Home Friday Recording #58 Kevin Lau: Q&A Planning 2024

#58 Kevin Lau: Q&A Planning 2024

by Kevin Lau
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In this episode of CMAweekly, the conversation revolved around customer marketing, customer advocacy, and community engagement. Kevin Lau and the guests discussed strategies for increasing customer engagement, driving submissions for customer awards, and planning for customer conferences.

They also touched on the challenges of justifying the ROI of advocacy programs and incorporating them into quarterly plans. The importance of customer success before upselling and cross-selling was emphasized. Overall, the episode provided valuable insights and practical advice for customer-focused marketing professionals.

State of the CMA Industry w/ Kevin Lau

Mary Green [00:03:16]: Yep. I think that’s the world we live in. Yeah. Give people a few minutes to hop on. So from your point of view, how do you think our industry vocation is doing? You think it’s improving? Who was that?

Kevin Lau [00:03:37]: Sorry. The sorry. The question was our industry.

Mary Green [00:03:39]: How do you, Yeah. How do you think it’s doing? Like, this last year has been a bit rough. How do you think we are at the end of the year here going into 2024?

Kevin Lau [00:03:54]: I think, overall, that’s a tough question. Because I think so many, so many industries are getting hit, you know, from layoffs and whatnot. I wish I could say, like, our industry is immune, but it’s not. But I think we’re I think overall, like, I think we’re focusing on the right things, especially as, as companies kinda pull back, and they’re looking at just how did they invest in the not just the customer relationships, but making sure that the customer is successful.

Mary Green [00:04:33]: Yeah. Yep. I agree. I think I’ve seen more job postings recently, so I guess that makes me hopeful for next year. Yeah. And, Yeah. I think companies need the focus on customers. I don’t think they always do well with The hiring aspect of finding the right person to do it or, Even letting that person have the autonomy to do that job. But I think that’s part of the world of SAS. So Or technology, whichever. That’s a good point, Rebecca. Okay. Well, it’s 5 after, so We can go ahead and get started.

Community Engagement Goal for Influitive Hub

Community Engagement Goals for Influitive Hub

Mary Green [00:05:33]:
As you all know, this is Kevin Lau, and he is here to Answer questions on planning for 2024, customer marketing, customer advocacy, all of that fun stuff. And yeah. So we need your questions. Go ahead and throw them in the, the chat or just raise your hand or just pop right on there, And we can get started. Kevin, is there anything you wanna start with or just let them go?

Kevin Lau [00:06:09]:
Yeah. So I don’t don’t have anything, like, prepared since this is really just Q and a, whatever you guys wanna talk about. I I could pull up some examples as it comes up based on, you know, where the conversation goes. But, I would say, you know, we did Just to just to kinda kick off planning, some of you guys may be actively finalizing budgets like this month or rolling out your plans. At f five, our our planning cycle actually started back in in summertime. So we’re we’re actually finishing up q one. So we’ve actually gone through at least 1, almost a full solid quarter. So, you know, we went through that whole process, and There’s moments where it’s stressful, especially when it comes to asking for budget, you know, getting headcounts, stuff like that. So I’m happy to Talk about some experiences there or what else, anything else you guys are thinking about.

Mary Green [00:07:07]:
Great. It looks like no one has any questions and they’re all set for next year’s planning.

Kevin Lau [00:07:13]:
If not, we’ll just wait for an hour.

Jennifer Kreiger [00:07:16]:
I actually have a question. So I’m very new, in fact, someone who ran the hub is actually here on here with us before me. I’m very new and this year, there’s a big focus on engagement. We had huge numbers with engagement last year because, there were some regulatory changes that were happening that our customers really wanted to have information on and really wanted to be connect to be able to connect with each other. So, we really were able to push engagement during those time periods. Obviously after those time periods, we kind of fall back to where we were before that. Do you have any suggestions around, as we build out engagement, they’re looking at maybe 25% year over year increase of engagement, which is a little bit of a stretch, but what are you what are some of the things that, you are all doing, to kinda drive that engagement. We get a lot of people come and they’re they’re a bit passive and maybe reading or checking things out, but, any thoughts around how you build out a plan to really kind of, Drive that engagement throughout the year.

Kevin Lau [00:08:37]:
And when when you use the word engagement, are you referring to, you know, like customer, Like, the community.

Jennifer Kreiger [00:08:43]:
I’m sorry. Customer community. Sorry about that. I’m just thinking about yeah.

Kevin Lau [00:08:47]:
Okay. Yeah. Well, I think it goes back to just kinda like what are like, primarily, what are you trying to solve for and what are the goals behind it? So within community, You know, maybe it’s are you looking for support with more, like, self-service resources for customers to answer questions? Is it to create, like, an on ramp for future advocacy, or maybe it’s all of the above? Is it, like, case deflection? And there’s ways that you can kind of, like, proactively build it, but, I usually like to start with having, like, a clear set of goals and outcomes of what You’re ultimately focused on and then kind of chunk out, do you have the right programs or resources to kind of support it? Or is it just yourself kind of helping to to shepherd that work?

Jennifer Kreiger [00:09:42]:
Yeah. I think I’ll

Mary Green [00:09:43]:
tell you

Kevin Lau [00:09:43]:
you wanna share with us.

Jennifer Kreiger [00:09:45]:
I appreciate that. And I’ve done very similar to what you said, kind of looking at what we’re solving for and trying to, you know, work through that. I think some of it is exactly, just the support, making sure we have the internal support to drive the content and, get the information available to solve those those problems. So, yeah, I appreciate that information. Thank you.

