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.

So you were listening to bb revenueacceleration, a podcast dedicated to helping software executives stay on the cutting edge ofsales and marketing in their industry. Let's get into the show. Hi,welcome to be to be a revenue acceleration. My name is only a mutier andI'm ut today with milling, the Max VP marketing at all more blocks. How are you today? Milling now, I'm doing great. Thanks so muchfor having me. That's a pleasure. So the topic for today's episode isis about Customer Reference Seas and how to build a loyal fund base thatgoes to bat for you in marketing, which is a very interesting toping,I believe. But before before we go into the detail of the conversation,meaning that would you mind introducing yourself as well as your company? Are Moreblocks to audience? Sure. So, I'M DPA marketing at a company calledArmor Block, where Cyber Security Company, and we launched out of self modeback in February. We're the first company to apply natural language understanding, orNlu, to cyber security, and Nolu is a type of natural language processingor machine learning technology that you use when you use things like Alexa or ChatBot, and it's used to understand communications. So a company, when people arecommunicating across different channel, email, sharing documents, flack chat, thesecurity tools whack understanding of the textual communications and hackers are taking advantage and attackingthrough those communications channels. So we're the first to apply and Lu to cybersecurity to solve some of these big attack vectors like social engineering through email,helping companies detect insider threat and preventing employees from accidentally or purposefully sharing client personalinformation. So it's an exciting time for us because there's a lot of interestin us. So this year's Verizon Dbi are stated that the large percentage,like upwards of the s of attacks start being email, so they're able toget through other security tools, and the reason why is because we've lacked away to analyze and understand human communications and a meaningful way to protect against theseattacks. It sounds like Alma Mbo blocks got to a great future out ofit. So it's it's wonderful. Thank you very much for that. Menindagetting into the topic now. We all know that there is nothing better thanhaving our customers advocating for brands okay. Often it's it's natural movement. Theseare like the service or the product that you're offering and and that's the reasonwhy they are modern happy to speak about it and to become your advocate.But we also know there is a many ways in which marketing team can influencein increasing the loyalty of the fund base. Could you please show his audience howyou can drive that increase or loyalty from a marketing perspective? Yeah,so the first thing to do is to recognize the absolute importance of customers andrealize the all the value that you get...

...from having amazing customer references. SoI've had the luck and pleasure to work at companies who have been very focusedon customer references and really cultivating deep customer relationship. So I work in theearly days at vmwhere, and I was really lucky because they wanted to builda customer reference program and at that time they had a workstation products which wasa consumer or PC product that you know people people understood the value because theywere technical people who were raving about it because you can run multiple operating systemson a computer and it was saving them from having multiple computers or or extraequipment to test their software. So they were super excited about it. Andat them where they were starting to move to server products, which, youknow, moving to selling to the enterprise is a much different story and theyrecognize the value of having customer references and moving to the enterprise, selling intothe enterprise. So I got that job. I had a marketing background, aPR background and hadn't run a customer reference program before, but had beenat companies like hyperions and other startup companies who had customer reference people, usuallyas part of the sales teams, and had interacted with them enough to know, well, if I go to BMWHERE and run this program, then Iknow exactly what to do because I can talk to the customers, I canharvest them for data, I can get the information out of them, Ican learn. It's a also really great way to learn about the technology isthrough for anybody, whether whether what, no matter what department you are ina company, when you interview customers, you find out about how they're usingthe products and what's interesting and exciting about them using those products. So atthem, where we built the customer reference program, we got to really seeit take off and you know, it just shows the value of having thatloyal fan base and when you think of them where a lot of that momentumcame from, that fan base going to bat for them and you know whenyou can do that, it's just it's very happy, it's very positive.So what you should do at any company is, anytime you have a happycustomer, have their sales team know to contact you so that you can getthe information on their stories. So all they have to do, and youknow sometimes sales people they try to kind of hoard references for their own useso that other people don't get to use them. If you have the executivesign off at the company to tell them we really value customer references, youhave to share them. It's for the good of the team. You getaccess to the very best customer references. We have a really good person managingthe reference program then you can get those customer references and manage it so thatyou are controlling how you're using those happy...

