Home Friday Recording #41 Kevin Lau on Awards Programs

#41 Kevin Lau on Awards Programs

by Kevin Lau
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#1 Takeaway

The single most important takeaway from this episode is that while awards programs can be time-consuming to plan and execute, they can also provide significant benefits for customer marketing teams, such as building an advocate base and identifying influencers and customers for initiatives and pipeline generation. 

It is essential to approach awards programs with intention and enough time to execute properly, engage internal teams such as sales and marketing, establish criteria and objectives, involve a diverse judging panel, and set a budget for creative aspects, customer experience, and post-event content production. 

It is also crucial to ensure a thriving customer base and community before launching an awards program to avoid complications and challenges.

Top Advice for Awards Programs

1: “Launch an awards program only when you have a thriving customer base and community.” 

2: “Make sure awards are given based on merit and recognition rather than just handing them out.”

3: “Having regional awards allows for celebrating those in each region without requiring long-distance travel.”

4: “The involvement of customer marketing teams in creating awards programs depends on their primary objectives as an organization.”

5: “Awards programs can be done effectively with a shoestring budget, such as creating a Microsoft form.”

6: “Awards programs can help identify influencers and customers for initiatives and pipeline generation.”

7: “When creating award categories, consider different roles and experience levels within your industry.”

8: “A judging panel plays an important role in removing bias from contest submissions.”

9: “Submissions that didn’t make it to the finalist rounds were still really good, you can find a use for them.”

10: “Customers who apply multiple years are competitive and seek feedback to improve their submissions.”

11: “Approach awards programs with intention and enough time to execute (ideally 6-8 months).”

12: “Engage internal teams such as sales and marketing in the awards program.”

13: “Establish criteria, goals, and objectives for the awards program.”

14: “Consider budget elements such as creative aspects, sales spiffs or incentives, awards microsites and applications, customer experience, and post-event content production.”

15: “When the event went virtual, they had a rolling keynote and regional award ceremony at the end to celebrate regional winners.”

Call Outline

Topics covered in this audio session:
– Benefits of Awards Programs
– Implementing Awards Programs with a Shoestring Budget
– Identifying Influencers and Customers with Awards Programs
– Challenges of Starting an Awards Program
– Key Elements and Budgeting for a Best-in-Class Awards Program
– Evolution of the Adobe ExperienceMaker Awards
– Establishing Criteria, Goals, and Objectives for Awards Programs
– The Role of the Judging Panel in Awards Programs
– Submissions, Finalists, and Winners in Awards Programs
– Promoting Awards Programs and Gathering Submissions
– Regional vs. Global Awards Programs
– Launching Awards Programs at Different Stages of Company Development.


Kevin Lau [00:07:51]:

Alright. Do you need any help, Kevin, with anything? No. I mean, we can keep it pretty casual too. Like, This was a presentation I gave last week as you could see from an obsession, the base conference, and so the information is still pretty much accurate. So I’ll go through this, and then I’ll feel free to ask me any questions too throughout the process, but Really this is kinda what we’ve done previously over the past several years, like I’ve been running awards programs probably since maybe for the past 10 years. It’s gone through a lot of iterations Mostly what I’ll call out specifically for this, there is a process to kind of follow and you can kind of pick and choose what makes sense for your company organization really depends on budget, obviously, and you could go down and dirty, keep it simple or you do more advanced. I will say with the Adobe Awards experience, like we spent, our budget alone for this program was over $1,000,000, so just Keep in mind, like, that’s not everyone’s budget. We obviously had more to play with. You have to do it based on the size and scope of your team and your organization. but hopefully this will be, it’d be helpful. I always like to start presentations with the memes. You guys probably know that by now, but I would say awards programs are a special type of hell, and usually just because there’s a lot of things that you have to do leading up to an awards program from a planning standpoint, And then there’s the whole aspect of just getting applications in the door. And usually there is a curve that you have to get passed, but once you figure that out, it’s pretty easy. And so the components that I’ll cover specifically for this is like The 5 phases, there’s the planning phase, which is thinking about like what’s the goals, the objectives, what is the theme that you wanna have for your awards program, what is the overall application process. There’s the promotion piece which is how do you drive awareness, how do you drive submissions, incentives, there’s the judging aspect which is how do you get your stakeholders to think about awards? Who do you wanna be part of your judging panel? Do you have a scorecard that you’re using to check what is considered a 9 out of 10 for someone that should be a finalist or a winner. And then there’s the execution piece, which is looking at if you wanna do a digital hybrid in person I still think that’s the case even in 2023. And then the post event wrap up like what are you doing at the end? How do you showcase the wins? How’s it gonna help you drive momentum for like the next thing you’re doing? And so most of the time I always say start with the right type of questions you wanna ask even before you’re thinking about awards program. And largely I think sometimes we as customer marketers get asked to do many different things, whether it’s like, you know, your CEO had made a decision because they were taking a share on the more say, hey, we need to do an awards program and so now we need to like get everyone in marketing involved to do it. But I think you have to be very intentional with the process and the approach and giving yourself enough time to execute on it. Typically, I like to recommend at least planning a rewards program evening yourself at least 6 months, 6 to 8 months is ideal, you could do it could definitely do it in a shorter amount of time, but I think if you look at just the whole process involved, it could be pretty taxing. And so give yourself some grace as you start to think about just how much is needed to execute on it. And these are just some questions as well to kind of look at from internal teams that you need to engage whether it’s your sales, your marketing counterparts, What is the selection criteria for how you’re gonna select finals and winners, how you’re gonna do the big splash when you announce it, once your budget, like that’s the most critical thing with all this whole process. And then there’s the general business justification. And I can share these slides after you, if you guys wanna see it, feel free to copy it, paste it, use it in your own decks if you need to. but having sort of like what is the criteria, what’s the goals and objectives, I think is really impactful and have that kind of selfish lens of what do you wanna get it too. It’s not just for your broader company, but what’s the incentive for your customer, and what is it gonna help you to achieve your goals and your outcomes that you have as an organization. And so what some of the budget elements consider, now this is if you wanna think about it from a best in class experience, you have money to spend and you wanna be able to elevate the experience, there’s the creative aspects whether we have in house creative, people that can help you with the design, the elements, the look and feel of your trophies down to the table drapes, the stage setting, etcetera. I usually always try to have some type of sales spiff or incentive and this is an extra thing as a carrot to give to your field teams to drive awareness for your program and make it a top mind thing so they push it to their customers. There’s also the awards microsite and application, and I’ll show you some examples of what they could actually look like You could obviously go very cheap and use Microsoft form or Google Sheets. Yeah, we’ve seen that through some of the more recent applications just within our own industry. So pick and choose what makes sense for you. And then there’s the overall experience that you’re your customers, your financeable experience as part of gift packs or trophies, things that can help elevate that experience when they actually find out that they’re finalists or winner. And then if you’re getting any higher like an external MC or host, there might be some costs associated there There’s also the post event we’re serious. Like one of the major outputs of an awards program is the collateral, the content that you’re able to produce, from your customers, whether that’s through video, RIN story, snackable content, the whole nine yards like it’s good to have some type of plan in place as far as how much it’s gonna cost to create all these different types of assets, do the interviews and whatnot. There’s also celebrity entertainment external hosts. So over the past several years, we had everyone from Jennifer Hudson to I’m blanking out on some of the names, but typically just for us loving entertainment, we spend sometimes upwards of $200,000 just to secure a celebrity guest. Like that’s obviously a nice to have by no means should that be what you include as part of your program, but we always try to have some type of element at the beginning and at the end of an awards to kind of close it off and book ended. And then you have maybe an event production or a person venue, especially if you’re thinking about hosting it at a location. like this year, I wasn’t part of the event but I had major FOMO because they brought it together this past Wednesday and they had it in New York City it was the first time they actually brought it back from a virtual event that they’ve had for the past several years and then bring it back in person. It was kind of a cool thing. So I’ll talk a little bit about the awards program evolution. And if you guys have questions, feel free to interrupt me. real time and just ask me things. But to give you some background, we had the The Adobe ExperienceMaker Awards was an evolution since 2017 when I joined Marketo and so it was combination of 3 different award programs, they’ve essentially kinda brought together actually 4 if you consider the Work Front Line Awards, but all these different award programs and bring them all together over the past several years. And so Marketo had the former Marketo Revi Awards and Back in 2019, we celebrated the 9th year anniversary of this program kinda kicking off. But GENTEL was another acquired company that Adobe had they had their Imagine awards, and then as I mentioned like Workfront, we acquired back in 2021. And so the process of the evolution that we went through from 2018 to 2019, we had to basically take 35 different award categories everything from product specific categories to recognizing executives of the year, all different versions with that. and boil it down to about 14 to 15 award categories which this took months to kind of figure that out, but we had to be very clear with What is each award category? Where there is potential duplication and what are we trying to achieve here? And so As you can see from this timeline, 2019 was the first time that we brought the awards together in one specific venue location. It was a combination of some acquisitions that we had, but also what is that identity that we wanted to kind of carry forward as we became one company And so that was 2019. And then in 2020, when everything went pandemic, of course, we had a specific theme for the awards, which is called stand up and stand out. And then you could see in 2021, it was time to shine. And then this more recent year, I forgot what the theme was, but I’ll show you an And so what actually happened was we had this whole prep process of just consolidation over the next 6 months, we had to kinda think about how do we bridge the gap and make the customer feel like they’re part of one experience versus a mishmash of different acquisitions over the past several years. And so this is what it actually looked like. We actually bought out the Beatles Love Theater at the Mirage and we did a pretty cool experience where we had the actual cast of the Beatles the Beatles show, you know, do some some fun entertainment things before the before the wartshare actually kicked off and then at the end of it. And then people all the winners and finals could take photos with the cast, and it was pretty cool.