Mary Green [00:10:09]:
Yeah. Julie, did you have anything you wanted to share on that or a different topic?

Julie Neumesiter [00:10:14]:
A different topic. Okay.

Mary Green [00:10:18]:
Go ahead, Kevin. If you have more to answer to Jennifer there, go ahead.

Kevin Lau [00:10:23]:
Yeah. I was just gonna say, You know, with community, I mean, the way some of it is just like organizationally how you structure this within your company to kind of Tell that story of, you know, typically, community is like the first line of defense when it comes to building out your your customer base and getting people to connect with each other. So if you almost think of it sort of like a hierarchy, where community is sort of like that foundational level, where that’s typically the 1st place that a customer goes to to engage and kinda think about, like, you know, tactically and what is in the programs within community to drive that engagement. So what we did, I’ll give you just one example. So early on, like, when we were going through, when I was at Marketo, we had a pretty strong community. We had about, I think 60,60,000, you know, users, and then a subset of those obviously were, like, engaged, and they would participate and Chime in and answer questions. We started to take, you know, the folks that were, We call them, like, you know, champions or the folks that were, the ones that were more active month over month. And we started to give them more specific Ask an opportunities.

Kevin Lau [00:11:41]:
We started to put a more formal program around that. So we created sort of like a charter. We gave them very specific instructions on, you know, how they could be involved. And I think sometimes the customer just needs, more direction. And then we kind of aligned our gamification strategy around how we could fulfill, you know, the ways that would keep the customer wanting to come back and then how to elevate that experience overall. And that became sort of an on ramp for future types of programs outside the community. So, you know, the byproduct of it would be, Customers would then become advocates, and we had this whole program called, you know, Advocate Nation, and it had, essentially, kind of 4 or 5 different tiers. But community was sort of like that foundational piece to get them to do anything else down the road.

Jennifer Kreiger [00:12:31]:
Sarah Yeah. Thanks, Cohn. We’re actually, talking about exactly what you just mentioned. We have a few champions that are in there every day and we’re, we’re gonna showcase them as part of the journey. So, you know, they’re giving us, like, what they feel they’re experts in, and then we’re gonna try to kinda drive customers who have questions to them to, like, kinda at notify them if they have a question. And they’ve been pretty and, like, we have, like, a welcome person who’s gonna help them navigate, around the site. So, yeah, I I It’s good to hear that that that’s worked before because we were kind of thinking about it and and yeah. That’s a a good Confirmation that maybe we’re heading in the right direction.

Jennifer Kreiger [00:13:18]:
Appreciate that info.

Kevin Lau [00:13:19]:
Yeah. That’s awesome. Okay. And I think Mary also has, she’s posted sort of a Couple examples I think within, the broader Slack channel on kinda like frameworks and targeting certain personas and interest levels based on, You know, the type of advocates you have in your community.

Mary Green [00:13:38]:
I did do that. Good point.

Kevin Lau [00:13:41]:

Let’s see. Attention when I try to. I try to pay attention.

Proving ROI of CMA Programs to Demand Gen

Proving ROI of CMA Programs to Demand Gen

Mary Green [00:13:45]:
Let’s see what Julie has to say. Julie, go ahead. Okay.

Julie Neumesiter [00:13:50]:
So, Kevin, thanks so much for doing this. I actually saw this meeting, Mary, yesterday, I think on Slack or something, I was like, this is so perfect because I’m in the middle of the planning exercise for h one. And, My boss is very, very, like you know? He he sees my job almost as customer demand gen, and he wants to find any way possible to directly prove ROI to my role, etcetera. So he’s not big on community, really. He’s not big on retention, at least right now, while we’re in, you know, this this time. So he wants, you know, my plan to reflect, again, anything that will directly tie to ROI. Since I started about year and a half ago, I’ve been talking about this advocacy program, the launch of this advocacy program. It gets it keeps getting pushed, because, again, of my priorities, with, like, upsell campaigns and things like that.

Julie Neumesiter [00:14:46]:
But, I’m in a place right now, and this doesn’t have an opt in where I’m, like, just looking at the plan for each one. And I’m like, I don’t know what to put if I’m I I either need to find something to replace the advocacy program or I need to find a way to justify the ROI of the program. So I wanted to get your thoughts on, You know, what I could potentially do to really create a plan where I can say, like, I’m confident that this is gonna drive revenue for the business.

Kevin Lau [00:15:12]:
Okay. Then I’m so I’m assuming you do you report to, like, a VP of demand? Or

Julie Neumesiter [00:15:19]:
Yeah. Exactly. Okay.

Kevin Lau [00:15:23]:
So over the over the year and a half that you’ve worked at the company, what other types of things have you been, like, focused on?

Julie Neumesiter [00:15:30]:
Lots of webinars, Taylor, to your point, both for product adoption and upsell Themes, lots of email campaigns, and Lots of I’m like, what do I do? In person events. And then I am also, you know, responsible for sourcing customers, developing case studies, testimonials, things like that. So it’s like I need to also incorporate that into my plan because there’s no one else at my company who’s able to do it. But, you know, to be able to do that, then an advocacy program makes sense. So it’s like again, I I don’t know if they realize, like, how much Time and effort it does take to successfully source the right customers and create that camaraderie and thing like things like that. But, yeah, I pretty much cover all aspects of customer marketing.