...references. So when you talk tothem, you find out what they can and can't do. You interview themabout how they're using the product, what value they're getting out of it,and then they tell you the information. You ask them for feedback. Soat this point you're learning what they love about the products and even finding out, well, what are the negatives? How can we improve? And bythat time you learn about what they'll say and if they're going to say anythingnegative, and from that you can kind of Parse it out into different waysthat you can harvest that information for every little nugget. So you know atBM where we published a QA or your transcript of the interview and we'd emailthe summary to every person in the company with a headline of before and afterinformation about their Roi. An excerpt of their best quote, and it waslabeled for Inter internal use only. But engineers, product managers, everybody gotvalue out of knowing those customer stories. So yeah, and Diane Green,the CEO, you know that was really important to her. So that wasan executive mandate and she would have her admin print out every single customer brief, every single case study, and she would read every single one. Andthen, you know, when everyone in your organization knows those customer stories,it's truly powerful because the engineers have pride about what they're building. It focusestheir work and helps give them ideas for for a product. It focuses yourbranding and messaging. You can pull out consistent things for messaging and branding andof course you get to work on map marketing assets and get the customers reallywilling to go to bat for you. Huh, that's that's sounds wonderful.Tour. So I guess what you say is that it's kind of a doubleedge world in a positive way, while you can not only use that funbase to attract you customers, but or so from men in Donald Perspective,really getting the team to to run around your around your brands. So it'skind of a Internet and extello communication tool that desolutely and I think that thatmakes not make sense. HMM. And it's also you're really building the relationshipwith your customers. So you know, when you when you think about goingto a company, one of the things I always do is look for thosecompanies who realize this customer centric value of an approach. So you know,people like the end green got it. When I when I moved into thesecurity industry, when I went to quality the CEO, the first thing hesaid was customers come first, and that was something always saw. And youknow they'd had lavish parties for customers. They had paid for all the userconferences and free training and support. They really put customers first and that kindof an idea really really focuses the company and helps with marketing. Because,yeah, in Tech, in the tech industry, what people buy, alot of it depends on what their peers are saying. You can invest inadd you can invest in analysts relations,...

...you can invest in PR and,you know, everyone my background is and PR and have a lot of experienceof journalism and the way that things are right now, it's hard for evengood reporters to write about the things that they want to write about, andso what happened is people are just so skeptical about marketing materials or or evenarticles, and even some of them don't even listen to industry analyst. Yeah, what who? You know that they'll always listen to is their peers andother customers, because they know the challenges that you're facing. And what betterway to validate a tool? You know, when you think of if you're goingto buy something, how do you figure out what you're going to buy? You go on the product, on the website, maybe, but doyou look at reviews? Reviews are very powerful. Completely. Yeah, reviewsare very, very important. Mean this is almost like bring your betc wayof buying into the BB wall. So that makes perfect sense. But mynext question for you is around using references as part of the of the cellsprocess, and I must admit that sometimes I get a little bit frustrated becauseI would have someone in my cells team coming to me and as king tospeak to one of our clients, for people will only just add one coluies. We've not even they don't even know. You know, what's the what's thecoastal? What's the we don't even have a business case in place,but they already want to speak to customers to try to on those on disbience in working with us. And my feeling is that it's far too allin the cells process because if you do so, in a sense you almostuse your clients as a cells tool and unfortunately I'd like to believe that ourclients have a day job to attend and can just be on reference calls,for for Paratys, on us a business. But I'd like to get your opinionand and based on your experience, and great news with you that you'vedone it with very large organizations, will organization, and now for our startups. So you've got that kind of three hundred and sixty view. Butin which part of the cell cycles do you believe it is the best toget a prospect in front of a client? And also, the second part ofthe question is, do you think the client should be briefed before andas to what they should say or you know, how do you prepare yourcustom Oh, you should. You just actually had prepare them and let themspeak completely naturally about the expense of working with you. Yeah, so thegreat question. I'm all about prep being my personality T I've been running marketing. Anything I can control or prepare I will, I will do. Butyou know, there's a couple of things there that I would adjust. Sofirst of all, when you interview the customer and saying like you harvest themfor information, you find out what they can or cannot do and then youkind of hear it depending on what they're comfortable with doing, and you wantto tailor how you use them to what their availability and willingness is. Somaybe you have a customer at an amazing...

