
And then, within 60 days of launching this, they were getting phone calls—I was getting phone calls—like, “Wow, this has been such an impact. People are writing me back and they couldn’t believe I took the time to do this.” And keep in mind, all of these cards that we had printed up had some level of humor in it, so it was just that personal touch that was really needed last year when being social and interacting with people was really not possible.
Drew Neisser: I know you’re a fan of handwritten notes because I think you actually send them to employees, too, don’t you? You personally do.
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Yes. We have an internal awards program where we recognize people who are on the case internally, who go above and beyond for fellow co-workers and for customers. We actually recognize that internally. I make it a habit every quarter to write handwritten notes—send it to their home, not to the office—really thanking them and highlighting what in their story really resonated with me and the people who read it.
Drew Neisser: What I think is so important in this is you’re leading by example. You personally write these notes and then when you were working with sales, the other thing that’s sort of nice because you’re in the paper business and the fact that you’re using paper—the medium and the message come together pretty well. So it’s all good. I love all of this.
Is there anything else when you think about your customer relationships? I mean, you guys have been in business for 75 years. It’s third-generation leadership from a family business. Talk about the nature of your customer relationships.
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: They’re very personal. I mean, Jakki just said it earlier. It’s such about the personal relationship and we really strive to do that at every level in the organization.
It’s not just the salesperson that’s developing a relationship. It’s customer service. It’s people in our operations. It’s people in shipping our truck drivers. I mean, our truck drivers are picking up Philly cheesesteaks and driving it to our customers in Connecticut.
No one’s asking anybody to do this. You know, no one’s saying, “Hey, can you do this?” No, they just naturally do it, and so you have connections with our customers at every level. It just creates such a stronger bond with a customer realizing that it’s not just a thing a salesperson is doing, it’s something that’s ingrained in what we do. And it has been for decades.
Drew Neisser: So this isn’t Dunder Mifflin?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: No, but we do have a crazy, lovable cast of characters.
[20:27] On CMO Huddles“At one of the huddles, somebody talked about how they developed and curated a sales advisory board. We went ahead and actually implemented one of those and it has been a huge success internally.” —Simon Schaffer-Goldman @CasePaper Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I do want to talk about and I’d like to plug CMO Huddles for a second because, you guys know, we launched it in 2020. It’s an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.
One CMO described Huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment, while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. I wanted to ask you all, does this match your experience? Trying not to put you on the spot.
Marshall Poindexter: I’m a late addition to CMO Huddles. I just joined at the beginning of this year, so I don’t have the history that Jakki and Simon do, but it’s an amazing group of people. I have met some really incredible folks that I’m learning a lot from. I’ve also been able to share some of my knowledge with and have gotten some great recommendations on vendors that I’m already working with. It’s been a fantastic partnership and relationship with CMO Huddles.
Drew Neisser: And I appreciate you because you’re so darn active on our Slack channel, which is just one of those cool things that I think is great. Simon, you’re fairly invested being on the board of advisors. Any thoughts you want to share on CMO Huddles?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Absolutely. And I’ll give a tangible take away. Early last year when we first started, I had a sales leader that came and talked about how the salespeople can get more involved in marketing and help to have more input. At one of the huddles, somebody talked about how they developed and curated a sales advisory board. We went ahead and actually implemented one of those and it has been a huge success internally.
I mean, the alignment between sales and marketing has never been better as they really are invested in what we’re doing. They’re connected in what they’re doing. And there’s way more engagement in every aspect of what we’re doing from a marketing perspective. The adoption from a sales perspective is a lot better than it has been in the past. That came from an idea that came from the group. I wish I could give credit to the person who brought that up, of course, but it came out of the Huddles, that concept.
Drew Neisser: Well, we do to keep everything confidential, so it’s okay that you didn’t. All right. Well, Jakki, not to put you on the spot, but feel free to add or we’ll just keep moving.