Kevin Lau [00:16:22]:
Okay. And so he’s really he’s really pushing it towards upsell, cross sell because that you probably have, like, some type of target or number That demand is responsible for, it sounds like.

Julie Neumesiter [00:16:34]:
Yeah. Not a defined number right now, but I do need to I’ve been kind of I do provide metrics every quarter on, like, the percentage of opportunities I’m influencing, so I’m probably gonna set my own target for myself based on past percentages. Yeah.

Kevin Lau [00:16:53]:
Yeah. I mean, if he if he’s coming from, like, a demand perspective I mean, I usually always whenever we have these conversations about Trying to sell, you know, upsell and cross sell solutions. I really try to go back to, in order to even do that well, You have to focus on making sure the customer is successful, and they even see value in your product before you could sell them more stuff. Otherwise, You get into a challenge where sometimes sellers, they just have seeded deals and then, you know, they buy something and then they churn a year from now, and then it just It doesn’t really help anyone, and then you have another problem that you have to solve for.

Julie Neumesiter [00:17:33]:
Yeah. It’s true.

Kevin Lau [00:17:35]:
But, you know, with that being said, you know, I think that’s also where, you Potentially, the folks that you work within, probably support customer success. Or I don’t know if you have, like, a CX function. They can also help give you some air cover on focusing on the right priorities. Like, I think, you know, yes, upsell cross sell is important, but I think There is that, you know, you could still make the case around maybe a percentage of your time focused on of these other things that would help with cross sell and upsell as a byproduct.

Jennifer Kreiger [00:18:07]:
It would be a lot

Kevin Lau [00:18:08]:
about advocacy, but, you could also even do something, I don’t know if you have, like, an account based marketing team. You could almost do account based marketing, you know, focus on specific strategic accounts, And still, incorporate a level of advocacy. You know? Maria mentioned sort of, like, roundtables. Like, that’s a a really good example. Maybe you target The top 200 customers by ARR on a specific vertical or industry, that’s focused on, You know, engaging them and making sure that there’s, you know, you you create that on ramp for them to become, You know, likely candidates for purchasing more products from you. There’s a there’s a level of advocacy that goes into it as well as event planning, and, you know, to some degree, I think even retention because you’re making sure that those top customers are happy, they’re successful, You know, and they they wanna stay with you.

Julie Neumesiter [00:19:06]:
Those are all really good ideas. Thank you. And thank you for the ideas in the chat as well. Yeah. And I really liked what you said about initiatives that support upsellcross sell as a byproduct because Yeah. I’m very sensitive to not coming off sales y. That’s not all the content that customers wanna see. You know? They wanna get value otherwise, and there’s no other function at my company who does customer communications.

Julie Neumesiter [00:19:33]:
So it’s really all me. So, yeah, I think, you know, it’s fair to argue I need to put a certain amount of time towards retention based activities, you know, and providing value without asking for more money.

Kevin Lau [00:19:48]:
Yeah. I mean, do you does your are you also responsible for, like, developing nurtures and Yeah. Because you could You know, there’s programs you could build that would serve probably serve multiple purposes. You know, if you’re if you go back to the example of just, Doing something from, like, an account based marketing standpoint. You’re targeting, let’s say, a small cohort of, you know, 200, 250 accounts, in your promotional type of communications, you know, whether it’s an invitation to webinar or an event or something, You can kinda build in sort of that surprise and delight, and even, like, a separate list of those people that raise their hands saying that they’re interested. You can build a relationship with those folks, and you could do that through, a nurture sequence of some kind that still helps, you know, build your foundation as well serving, you know, some of the things that your your boss wants too.

Julie Neumesiter [00:20:50]:
By nurture sequence, do you mean, like, something in HubSpot or, like, Come like, coming from the quote unquote or from the account managers.

Kevin Lau [00:20:58]:
Yeah. Like, it

Julie Neumesiter [00:20:59]:
or turns you out.

Kevin Lau [00:21:00]:
So sequence and, yeah, HubSpot, if that’s what that’s what you guys use. Also, I think that you could, depending if the communication comes from you or the account team or a CS team, They could also help you, sort of promote some of these programs, down the road too. But it does sound like you’re doing a live by yourself.

Julie Neumesiter [00:21:27]:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s like I kinda have to prioritize Like, one thing I was thinking of is is proposing well, I can’t really propose to take anything out, but I I’m gonna say, like, these are the areas I really want to focus on, and these other areas are gonna be deprioritized and set the right expectations because it’s like I can’t do everything. One question, and then I wanna let, other people ask questions too. You mentioned a surprise and delight as part of the nurture. What did you mean by that exactly?

Kevin Lau [00:22:00]:
Well, it could be just you know, It could be invitations to, like, other types of initiatives. I mean, you could give away swag and incentives like that, but It could also be an on ramp to, you know, joining your if you have a community and other touch points. So it’s sort of almost like a resource guide or self-service resources that could pit you could pitch, that would be helpful from an advocacy standpoint or retention standpoint. I don’t know if you guys also use, you know, things like Influtive or other technologies within your tech stack.

Julie Neumesiter [00:22:34]:
Yeah. We do have SlapFive. I chose to invest in it earlier this year, but I haven’t really had the bandwidth to get as much value out of it as we potentially could be. So that’s another aspect as well. I need to decide, like, do we continue to invest in this tool, and really try to make it work, or do we just give up on it?