...brand name cut company and you gotyour you were able to you know, because customer references are priority, youwere 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 areference, but it's a top level person who has limited time and you wantto use their time wisely. So you definitely as great as it is tohave them as a reference, there's no way you're going to have them takingindividual sales calls like it just doesn't make any sense. So that's where somethinglike getting them to talk to a reporter who covers customer case studies and andthere are reporters who just write customer feature stories, connect them with a reporter, because then you have a third party interview of your customer. You canget a reprint or you can point people to it and there there's your customerreference without having to pick up the phone and waste waste your client time.You can also if if you can't do the public relations and with public relationsyou can either do it through tech pubs, business pubs, but there's also alot of vertical industries pubs who will pick up customer case studies, whichis valuable to because if it's a big name and the healthcare industry. There'shealthcare publications who are looking for customer stories of how they're using technology. Soand people read those, but also you can. That's an easy way toshare their the reference story with so you know, PR is always if they'lldo interview with a reporter. That's always highest priority to me. If youcan't get pr just write a case study and use that and and again usethose in marketing. When you get approval for the case study, make sureyou're getting it. You get mileage out of it. So when you getthe approval for the case study, ask for approval, for approval of thecase study and tell them you know you get to approve it, so youshould be comfortable with it and feel free to make any changes. Make surethat you're comfortable with everything in this case study and is it approved for useon our website and in marketing materials. Then you can pull it for useand press releases for data sheets as a pull quote. So again that's thishelps the sales people present package sales reference materials that client has already approved.You've written. So getting you have, you know, the most control overit. Now in terms of oneonone sales calls. You want to be carefulbecause this is this is a problem I've seen a lot when the reference programis run out of the sales team is they're mostly connecting people for sales referencecalls. Yeah, every once in a while they'll feel the marketing a marketingrequest, and it's those a little bit in reverse of what I'm saying.Happens when marketing really owns the program. So when the sales team, whenthe sales person in the sales 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 you're say, saving thesales references in the one on one calls to be not needed as much,and then I would I would absolutely do it later in the sales process.And then also when you're managing the customer Reference Program or Managing Marketing, you'realways concerned. You should always have that concern or understanding of what are youryou want to make an impact on the organization, so you want to findout what are the challenges of selling your technology? What are the sales peoplefacing, because they only need the references. It's the marketing and content and everything. You know, they're kind of they're kind of, I don't wantto say lazy, being lazy, but they know how powerful the customers areand selling the product. So it's like a shortcut, whereas if you understandthe the challenges of selling the product and you're doing all the right things toprovide information for those challenges that they're facing, whether it's competitor pressure, if it'spricing pressure, you know, that's how you're adjusting your marketing. So, like if they're running into problems selling at the price that you want themto pay, for example, when they're having hard time selling for value orcompetitors seem to be undercutting price, then you're going to market for to showthe value of your product, for example. And then the same thing with customerreferences is you're going to hunt for those references or your you know,when you do the interviews, you're going to ask them the questions to seehow they feel about the biggest challenges. So if it's a top competitor you'refacing, then you ask a lot of questions to the customer references, theclient to say who 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 goodabout talking about that and then that way it's very strategic. When they're pulledin to talk to prospect you know, you know exactly what they're going tosay, you know they're good at talking about certain subjects and they can reallyagain close, they can help you close the deal. But I would,I would absolutely do it later and then try, you know, if theyare pulling having to pull them in too early. It's almost the sign ofwhile we need better marketing materials and can't things that we can use. Itdoes make sense and I think prospects totally understand that. If you say,we have amazing references that I can connect you with, so let me showyou some case studies first, because we're trying to be mindful of their time. But totally makes sense. Yeah, I agree with you. So askquestion is around the the concept of breeding low your fund based and building acommunity. I believe that they are very close to each other. What we'vebeen speaking about is more wrong, you know, the one to one relationshipbetween you know and user being your reference as a vendor. But what I'mtalking more about from the question is more on the building up a community.I'll drive a community into being a loyal advocates for your brands. So Iguess that's my question. Do you I'll...

