May 25, 2023

From B2B Customers to B2B Advocates

Weather any storm with a strong customer marketing motion. In today’s episode, Drew and our CMO guests explore what it means to build and facilitate a successful customer marketing program. Tune in to learn why you should set up a CAB ASAP, how retention can lead to growth, how much of the budget should go to marketing, and a whole lot more.  

Featuring CMO Huddlers: 

What You’ll Learn 

  • Customer marketing tactics 
  • How to facilitate customer advocacy/advisory groups 
  • How to know when your customer marketing program isn’t working 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 346 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 


  • [4:23] Tejal: From BA in Pharmacy to MBA to CMO 
  • [6:03] 4 core areas of customer marketing 
  • [8:47] Setting up a CAB 
  • [12:30] Marca: Lessons from a varsity lacrosse athlete 
  • [14:18] Passport’s “fanatically happy” customer marketing 
  • [15:57] Facilitating customer advocacy groups 
  • [19:35] Advocacy groups = revenue? 
  • [23:26] Grant’s worst job ever 
  • [26:55] Maturing B2B customer marketing 
  • [29:09] Ensuring customer satisfaction (with Influitive!) 
  • [31:18] On CMO Huddles 
  • [33:58] Customer retention + growth goals 
  • [34:57] Budgeting B2B customer marketing 
  • [38:33] Measuring B2B customer marketing 
  • [44:10] When customer programs aren’t working… 
  • [47:43] Words of wisdom: Strengthen your B2B marketing programs 

Highlighted Quotes  

“A customer advisory board (CAB) is one of the most effective mechanisms to identify and turn your customers into advocates.” —Tejal Parekh Click To Tweet “We want to surprise and delight our clients so that they become not just happy, but fanatically happy.” —Marca Armstrong @PassportHQ Click To Tweet “The most important factor in customer marketing success is customer understanding.” —@grantejohnson1 @emburse Click To Tweet

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Marca Armstrong, Grant Johnson, & Tejal Parekh


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. And I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you will also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know the audio version of Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, was recently ranked the number one new B2B audio book by Book Authority. Kind of cool, right? Anyway, you can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio book platform.

And speaking of audio before we get into today’s show, I do want to do a shout out to the professionals that Share Your Genius. We started working with them several months ago to make this show even better, and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at and tell her Drew sent you.

Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddle Studio, our live show featuring the CMOS of CMO Huddles, a community that sharing caring and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time, we’ve got a conversation with Huddlers Grant Johnson of Billtrust, Marca Armstrong of Passport, and Tejal Parekh, then CMO of Terminal, on customer marketing, amazingly good insights. So let’s dive in. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. Live from my home studio in New York City. We are hearing the warning signs at CMO Huddles as “CFOs” once again become “CF-knows” tightening the purse strings, delaying purchases, and challenging CMOs to do more with less. But here’s the good news. Some of us have been here before, weathered the storm, so to speak, and figured out how to thrive even when the sinking tide lowers the opportunities for others. How? Well first you need to make sure your brand is considered essential in the minds of your customers, customers who you need to retain, rely on for advocacy, and hopefully upsell and cross sell, if that’s an option for your business. And how do you do all that? Well, fortunately for you, we have three amazing CMOs with us today ready to share their experience and insights into what we’ll call “customer marketing.” So with that, let’s bring on Tejal Parekh, CMO of Terminal. Hey Tejal, how are you?

Tejal Parekh: Very good. Excited to be here.

Drew Neisser: It’s good to have you on. And where are you?

Tejal Parekh: I’m actually taking notes from Michigan. As you know, normally I’m based out of San Francisco Bay area, but just visiting some family in Michigan.

Drew Neisser: So I was looking at your LinkedIn profile again. And notice that you got your MBA from the prestigious University of Chicago, which has a reputation of being pretty intense. And there were tshirts saying “U Chicago, where fun comes to die.” So tell us a little bit about your experience there.

Tejal Parekh: I know that it has the reputation of being a very intense place but my experience was quite the opposite. Amazing. Probably business school was the only school where fun did not go to die. We actually had a lot of fun. Very collegial, very social environment. Lots of social hours. So honestly, I could never relate to “Where fun comes to die” tshirts. I can see where the school gets it.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, so we’re just gonna have to do “University of Chicago Business School where fun happens every day.” All right, well, that’s very cool. Now, you had a Bachelor’s of Pharmacy, which is a little unusual background for a marketer, talk a little bit about how you started there. Did your parents say you’re gonna be a pharmacist or how’d you get there? And then was there any value you would add in preparing you as a marketer?