Kevin Lau [00:22:55]:

Julie Neumesiter [00:22:56]:
Yeah. I was like and I’m sure other people have been in this, same situation. Like, I’ve I was evaluating, do I have is this gonna make my life easier, or is it just gonna make it more difficult with having to, like, administer a platform and implement it and set everything up? So, yeah, I haven’t really it’s been, like, hanging over my head for a while now. I’m like, what do I do with this? But, yeah, unfortunately, it does not really offer that community It’s more like getting the customer voice type of,

Kevin Lau [00:23:23]:
platform. Have you tried to make the case for, You’re asking for headcount or a contractor or someone to help you even on a part time basis?

Julie Neumesiter [00:23:38]:
It’s not really feasible right now at our company, unfortunately. But yeah. I mean, I think I need a position like, hey. If you want me to do all this, then we need Another body, if you’re if you’re expecting, you know, to

Mary Green [00:23:53]:

Julie Neumesiter [00:23:53]:
For me to go full throttle in every direction. But, Yeah. I I’ve tried to bring it up in the past, but I kind of told my manager like, oh, I really need another person, but I know that’s not gonna happen right now. And he’s like, yeah. Yeah. It won’t. So

Kevin Lau [00:24:06]:
Yeah. And I I think that’s totally fair to push back on the workload too so that you’re not getting burnt down in your ass in your Boss is just kind of expecting you to do a 120%, if you’re not capable of doing so. And I think that’s also a challenge when you’re a team of 1. If you do everything, then they kind of just assume that you’re capable and you don’t need any other help and support. But then if you’d start to push off saying, you know, this is where you can go. If we did have additional resources, this is kind of, you know, your vision of where you wanna grow the team. It starts to unlock once you start having those conversations with not just your boss, but some of the peers that they interact with to kind of make that case.

Julie Neumesiter [00:24:48]:
Yeah. For sure. Well, thank you. Yeah. I’m definitely gonna think about, leveraging both in person and virtual events, as a big part of the plan, and I think, Yeah. This benefits prospects and customers as well. So, yeah, I wanna I wanna, let Give other people the opportunity to ask questions too. But thank you, Kevin.

Julie Neumesiter [00:25:11]:
I appreciate it.

Kevin Lau [00:25:12]:
Yeah. No worries.

Conference & Expansion Opportunities

Conference & Expansion Opportunities

Mary Green [00:25:26]:
Okay. Alright. Rebecca Grossman, you had posted a question about Customer conferences and

Rebecca Grossman [00:25:36]:
Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Mary Green [00:25:37]:
Could you would you mind sharing that?

Rebecca Grossman [00:25:41]:
Yes. I would love to share that. I don’t I guess it’s my camera. Okay. So, hi, everyone. I’m Rebecca. I head up customer marketing at Chargebee. Just wanna say so much respect for everyone that has these 1 person teams.

Rebecca Grossman [00:25:55]:
I have 5 people on my team. 1 of them does social but I’ve got Three people on advocacy, 1 person on life cycle, and I’m actually campaigning for another person on life cycle. So, I really think that we need to do I mean, it’s hard to not blame anyone Not doesn’t have bigger teams but but we need to, really advocate for that. I will say we also own our customer conference which is a huge, huge part of what we’re doing. This is the first one we’re doing, and one of the the head of, to these expansion work said to us, What can we do on-site with our customer conference to drive leads for expansion? So I had posted that in the community, but if Kevin or anybody else has ideas. Would love to hear any experiences that you all have had around that. We’ve got a few hundred. Ideally, we just open registration.

Rebecca Grossman [00:26:43]:
We’ll have a few 100 people, a few hundred of our customers there. And, yeah, just trying to make sure we maximize expansion opportunities.

Kevin Lau [00:26:53]:
Assuming you guys already have plans for, like do you have like a, Like, a showroom floor, like a community pavilion of some kind with, like, booths and vendors and all that kind of stuff.

Rebecca Grossman [00:27:04]:
We do.

Rebecca Grossman [00:27:05]:
I mean, it’s always interesting. Like, we’re planning on having we’ll figure out the name of, like, like, a more technical genius bar, and then we’ll have some partner sponsors. We don’t really have a space for us to promote our own. It’s not fair, so that’s an interesting thought.

Kevin Lau [00:27:21]:
One thing One thing that we did, we had, we also used to do, you know, like a genius bar where we had like, you know, almost like ask the experts, Any question? Customer can come up. We would have all of our, you know, all of our champions that would, speak in a breakout session. After their breakout session, they would then tell people, hey. Go to my booth or go to the our community booth within the pavilion. And, they’ll help answer additional questions about the product and solutions, and then they would be paired up with a, like a PM or a solutions consultant to kind of, help facilitate that conversation. So it wasn’t like a hard sell. It’s really just like, If someone that was new using the product or they were evaluating it, they could talk to a peer, but then, the accountant would also be available to, to take that intake as well and follow-up with that customer afterwards. The other thing that we did, I think from, like I guess this would serve sort of like a cross sell situation.