Kristine Kukich [00:18:15]:

And so I wouldn’t

Mary Green [00:18:16]:

did you say if Adobe paid for travel and expenses for the winners?

Kevin Lau [00:18:24]:

So we didn’t that’s actually a good question. We didn’t cover travel for any of the finals or winners. What we did do is we comp their passes, so they didn’t have to pay for the ticket to go to the event. And so they had to be, they had to fly there, but they could then experience the entire conference and this was also during our Adobe Summit. So when you think about just your user conference or customer conference, what type of Ansley events do you wanna host as part of the overall some experience. This was something that we did on the Monday of our conference. So it typically went from Monday through Thursday in a given week. So yeah, we only really paid for their passes.

Mary Green [00:19:12]:

Good to know. Thank you.

Kevin Lau [00:19:14]:

But yeah, you could see sort of like, this is how we had to kinda combine it for the 1st year. So it was experience makers, and then the Marketo or the Marketing Nation review Awards. And then the following year what actually happened was when the pandemic hit, we had to shift and we were planning actually up until everything kinda shut down to do the experience again in Vegas as part of our summit conference. And we base had 45 days to kinda figure this shit out. It was the most stressful time I will say planning for both the conference and then also the content tracks as well as through the rewards program. So this all happened around like, I think close to like March of 2020 when everything was happening. But I’ll actually show you, I’ll show you a video first of what we actually accomplished as part of that experience, and then I’ll show you some specifics of what went into on the back end for pulling it off. So let me switch to show a video really quick. And I hope it actually plays through Teams or through Zoom. Oops. Give me one second. I’m just trying to figure this out. com.

Mary Green [00:21:01]:

If anyone has questions, go ahead and put them in chat if you want. We can see it, but I cannot hear it.

Kevin Lau [00:21:13]:

Oh, okay. I’ll send you the I can send it to you later.

Mary Green [00:21:18]:

Yeah. Zoom makes you

Lauren Turner [00:21:21]:

share your there’s, like, a special share your audio thing. Well, checkbox. Yeah. But it’s great video quality with or without sound.

Kevin Lau [00:21:32]:

Oh, listen. This sound makes it better, but This was like the this was like the Sizzle reel that we created after the event happened, but you can start to see some of the elements that had made it come together and this was all virtual, like I said, the first time that we had to do it. And every year like we tried to make it a little bit better over time. So let me go back to the main presentation. Okay, so that was kind of the experience. And then kind of fast for its last year 2022, the program is called to hold the bowl. So we went through this whole creative exercise we work pretty closely with our brand team to establish the theme for the following year. And this is what it was last year. they actually did all the PowerPoint slides too, which mean it’s pretty cool with like the rip ins and whatnot. But I’m actually showing you some of the things that we use to socialize the awards program to our internal stakeholders and our sellers. So the way that we kind of position is the experience maker awards It’s a global program that showcases and delivers Adobe’s vision for the timeline for it was changing the world through digital experiences, right? using our Adobe Experience Cloud solutions. Who could apply for the program could be practitioners, could be leaders, any industry as long as they use our technology. And we also had some specific goals. We wanted to be able to increase our submissions by 30% We also wanted to integrate work fronts and their client awards as part of this whole program. We wanna expand the SPIFF program to some so it reached a global audience. And then we have very specific outcomes we wanna achieve, right? It’s like recognizing, celebrating, amplifying the customers that are doing things, spark inspiration, helping us identifying more customer advocates, fueling our story engine and pipeline, all that kind of good stuff that we know is part of a strong customer marketing experience that we wanna showcase to our customers. So this was the awards

Mary Green [00:23:44]:

Is the name the name of the awards program change every year, or was it just the theme that changed?

Kevin Lau [00:23:52]:

The theme changed every year. Yeah. Okay. So this was always the name of the program. So it went from REVEY Awards, the imagine awards like I said and then it became a combination of bringing it all together. And then when I was mentioning earlier where we had to kind of slice and dice and bring the award categories into 1, from 35 down to 15 or 16, this is what we kinda did. We had each of these 13 global award categories and then we also created 3 regional award categories. So in each of these, the regional counterparts would have an experience maker of the year which is like the practitioner we had celebrating the team of the year and then the executive, and each of these were in each of these four regions that you see here. To give you a sense of like what were some of these specifically like the ambassador was kind of highlighting who is like a tremendous advocate that kinda showcased our technology and helped others kinda learn and grow. Analyzer was very specifically around data insights Change maker was actually a social good campaign and a social good awards program that looked at how customers were using Adobe technology to influence your broader economic and community led initiatives. So that was actually kind of a cool thing. Transformer was like people going through digital transformation using our technology, how they’re refining their Martech stack, etcetera. And this gives you kind of a sense of what was the timeline that we actually deal with. I did mention like, give yourself at least 6 to 8 months ideally, our program ended up being a year long cycle. So we just kicked it off or we just closed it out this past Wednesday. there’s usually a little bit of a low period as we start to get content and collateral developed, but it becomes a very much a year long initiative. And so typically, what happens is it we’ll have a prep session within December The fiscal year for Adobe is also that’s the beginning of the calendar year. And then we give essentially 3 or 4 months to kinda think about what do we need to do to change sort of the identity, the brand, the themes, the categories, how that kinda locked? and then we start to open up submissions in the following quarter and the submission period is usually about 45 days. Some people, there’s always a opportunity kind of extend it and we usually do that just and you’ll find that And for you guys that also run awards programs, it’s usually people procrastinate until the last minute before they actually submitted an application. That’s like, every company ever worked up that’s always been the case. And so this usually ends up getting pushed back a little bit maybe until like May. Then we go through a whole process of identifying and selecting finalists, then we do the awards program and that’s when we showcase the winners And there’s different ways you can incentivize them to get them to show up because it — Okay. — I think that sucks as if the person doesn’t show up to accept their warrant it’s kind of a little bit of a it doesn’t impact experience too much, but it’s like ideally you obviously want them to accept it. And so that’s kind of the whole planning phase. And the promotional areas, these are some things that we actually did to drive submissions. So we gave people very specific one slide examples with all the information that they need to have. what was the eligibility for the type of customer we were accepting. So we basically said that if you wanna submit a a customer nomination, here’s the spiff details, and it basically broke out to who was eligible. Any account team, sales, customer success, that wanted to nominate a customer they totally could. There are spiff awards. We did 2000 per winner nominated. and then a 1000 for a finalist nominated. And so there is an opportunity that they could get an amplifier where if they had customer that was a finalist and a winner, and then we also had accelerators if they submitted an application early. I will say this didn’t really moved the needle too much. We still had folks that took their time when it came to submitting applications on behalf of their customer. But I think the main point with all this is make it very easy to follow. Like, it has to be the rules need to be very simplified as far as what is the step 1, 23 that they need to do to get their customers to nominate themselves or they can nominate on their behalf. And then as far as like what the submission process look like, we had a website I’ll actually show you was this was like a custom website that we created worked with an agency called Labor. All of it was from the application itself to the videos that we produced, all the kind of lived here. And so what I’m showing you on the back end is what the nomination form look like. So this was like the basic form company profile individual, and we would also send them reminders and we would have a notification push out if they only completed part of their application. So that’s kind of another thing you can think about of just how do you make sure that The customer completes at full stop and if there’s subs that they missed out, you can kind of remind them. We also did a leaderboard nomination that we sent out pretty regularly to our sales counterparts in the field and that actually helped kinda drive more momentum behind it. And then the thing that I was kinda joking about earlier was just the fact that the most stressful time is when no one actually applies to your awards program early on or there’s like a lull and there’s a gap. and you’re just kinda waiting until people fill it out, but this gives you kind of an example. Over the life cycle and awards program, we typically have this like hockey stick that happens. And usually it’s like towards like the tail end and this is basically like the days left in the submission window, but we typically have like the huge spikes towards the end over the last several days of before we close it out. And so always like the most stressful period. So that’s kind of the promotional piece. And then from a judging phase standpoint, the way that we kind of approach it is we identify who the judging team should be. So typically these are your customer facing orgs, the ones that also are technical to understand the solutions So folks like within your product organization, PMM, your team specifically could be your PR and comms counterparts, You have to kinda be careful with like account teams because they might try to influence the decisions of the awards. And usually if it’s someone a little bit more senior in the organization, it makes sense as opposed to like the actual reps. And then also giving your executives kind of oversight on like what who the finalists and winners are so they can make any last minute videos or changes as necessary. But generally speaking, from a scorecard standpoint it’s really helpful to have a set of criteria that you’re looking for on what what is essentially kind of like a quality submission. So we work with an agency called Big Sky. I’ve used them