Tejal Parekh: Yeah, I grew up interested in sciences and pharmacy seemed like a really good option at the time, no parental or any pressure otherwise it was completely, self driven. But at the same time, you know, after a couple of years of doing that, I did realize that being in lab, that kind of role did not apply to me. But it did provide really good foundation for what marketers, a lot of marketers, are experts at today, for example, you know, it allows your brain to develop this approach, where you’re constantly thinking about hypothesis, develop hypothesis, test it out. The experimentation mindset—as you know—the world of marketing has evolved so much in the last couple of decades that CMOs who can take that approach, have a much better chance of making their businesses successful, that was a really good foundation to build on.

Drew Neisser: No, I love it. And you know, I talk about this in my book. The whole fourth part of the cat framework is scientific method, which is exactly that, as you described is creating hypothesis and testing it and, you know, go so far as to recommend that CMOs have 10—20% of their budget earmarked for their experiments, because you never know when those experiments might become the full part of the larger part of the program. Okay, well speaking in a larger part of the program, where does customer marketing fit into your overall marketing program?

Tejal Parekh: Sure, you know, I’m gonna take a step back and talk about essentially what four core areas we typically think about as CMOs, when it comes to customer marketing, and of those which are applicable to us today, at Terminal. So if you think about customer marketing, depending on the business, depending on the product, and your target audience, you’re either looking at driving adoption of the product—growing footprint—or you’re looking at crosssell upsell, which you talked about earlier Drew. Third pillar is you’re looking at driving retention, how do you make those customers sticky and continue to get the most value out of them. And the last one is customer advocacy, which is where I would even CAB and some of those elements under customer advocacy. And so based on where we are today, at Terminal, the two core pillars that we focus, at least in terms of marketing that my team focuses on is partnering  with our account executives and account management team on crosssell upsell, and doing that in a scalable way, or helping them do that in a scalable way. And we’re squarely prioritizing, squarely focused on customer advocacy, we just set up cab and you know, CAB is a great way, it’s one of the most effective mechanisms to identify, and turn your customers into advocates. So that is, again, one of those things where if we think about for us at Terminal, growing the brand presence, establishing ourselves as thought leaders is critical for us at this stage. And if you think about that customer advocacy CAB, all of those initiatives ladder up to essentially the overarching goal of growing our presence in the market.

Drew Neisser: So just in case someone doesn’t know a CAB is its Customer Advisory Board. And the idea of a Customer Advisory Board is that you actually select these individuals who help you with your roadmap, maybe even think about source them for decisions in terms of overall marketing, and there’s a lot of uses for CABs, as you use that term. Let’s just talk about that for a second. Because I think—we had a two Huddles in the last two days, and I would say that about half had Customer Advisory Boards. And you mentioned that you just set yours up. So what are the steps that you need to do to even get one up and running?

Tejal Parekh: I’ll talk about it at a high level overarching framework that one would need in order to set it up. You do need a strategic imperative within the organization for setting up the CAB. Most times there is one, like I just gave you an example of why it’s important to do that at Terminal. In general when one does think about setting up CAB, there’s the strategic need for it, there’s the “Do we have enough happy customers who can participate in that kind of a forum, and who can essentially provide that feedback, who feel comfortable providing that feedback.” So I think your makeup of customers—or whatever have you—is also equally important. And then I think in addition to that, internally, if this falls under marketing, then the right marketing owner, that is walking in lockstep with product with your customer account management team to ensure that some of those goals are being met as well, there’s a very solid set of goals requirements that we’re putting forth in that forum. You’ve got to treasure their time. And we’ve got to be really buttoned up with what kind of questions we’re going to them for, or how are we going to use their time, but I think some of the examples that you mentioned, ensuring that we are getting their input on product roadmap is important. But in order to do that, we need to make sure that we do have a solid roadmap that you can serve up, right. I know I’m giving a broader view.

Drew Neisser: No, that’s helpful. It’s great. It’s funny, you mentioned the happy customers thing, because in a Huddle yesterday, one of the CMOs was looking to develop this and was given a list of what they thought were happy customers for marketing to call about this. And it turned out all that a couple of them just did was rant. Oh, well, gee, if these are supposedly the happy customers, you may have a problem. But either way, the initiative to start developing a CAB is really—a Customer Advisory Board—is a great first step. Because if you cannot find enough customers to do that, you have a problem. All right. Anyway, we’re gonna bring on Marca Armstrong now CMO with Passport and get her in.  Hello, Marca.