Jakki Geiger: Absolutely. I joined just around the global pandemic and the question I was asking was, “What are other CMOs doing during this difficult time?” For me, Drew, it was really fantastic and valuable to have all these CMOs come together and be able to brainstorm and talk and share ideas and give feedback on what seems to be working and what doesn’t work.
Also, I think as a CMO, we have a really big challenge because everything is changing so quickly, including technology and market conditions and Google algorithms. It’s so valuable to be able to get together. I look forward to it. [Inaudible].
I’ll say one of the most valuable ones for me this year was actually the Super Huddle, which was focused on CEO/CMO relationships where we all brainstormed what to do, what not to do. I always feel like there are really good, actionable takeaways.
Drew Neisser: Love it. All right, and Jakki has constantly reminded me that we need a call to action on everything we do, so if you are a CMO that can share and care and dare with the best of them, visit cmohuddles.com. How’s that for a call to action, Jakki?
Jakki Geiger: Good job.
[23:26] Balancing Pipeline Expectations and Customer Retention“The sales team was also recognizing around the same time that customer retention really needed to be higher up on the priority list.” —@mpoindexter @OpenEyeSoftware Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s get back to the topic at hand. And this is really a critical one that I see when I think about customer success and the CMO role. So many CMO’s compensation and marketing’s compensation is based on the vernacular “net new logo,” which we know is net new customers. New customers in the door. And they are rewarded as much for existing customers or satisfaction and/or existing customer growth.
It seems to me this discourages CMOs to spend any time in this area if this is what you’re getting paid for. I’m wondering about—at your organizations—what you’ve done to make sure that this isn’t the case.
Marshall Poindexter: My top KPI for me and my team is customer retention for this year. We actually have fairly high customer retention, so we’re just trying to maintain the high level of customer retention. But I made sure that that was our number one priority because we see so much repeat sales, new sales that come from existing customers, that it just makes logical monetary sense. I’ve had that focus with previous teams I’ve led as well, and it always has made sense.
Drew Neisser: Did you have to negotiate with your CEO to get that as your top KPI versus, say, getting a certain percentage of pipeline in the door?
Marshall Poindexter: To a small degree. I mean, what was interesting is that the sales team was also recognizing around the same time that customer retention really needed to be higher up on the priority list.
My focus on that was well received. I just had to make sure that everyone was comfortable with the fact that we’re going to be doing both. We’re going to be thinking about customers and how to retain them and also looking for new ones and prospecting and helping the sales team close more deals.
It wasn’t a huge, heavy lift. In other companies where I’ve pushed customer retention to be a top priority, it has been a heavier lift at times. Usually, I’ve had to do some education either with the executive team or the CEO around, “Hey, these customers, just because they signed up with us now does not mean that they’re going to continue to sign up with us. We have to make sure they are happy and satisfied for the long haul if we want to keep them.”
Drew Neisser: And Jakki, it’s interesting, since you had a CXO, I’m sorry, a customer success leader—therefore their job is totally tied to that. Where does that leave you as the CMO?
Jakki Geiger: 100 percent of my responsibility net new logos, bringing in net new business. But for me, the critical success factor is happy customers. It’s so much easier to market and sell if you can leverage the voice of the customer as Marshall was pointing out earlier.
I have a vested interest in wanting to ensure that our customers are happy because I want to make it a natural feeling for them to want to say, “What can I do to help you guys? Is there an opportunity for me to be an advocate for you?” I mean, that is really what I strive for with the customer relationships that we have within the organization.
Drew Neisser: It still feels like, at the end of the day, you’re sitting down with your boss and he’s saying, she’s saying, they are saying, “What percentage of net new logos did you drive?”
Unless you can tie a link somehow from customer success to acquisition, I just wonder if organizationally we can really solve—if you can, as a CMO, afford to spend energy in this other area. It’s interesting. To me, it presents a conflict.
Well, Simon, I know that you get to decide this, but where do you see this in terms of—a lot of your business comes from existing customers, and I know that. So how do you think about existing customers versus acquiring new ones?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: With our existing customers, I think it was about developing unique tools to keep them invested in who you are and where we’re going as an organization so that there’s this constant ability to grow with them as they grow.
