177: A CMO’s Guide to Cultivating Customer Champions
How important are your customers to your business? This one should be a no-brainer—the relationships you build with your customers are vital to success. Leaders that actively focus on customer engagement and satisfaction are able to nurture a customer-base that will champion your product on your behalf and help push innovation. With a wealth of experience under his belt, Chip Rodgers, CMO of WorkSpan, knows the quantifiable value of cultivating customer champions and is here to tell us how he nurtured these relationships from Workspan’s early startup days to now.
Chip puts a special emphasis on building and retaining trust, and shared a perfect Bill McDermott quote on the subject: “Trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.” For more gems like this, listen in to this week’s Renegade Thinkers Unite and learn about how cultivating customer champions can boost your business value, shape your product, and bring in new prospects. Plus, for additional material on the subject, take a look at the aptly named 8th chapter of our guide to effective B2B brand strategy, “Cultivate Customer Champions.”
Tell us about the beginning of WorkSpan’s customer cultivation journey.
When I joined WorkSpan, there were twenty-six employees. Now, two and a half years later, we’ve grown to over 100. When we started, we had fewer customers and focused on nurturing our relationships with them. They were helping shape the product and taking us in a new direction. It was very hands-on, and the whole leadership team had very close relationships with our customers: we brought them in to our sales kick-offs, had them speak at our public events. They were phenomenal champions. As a startup, our early customers saw our vision, understood what we were trying to achieve, and knew that we were solving a big problem that no one else was solving, so they wanted to help get the word out, to get their partners to jump in and be part of it as well.
What’s the business value of cultivating customer champions?
It’s everything. When you build champions around your product, the product becomes part of the community. It becomes this positive reinforcing dynamic where customers feel like they’re part of something bigger. They’re part of the brand and overall community, they’re connected to peers who have similar challenges, and they can learn together in a common way. To build that energy and dynamic with your customers, partners, and the external world is hugely valuable, and it’s far more credible when those stories, messages, and comments come from customers themselves. We also bring prospects to our events, and it’s an incredible experience because we have senior partner leaders on the panels and in the audience. One attendee told us he had no idea that WorkSpan had this level of pull, this level of partners in our orbit. When you get a group of people like that together, it really builds energy and excitement.