Marca Armstrong: Hey, Drew, how you doing?

Drew Neisser: I’m doing great. Thank you. How are you? And where are you?

Marca Armstrong: So I am terrific, thank you for asking. And I am in Passport’s headquarters, which is located in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina.

Drew Neisser: All right. So okay, we’ve got three states covered, so far, Chicago, Illinois, and I’m sorry, Michigan, New York and North Carolina. Now I was digging around in your LinkedIn profile. And notice that you were a four year varsity lacrosse player at Mount Holyoke, that must have been fun.

Marca Armstrong: So I love Drew how you dig around people’s LinkedIn profiles to call that out. And yes, it was fun. I think anytime you have a chance to be outside and chase a ball and be with other people, what’s not fun about that. So I certainly enjoyed myself.

Drew Neisser: One of the things that I really come to respect among the, you know, the college athletes, I have to say, I know more women college athletes, who the lessons in time management, because it’s not like you’re going to Mount Holyoke and then you’re going to be a professional lacrosse player. I mean, this is a 25 to 40 hour side hustle. While you have your full time job of being a student, I’m thinking you must have gotten pretty good at time management.

Marca Armstrong: So definitely time management, I think anybody who is a student athlete has to know how to manage their time. But what I would also add to that it’s about focus and discipline. Right, you can show up at practices five days a week, go to games on Saturdays, take Sundays off, or you can meet with your teammates on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in the gym before class, and go on a long run after a game so that you can be faster, stronger, swifter than the next person on the field. So it’s really up to you to decide how you’re going to engage. And ultimately, what you put into the effort is what you’re going to get out of it.

Drew Neisser: And I’m guessing you took the latter approach.

Marca Armstrong: I may have done that.

Drew Neisser: That’s guessing. All right. Well, let’s now get to what we’ll switch subjects here. And let’s talk about customer marketing, and how does that fit into your overall plan?

Marca Armstrong: Sure. So for folks on the call, who are not familiar with Passport, we are a company that sells mobility software and payment services, and our clients are municipalities. So at the end of the day, really our marketing plan is all about the customer. And it’s about and I know we talked about happy customers a second ago, but I’d like to use the term that our clients success VP talks about which is we want to surprise and delight our clients so that they become not just happy but fanatically happy is what she likes to call them. So at the end of the day They’re clients that we can not only upsell and cross sell to, but they also become advocates and we can help sell to people that are in our pipeline.

Drew Neisser: And so fanatically happy. How do you measure that?

Marca Armstrong: There’s a couple of different things that we have on a dashboard. What is the use case, again, because we’re a software company, so how are people using our product? We’ve got a stoplight. I’m sure a lot of people do red, green, yellow, is it red? If it’s red, we got a problem. If it’s yellow, what are we looking for in terms of the stability of the platform? How is it being used, how many users are on it, etc, etc. That’s one, that’s one way that we measure a client’s happiness with us. The other is, you know, what is their likelihood to buy? So if they buy one product from us, are they ready to buy another? How many products? Do they have the full suite of product? So that would be another way? You know, we’ve got a term report that we look at if somebody churned why, you know, what happened, did somebody come in and was it at a price game? So there are a number of different things that we have on the dashboard that we look at on a regular basis.

Drew Neisser: And when you think about sort of marketing, in that context, we have a set of customers, and we know what we want them to be, we want them to be fanatically happy and advocate on your behalf, what are some of the things that that you are doing specifically, to sort of get that, or at least you know, they’re here, you’re trying to get him to hit there?