a lot over the past several years, and they actually helped us cull down at one point we had 450, almost 500 applications from customers. and we actually had them help us boil it down to who are the top 10 to 12 submissions in each awards category. and then we then were able to give it to our judges so they didn’t have to read through hundreds of submissions, but they can look at sort of the top ones and then use the scorecard to identify who should be in that finalist poll, the top 3 finalists. And we always had 3 finalists was never a 4th. It was always we had to try to drive down to 3 as a consensus point and then only one winner was never a tie breaker. these are kind of things we use. So is this applicant creating company wide impact? Are they driving clear and measurable results? Are they driving revenue, all those types of things that we would typically look for and also could highlight a great customer story too. We also had what we call a Maverick Award category and this is sort of like a People’s Choice Award. So we had it built into the website where people could basically vote for it, could be internal folks, could be customers, could be prospects, etcetera, but they could essentially see who the 3 finalists were, would give them a deadline of what they need to vote for and it was basically who had the most submissions and votes. And so that was kind of a fun thing that we’ve always done. And then as far as the live experience, What we did to kinda kick off the process is we would send out an email to all the finalists, letting them know, here’s we’re excited to announce you. We need some details from you, and this is usually when we get, like, the content info, the specifics, making sure they show up for tech checks. All the stuff that usually takes a lot of wrangling to get done, we would send them these types of information, you would create a profile card where we get like their headshots, titles, all the kind of details And then we would also, because most of the people are also at home at this point versus being back in the office, we then send them a celebratory gift box. And this included a couple kind of cool things, very cool packaging. Gave them like chocolates, glasses that they could have champagne with their family. We also would give out a trophy or a kind of a medal And just little like Chotchkis that they could celebrate live as part of the when they were on video. And then from an event experience standpoint, what we actually use is we use Van Wagner which was a production company and we would stream it live on LinkedIn, but it actually was hosted on Zoom and it would be pushed out to LinkedIn. So that was kinda like the most just kinda wrangling people there. And then from the actual experience, this is kind of what we would do. We would have 2 different versions based on time zones. So usually there is one 5 PM Pacific time frame and then they would do another one the next day to capture sort of the EMEA audience. And we would have our guests like, I don’t know if you guys know Katie Martel, but she’s a she’s kind of a fun personality within the tech space. She was our MC for the past I think 4 years that we did this, and she was the MC this year as well. And then from the experience itself, like we used to host it virtually, and this was actually in the Adobe office, and it would put like a wrap around the entire building or in across the room. And it was kinda cool just to kinda see the different angles, but we would have the production crew film it and it would just get pushed out live And then we would be able to kinda showcase the winners, the vet experience. And this is what it would actually look like when it actually showcase the individual. So it would have the 3 finalists. They would put the logo, the title. We also try to put the nomination of the company and who did that. So usually it’s the partner like 90 or actually 60% of the submissions came from our partner ecosystem so this is kind of a cool way just to kinda nod the partners that helped make this possible. And then when the winner went live, it would showcase the name, they would do like this whole they wouldn’t do a speech necessarily, but they would show the surprise and delight because I think that was kind of a cool thing. And then the trophies themselves, like this was an evolution over the past several years, but The first year we did it, we had sort of like glass trophies, the typical like crystal, it would have like the name etch And then over time, we evolved it a bit to be like this sort of like obelisk look. And they actually used to have a designer actually hand paint some of them too, like over the past several years, which is kind of a cool touch. and then they would put some like loss and other things for accents. And then this year, if you look at some of the trophies, they actually made them white. They look like look like that here. So it’s kinda cool just to see if like the little dots of color and how it really pops. But this was kind of the trophy that we gave out. And then as far as I mentioned about musical gas entertainment, we had Jennifer Hudson 1 year, Leon and Lewis, and then Adam Lindber last year. This year, I believe they had They did the phantom of the Opera cast. Like, they actually, when they did the event experience in New York, they did like a little performance, which is kinda nice. And this was kind of like the reactions that we had, and this was like the line awards that we did with when we had that acquisition. So that’s kind of the whole event experience. And then as far as measuring and kinda like post event, We looked at year over year submission growth, what does that breakdown look like from both industry regions, who drove it from a partner internal versus customer because that also helped us look at where do we need to double down on the following year to drive more demission pipeline. We looked at ARR influence. So which customers, how is this impacting retention? cross sell upsell, multi solution customers. We used to have sort of like this advocate score that we would look at who are customers that would be future advocates and how much they love us. And then we also did a whole series with each of the winners, and Katie would do a video interview with them. It usually was about 15, 20 minutes. We would then boil it down into a little diet size, nuggets that we then showcase on the website, we use it for social content, and then we also put together a kinda like a movers and shakers summary. And I think you might be able to see it. It’s not here yet, but it would live on this website, and it would showcase some of the stories there and all the all the oh, here it is. you would look, or it hasn’t been published yet, but I’ll show, I’ll send you guys a link to it later if you want. But it was basically kind of like a PDF of all the winter submissions and we gave that to our sellers and other teams so they could kinda see it and use it as customer stories and evidence in the future.

