B2B Revenue Acceleration
B2B Revenue Acceleration

Episode · 2 years ago

47: How to Maximize Customer Referrals w/ Melinda Marks

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The best sales people aren’t on your sales team. In fact, the best sales people don’t even work at your company. 

Hint: They pay you.

Customers are, time and again, the best sales resources your company has access to. Nothing will sell your product more (and faster) than a referral from someone who already uses it. 

Melinda Marks joined us on the B2B Revenue Acceleration podcast to tell us all about building a customer referral program. 

Melinda is the VP of Marketing at Armorblox, the first cybersecurity company to utilize NLU to stop cyber attacks. Melinda has an extensive background in marketing at Styra, StackRox, VMware, and others.

You Ere listening to be to be revenue.Acceleration, podcast, dedicated ealing software executives stay on the cuttingedge of sales and marketing in their industry. Let's get into the show hi welcome to be to be a revenewacceleration. My name is Olya MT and a Mir today with millinthe marks wipymarketing at armoblock. How are you today Melinda I'm doing great thanks.So much for having me that's a pleasure. So the topic for today's episod is isabout customer reference Seasan how to build a loyal fun base. That goes tobad for you in marketing, which is a very interesting toting, a believe butthefor. Before we go into the detail of the conversation Meingthar. Would youmind introducing yourself as well as your company amoblocks to Elgence sureso, I'm DPAF marketing at a company called armor blocks where a cybersecurity company and we launched out of selth mode back in February, were thefirst company to apply natural language, understanding or Nlu to cyber security.NLU is a type of natural language, processing or machine learningtechnology that you use when you use things like Alexa or chatthought, andit's used to understand communications. So a companies when people arecommunicating across different channel email, caring document lack chat, thesecurity tools, lack understanding of the textual communications and hackersare taking advantage and attacking through those communications channels,so we're the first to apply ANLU deciber security to solve some of thesebig attack, pectors, like social engineering through email, helpingcompanies detect insider threat and preventing employees from accidentallyor perisbly sharing client personal information. So it's an exciting timefor us, because there's a lot of interest in us, so this year is Vorizon.Dbir stated that the large percentage like upwards of the s of attacks, startthe email so they're able to get through other security tools and thereason why is because we've lacked away to analyze and understand humancommunications ind a meaningful way to protect against these attacks. Wel Itsounds like I'Mo, O bloks got to a great future Oud of it. So it'swonderful! Thank you, Ermuch for that Melinda. Getting into the topic! Now weall know that there is nothing better than having our customers advocatingfor Brent. Okay, often it's it's natural movement, these ar like theServis or the product that you offering and that's the reason why they aremodernatpy to speak about it and to become you advocate. But we also, thereis a many ways in which marketing team can influence in increasing the loyaltyof the fun base. And could you please show wish audience? Oh, you can drivethat increase of roality from a marketing conspectition yeah. So thefirst thing to do is to recognize the absolute importance of customers andrealize them all the value that you get...

...from having amazing customer references.So I've had the luck and pleasure to work at companies who have been veryfocused on customer references and really cultivating deep customerrelationship. So I work in the early days at BM where- and I was reallylucky because they wanted to build a customer reference program and at thattime they had a workstation product which was a consumer or PC product thatyou know, people people understood the value, because there were technicalpeople who were raving about it, because you can run multiple operatingsystems on one computer and it was saving them from having multiplecomputers, O or extra equipment, to test their software. So they were superexcited about it and at the N, where they were starting to move to server.Products which you know moving to selling to the enterprise is a muchdifferent story and they recognize the value of having customer references andmoving to the enterprise selling into the enterprise. So I got that job. Ihad a marketing background, a PR background and hadn't run a customerreference program before but had been at companies like Hiperian and otherstartup companies who had customer reference people usually as part of thesales team and had interacted with them enough to know. Well. If I go to BMWHRand run this program, then I know exactly what to do, because I can talkto the customers. I can harvest them for data. I can get the information outof them. I can learn. I it's a also really great way to learn about. Thetechnology is through for anybody, whether whether what no matter, whatdepartment you are in a company when you interview customers, you find outabout how they're using the product and what's interesting and exciting aboutthem using those products. So at the M, where we built the customer referenceprogram, we got to really see it take off, and you know it just shows the value ofhaving that loyal fan base and when you think of the Mwere, a lot of thatmomentum came from that fam base going to that for them, and you know when youcan do that. It's just it's very it's very positive. So what you should do atany company is any time you have a happy customer, have their sales teamKno to contact you so that you can get the information on their stories. Soall they have to do, and you know sometimes sale people they try to kindof hoard references for their own use so that other people don't get to usethem. If you have the executive sign off at the company to tell them, wereally value customer references, you have to share them. It's for the goodof the team. You get access to the very best customer references. We have areally good person managing the reference program. Then you can getthose customer references and manage it so that you are controlling how you'reusing those happy references. So when...