Marca Armstrong: Sure. So during the pandemic, you know, for all of us lived through this for the past two years, at the very beginning of the pandemic municipality shut down, right, everybody just went inside, nobody was out on the street, nobody was going to restaurants, nobody was using transportation, etc, etc. And when you’re in the mobility business, and you’re helping people figure out where to park and you’re helping rideshare services, figure out how to move about a city. And all of a sudden, nobody’s doing that. You’ve got to find a way and a reason to communicate with your clients. So at the very beginning, March 2020, and that was right around the time that I started with Passport. The whole notion was how do we talk to our clients around business continuity, what’s going to help them get back in business? So we started a series of webinars with clients around the country. And then the webinars actually turned into Customer Advocacy Groups. And we were just talking about an advisory group. But these advocacy groups were actually regional. And we came up with a topic and we said, “Okay, what’s important to the folks in the northeast, as compared to the folks in the, into the in the northwest, or the southwest Texas, southeast, that kind of thing.” Weather played a big factor. When you start talking to people in the South, in the southeast, or in Southern California, what was happening is curbs were being utilized as outdoor restaurant spaces. Right? And so how do you take a topic like that—and they call them parklets—how do you take a topic like that and have a conversation with folks, for example, in the Northeast? How can they take advantage of it? So it’s coming up with conversation pieces that get people engaged, and then they can learn from each other. And then if you as the vendor, become the people that are actually engaging in that conversation or facilitating that dialogue, people look to you for what else? Do you know, how else can you help me? And so that has become a program that we’ve continued, and now that we’re, you know, waning  from a pandemic perspective and comfortable being together again, we’ve actually taken it on the road, and done some in person events in the same kind of fashion. And the feedback has been extraordinary. And people who said, you know, we actually like your events, more so than the industry events, because they actually give us an opportunity to talk to each other, clients can talk to each other. We bring in thought leaders, and it’s a great way for people to become advocates, not just of Passport, but supporters of each other.

Drew Neisser: You know, what I’m thinking about on several levels, so several interesting thoughts. One is—I’m saying you sponsored interesting thoughts—not I have interesting thoughts.

Marca Armstrong: Thank you for that clarification, I appreciate it.

Drew Neisser: One is that when you’re doing customer marketing right, you are essentially building community because you’re helping them come together over common interests. And that’s an important thing to park for a moment. But one of the things that also we talk a lot about in Huddles, and I talk about it in my book is that you essentially were giving away any anything you could in order to keep them engaged while this very difficult time, right, because that was a really challenging period of time. And I remember early on in Huddles because we started Huddles, April 1, one of the CMOs right away said, you know, the more we give away, the more we seem to sell. And I thought, so interesting.

Drew Neisser: And I just want to—before we move on—just talk about, how do you when you look at all those webinars and those programs that you did, particularly in the period where there really wasn’t a lot to sell, how do you sort of connect those dots from, I’m thinking of your conversation with the CEO, “Trust me, there will be sales at some point here.” Connect the dots from all these webinars and the road shows and the things, to revenue.

Marca Armstrong: Yeah, so I think that the key point there is what is marketing’s connective tissue to products, and then the connective tissue to the pipeline? Right. So at the end of the day when you have these roadshows, or you have these advocacy groups, etc, ultimately, what is the opportunity to upsell, right? Where are those people in the pipeline? Where are they on the dashboard? And then when you think about the upsell opportunity is, what is in the pipeline that can be advantageous to that client? So you know, I was just in a conversation earlier today about fleet management, for example. And so you know, what is the opportunity to upsell a client from a parking solution that they have on street to a fleet suite? And where is that client, and if you bring them to an advocacy conversation, whereby all of a sudden other people are talking about fleet management, and what a pain in the tail it is, with all of the Amazon trucks that are clogging the Upper East Side, I don’t know if you’re an Upper East or Upper West or where you are in New York, but you can’t get through anywhere. So what’s the conversation that you have with city leaders in New York City around, help me help you solve this problem of congestion. And then when people start to hear about how that problem has been solved, then all of a sudden, then there’s like, “Oh, hey, I can actually go be a hero in my city and go solve for this. And I learned about it in this advocacy group with Passport. And by the way, they have a solution.” So now all of a sudden, you become a prospect. And so that’s how you have to link it together. And I mean, every marketer knows this, we’re not as successful, we can’t be successful without the connective tissue with both product and then the go to market teams, right.

Drew Neisser: But I think the key thing that I want to emphasize—and then we’re going to invite Grant to the show—the key thing here is it wasn’t, oh, you heard something and then hey, I’ve got a great product for you. It was, you heard something, you connected that dot to more information. So you were helpful. And then at the point where you’ve sort of been helpful, and now they kind of see it on their own. And I think part of it is, you know, there’s such impatience often because we’re trying to get business to go straight from an input that you learned in this situation to an action. I love the way you connected the dots. All right, we’re gonna move on. We’ll come back to you in a little bit. So let’s welcome Greg Johnson, CMO of Emburse There you are. Hey, Grant.