New products are one way that we measure that, so how many new products are we selling to our existing accounts and being able to diversify what we’re selling them is one thing that we look at in terms of growth. How we do that, of course, is making sure that we’re consistent with our message and we’re doing it in a way that’s unique and memorable.
The other side of it, we made an acquisition during the pandemic right at the beginning, so as an example there—this was a company that had gone bankrupt. We really needed to put some energy behind it, so between putting together a website, developing sales tools, swatch kits, and having a strategy to get the name out there—we just ran the numbers recently. We’ve actually doubled sales, doubled the amount of orders intake per day, and doubled the amount of sales that we’ve done since that acquisition.
A lot of it had to do with the work of establishing the brand. We had to build a whole new brand as well and that’s something our team did. What I would also add to all of this is we also look at internal metrics. So knowing that, if we promote and we work with our internal stakeholders, our employees, their interactions with our customers are so, so important. That’s another factor and another metric we look at—employee engagement. Understanding that the more engaged our employees are in what we’re doing, the more impact they’re going to have with our customers on a day-to-day basis.
Drew Neisser: Interesting. Yeah, it always comes back to engaged employees. Amazing on all of these things.
[29:51] Measuring Customer Success Programs“We have some fun metrics because our guarantee is you're going to love us—or like us if commitment isn't your thing.” —Simon Schaffer-Goldman @CasePaper Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: No doubt part of the customer success program is simply just sending everyone a bottle of Patrick’s gin. Let’s talk about some of the crazier things that you’ve tried that worked or didn’t work when it comes to customer initiatives.
Jakki Geiger: Can I follow that one up? Because I did something very similar. We had a customer who loved old fashioneds, so after he presented a kickoff, we surprised him with this big basket of all the ingredients he would need to make an old fashioned as well as a recipe for a slightly different recipe than he was used to. He just absolutely loved it.
Drew Neisser: That’s great. It’s so much about just being in the moment, paying attention to them as humans. That’s a great story. Simon, Marshall, how about something out there in the customer success area?
Marshall Poindexter: Sure. One of the things that me and the team did at a previous company I worked with was we had some customers that we were trying to reach out to in terms of renewals. They were not really responding. We weren’t sure if they were mad at us. In some cases, we knew they were mad at us. So we actually sent them a box of cookies. Very low cost. They were branded with our logo. And just a little note saying, “Hey, we miss you. We’d love to hear how things are going with you.”
We actually found that it led to some calls in, some emails in, and some renewals. It was a low-cost way to just build that relationship and get some more renewals. The marketing team loved it.
Drew Neisser: Well, I guess you’d call it a sweet program. Certainly, that’s what Simon might say. Very sweet program. So, Simon, we’ve already talked about the awards program in the middle of a pandemic, but I know you’re a creative guy.
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Well, we made some notebooks and took a little bit of a risk. I have one right here. “Sheet happens: Write that sheet down.” It might have been a little bit of a risk sending it around to customers, but they absolutely loved it. We had a similar T-shirt made with that we give a sheet and yeah, that was pretty out there for a lot of our industry and certainly for our sales force. And it turned out to not backfire at all.
Drew Neisser: But again, I go back to, this is consistent with the brand that you have developed over time. For those folks who don’t know, Case Paper has a history—even in the 60s, they were doing humorous advertising. You have humor in your DNA. And again, humor is an icebreaker. It creates all sorts of good things.
We have fun little things that we’ve done, we’ve got big initiatives that we’ve done. I’m really curious—what metrics—how do we measure this and what are some of the ways that you look from a marketing standpoint? Maybe, Marshall, you want to give us, what metrics are you looking at?
Marshall Poindexter: We’re certainly looking at straight-up renewals for existing customers. Are they renewing at the same level? Is their share of wallet increasing? Are they buying not only the product they already have but maybe expanding into other product areas? So we’re tracking that revenue vis à vis the marketing programs that we’re doing towards them.
