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 revenue acceleration, a podcast dedicated to helping software executives stay on the cutting edge of sales 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 and I'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 much for having me. That's a pleasure. So the topic for today's episode is is about Customer Reference Seas and how to build a loyal fund base that goes 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 More blocks to audience? Sure. So, I'M DPA marketing at a company called Armor Block, where Cyber Security Company, and we launched out of self mode back in February. We're the first company to apply natural language understanding, or Nlu, to cyber security, and Nolu is a type of natural language processing or machine learning technology that you use when you use things like Alexa or Chat Bot, and it's used to understand communications. So a company, when people are communicating across different channel, email, sharing documents, flack chat, the security tools whack understanding of the textual communications and hackers are taking advantage and attacking through those communications channels. So we're the first to apply and Lu to cyber security 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 personal information. So it's an exciting time for us because there's a lot of interest in 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 to get through other security tools, and the reason why is because we've lacked a way to analyze and understand human communications and a meaningful way to protect against these attacks. It sounds like Alma Mbo blocks got to a great future out of it. So it's it's wonderful. Thank you very much for that. Meninda getting into the topic now. We all know that there is nothing better than having our customers advocating for brands okay. Often it's it's natural movement. These are like the service or the product that you're offering and and that's the reason why 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 influence in increasing the loyalty of the fund base. Could you please show his audience how you 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 and realize the 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 very focused on customer references and really cultivating deep customer relationship. So I work in the early days at vmwhere, and I was really lucky because they wanted to build a customer reference program and at that time they had a workstation products which was a consumer or PC product that you know people people understood the value because they were technical people who were raving about it because you can run multiple operating systems on a computer and it was saving them from having multiple computers or or extra equipment to test their software. So they were super excited about it. And at them where they were starting to move to server products, which, you know, moving to selling to the enterprise is a much different story and they recognize the value of having customer references and moving to the enterprise, selling into the enterprise. So I got that job. I had a marketing background, a PR background and hadn't run a customer reference program before, but had been at companies like hyperions and other startup companies who had customer reference people, usually as part of the sales teams, and had interacted with them enough to know, well, if I go to BMWHERE and run this program, then I know exactly what to do because I can talk to the customers, I can harvest them for data, I can get the information out of them, I can learn. It's a also really great way to learn about the technology is through for anybody, whether whether what, no matter what department you are in a company, when you interview customers, you find out about how they're using the products and what's interesting and exciting about them using those products. So at them, where we built the customer reference program, we got to really see it take off and you know, it just shows the value of having that loyal fan base and when you think of them where a lot of that momentum came from, that fan base going to bat for them and you know when you 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 happy customer, have their sales team know to contact you so that you can get the information on their stories. So all they have to do, and you know sometimes sales people they try to kind of hoard references for their own use so that other people don't get to use them. If you have the executive sign off at the company to tell them we really value customer references, you have to share them. It's for the good of the team. You get access to the very best customer references. We have a really good person managing the reference program then you can get those customer references and manage it so that you are controlling how you're using those happy...

...references. So when you talk to them, you find out what they can and can't do. You interview them about 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. So at 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 by that time you learn about what they'll say and if they're going to say anything negative, and from that you can kind of Parse it out into different ways that you can harvest that information for every little nugget. So you know at BM where we published a QA or your transcript of the interview and we'd email the summary to every person in the company with a headline of before and after information about their Roi. An excerpt of their best quote, and it was labeled for Inter internal use only. But engineers, product managers, everybody got value out of knowing those customer stories. So yeah, and Diane Green, the CEO, you know that was really important to her. So that was an 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. And then, 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 focuses their work and helps give them ideas for for a product. It focuses your branding and messaging. You can pull out consistent things for messaging and branding and of course you get to work on map marketing assets and get the customers really willing 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 double edge world in a positive way, while you can not only use that fun base 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's kind of a Internet and extello communication tool that desolutely and I think that that makes not make sense. HMM. And it's also you're really building the relationship with your customers. So you know, when you when you think about going to a company, one of the things I always do is look for those companies 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 the security industry, when I went to quality the CEO, the first thing he said was customers come first, and that was something always saw. And you know they'd had lavish parties for customers. They had paid for all the user conferences and free training and support. They really put customers first and that kind of an idea really really focuses the company and helps with marketing. Because, yeah, in Tech, in the tech industry, what people buy, a lot of it depends on what their peers are saying. You can invest in add 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 experience of journalism and the way that things are right now, it's hard for even good reporters to write about the things that they want to write about, and so what happened is people are just so skeptical about marketing materials or or even articles, 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 and other customers, because they know 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 you figure out what you're going to buy? You go on the product, on the website, maybe, but do you look at reviews? Reviews are very powerful. Completely. Yeah, reviews are very, very important. Mean this is almost like bring your betc way of buying into the BB wall. So that makes perfect sense. But my next question for you is around using references as part of the of the cells process, and I must admit that sometimes I get a little bit frustrated because I would have someone in my cells team coming to me and as king to speak 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 the coastal? 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 dis bience in working with us. And my feeling is that it's far too all in the cells process because if you do so, in a sense you almost use your clients as a cells tool and unfortunately I'd like to believe that our clients 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 opinion and and based on your experience, and great news with you that you've done it with very large organizations, will organization, and now for our start ups. So you've got that kind of three hundred and sixty view. But in which part of the cell cycles do you believe it is the best to get a prospect in front of a client? And also, the second part of the question is, do you think the client should be briefed before and as to what they should say or you know, how do you prepare your custom Oh, you should. You just actually had prepare them and let them speak completely naturally about the expense of working with you. Yeah, so the great 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. But you know, there's a couple of things there that I would adjust. So first of all, when you interview the customer and saying like you harvest them for information, you find out what they can or cannot do and then you kind of hear it depending on what they're comfortable with doing, and you want to tailor how you use them to what their availability and willingness is. So maybe you have a customer at an amazing...