Grant Johnson: Hey Drew, great to join you once again.

Drew Neisser: Yes, Grant is the star of episode 249 and 287 of Renegade Marketers Unite. So and where are you on this fine day?

Grant Johnson: No, I’m actually on the Palace Verdi’s peninsula, our PE firm K One does four summits year marketing sales. I’m actually joining the finance summit, since a lot of the inverse product is sold to the Office of Finance. Pick the brain of a few CMOs, market research is fundamental to marketing. So it’s a great day in Palace Verdi’s.

Drew Neisser: There you go, gotta love that only we play tennis against them in high school. So that’s about the only time I spent there. Anyway, on your LinkedIn profile, you of course, went to undergrad and grad school in California, and then spent most of your career on the west coast. So what you spent a couple of winters in Boston and just said, No, thanks. Don’t need that.

Grant Johnson: Yeah, it was a great first CMO gig from 2009-2013, at Pegasystems. But yeah, after four winters, I’ll remember coming back to escape a winter, my wife and I were drive and we looked at each other along PCH, and we didn’t have to say anything. We both knew it was time to come back for winters. Yeah, I love the East Coast to visit.

Drew Neisser: Well, you know, I’m in California by at heart, but I married a girl from Buffalo, New York, and she loves this season. So there you have it. So one quick question, What was the worst job you ever had? And what do you learn from that experience?

Grant Johnson: Yeah, early in my career, I was hired to be a marketing manager, the company was a bit in trouble. And the director was trying to find a way out of the current situation and asked me to go put together a plan and said, like, “There’s the room go in there and come back in a month with the answer.” And I was just miserable. Because as a more outgoing person who really enjoys working with teams, and my personal mission is to move others to action makes sense that I’m in marketing leadership, right? And I just was stuck in a room, you know, and I couldn’t imagine a worse career path than being an individual contributor working on plans versus, you know, working with teams. So needless to say, went on to my next career assignment on my own accord, because that was not for me.

Drew Neisser: There you go. All right. Well, so now we’re talking customer marketing and I know in bursts, you have a lot of brands, although there’s consolidation going on. Give us a sense of an overview of your customer marketing strategy and how important it is.

Grant Johnson: Yeah, it’s really critical to our growth, I started together with our CRO, and Head of Customer Success. And you know, from the inception, we felt that we needed to fly in formation, aline teams, that we would set mutually shared goals. And we’ve just grown the business, I had one person to start now I have three, I’m sure I’ll have four or more next year, as we’ve grown, the customer marketing, we’ve also matured our sophistication, I would say we never did spray and pray, we knew who the customers were, we’re orchestrating more how we, how we contact them, when we contact them, you know, what offers we make to what segments or cohorts at what times. And you know, bringing those customers along on their own journey to spend optimization, which is really what we offer, help companies optimize their spend across a continuum of expenses, invoices and cards.

Drew Neisser: You mentioned people, you have three people, what are they? What are their roles, what do they do?

Grant Johnson: Right, there’s a leader who’s the director, who started that first person in the group and oversees it. But we have, as you said, we have multiple product lines. And so we have a certain cadence, there’s a certain sophistication and depth of configuration within an enterprise customer. So we have one person overseeing that that’s the leader. And then we have one for our, what we call our mid market customers. And then we just added this year, because we’ve been adding a lot of, we have over 18,000 customers, a lot of SMB customers, they have unique needs, they probably don’t avail themselves to our entire portfolio, they don’t really need that you know those solutions, if you will, but they can certainly add one or two or three more. And so by having folks, they all help each other, but they specialize in one of those three major market segments.

Drew Neisser: And what’s great—so one of the things came up in the Huddle today that we had was this notion of making sure that your individuals in the in this department have the expertise that they really are subject matter experts. And so one way of helping you get there is by breaking up into these segments. How do you make sure—and this was an interesting question that that came up—which is, you know, these jobs are sort of somewhat service and somewhat sales. And sometimes it’s hard to find a salesperson who can really be a subject matter expert, or a subject matter expert, who can really sort of move a conversation along. I’m curious, where is the role of your folks? Are they more on the success side? Or the sales side? Or whatever you want to call it.