Mary Green [00:39:19]:

Oh, nice. Kevin, there are a couple of questions. Yeah. Number 1, did you come up with a name for the awards, the experience awards?

Kevin Lau [00:39:30]:

Did I specifically come up with that? Yeah. I wish I could take credit for that, but we had a we had an exhaustive group of like folks from our brand, legal — Of course. — marketing teams that all came together to put that together.

Mary Green [00:39:45]:

Yeah. Okay. I just thought maybe because there’s so much creativity to kinda, like, bring those ideas together. And then Shelley Ryder at says this is a great resource for how to implement in a word program, but at a higher level, where would something like this fit in in org’s overall advocacy program? At what maturity level, team size might accompany lower something like this?

Kevin Lau [00:40:14]:

That’s a good question. I would say They’re involved. I hate to say it depends, but it kinda does depend. Number 1, I think you have to look at what is what are your primary objectives that you wanna accomplish as an organization? Most customer marketing teams are being asked to do reference fulfillment, storytelling, building out additional content and collateral, and awards part within fill help you build your advocate base. It could help you identify and accelerate the number of stories that you produce in the future, but it is very time intensive. And I would say it doesn’t have to be perfect either. Like I’m showing you best case situation if you had the budget, you had the money to create something exceptional. Not every team has that. And if you’re a startup organization that has only a couple thousand customers, you can do a down and dirty version of an awards program and still achieve the same type of goals and outcomes you need. Like I said, you can create a Microsoft form, you can you can do this effectively with a shoestring budget if you need to. I’ve had to do that in the past. I think it just comes down to what’s in it for you specifically that’s gonna help you showcase your own wins for your leadership team and to your to your customers and stakeholders. We use it also as a great pipeline generator for helping us identify influencers, customers that could be part of our champions formula that we have or we used to have at Adobe, and then also kind of feel in other types of initiatives. But from a maturity standpoint, if you’re a team of 1, it may be kind of hard to kick off an awards program right on the bat, especially if you have 5 other things that are already number 1 at the same time. I don’t know if that helps answer your question.

Shelly Ryder [00:42:07]:

Yes, for sure. Oh, It did. For sure. Thanks, Kevin. Plus we’re get I’m getting lots of great comments in the chat too.

Kevin Lau [00:42:16]:

Cool. But, yeah, that’s I mean, that’s pretty much the deck and the presentation. So I can go, I could bless you guys for the questions, I could I could check out what you guys wrote in chat.

Mary Green [00:42:34]:

No. That those are the only questions so far Dean Shaw had a question, but you answered it right as he was putting that in about customer awards programs for communities. You’re at F Five now. What are you doing in awards program there? And what would that look like if you were starting it today?

Kevin Lau [00:42:58]:

Yeah. So we are so we’re not doing a work for them yet. I would say our maturity at F5 is if you had to think about the crawl walk around phase, we are probably still in like still in diapers in a lot of ways. And that’s I had a coming from Adobe to F5 that was a little bit of a culture shock to be honest, but We’re still at the phase of kinda like building our infrastructure. It goes hand in hand with like when you think about an awards program, If you launch it too early and you don’t have a thriving customer base community etcetera, it becomes very difficult to see success with an awards burden because it’s based on submissions, right? And typically you look at volume, you look at you have enough finalist to fit the bill for each of your reward categories, and if you don’t have enough or if you have hesitation or doubt, it’s just gonna become much more complicated and challenging and you never wanna get to a point where you have to start begging people to apply. Like that doesn’t look good in any way. And you want people to win an awards for them based on their merit, based on what they’ve done and make sure that they’re recognized properly. So for us, long story short, we haven’t launched 1 yet.

Mary Green [00:44:13]:

No, that’s helpful. I think there’s so many companies that might want to do 1, or they try to do one without enough of that foundation built and it gets really messy.

Kevin Lau [00:44:28]:


Mary Green [00:44:29]:

Does anyone else have questions about awards? Really none? Wow. I’m surprised. I have oh, no. Oh, I have a few. It’s fine with me.

Rebecca Grossman [00:44:44]:

Yeah. I’ve got a few. So I’m curious about so we are starting our in person conferences this year, which is exciting. planning to have one in the US and then 1 or 2 overseas. I’m curious either coming for you or for somebody else. obviously, to having a words presentation in person is amazing and ideal. If you have multiple in person conferences, by geo? Do you just have, like, this sort of replicated by geography? Just sort of wondering how others have thought about having multiple conferences and having awards in different geographies.

Kevin Lau [00:45:19]:

Yeah. So we the way that we did it so we had a like a North America virtual broadcast, and then because of like the time zone differences, we would then do one for EMEA. This year what they actually did was because we had sort of like Adobe has a rolling summit that they do in each of the theaters. they did have the award ceremony as part of the experience in each of those each of those summits essentially. So they would kind of they would bifurcate it a little bit. So anyone that was based in North America, they would celebrate them at that event. And then if they were based in EMEA, they would do it there APCJ, etcetera.

Kristine Kukich [00:46:02]:

Based on what I’ve seen too, Kristen,

Kevin Lau [00:46:05]:

is the comp we have a lot of companies headquartered in Europe, but our contacts are in. Yeah. I mean, they we did it based on — So figure it out. — where the individual was located. Yeah.

Kristine Kukich [00:46:16]:

Yeah. We did that with who’s accepting the award.

Kevin Lau [00:46:20]:


Mary Green [00:46:22]:

Daniel, did you have a question or just something to add?

Daniel Palay [00:46:25]:

Right. I had something to add. I and my job my last job, we actually separated it out to regional awards mostly because one that allowed us to have judges that were, like, internal judges that were plugged into the communities in each of those different areas, because the way we viewed it was the community in the Americas was different than the ones in Europe that was different than the ones in Asia. Also, we and perhaps it’s different for a dough because it’s been around for so long. But from our perspective, the much maturity of the customers and maturity of the community in those areas was different. So if we had a global awards program, it was harder for those people who were less mature to be on an even playing field with those who had been adopting it longer. And so we we did it that way. And, also, since we took a large conference and split it up into sort of regional ones, it allowed us to celebrate those folks and not have to have them travel from longer distances. Now that’s not to say that the folks who were in Japan who won for APEC didn’t have to travel to Australia, but that’s a lot closer than traveling to somewhere, you know, in New York or Vegas or whatever. So it allowed us to do it that way.