Kevin Lau [00:28:28]:
So I don’t know if you you you guys may have multiple products or multiple solutions as well. We would have panels and panel discussions whether it was on main stage or in breakouts where, for example, we would have 4 or 5 different customers from different product lines talk to, talk on a panel together on sort of, like, what is the value add? In this case, it was like, of the Adobe Experience Platform, which was essentially kind of 4 or 5 different solutions. And each of these customers had an experience, you know, being part of our advocacy programs. You know, they were user group members and other things. And so they would talk about just how, each of their solutions help supports the business, in a in a bigger in a bit bigger, capacity. So one was from, like, marketing automation, 1 was from analytics, 1 was for, a web a web solution. And so that created sort of like that, opportunity where people can kinda think about it just beyond not just the solution that they’re using, but if they had to think about Future state, from a digital transformation effort. That’s kinda what we were selling.

Kevin Lau [00:29:41]:
They could talk to those, you know, those experts in a, you know, in 1 session. And then we would also have a sort of like a Genius Bar as well. And then we would then pitch the idea of like, you know, Hey, we have this community. You can you can have more access to that, talk to other experts, and we have more details on how the solutions work and whatnot. So it wasn’t like a hard sell.

Mary Green [00:30:05]:
One thing I just saw, and I see Daniel has his hand up. When you were saying that, I’m curious if you’ve done this or anyone else has done this, is I wonder if like on and then you can put so much information on the badges but I wonder if almost like listing the products that each person has on their badge and then other people can see, like, oh, you have this other product. Like, tell me about it. Or, oh, I didn’t realize it’s worth we offered that. I’m not sure.

Kevin Lau [00:30:28]:
Yeah. The badges work, we used to do, like, little pins that people would have. Yeah. They could put it on their their jackets or whatever. So that could be, yeah, another way to kind of facilitate conversation. Or if you have, like, a a networking event, like a VIP reception of some kind, It would help kind of self identify what what products are using.

Mary Green [00:30:52]:
Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Green [00:30:55]:
Daniel, what do you think?

Daniel Palay [00:30:56]:
Yeah, I, a couple things on my end. 1, we, it’s a blessing and a curse, but traditionally we’ve done conference driven development, which means we often have, sort of beta and or alpha, products projects that we announce at conferences That we then say, hey, would you like to be part of our private beta or private alpha? And we have a giant QR code that we just put up there that we talk about during our own Our internal talks. Right? The the talks that are given by our engineers and like, hey, we want some feedback. Here’s something really cool that we’ve been doing. Sign up and you’ll get access to it. Right? You can be the 1st line of, defense is not the right time, but the first line of feedback that we get. And then it doesn’t sound like you’re selling to them. You’re you’re, we you are getting them involved early on, and you get a lot of people who wanna, you know, provide feedback and and provide that sort of access.

Daniel Palay [00:31:53]:
On the on the flip side, the the thing you just mentioned about, stickers. We don’t do it with, our external, the the attendees, but we do it with the people who are there from our team. Like, these are the experts on this product. These are the experts on that product. And it works especially well when you have that genius bar. We have we call it the Ask the Experts booth. And so when you go up there and you have a specific question, you can see like this is the person that I should talk to. Or even more, there’s gonna be a bunch of people at your own company that don’t know what other people are experts in.

Daniel Palay [00:32:22]:
And so when somebody comes up to them and says, hey. I have a question. And they don’t know. They can be like, talk to this person because they are that expert.

Mary Green [00:32:31]:
Yeah. Alright, Erin. This is worth the cost of admission. It’s amazing. Thank you, Dan. Sorry, Dan. I didn’t mean to cut you off.

Daniel Palay [00:32:39]:
I know you’re not. I was all done.

Mary Green [00:32:43]:
That that is that’s so brilliant. Those little details. Thank you so much.

Kevin Lau [00:32:46]:

Submissions & Branding for Customer Awards

Submissions & Branding for Customer Awards

Mary Green [00:32:49]:
Yeah. Thank you, Daniel. Okay. Who’s next for a question for Kevin? Do we have any in chat?

Taylor [00:33:07]:
Okay. Thank you. Thanks Mary for setting this up, and hi, Kevin. I’ve been a fan for a long time. And hey, everyone. I’m Taylor. So I am a customer marketing manager at Clio. So I look after our customer community and our customer awards program.

Taylor [00:33:24]:
So, Kevin, I wanted to ask you about your experience with the Adobe customer awards. I always a big fan of the branding that you did for that. And I wanted to see if you had any recommendations on just how to get more submissions for those awards?

Kevin Lau [00:33:45]:
Good question. I think Daniel has he he probably could add some stuff too since I know you guys had your awards program recently. Whatever the whatever the case is, I think it’s People always like to procrastinate into, like, the last minute. And I think in the past, when we used to run the awards program, we always would have Probably 85% or more of the submissions that would came, like, literally in the last week.

Kevin Lau [00:34:13]:
And it would just, It was like a hockey stick moment, and it just it created so much, stress and anxiety, but that was that was always the case. It would come in at the last minute. But, to answer your question about like promotional channels. Actually, probably 70% of our submissions actually came from our partner ecosystem, as opposed to, you know, roughly about 30% directly from the customer or from, you know, the account teams and the reps. So what we used to do, as sort of an incentive to the partner ecosystem was that We didn’t do any SPIFFs for them, but we would give them, some recognition when it came to actually announcing the awards. So In the past, when we used to do it virtually, we would say, you know, hey. If you submitted this this customer, You would get your logo, you know, flash on the screen. You know, we did this, virtually at, on a LinkedIn live.