Grant Johnson: Yeah, I would think they’re more on the customer engagement side, I guess I’ve given you a third option, right? Because they have to be tight with customer success, you know, is this a net promoter? Or is this account in trouble? They gotta be tight with sales, like, you know, it’s just a compelling offer to make, and does customer care, do we give them a 30 day trial? But really the engagement—I’ll give you an example, we recently implemented Pendo, as many other companies have for in app messaging marketing. And the first thing we did failed miserably. And you know, people that run in the hallways, if they were a hallway, not a virtual, they’d be crying about us. But you know, we learned, what did we learn, that’s the most important part. So we’re going to adapt the next in app offer that we do that was probably overwhelming the first time. And so just being adaptive. And making sure we have engaged customers. We’ve got an event coming up part of our customer marketing is are both virtual and in person, Chicago, we will have coming up next week and have 100 attendees, and which to us is the right number, right? We weren’t looking to get 1000. But those that want to travel in person, and we’ve really curated the content. And the customer marketing’s involved in that you know, we’ve got penetration to certain verticals like professional services, or Higher Ed. And so we’ve got birds of a feather get togethers, that’s more value for the customer. And so within that we’ll have somebody talked about how they’ve adopted some other part of our portfolio, that’s so much more effective than to send 10 more emails, if you think about it, right.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. Okay, boy, a lot of thoughts going on there in terms of, first of all, just admitting that you tried something, it didn’t work, we’re gonna fix it. Thank you for just sharing that. There’s a few CMOs who will be listening to this who go “Yeah, oh, God.” But then let’s just before we get to the next segment of the show, give us things that you are doing to ensure customer satisfaction. You mentioned next Chicago of that. So let’s talk about some of the other things that you’re doing.

Grant Johnson: Yeah, if we could bring up the landing page we actually use we have a community called the inverse collective, I could just give you a visual tour then the picture would would really tell the story fast. So I don’t know if you can see this here on the screen. But if you log into the the Immerse Collective—we just came with that fun name—collectively helping each other and you can see like, “Hey, there’s a focus group, it’s analytics. So I need analytics for our business. Let me find out right?” Immersion Motion is the name for our in person event. You know, if you’re a new customer getting started, you can see there, how do you collaborate with other peers, they might have answers to things that you’re doing. In sharing your source, what product news is relevant to you. So it’s really a self guided customer driven portal. And you get the value out of it that you want. The time you invest, you know, do some fun things. And you can see there, you know, welcome and humanizing work is our brand mission anyway. And so it’s gamified. Like a lot of these you can see everybody’s an optimizer and you can get to the next level, if you want to participate. You know, we do have fun with it. But we try to make it that the customer can decide how much they want to get involved. They want to do a case study, they want to go to an in person motion, in person event. So that’s really how we’ve constructed it, that we can have a constant pulse that customers can help stay connected versus us just always like, hey, let’s reach out once a quarter, you know, send an email every three weeks.

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay, and you’re using Influitive for that.

Grant Johnson: That’s right. Yeah, that’s we’ve had that for over three years and they’ve worked with us we’ve adapted it originally was one of our product lines. Now all customers can join the Collective and, you know learn—kinda like yours—share, dare, and care, certainly share and care with each other.

Drew Neisser: Excellent. All right. Well, speaking of share, care, and dare it’s time for me to do a little commercial, if you will, the plug for CMO Huddles. So CMO Huddles was launched in 2020. It’s an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs, who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you the CMO make faster, better, and more informed decisions. Where one inspiring hour a month delivers 10 hours of perspiration save. Since no CMO can outwork their jobs, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. And since we happen to have three Huddlers here, I would love to bring them back and say, “Hey, anybody want to share your experience?” Let’s see. How about Marca would you like to share your experience so far?

Marca Armstrong: I would be thrilled to Drew. The wonderful thing about being a part of CMO Huddles is you get connected, or I have been connected with some incredibly smart folks. All of us have certain disciplines that we’re good at, you can be on a conversation with somebody or in one of the Huddles where you talk about marketing automation, for example. And then you pipe up and you say, Yeah, I’m really struggling with my current platform. And the next thing, you know, five people chime in and say, “Yeah, I’m struggling too”, and then five other people will say, “Here’s how I solve that problem.” So it’s real time, solution based feedback. And then you can go off and have your own conversation outside of the Huddle itself. And I found that to be extraordinarily fruitful.

Drew Neisser: That’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. Tejal, what would you say?