We’re also obviously looking at the number of customers that are attending customer-specific events or user meetings, the specific tracks that they’re going to, the feedback that they’re giving us through customer surveys. There’s lots of data that we’re managing and just trying to get a handle on in terms of the overall health of that customer. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it increasing? Is it decreasing? And what are the programs we can use to influence them?
Drew Neisser: Interesting. Jakki, what about you?
Jakki Geiger: Yeah. For us, the ultimate is the NPS score. But we’ve recently added percent of customers who are referenceable. One of the meetings that I really enjoy attending are understanding which customers are in the green, which ones are alive and happy that we can approach to find out if they could be advocates for us.
We have a lot of metrics in the customer success organization, but in marketing, I have some as well. We had some goals as to having one customer participate in a marketing activity every month for the calendar year, so we measure ourselves against that.
Even in news releases, the more we can quote a customer. Even if it’s, we’re doing this event and this customer is quoted, that helps a lot. We had some metrics in marketing as well as within the customer success organization to measure customer success and advocacy.
Drew Neisser: I can see why you would want to include a customer in a release. How do you get the customer to make it feel like this is a good thing for them?
Jakki Geiger: Yeah, this is going to come in my dos and don’ts section. But one of the things that I’ve realized is there’s a couple of different ways you can approach a customer about helping you.
There’s the way that I’ve seen happen a lot, which isn’t as successful Drew. “Oh, Drew, can I please ask you for this huge favor?” I see a lot of people ask their customers in that way.
What I like to do is say, “You know what, if you want to be a thought leader, we can provide you with that opportunity. We can really help you tell your story, shape your story, create that story for you, create talking points, and help you figure the flow of that story that you could tell publicly. But you could also share it internally to build more champions within your own organization around what you’re doing. Are you interested in having our help to do that?” It’s a very different approach than please do me a favor. I found that that approach has worked quite well.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, there’s a couple of things I realized as you were talking earlier that I just want to highlight. One of the things that you mentioned is a regular cadence of support.
What’s interesting to me is if you say we are going to feature one of our customers every month, other customers see that. And eventually, at some point they go, “I want to be part of that.”
That’s a really smart thing to do, to think about the regular cadence instead of promoting it. I love this sort of assumptive this is a good thing for you, we can teach you and help you in building your brand. This is an “If you would like to participate” as opposed to “Please.” Very cool. Simon, any other metrics that matter to you?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Well, I mentioned it earlier, just tracking products sold and diversifying the portfolio that we’re selling to our current customer base. And then, as that’s kind of more of a lagging indicator, the leading indicator, we look internally. Like, what are we doing investing in the salespeople internally? Is it coming from just one person or is it coming from a lot of people? And obviously, the more salespeople we can get engaged in diversifying, the more it’s going to lead to that result.
We kind of look internal, we look at external, and then we have some fun metrics because our guarantee is you’re going to love us—or like us if commitment isn’t your thing. We do have fun getting emails from customers saying, “Thank you so much. We love you. Thank you for coming through. We love you guys.” And we actually have them sent into us and we save each one of them.
The more emails that we get, we know that we’re heading in the right direction. I know that’s not a formal metric, but it is a fun metric that we enjoy tracking because, well…
Drew Neisser: The number of love emails. Put that right on that list. Very top of the KPI. How many love emails did you get?
[36:42] How to Handle Bad Apples“They just need some love and care and attention. They need somebody to listen to them.” —@mpoindexter @OpenEyeSoftware Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: This is the moment where we ask on this show, what would Ben Franklin say? One of the things that we haven’t really talked about is how important it is to choose your customers well before they become customers. And I know that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that because we’ve got to fill our pipeline and we get them through sales and we want to close a deal. But it’s interesting because sometimes there are customers that you can never satisfy.
And so I want to turn to old Ben, here’s what he said. The rotten apple spoils his companions. And as Melissa, our amazing producer, said, “Boy, is that tight because we’ve already talked about apples on the show.” But anyway, I do think there is an issue here. We’re so busy trying to acquire customers and they have a history of changing quickly. Is there anything in any of your processes that helps you weed out that rotten apple?