Kevin Lau [00:35:13]:
And so they get some, like, free press and some free visibility. We would also do things like press releases and blogs to kinda highlight the partner, Just to kinda add that additional, you know, carrot on top. So that that was some of the things that we did with partners. I think with the account teams, we would also incentivize them through a spiff. So we would have a tiered process a process. One if that if the customer became a finalist, the CSM would get I think it was, like, maybe $500 at the time, as an incentive. And then if that customer ended up winning an award, they would get an additional it was, like, 1500. So they can make about $2,000 for that 1 customer if they want a category.

Kevin Lau [00:36:01]:
If they want multiple categories, then that would be like a multiplier effect. And we would also do leaderboards. Like, I think that actually became, a way to kinda just make it more competitive. So we used to, have the different regions compete with each other for who drove the most submissions, and then we would escalate that. Escalate is not the right word, but we would Drive that to the visibility of the senior leadership teams. So folks that were the presence of the regions or, the sales leaders, etcetera. We would send out an executive com, you know, once a week that said, you know, here’s the state of the state when it came to the awards. And that actually helped kind of boost, submissions too because it put that, like, additional pressure, to drive some of those, submissions from each of the territories.

Taylor [00:36:55]:
Cool. That’s a great idea from the Like, we don’t really work with our sales team or our cross sell sales team for submissions, but for our CSMs, for our bigger accounts, That’s an awesome idea about the spiffs and the executive comps. Because for us, like, mean, I’m obsessed with our customer awards. I love it. I love reading the stories. I’m not too worried about the quality of submissions. Quality is actually very strong. It’s just Every year, we’ve seen the same amount of submissions, but new ones.

Taylor [00:37:26]:
Like, we just haven’t seen that massive growth, over the years even though they’re Good submission. So it’s it’s I just, like, want more exposure, for the program in general, just to kinda create more of, like, a brand around it.

Kevin Lau [00:37:43]:
Do you, for the winners, do you have, like, a is there a way that you can, like, highlight highlight them after the awards program is over? Do you do, like, a roadshow? Do you Do you like interviews or podcasts or anything to kind of promote the net the following year?

Taylor [00:38:02]:
Yeah. We I think I can do a better job of showcasing them after the awards, but pretty much they get an amazing prize package. Like, we have 7 winners. I fly out to wherever they are in North America and meet them, and we shoot a promotional video of their story. They get professional head Headshots like a really good marketing package, and then we fly them out to our customer conference wherever that is, in the US. And then we, Like, put their face everywhere. They sit on our customer panels. We do like a formal ceremony with our CEO.

Taylor [00:38:35]:
So they get a lot of exposure, and it’s a great package. But I think I could do a better job of, like, showcasing What people win? Because a lot of times people are surprised and like, woah, that’s the package that I won. That’s amazing. Like, that’s not the driver for them to submit an application or submission. And when they find out the prize package to them, that’s like the bonus. So I think I could do a better job of being like, this is what you could win, in that Experience.

Kevin Lau [00:39:05]:
I think, yeah, I think you’re you’re doing all the right things. Like, one thing if you want to do it as an add on For folks that have won, won an award, or even the people that might be finalists, you could have them do a, You know, video or write up on what was their experience like to actually develop their application? Because I think sometimes there’s a fear of just how much Time and effort goes into it. And if they don’t win, then it’s like, they feel like, you know, it’s all for naught.

Mary Green [00:39:34]:
Right. So

Kevin Lau [00:39:35]:
we used to actually have some of our advocates Start to submit the applications, and the ones that won, we would do, like, an interview with them, you know, how to make a award winning application and what that experience was like and what what level detail are we expecting. And we also used to have office hours with our Internal team because I think one of the pushbacks we used to have was that it’s a big time suck. Right? Like, if, if the customer had to do it because, like, our application would take probably, it was it’s fairly detailed. It was, like, I wanna say 20 something questions, really diving into not just the contact details, but the actual use case. And it was a very stringent process before we would actually select someone as a finalist. Okay. And then we had a criteria on the back end where We would have a matrix where, we would have to look at sort of the ranking on a score of 5 across different spectrums. You know, Alright.

Kevin Lau [00:40:36]:
Is there is there a revenue impact? Is there product utilization? What solutions are they using? All that kind of stuff to warrant them being a potential finalist. Then all the finalists would then go up for a review committee to select the winner. And so I think just maybe making it, You know, maybe some having some of your your winners, like, highlight what the process was might be helpful. Yeah. That is great. Wedding night.

Mary Green [00:41:04]:
Okay. I know what you’re asking. Oh, sorry.

Mary Green [00:41:07]:
Oh, I saw that Alexi and Daniel both seem to have something to add if either of you wanna jump in or if somebody else has another question.

Daniel Palay [00:41:21]:
Yeah. I can I can definitely jump in because, yes, Kevin, I have I have thoughts because we kinda just went through it? 2 things, Taylor. 1, If there’s any way your awards program involves or could involve governmental clients, they are a gold mine to apply to any awards program. They love to be able to, show they can’t accept a lot of winnings, but, the thing that it allows them to do, speaking of budget is showcase to the people that give them budget that they are important. And, you have never met a more competitive group of professionals than you have have, interagency people that are trying to beat out other people in the government. And even more than that, if your if your, awards program involves people in the military, Like, they will go all out to be like, we are the better, branch of the military when it comes to to technology. I the 2nd part I had oh, when it comes to, how to get, or how to showcase what people win, we we fly people out to to, you know, accept their awards. But they get more excited about being in the place where the like, The people who created our software are.