...do you drive a community into beinga loyal advocate of your brands? Yeah, so when you when you have acommunity, it's an interesting thing to think about building because you have tobe very comfortable about what your customers will say. So because you're basically lettingthem loose to talk amongst themselves. So that's where the importance of building therelationship comes in and and building a really strong relationship. And whenever you communicatewith a customer, it's about making them feel like you want to be apartner to them and ensure the success of their project versus just I want tosell you this or close this transaction because I need to make my revenue goals. There's a there's a big difference and feeling that culture of we're partnering withyou to help you, or we want to be a cheerleader for you andyour career. And if you have that kind of if you built that kindof relationship trust. You've been able to help them with issues they've been having. Then building a community is amazing because you have, you have some fanswho are excited about your tech. You've helped them. They feel like they'vebeen involved in your company. Maybe you've given them some in exchange for beinga reference. Maybe you've given them advanced notice of a product release so theycould play around with it and they've given you feedback and you taken that feedback. That's the kind of stuff that really makes them feel involved in your companysuccess and as your company success grows, they want to be a part ofit and they want they want to be almost like a part of your company, and that's that's the ideal mindset to use for a community and and tobuild that demand where people want to be in your community. So at themwhere we built that. We built our community and my qualities. We builta community and you know, people want it to be in those group andtalking to each other about the prop how they're using the product, sharing bestpractices. Every once in a while they might have an issue and discuss itamong themselves, but you know, we would watch, we keep an eyeon it. And take the feedback and and also right back to them tosay that we're aware of the issue and we're working on it. And itjust you know, in the tech industry everything's very transparent, so you don'twant to have to censor things because you you want to do the best foryour clients and and it's only goodness for your product to kind of open thatup, and you know you can. There's a lot of value in thatto let them talk about talk amongst themselves, and especially in the security industry it'sextremely valuable, like I said, because tech, technical people, theydon't want to listen to marketing people. They don't want marketing fluff, theyjust want information and and they don't have a lot of time because they're busy. So they want to cut straight to information that's useful to them and havinga way to get to that through piers...

...is is helpful to them. Andwhen when you have the kind of company where people are excited about using theproducts and take technology is you can open that channel where they can communicate.And then with security people they're even usually more skeptical than just technical people becausethey don't they're not always as anxious to share their tips and they don't alwayswant to speak publicly about using certain tools because sometimes if you brag about howgreat your security is, they feel like they get a target on their backs. Is a very practical reason for security people to have that personality type.But you know, going in and talking to peers is a way that theygives you a lot of credibility in your industry. It shows that you wantto move the industry forward and those are all good things that help your companyin your brand and sale, because you can say look, you know,we're not trying to hide anything. We have all of this great stuff goingon and you can and see how happy our customers are. Are Doing,and this isn't really monitored by us. We're just opening a channel for communication. That's true. Yes, while we're coming to the end of the podcastwith thank you very much for your incitementing that I was very, very usefuland the really appreciate or the or the exam poured to eat their wall stories. That's you share with us today and I think about audience will feel thesame now if anyone wants to connect with you to La Lam more about armorblog. So I'll just take that conversation of flying with you. What isthe best way to get to hold of Human Indow? Sure, so.We're a newer company, but we're rapidly adding more info and concept to ourwebsite. So you can check us out at www dotcom bloxcom. So it'sarmor and then blocks with an act, and then you can also feel freeto drop me a line at Mt Armor Bloxcom, which is from all IndotArmor Bloxcom, or I'm also on Linkedin. Okay, that's one's wonderful. Well, once again with Indus. Thank you very much for today. Itwas great to have you on the show. Thank you so much. operatics hasredefined the meaning of revenue generation for technology companies worldwide. While the traditionalconcepts of building and managing inside sales teams inhouse has existed for many years,companies are struggling with a lack of focus, agility and scale required in today's fastand complex world of enterprise technology sales. See How operatics can help your companyaccelerate pipeline at operatics dotnet. You've been listening to be tob revenue acceleration. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show inyour favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (120)