...brand name cut company and you got your you were able to you know, because customer references are priority, you were able to negotiate so that they would be a public reference for you if they 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 their time 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 calls like it just doesn't make any sense. So that's where something like getting them to talk to a reporter who covers customer case studies and and there 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 can get a reprint or you can point people to it and there there's your customer reference 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 relations you can either do it through tech pubs, business pubs, but there's also a lot of vertical industries pubs who will pick up customer case studies, which is valuable to because if it's a big name and the healthcare industry. There's healthcare publications who are looking for customer stories of how they're using technology. So and people read those, but also you can. That's an easy way to share their the reference story with so you know, PR is always if they'll do interview with a reporter. That's always highest priority to me. If you can't get pr just write a case study and use that and and again use those in marketing. When you get approval for the case study, make sure you're getting it. You get mileage out of it. So when you get the approval for the case study, ask for approval, for approval of the case study and tell them you know you get to approve it, so you should be comfortable with it and feel free to make any changes. Make sure that you're comfortable with everything in this case study and is it approved for use on our website and in marketing materials. Then you can pull it for use and press releases for data sheets as a pull quote. So again that's this helps 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 over it. Now in terms of oneonone sales calls. You want to be careful because this is this is a problem I've seen a lot when the reference program is run out of the sales team is they're mostly connecting people for sales reference calls. Yeah, every once in a while they'll feel the marketing a marketing request, 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, when the sales person in the sales or runs the reference program there's a lot of burnout and that's really frustrating. And so you know, if you get marketing to do their part more on the front...

...end than you're say, saving the sales 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're always concerned. You should always have that concern or understanding of what are your you want to make an impact on the organization, so you want to find out what are the challenges of selling your technology? What are the sales people facing, 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 want to say lazy, being lazy, but they know how powerful the customers are and selling the product. So it's like a shortcut, whereas if you understand the the challenges of selling the product and you're doing all the right things to provide information for those challenges that they're facing, whether it's competitor pressure, if it's pricing 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 them to pay, for example, when they're having hard time selling for value or competitors seem to be undercutting price, then you're going to market for to show the value of your product, for example. And then the same thing with customer references 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 see how they feel about 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 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 good about talking about that and then that way it's very strategic. When they're pulled in to talk to prospect you know, you know exactly what they're going to say, you know they're good at talking about certain subjects and they can really again close, they can help you close the deal. But I would, I would absolutely do it later and then try, you know, if they are pulling having to pull them in too early. It's almost the sign of while we need better marketing materials and can't things that we can use. It does 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 show you some case studies first, because we're trying to be mindful of their time. But totally makes sense. Yeah, I agree with you. So ask question is around the the concept of breeding low your fund based and building a community. I believe that they are very close to each other. What we've been speaking about is more wrong, you know, the one to one relationship between you know and user being your reference as a vendor. But what I'm talking 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 I guess that's my question. Do you I'll...

...do you drive a community into being a loyal advocate of your brands? Yeah, so when you when you have a community, it's an interesting thing to think about building because you have to be very comfortable about what your customers will say. So because you're basically letting them loose to talk amongst themselves. So that's where the importance of building the relationship comes in and and building a really strong relationship. And whenever you communicate with a customer, it's about making them feel like you want to be a partner to them and ensure the success of their project versus just I want to sell 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 with you to help you, or we want to be a cheerleader for you and your career. And if you have that kind of if you built that kind of 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 fans who are excited about your tech. You've helped them. They feel like they've been involved in your company. Maybe you've given them some in exchange for being a reference. Maybe you've given them advanced notice of a product release so they could 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 company success and as your company success grows, they want to be a part of it 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 to build that demand where people want to be in your community. So at them where we built that. We built our community and my qualities. We built a community and you know, people want it to be in those group and talking to each other about the prop how they're using the product, sharing best practices. Every once in a while they might have an issue and discuss it among themselves, but you know, we would watch, we keep an eye on it. And take the feedback and and also right back to them to say that we're aware of the issue and we're working on it. And it just you know, in the tech industry everything's very transparent, so you don't want to have to censor things because you you want to do the best for your clients and and it's only goodness for your product to kind of open that up, and you know you can. There's a lot of value in that to let them talk about talk amongst themselves, and especially in the security industry it's extremely valuable, like I said, because tech, technical people, they don't want to listen to marketing people. They don't want marketing fluff, they just 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 having a way to get to that through piers...

...is is helpful to them. And when when you have the kind of company where people are excited about using the products 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 because they don't they're not always as anxious to share their tips and they don't always want to speak publicly about using certain tools because sometimes if you brag about how great 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 they gives you a lot of credibility in your industry. It shows that you want to move the industry forward and those are all good things that help your company in 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 going on 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 podcast with thank you very much for your incitementing that I was very, very useful and 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 the same now if anyone wants to connect with you to La Lam more about armor blog. So I'll just take that conversation of flying with you. What is the 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 our website. So you can check us out at www dotcom bloxcom. So it's armor and then blocks with an act, and then you can also feel free to drop me a line at Mt Armor Bloxcom, which is from all Indot Armor Bloxcom, or I'm also on Linkedin. Okay, that's one's wonderful. Well, once again with Indus. Thank you very much for today. It was great to have you on the show. Thank you so much. operatics has redefined the meaning of revenue generation for technology companies worldwide. While the traditional concepts 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 fast and complex world of enterprise technology sales. See How operatics can help your company accelerate 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 in your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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