Daniel Palay [00:42:33]:
So as opposed to just saying, like, you’re gonna fly out to be at this event and get your award. No. You’re gonna be there with the founders of our company or the creator of the software that you are being awarded. Like, you get to stand and and talk with him and hang out with him for, you know, hours upon hours. So find that, like, the people who are applying, find the nerdy thing that would get them to Kevin’s point. Like, it’s a it’s a long process. Like, what’s the thing that would, you know, speak to them as humans as opposed to, oh, cool. I get a trip.

Daniel Palay [00:43:00]:
But, no, what do I get out of it?

Taylor [00:43:03]:
Yeah. That’s a great call out. Quick question, like and if anyone wants to jump in because I’m, like, very on the fence on adding this in, and I know I’m taking a lot of time. Because our applications, they have to do, like, a pretty strong application as well. I was like, should I hint, like, that they could use chat g p t to make their application stronger? Or I’m like, is that dangerous to, like, to, like, mention that people can use as a tool? Because right now, like, I I work with lawyers. Like, a lot of them are good writers and, like, that’s obviously what makes submission stand out Truly if they’re a strong writer and they’re good at storytelling. So I’m like, is that dangerous to kind of feel like if you don’t have time put in All of your ideas into Chad GPT. What do people think?

Rebecca Grossman [00:43:48]:
One idea, Taylor, and I can put the link in. I forget exactly what words we use. We say something like, Doesn’t have to be perfect. Just tell us what the idea is and we’ll work with you. Like we don’t expect people to send us a beautifully written story. We just want them to share some ideas. So so I don’t I don’t know if if you need something, like, so amazingly well written or or if it just needs to be some information and and some basics, like, what do you actually need for the submission? When you publish it, you’re gonna, you know, make it better.

Taylor [00:44:20]:
Yeah. That’s a good comment.

Kevin Lau [00:44:23]:
One thing that might help too just to overcome sort of the the obstacle of just getting them to submit. Just having an example of a anonymized application

Mary Green [00:44:34]:

Kevin Lau [00:44:34]:
Post that on your landing page or your website. We did do that, in the past just so that people had an example of what is what is, you know, the basic expectation there. And you’ll you’ll get some versions that just you know, you could tell people didn’t put much time or effort into it and people who go above and beyond. But I think just sometimes having a Example, just to so they can reference would be would be useful.

Taylor [00:45:02]:
Yeah. I love that idea. Okay. Thanks so much everyone. This has been really helpful.

Kevin Lau [00:45:07]:

Mary Green [00:45:13]:
Okay. Who’s got another question? If you place 1 in chat, I probably can’t see it because I had to get in the car. Yes. I know. Not the greatest host experience. Sorry, Kevin. Oh,

Kevin Lau [00:45:32]:
I guess while we’re waiting to one of the things I’ll just add on, tailored to your question too, is for some of our customers, when it came to executives. I don’t know if you have an executive category. We actually would have so we we worked with Big Sky and, as an agency that helped us with some of the, number 1, reviewing of stories or reviewing of applications, but but also helping with submissions. So we would do this in a, not every situation, but for an executive audience where maybe they just didn’t have the time to do this, We would actually give this up as a service. So if the customer would rather talk to someone about their submission, we would have Big Sky actually be available on the phone to capture the insights and do the writing of the submission. And we would have that customer review it before it was submitted. I would obviously went off that to everyone. But in some particular cases, you know, if it’s a certain logo you want them to submit, and And this doesn’t mean that they’re gonna be guaranteed any spot in winning by any by any means.

Kevin Lau [00:46:36]:
It’s just to help them with their application process.

Taylor [00:46:39]:
Yeah. That’s a great idea for our bigger our bigger clients and customers.

Sharing Program Value Internally

Sharing Program Value Internally

Mary Green [00:46:46]:
Thank you. That’s awesome. Kevin, my question is so I’ve seen a lot of customer marketers start to really focus on adoption, retention and revenues. Can you talk at all about what either of those would look like for Implementing them into your year, like, you’re planning for a year?

Kevin Lau [00:47:11]:
Yeah. It’s a good question. I think, it’s sorta so some of this is the blessing and the curse. Right? Like, Most of us, I think, do customer advocacy as, you know, that’s a a big portion of our jobs. I think sometimes what happens is we get put in a, We get pigeonholed a bit where teams just kind of expect that’s all we do. And what I’ve been trying to articulate even just to our our team internally that it’s sort of a it’s almost like a 3 legged stool, if you wanna think of it that way. There’s, advocacy adjacent types of, You know, programs and initiatives that largely fit under customer marketing. Right? There’s community engagement.

Kevin Lau [00:47:54]:
There’s management there. And then there’s also that life cycle and retention piece. And I’ve had to do a lot of education on why We wanna have that full funnel support, and I’ve had to kind of articulate why, it was in a there’s a diagram of an example that, Forrester shared a 3rd user conference that I’ve kinda copied a bit, in my decks and presentations because I think it’s been really helpful. I’ll actually show it to you really quick, because it helps set the stage for, you know, why you need certain things. So this slide, You guys may have seen this multiple times, but let me oh, I didn’t I think, Mary, you have to let me Share my screen.

Mary Green [00:48:43]:
Okay. Give me just a second so I can figure out where it is.