Jakki Geiger: I’m happy to go first on this one. For us, we have a set of use cases where we really excel and do well, but sometimes there’ll be an opportunity for a sales rep to try to get a deal closed where they’re just going slightly outside the use case to do something different outside of the go-to-market strategy. I find that when we do that, things don’t always work out. So that would be my advice—to really try to stay in your lane, really understand who is your ideal customer profile? What do you really excel at in terms of being able to get people the results that they’re expecting? And try not to stray too far outside of that. And then you can avoid getting the customers who churn.
Drew Neisser: Marshall, any thoughts on that?
Marshall Poindexter: You know, what I found—you definitely have to have the right buyer personas identified in terms of who are the target buyers and which ones are going to potentially give you the largest amount of engagement over the long haul. But I also have realized over my career that many times that bad apple who could spoil the bunch just has an unusual issue, had a bad experience with somebody in your organization, what have you.
They just need some love and care and attention. They need somebody to listen to them. And marketing can partner with the customer success team to create programs, campaigns, account-based marketing, outreach to those particular accounts to really customize the messaging and get to, “What’s going on with you? How can we help?”.
I would say when I’ve seen that situation, probably 70 to 80 percent of the time, we’ve been able to turn that around with that close partnership with customer success because we just took the time to listen and to reorient that customer to how we could really help them be successful. That’s what I would say.
Drew Neisser: Yeah. I think it’s interesting. And by the way, Peter Weingard, thank you for listening and yes, dear Ben did say, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” but I think it’s, “A customer saved is a customer earned” in this case.
This notion—and Jay Baer wrote a book on hugging your haters and how those people actually end up becoming advocates. There is a difference. And the point I was getting at is—Jakki referenced it in this idea that you could bring them in for a false reason, like they wanted X and you really are delivering Y, but I do think there are still that show through the buying process that they’re just not right. That there is a mismatch here.
I don’t know if there are enough filters in place because it could be a persona alignment margin, but they still could just have a history of churn, churn, churn, churn, churn. And they eat up resources from the customer success team. They eat up resources from tech support. I don’t know where this fits in, but I’m going to say there are some folks that just simply can’t be satisfied. At that point, you just say, you know, “Here’s your money and see ya” kind of thing, right? You need to walk away.
[40:33] Getting Customer Case Stories and Reviews“Anonymous @Gartner Peer Insight reviews are a great opportunity to get those customers engaged because you don't need to include a name, you don't need to include a company.” —@jakkigeiger Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I’m wondering if you’ve witnessed any attempts at trying to get customer advocates that went awry somehow. It doesn’t have to be your organization. We can make fun of what happened at somebody else’s. But I’m just curious if you’ve seen this and what lessons might have been learned. Simon, you got anything for me?
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: I’m laughing. We do have one. We had a customer that loved us, and this is their quote, “We love you so much. You’re so important to us. We don’t want anybody else to know about you, so we don’t want to tell anybody about you because we want to keep that a secret.” So it was both very flattering and extremely frustrating at the same time. Trying to engage that customer was actually through our On the Case towards, giving them an award and actually having them engage in that process. Yeah, they didn’t want to engage for that reason, which, yeah, that was frustrating.
Drew Neisser: There you go. That’s hilarious. Yes. “We love you so much, we do not want to share you.” Wow. Marshall, anything in that area?
Marshall Poindexter: I’ve had several situations where we identified a potential customer advocate and then we got into it with them trying to map out their story and helping them map out their story. And then suddenly there was something that was going wrong with the product that they were using from us. Then we’ve had to kind of regroup and try to get that solved before we could move forward.
A couple of times then we weren’t able to get the problem solved to the satisfaction of the customer, so we just had to back away. Now, they didn’t leave us as a customer. We’re just biding our time until there are some new developments that can be put in place to really fully resolve their problem. That happens. I mean, that’s just the customer relationship, right? You have to be ready and adaptable for that.