...you talk to them, you find out whatthey can and can't do you intervew them about how they're using the product,what value they're getting out of it, and then they tell you the informationyou ask them for feedback. So at this point, you're learning what they loveabout the product and even finding out. Well, what are the negatives? How canwe improve? And by that time you learn about what they'll say and if they'regoing to say anything negative and from that you can kind of purs it out intodifferent ways that you can harvest that information for every littlenugget. So you know at BM where we published a QNA or near transcript ofthe interview and we'd email, the summary to every person in the companywith a headline o before and after information about their Roi, an excerptof their best quote, and it was labeled for intor internal use only butengineers product managers, everybody got value out of knowing those customerstories so yeah and Diane Green, the CEO. You know that was really importantto her, so that was an executive mandate and she would have her admanprint out every single customer breef every single CAS study and she wouldread every single one. And then you know when everyone in your organizationknows those customer stories. It's truly powerful, because the engineershave priede about what they're building it focuses their work and helps givethem ideas for for product. It focuses your branding and messaging. You canpull out consistent. Tames for messaging and branding and of courseyou get to work on marketing asset and get the customers really willing to goto bat. For you sure, that's that sounds wonderful. So so I guess whatyou say is that it's kind of a double exword in a positive way, where you cannot only use that fun base to attract you, customers, but also from anindernal perspective, realy getting the team to runny around your around yourbrainds. So it's kind of a internal and external communication tool, tat,dautely and o think that makes nerfect sense and it's also you're reallybuilding the relationship with your customers. So you know when you e youthink about going to a company. One of the things I always do is let'Slook forthose companies to realize this customer centric value of an approach.So you know people like Dian Green got it when I, when I moved into thesecurity industry when I went to Quala the CEO, the first thing he said wascustomers come first, and that was something o always saw, and you knowthey had lavish parties for customers they had paid for. All the userconferences and free training and support they really put customers firstand that kind of an idea really really focuses the company and helps withmarketing because yeah in tech, in the tech industry hat what people buy. Alot of it depends on what their peers are saying you can invest in adds, youcan invest in analyst relation, you can...

...invest in Pr, and you know everyone. Mybackground is and PR and have a lot of experience with journalism and the waythat things are right. Now, it's hard for even good reporters to write aboutthe things that they want to write about, and so what's happened is peopleare just so skepticical about marketing materials or even articles, and evensome of them don't even listen to industry. Analyst Yeah, who you knowthat they'll always listen to is their peers and other customers, because theyknow the challenges that you're facing and what better way to validate a tool.You know when you think of, if you're going to buy something, how do youfigure out what you're going to buy? Do you go on the poon? The website maybe,but do you look at reviews- reviews are very powerful. Completely Yeah rues arevery, very important man. His is almost like Bringg, you Bi Toc way of buyinginto the BEA to be war, so that makes perfect sense T. my next question, foryou is, is around using references apot of the of the sells process, and I mustadmit that sometimes I get a little bit frustrated because I would have someonein my sell team coming to me and asking to speak to one or four clients forpeople. Only just add one callwiys wive, not even they don't even know you know,what's the what's the cost or what's the we don'teven have a business case in place, but they already want to speak to customersto try to understand the experience in working with us, and my feeling is thatit's far toall inthe sens process, because if you do so in a sense, youmost use your clients as a sells tool an unfortunately I'd like to Believthat our clients ove a day job to attend and con just beon on referencecoolls for for poratic. So an EWS or business but I' like to get youropinion and base on your experience and an no great es with you that you'vedone it with very large organizations for organization Enog or star Tup. Sowe've got that kind of tHd sixty view, but in which part of the selcycles doyou believe it is the best to get a prospect in front of the client andalso th e thesecon. Part of the question is: Do you think the clientshould be breathed diferand as to what they should say or you know ow? Do youpre Y, your customotio? You should you just actually ha prepare them and letthem speak completely, naturally about the expense of working with you yeah.So the great question, I'm all about prep being my personality type andrunning marketing, anything I can control or prepare. I will. I will do,but you know there's a couple of things there that I would adjust. So, first ofall, when when you interview the customer and saying like you harvestthem for information, you find out what they can or cannot do, and then youkind of tear it depending on what they're comfortable with doing, and youwant to tailor how you use them to what their availability and willingness is.So maybe you have a customer, an...