Kevin Lau [00:48:47]:
Okay. No worries. So that’s been how I’ve been like how I try to pitch it is just how do we support the full owned side of the customer journey as well as the, the buy side as well from a prospect angle, to kinda showcase what else could we do in a future state vision, but this actually helps. When I show you the diagram, It helps make it more clear. And for our sales conference that we had back in November, I actually gave a presentation on, Why we really need to be more customer obsessed as an organization, and I walked them through, you know, some of this may seem kinda basic, but, like, we as customer marketers get it. But the rest of your organization, they may think just from a demand standpoint, or they may think about it from, You know, sitting within a product organization. Right? Like adoption, retention, sometimes that ends up being a PMM function versus, like, Customer marketing is you have to fight your battles. But I think if, you know, if you could tackle it as sort of like we’re trying to quarterback that work together and we’re making very specific swim lanes, then I think people don’t get so defensive, or at least that’s been my experience.

Taylor [00:50:02]:
Yeah. I don’t see

Mary Green [00:50:03]:
an option to allow you to share your screen right now. Okay.

Kevin Lau [00:50:09]:
I’ll just take a screenshot, and I’ll put it in the chat.

Mary Green [00:50:12]:
That would help. Thank you.

Kevin Lau [00:50:14]:
Yeah. You’re welcome.

Mary Green [00:50:17]:
I like the idea of the the stool. I think it’s helpful to have those visuals because Especially from my own background, I’m like, I’ve done community work, and to do community work, you have to really understand the life cycle and be able to insert community into different areas and then market to customers to get them to join And then kind of build evangelists for your community, so there’s a lot of overlap between community, customer marketing, and advocacy. But explaining that in an interview or with executives is not my forte, so That helps to think of it like that.

Kevin Lau [00:51:04]:
Yeah. I did. I will say to you, like, I work I work for a old school security company that’s been around for 25 years and a lot of the practices are not Super modern, and so it’s been you know, you have to tell some of the same people, like, 7 times before they finally get it. And we’re going through a whole process of, like, Going through that digital transformation, modernizing our tech stack and our go to market. And so there’s moments where you just wanna, like, Hit your head against the wall because they just don’t get it. But like, eventually I promise you as you start to say, have those same conversations and get people together, like In some ways, I think our job is really about bringing the right people together in a room to have that conversation. How are we solving for a customer pain point. And then I think the light bulbs start to happen, and they start to think about, like, okay.

Kevin Lau [00:51:56]:
How can we tackle this together? Because For 1 team to do it, holistically, it’s a lot of work, and then it starts to open up the conversation of future growth and, You know, what’s possible in the future.

Mary Green [00:52:11]:
Yeah. I think it’s interesting because I just did a very short survey, I’ve only gotten, so far about 10 people to respond about what topics to cover more next year, and the least light topic is, Like, internal collaboration, but it’s one of the ones that seems to be almost more important than a lot of the others because if you don’t have that internal collaboration and alignment and building those relationships, It’s a lot harder to be super successful in what you’re doing and make sure you’re successful with the customer too because So many different people are trying to grab the customer’s attention.

Kevin Lau [00:52:58]:
Yeah. I also will say, like, retention has been sort of, like, a very it’s been a bit like, a a big focus for us because, one, we made a shift from hardware, to SaaS about a year ago. We had all these acquisitions, you know, over the past 2 or 3 years, and they they rolled out a product that was probably beta at best when they should have validated this before they went to market. And so they had churn. They had some challenges with just, you know, maintaining, customers that wanna stay with us, as well as continue to sell. And then I think I’ve had to articulate, like, you know, for every customer that we lose, it just means that our sales team has has to work harder to make up that number. And I think people start to understand that when they think about the bigger picture. And it’s helped me to kind of articulate to our, marketing leadership.

Kevin Lau [00:53:55]:
I will also say, like, our marketing team, we call it Ourselves d, DMC, so data marketing and customer engagement. And so we don’t just do marketing. We also do the the CX component. And that was my, my former boss’s, you know, her job that she she brought into marketing previously because CX didn’t really exist before. And And so she’s been, like, a good, you know, advocate and champion for thinking about the full customer journey versus just, like, the demand emotions that most, CMOs care about.

Mary Green [00:54:34]:
That’s great. Thank you. Is there anything else somebody would like Kevin to touch on really quick before the end of our call? See if anybody’s in chat to hang anything else.

Kevin Lau [00:54:52]:
And you guys can ping me, You know, on Slack or LinkedIn, I’m I’m usually pretty responsive too.

Mary Green [00:55:04]:
Nope. Everyone’s just saying thank you right now. And, yes, I would just say too. If anybody wants to reach out to Kevin, he’s very helpful, very responsive. And if there’s Any interest in follow-up or talking more? I’ll see if I can work with him on that, though Christmas is very soon, So that might be difficult. But, yeah. In the newsletter this week, I included several calls from this year, just like Kevin’s call from building awards programs. We had a big reference program that was shared throughout the year.

Mary Green [00:55:47]:
Cianna shared about her executive engagement program for advocacy, and there’s just several others. So you can find that at On Substack, it’s like cmaweekly. Substack.com. And if you have any other questions, you can post in the community. And I don’t see let’s see. Oh, and Daniel says happy Hanukkah to everyone who’s celebrating. Happy Hanukkah, Daniel. Oh, and Kevin says if folks have questions for how to ask for money? He can share my approach after.


  • Kevin Lau

    Sr. Director of Global Customer Engagement, F5 | Customer Marketing & Advocacy Course Creator | Fearless 50 | TOP25 CMA Influencers | Former Adobe, Marketo, Google

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