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How Top SaaS Companies Drive Business Impact Through Community | Aly Merritt & Kevin Lau

October 24, 2019
May 19, 2023

The best SaaS companies have been able to leverage community and customer advocacy to drive differentiation and build a competitive moat. That said, the ability to quantify tangible, business impact remains a challenge. In this session, you’ll learn how community leaders at best-in-industry SaaS companies like Marketo (an Adobe company) and Salesloft, at different stages of their community, are thinking about driving and quantifying business impact.

Our Panelists:

Aly Merritt is Head of Community at SalesLoft, where she’s been everything from product management to CX to chief of staff. She currently runs the REV Community, a hub for the best of sales & revenue. Aly has spent the last decade focused on diversity and inclusion in the Atlanta startup community. She organizes ATL Startup Village, and sporadically blogs about tech & startups at the past 10+ years, Kevin has worked in both B2B and B2C community marketing and advocacy roles in the valley. As the Head of Customer Advocacy for Marketo, Kevin is responsible for all aspects of customer advocacy programs from user groups, references, customer stories, influencer practitioner programs, advisory boards, PR/media, etc. Kevin previously worked at Google/YouTube, AOL and many fast growing B2B startup organizations.

Our Moderator:

Steven Broudy, runs sales at Bevy ( Prior to that, he ran Business Operations for MuleSoft — a Salesforce company, where he saw firsthand the impact that communities like the MuleSoft and Salesforce Trailblazer communities drive at a top tier SaaS company. Prior to breaking into tech, Steven spent five and a half years in Army Special Operations — deploying twice to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan. Fun fact: Steven has worn a Hawaiian shirt, every day, for the last 500+ days.

Watch the full recording of Aly and Kevin's panel session at CMX Summit 2019!

You can find all the CMX Summit 2019 talks here, and get ready to CMX & Chill.

How SaaS companies drive business impact through customer advocacy

How are you thinking about tangibly proving the value of community?

Kevin: Our executives understand the power of the customer experience. Adobe has been a very silent B2B business and now it’s starting to build the passion using the team building it (the executives) and the general user base using the systems.Aly: The tangible part of the question is the important part. To see people and customers actually talking about how much they value the company is a huge aspect of the development of community. It’s literally “content” and “value in advance” but going the other direction.

If I’m looking to launch a community how do I find a good catalyst for making that happen?

Field marketing is an investment many SaaS companies are willing to make. A bunch of people get all pumped about the software and then…. What?Aly: We have people in cities where there are no offices that have small but very passionate groups of people. They are bringing it to us and asking us about it. “We need more connection” - not just online but the physical connection. It was important to do face-to-face more often and more locally.

Customer advisory board: A good question to ask: Who here would be willing to actually start a group?

If you don’t have all of the data, you don’t have a 360 degree view. You have a 270 degree view.

How SaaS companies drive business impact through customer advocacy

Can you tell me what KPIs you’re using and measuring?

Kevin: we’re using Jive right now but we’re switching away this year. Still however we are looking at how communities are fielding support tickets and “what is our overall impact to new business and cross-sell revenue? We don’t focus on just one segment of the business, we do multiple things across the customer value journey.Aly: has a new metric: There are 2 communities, the customer portal side, and the sales representative side. You want to track growth and retention but they don’t tell enough. We want to support frontline sales managers. How do we create more influencers out of our community? How many people are we helping to get further in their personal branding and further in their careers?

Can you talk about customers who take their brand loyalty from company to company?

Kevin: There are people who won’t go to another company unless they’re using Marketo. There is clout around it and expertise. There are customer advocacy programs that are ensuring that businesses adopt it because the people who are using it and are impacted are requiring it.Aly: there are people who are big advocates of a tool but they are still in support of the platform even if they’re not using it in their current role. Just because they can’t use it doesn’t mean they don’t have an affiliation to it.

How SaaS companies drive business impact through customer advocacy

If you think about different touchpoints on the customer journey and ultimately when it gets to sales, what is spurring that conversion, how are you creating those opportunities and setting them up for lead gen?

Kevin: as you build a community there are customers that choose to raise their hand and flag themselves as at a certain point in the customer value journey. You have to recognize those aspects, see them where they are, and make content that is explicitly intended to convert them from point A to point B.Side note: this is a huge aspect of the Customer Value Journey as built by Digital marketer - the point of marketing and sales is to take a customer from a before state - point A - they need a thing to an after state point B - they have that thing and are happy for it.Aly: As a company, our mission is to have every seller be loved by the buyers and we use LOVED intentionally. We start showcasing people who are able to have those authentic connections.

Kevin can you tell us about the customer advocacy scorecard?

Kevin: There is a problem with the way that we measure people’s activity in a community. We don’t see that full picture. So just like we have a lead score card, we are looking for an engagement scorecard that allows us to know how big things are. This will be a Marketo integrated metric. (maybe ask CHAOSS to look into supporting this as an AI in the Bitergia platform?)Aly: I love this idea. There are a lot of people who don’t have things hooked up to a CRM. We get a wrap as a result of community being pretty squishy. We have to prove what we have as a result.Kevin: What does our (marketo) customer base look like? Can we get them to become advocates for Adobe?Aly: You were asked to provide a number of influencers in a particular industry to help Adobe make the decision on whether there was enough business case to make the investment into Marketo. Data is a big player.When Marketo got acquired they literally looked at who the customer base was and what they thought about Marketo. There is a race in SaaS to feature/function parity, but there is a key defensible asset / competitive moat.

How SaaS companies drive business impact through customer advocacy

What is your biggest misstep or advice based on mistakes you've made along the way.

Aly: We were supposed to roll out the beta on Wednesday and an hour before they learned from their early adopters that they needed to pivot.Kevin: As a marketing automation company we’ve done our fair share of sending the wrong emails to the wrong people. We went to 50K people instead of key customers and some of the links were broken.Aly: Always watch a GIF all the way through!

If 2020 is the year of the CCO, what is it going to take?

It’s about the data and customer journey

Check out all the talks from CMX Summit 2019. Get ready to CMX & Chill.

*This post was authored by the CMX Community in the CMX Summit 2019 Collaborative Notes

October 24, 2019
May 19, 2023

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