Kevin Lau [00:47:41]:

Totally. And that’s something that I think is really important. It’s like what’s best for the customer and where they’re based and making it easier for their travel.

Kristine Kukich [00:47:52]:

Daniel, did you end up with something like an overall excellence awards so that the winners of the award in the region then got to thank you, I’m better than everyone else.

Daniel Palay [00:48:04]:

In terms of

Kristine Kukich [00:48:06]:

Were the awards the same so that and then you could take the best of the best?

Daniel Palay [00:48:12]:

No. We didn’t really necessarily have a best of the best, but we did once we were through the whole tour, we wrote a full sort of release blog post or what what have you that recognized, hey. These were our regional winners across everywhere. So they were celebrated worldwide, but to their, you know, regions, they were sort of celebrated in person there. Okay. We then when we went to virtual for 2020 because we also had to separate that out Since we had no physical thing to do, we did have a rolling keen since it was, like, a follow the Sun virtual conference. The one thing that changed with the at the end of each sort of regional keynote, we had a regional award ceremony for that region. So if you if you watched it in Americas, you saw that one. If you watched it during APAC time, you saw that one. So they still got celebrated within their specific region so they could feel as though it was part of it was, like, they were celebrating a month their regional peers.

Kristine Kukich [00:49:12]:


Mary Green [00:49:15]:

We have a question in the chat from Nina. Do you only select customers as finalists winners who have given you permission to list them as a customer, public, given logo, permission. Would you ever — anonymize an award for the sake of the relationship. We have a few major brands that we’d love to give our ignition to, but because of strict PR policies, we are unable to share externally that they are customers.

Kevin Lau [00:49:44]:

Yeah, so a good question. We had, in our submission form, we asked them upfront like, do we have your permission to use your logo is this validated? Did you check with your legal PR team before even submitting? There was some situations because we did have partners that would submit on behalf of their client, we did ask them to make sure that they double checked that they had the approval. Sometimes they didn’t, But to answer the question, anyone that was a financial winner, they had to be on the record saying that they could be named by a company and they’d be happy to share some of the results and their submission. There’s one case I think, oh, go ahead.

Kristine Kukich [00:50:27]:

Yeah. Sorry, Kevin. We let people win an award because for us, the awards are initially internal. amongst your peers. Right? So the the idea is they could win the award. They could choose not to be publicized in social media and through the website.

Kevin Lau [00:50:44]:

Yeah, I think there’s varying degrees for sure like people’s appetite and what they wanna do, but at a bare minimum we said, They have to give us logo permission. They have to be okay with doing a press release that indicates what actually went into submission. and yeah, a couple other things. But they didn’t necessarily have to do a story with us. That was optional. Most of them wanna do it anyways because they went through all the trouble and they wanna be recognized.

Mary Green [00:51:15]:

That makes me wonder about like as the customer or somebody in the industry, I wanna see what the best people are doing. But in that case, you might miss out on a lot. Do you feel like you did or enough was in the nominations that you got a good picture of what the best users were?

Kevin Lau [00:51:43]:

Usually yeah. I mean, It’s always hard like some of the submissions that even didn’t make it to the finalist rounds were still really good. But that’s I think also why the judging panel is so important. Like, it helps to remove some of the you know, the bias that we have. Like, if we have a good relationship with this one account, we think they should be the winner, but their story and their metrics are not strong enough to kinda warrant them being a finalist or a winner or we might, there might be some trade offs, like maybe they’re gonna have to be a finalist, but they’re not gonna have to be a winner. And it helps and usually those same customers apply multiple years, And they get kind of not aggressive but they get kind of competitive about it. Like they wanna know like what was missing from their submission to to warrant them winning, so they try to apply again, and they ask for feedback and stuff. But that’s like the ideal type of customer you want.

Mary Green [00:52:44]:

Oh, okay. That’s interesting. It’s like kind of almost like applying for a job and getting turned down and being like, hey, what do I do what what what I do better next time.

Kevin Lau [00:52:56]:


Mary Green [00:53:00]:

Let’s see. Dean, did you wanna share anything about that awards program that you did?

Dean Shaw [00:53:10]:

Oh, no. I just threw in can you guys hear me?

Mary Green [00:53:13]:

Yes. Yeah.

Dean Shaw [00:53:16]:

Yeah. Yeah. I just like, 6, 7 months into my program. I just did a really bare bones kind of on my own. I was kind of a one man gang. And it it really served a few purposes. One was to just create engagement. The other was to thank those superfans, those early adopt of my program, the the champions, the advocates, all of that. And then the other one was because I knew the next year, I was going to do a more formal program, and I kinda wanted a test run. to learn and all of that. So so I I I I looked at Kevin’s with Adobe, and I’m going, oh, man. That’s like a super serious awards program. Mine was just janky put together, and it kinda served a different purpose, I suppose.