Drew Neisser: One of the [things] that’s really important right now are the G2s and the Capterras and these places that have these reviews, sometimes getting customers to go and do those. Jakki, Marshall, do you have experience trying to get—Jakki, you do? Great. Talk a little bit about that and the challenge and how you overcome it.
Jakki Geiger: Yeah. Typically, I try to segment our customers to figure out who are those people who want to be the thought leaders. They already know the story they want to tell; they’re pretty self-sufficient. Then there’s the group who probably doesn’t know how to put the story together, so they’re a little reluctant. They require a little more handholding. And then there’s the group that just can’t like, “We cannot be advocates for you. We’re not allowed to use the logo. We’re not allowed to be quoted.”
That’s where I think those anonymous Gartner Peer Insight reviews are a great opportunity to get those customers engaged because you don’t need to include a name, you don’t need to include a company. It just says, “Here’s my industry, here’s my title,” and they can provide a review for you. I’m finding that in the tech space in particular, people are relying more and more on those third-party review sites before engaging directly. Having customers do that is a higher priority for me now than its been before.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think that’s actually quite brilliant and that solves a major problem. It’s, “Okay, you can’t be on the record, but you can be important and contribute to that.” Wow, I hadn’t really thought about using those folks because that fills in. Yeah, you’ve got the thought leaders that you can bring to your town halls, the reluctant ones who you coach, and then this last group. Wow. That’s just a great, great, great thought. Marshall, any other thoughts on getting folks with review sites?
Marshall Poindexter: You know, I have done a little bit of that work at previous companies, but I love Jakki’s idea. That’s my takeaway from this session. I’m going to go do that tomorrow. I think the other thing about those sites is you have to really carefully vet which ones have the right level of cachet and trust in the industry that you’re working in because there are some fly by night ones out there that purport to be really objective, but yet they’re not. To get your review in there, you have to sponsor—you like, pay them $10,000 and stuff like that. You have to really carefully vet that if you’re going to participate. That’s my piece of advice.
[44:35] Dos and Don’ts for Cultivating Customer Champions“Do make it easy. Make it easy to buy, make it easy to learn. Make it easy to advocate and tell the story.” —@jakkigeiger Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: We’re getting close to the top of the hour, so I’m going to ask each of you to provide one do—we’ll start with you, Simon—one do and one don’t when it comes to cultivating customer champions.
Simon Schaffer-Goldman: Do get personal. Get to know your customers, spend time with them, and cultivate that relationship on a personal level I think is a definite do. And a don’t. Don’t use humor unless you really think through the unintended consequences of it.
Drew Neisser: Yes, well, there might be a person along the way. But it’s funny, you immediately thought of Harvey Mackay and hit one of his books, I think it was Swim with the Sharks. But just totally about getting personal to the point that you call your customers on their birthday because no one else is doing that.
Jakki, one do and one don’t.
Jakki Geiger: Sure. Do make it easy. Make it easy to buy, make it easy to learn. Make it easy to advocate and tell the story. I would say those are my dos. And then on the don’t side, I’m just going to reinforce what I said earlier. Don’t go into asking customers to be champions or advocates for you with the wrong mindset. Don’t go into it asking for a big favor. I think it’ll be a lot easier to build champions by taking the right mindset into it.
Drew Neisser: Yes, give them the opportunity to promote their personal brand or professional brand along with you. I love that. Great. And Marshall, take us home.
Marshall Poindexter: Sure. Do make sure that, as a marketing leader, customer retention is a way that you are measuring yourself and your team and you have programs against that. Don’t ignore the clear partnership that you can build with your customer success organization if that doesn’t report into marketing. They can be a really great help in building a full-fledged program that’s both in-person outreach from them as well as marketing programs that your organization is driving.
Drew Neisser: I love it. Yes. Partner with that customer satisfaction. Thank you, Marshall, Simon, Jakki, you’re all good sports. And thank you audience for staying with us.
Renegade Thinkers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey. Our botanical expert is Nicole Hernandez. For show notes and past episodes, please visit renegade.com, home of quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City. I’m your host Drew Neisser, and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.