...amazing brand name cut company and yougot your you were able to you know, because customer offinces are priority.You were able to negotiate so that they would be a public reference for you ifthey signed a contract, and maybe you give them a discount to be a reference.But it's a top level person who has limited time and you want to use theirtime wisely. So you definitely as great as it is to have them as a reference.There's no way you're going to have them taking individual sales. Callslike it just doesn't make any sense. So that's where something like gettingthem to talk to a reporter. WHO COVERS CUSTOMER CAS studies and- and there arereporters who just write customer feature stories, connect them with areporter, because then you have a third party interview of your customer. Youcan get a reprint or you can point people to it and there there's yourcustomer reference without having to pick up the phone and waste waste yourquient time you can also, if, if you can't do th the public relations withpublic relations, you can either do it through tech pub business pubs, butthere's also a lot of vertical industries pubs, who pick up customerCay studies which is valuable to because if it's a big name and the healthcareindustry, there's healthcare publications who are looking forcustomer stories of how they're using technology so and people read those,but also you can that's an easy way to share ther the reference story with soyou know PR is always ust. It they'll do a interview with a reporter. That'salways highest priority to me. If you can't get pr just write a case studyand use that and and again use those in marketing when you get approval for thecase, study make sure you're geting you get milage out of it. So when you getthe approval for the case, study ask for approval for approval of the casestudy and tell them. You know you get to approve it, so you should becomfortable with it and feel free to make any changes. Make sure that you'recomfortable with everything in this case study and is it approved for useon our website and then marketing materials. Then you can pull it for useand press releases for data sheets as a pull quote so again that s. This helpsthe sales people present package sales, referent materials that the client hasalready approved, you've written so get you have you h, ve the most controlover it now in terms of one an one till call you want to be careful, becausethis is this is a problem. I've seen a lot when the reference program is runout of the sales team. Is there mostly connecting people for sales? ReferenceCalls? Yes, every once in a while, they'll feel the marketing a marketingrequest, and it's so a little bit in reverse of what I'm saying happens whenmarketing really owns the program. So when the sales tea, when the salesperson in the sale or runs the reference program, there's a lot ofburnout and that's really frustrating, and so you know, if you get marketingto do their part more on the front end...

...than your S, saving the salesreferences in the one on one call to be not needed as much and then I would. Iwould absolutely do it later in the sill process and then also when you'remanaging the customer Reference Program or managing marketing you're alwaysconcerned. You should always have that concern or understanding of what areyour you want to make an impact on the organization, so you want to find outwhat are the challenges of selling your technology? What are the sales peoplefacing, because you only need the references? It's the marketing andcontent and everything you o they're kind of they're kind of I don't want tosay las being lazy, but they know how powerful the customers are and sellingthe product. So it's like a shortcut, whereas if you understand t thechallenges of selling the product and you're doing all the right things toprovide information for those challenges that they're facing whetherit's competitor pressure, if it's pricing pressure, you know that S.that's how you're adjusting youre marketing so like if they're runninginto problems selling at the price that you want them to pay. For example, whenthey're having hard time selling for value or competitors seem to beundercutting price, then you're going to market for to show the value of yourproduct, for example, and then the same thing with customer references isyou're going to hunt for those references or your. You know when youdo the interviews you're going to ask them the questions to see how they feelabout the biggest challenges. So if it's a top competitor you're facing,then you ask a lot of questions to the customer references, the client to saywho did you switch from? What do you think of competitor solutions? And then,if they're saying oh this, this competitor product, it was terrible.Then you note that- and you know that they're good about talking about thatand then that way, it's very strategic. When they're pulled in to talk toprospect, you know you know exactly what they're going to say. You knowthey're good at talking about certain subjects and they can really again clte.They can help you close ha deal, but I would I would absolutely do it laterand then try you know if they are plin having to pull them in too early. It'salmost a sign of well. We need better marketing materials and canned thingsthat we can use. It does make sense, and I think prospects totallyunderstand that if you say we have amazing references that I can connectyou with. So let me show you some case studies first, because we're trying tobe mindful of their time. It totally makes sense yeah. I agree with you soby Thos questions around the concept of building loyal fun based and building acommunity. I believe that they are very close to each other. What we've beenspeaking about is more wrong. You know the one one relationship between youknow and user being your reference as a vendor, but what I'm talking more aboutRomy question is more on h: The building up a community or drivercommunity into being peloal advocates...