Kevin Lau [00:54:01]:

I mean, like I said, you could do the down and dirty. There’s nothing wrong with it. Like —

Shelly Ryder [00:54:06]:

Dean, was there just one of you at the time?

Dean Shaw [00:54:09]:

I pretty much was the whole judging committee, nominating committee, award committee. I was kind of the whole thing, which, again, gives you a lot of flexibility and agility to kind of test and and do things. Right? It’s kinda like when you get into a situation like Adobe, there’s a lot of people in the room that can maybe change the way you wanna do it. When you’re a gang of 1, you can make all the rules and move very quickly. And and as Kevin said, make it really simple and bare bones and just see how it goes so that when you do it for real, you you kind of add that experience under your belt.

Mary Green [00:54:41]:

True. Yeah. Yeah. I honestly, I could probably just spend an hour talking about the collaboration behind this. Yeah. for Adobe specifically because the more companies I talk to, the bigger there is a lack of like, filling that gap of knowing how to do this collaboration well in customer marketing, not that everybody has a lack there, but just there is some lack, and I think it’d be interesting to hear more about that collaboration because you must have talked to so many people across several teams. And I’m sure they all were just really jumping to the bit to do everything you wanted.

Kevin Lau [00:55:28]:

there are some, I’ll just say there are like some crunchy moments for sure. Lots of personalities they get to deal with and there’s sometimes there could be territorialness that happens. People feel like they own it and we’re all just kinda like trying to collaborate to to drive the right outcome, but you do get a lot of different websites to work with for better or worse.

Mary Green [00:55:54]:

I can imagine.

Rebecca Grossman [00:55:56]:

If I want I wonder if I could do I’d say I wonder if you could do, like, an ask in the community for people that do have awards to if they’re willing to share, like, their landing page and what their awards are and what the awards are for. I know, for me, what I’m I’m debating I haven’t been asked to do this yet, but we’re doing an in person conference, and I feel like it’d be a good idea, but it’s also a big commitment. But one of the things I struggle with is Like, what am I awarding people for? So, like, we make subscription billing software. So you can’t, like, use our product to create something great Like, we’re very much like, it’s the back end, and so it allows you to very easily, you know, manage subscription billing, which is great. But Like, I’m I’m struggling a little bit with compelling award categories. In my last company, we had, like, we called them, but, like, someone who was new to the industry and a veteran and somebody in this role and someone in that role. So Like, I’ve done that before, but also would love some inspiration. I’m curious for people whose products don’t allow their customers to, like, create things Thank you, Alexia. I’ll take a look at that. But, you know, you you you just sort of it it’s like the back end software for thing that I’d be curious to see what other kind of categories people come up with.

Kevin Lau [00:57:11]:

That’s a good question. I think Zuora has sort of a similar use case. Their customers are in the on the back end, like tinkering with stuff. I wanna say that they did an awards program fairly recently too.

Kristine Kukich [00:57:31]:

Here’s what mine looks like. Oh, this is what mine looks like.

Mary Green [00:57:42]:


Kristine Kukich [00:57:43]:

What are We did the organizational awards and personal awards, Rebecca? Oh. No. We created we and we aggregated The 1st 2 years we did awards, we had like 15 awards, which is way too much for our customer base. So we aggregated things into a smaller batch this year. So we’ve got overall excellence. And for us, it is about creation. So there’s there’s the best learner experience best innovation using extensibility, and then business impact and power launch, which is how fast could you employ.

Rebecca Grossman [00:58:20]:

v 1. Thank you very much. I created

Kristine Kukich [00:58:24]:

individual awards. A founder’s awards are gonna go to people that were part of my community in beta. And then we’re using the community tools to to identify innovators product experts in helping hand.

Kevin Lau [00:58:43]:

Yeah, that’s cool. We had It was like a sister awards. We did We had like champion of the year awards that was like individual, we like User Group later of the year. and I think like community member of the year, but those weren’t necessarily part of the main award show, but we’d still and identity would be kinda similar we would just give it out at different periods of time.

Mary Green [00:59:14]:

I will take a list of these links. Make a list of these links for you, Rebecca, and share them in the community. And if I do not post, early next week asking for others to share their links, please go ahead and remind me. Sometimes I forget what I wanna do after the weekend has happened. So, yeah, you can do that. Well, thank you for jumping on with us, Kevin, and sharing. It’s always fun to learn and pick your brain and see what you have to say about all of these popular topics in our world. We only have a couple minutes left. Anybody else wants to share safely. can go ahead.

Kevin Lau [00:59:59]:

Just wanna say Megan or sorry. Mary, I was talking to Megan on my team earlier, but Barry, thanks for hosting these. And just appreciate the time just connecting with all of you guys, and I’m pretty accessible too if you have any, like, specific questions and other things too.

Mary Green [01:00:18]:

Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much. Okay. Well, we can hop off a couple minutes early today and I will see you all in the community. Have a good weekend. Thanks, Mary. Bye, Kevin. Thanks to you. Bye. Bye.


  • 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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