...for your brand. So I guess that's myquestion to you: How do you drive a community into being loyal advocate ofyorpreds yeah? So when you, when you have a community, it's a interestingthing to think about building, because you have to be very comfortable aboutwhat your customers will say so because you're, basically letting them lose totalk amongst themselves. So that's where the importance of buildingthe relationship comes in and and building a really strong relationship,and whenever you communicate with a customer, it's about making them feellike you want to be a partner to them and ensure the success of their projectversus just. I want to sell you this or close. This transaction, because I needto make my revenue goal, there's a there's, a big difference in feelingthat culture of wore partnerng with you to help you or we want to be acheerleader for you and your career. And if you have that kind of you builtthat kind of relationship, trust you've been able to help them with issuesthey've been having, then building a community is amazing becauseyou have you have some fans who are excited about your teck. You've helpedthem. They feel like they've, been involved in your company, maybe you've,given them some in exchange for being a reference. Maybe given them a vancenotice of a product release, so they could play around with it and they've.Given your feedback and you've taken that beeback, that's the kind of stuffthat really makes them feel involved in your company success and as yourcompanys success rows, they want to be a part of it and they want. They wantto be almost like a part of your company and that's that's the idealmindset to use for a community ND and to build that demand where people wantto be. In your community, so at the M, where we built that we built ourcommunity and my Qualit, we built a community, and you know people wantedto be in those group and talking to each other about the phow they're usingthe product sharing best practices every once in a while. They might havean issue and discuss it among themselves. But you know we would walk.We keep an eye on it and take the feedback and also right back to them tosay that we're aware of the issue and we're working on it and it just youknow in the tech industry, everything's very transapparent, so you don't wantto have to censor things because you want to do the best for your clientsand- and it's only goodness for your product to kind of open that up- andyou know you can there's a lot of value in that to let them talk about talkamong themselves and especially in the security industry. It's extremelyvaluable, like I said, because tetechnical people they don't want tolisten to marketing people, they don't want marketing fleff, they just wantinformation and- and they don't have a lot of time because they're busy, so they want to cut straight toinformation, that's useful to them and...

...having a way to get to that through,peers is, is helpful to them and when, when you have the kind of company wherepeople are excited about using the products and take technologies Y, u canopen that channel where they can communicate and then with securitypeople they're, even usually more skeptical than just technical people,because they don't they're not always as anxious to share their tips, andthey don't always want to speak publicly about using certain tools,because sometimes, if you brag about how great your security is, they feellike they get a target on their backs. This a very practical reason forsecurity people to have that personality type, but you know going inand talking to peers, is a way that they gives you a lot of credibility in yourindustry. It shows that you want to move the industry forward and those areall good things that help your company in your brand and sale, because you cansay look you know we're not trying to hide anything. We have all of thisgreat stuff going on and you can can see how happy our customers are doing,and this isn't really monitored by us. We're just opening a channel forcommunication. That's true, yeah! Well we're coming to gain of the PODCAST O.Thank you, ver much for your incitemeaing that I was very, veryuseful. A really appreciate, orl the orte example Little Wal stories thatyou shared with us today and I think audience Wi will feel the same now. Ifanyone wants to connect with you, Tolon Lon, more bout, armor, blog O or justtake the conversation of flying with you. What is the best way to get tol ofSumlinda R sowe're, a NEWOR company ut we're rapidly adding more info oncontent to our website, so you can check us out at wwwt, armor blockcom,so it's armor and then blocks with an ex and then you can also feel free todrop me alined at M at armor, Blockscom Tis, just from alindaa Armor Blockcomor I'm also on Lakeden. Okay, that's was wonderful. Well, once again, Melinthat. Thank you very much. For today it was great to Av oon the show. Thank you.So much operatics has redefined the meaning ofrevenue generation for technology companies worldwide, while thetraditional concepts of building and managing inside sales teams in househas existed for many years. Companies are struggling with the lack of focus,agility and scale required in today's fast and complex world of enterprisetechnology sales see Ow operatics can help your company accelerate pipelineat operatics, dot net you've been listening to B Tob Revenue Accelerationto ensure that you never miss an episode subscribe to the show in yourfavorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening until next time.

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