Tejal Parekh: I think it’s, again, you know, to echo Marca’s comments, amazing community, I can remember at least a couple of instances where Terminal’s technical talent marketplace. And I was keen to understand how some of the other CMOs might set up their marketplace teams. And it was fantastic. It’s a great way to learn from others in a low pressure, low stakes way. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Drew Neisser: That’s awesome. Thank you for that, Grant. Any last insights?

Grant Johnson: Well, don’t go it alone. First time I was a CMO, there wasn’t Huddles around. So we can all benefit from the learnings of others who have pioneered certain paths that we aspire to, as well as share some of our experiences. And exactly as Marca and Tejal, said on a few occasions already, I’ve connected with other folks, mostly for other people on my team that say, hey, we’re gonna do this and maybe have somebody who’s done that and people are always willing to share, which really makes it a great community.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Let’s talk about the business value of customer retention. And when we’re putting together quarterly or annual growth plans—and it’d be interesting because hopefully, we’re still all looking for growth next year. Current customers could be, I don’t know, 25-50% of growth. I’m just curious—and we’re among friends here—is this range about right for you in terms of growth and how you look at it?

Grant Johnson: I’ll jump in, I think that’s a good range for us. Yeah, I’m thinking about our net new bookings target from existing customers for what we call cross sell, it’s 25%. But, if you add in retention, and what we call upsell additional seats, for example, it could be up to 50%. It’s pretty significant.

Marca Armstrong: I would echo that. I think from our perspective is probably on the higher end on the 50% range, because you’re looking at that upsell opportunity.

Drew Neisser: Let’s just say for argument’s sake, the current customers could end up making 50% of your growth goals? Did they get 50% of the budget?

Tejal Parekh: We don’t necessarily allocate it in that sense. There’s also a few factors to consider, right? If you think about, it costs more to acquire a customer or turn prospect into a customer, then to, you know, retain a customer and grow that customer. And so the approach to, saying that, hey, if 50% of revenue is coming from existing customers, then should we be putting 50% of our budget there, that wouldn’t fly, because it costs a lot less to grow these customers, I have experimented, at least in my prior lives, just carving out a budget for customer marketing alone. And, you know, just treating it as a separate bucket overall. But yeah, I think, in general, I would say it varies between 15 to 20%, I would say I have not allocated much more than that to customer marketing.

Drew Neisser: Marca, Grant to either of you have separate budgets, and how do you look at budgeting for customer marketing?

Marca Armstrong: So I’ll chime in, because I think Grant’s answer might be different given what I’ve heard about his organization, but I have a budget, and it’s more tactical in nature, in terms of how it’s split. And then based on those tactics, you go after net new versus customer. So I don’t have it broken out separately from customer marketing, existing customers versus net new. The way my budget works, it’s more around the tactics that we employ. So whether it’s events versus digital versus you know, I’ve got a government relations, piece of the business, etc. So that’s the way I look at it.

Drew Neisser: And so Grant, let’s take the example of your customer event that you mentioned in Chicago, where you’re having 100 customers there. Where’s that budget come from? Well, I know what to assume there’s one big marketing budget, but is there events? And there could be prospect events, too, right?

Grant Johnson: Yeah, well, absolutely. We have a dedicated customer marketing budget, that’s part of it. The four events we do in North American and a couple in Europe. We do invite prospects. So we had one in New York a few months ago, we didn’t have we had like 15 prospects. So far Chicago, I said, 100 customers, maybe there’ll be 10 prospects, who knows why that they’re in other states at this time, we thought we’d get as many there as New York. But yeah, so it’s dedicated the Influitive app, that whole community, that’s part of a dedicated budget, as well as the incentives that we offer for participation, we find that—I think as Tejal said—it is a lot more efficient for us. And so we don’t have to allocate that much of the budget, because our customers, you got to keep in mind that there’s a whole customer success, organization and customer support. And if they’re adding additional functionality implementation team. So they are getting surrounded by a lot of, you know, human resource, as well to make sure their experience is satisfactory and sustainable for their advocacy long term. But we absolutely have dedicated people and programs and can will continue because the return on the investments has been in really good so far.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. So I want to get back to that. But as I’m thinking about it the way, if I added up all the dollars of customer success, and customer service and customer marketing, it might add up to a pretty big number that might rival your acquisition numbers. So I guess that’s one way to do it.

But Grant you did mention the term ROI. And that’s sort of the next area of this. All of these programs have different elements, right? I mean, we have events, and we just want someone to get engaged, how do you measure the effectiveness of your customer marketing? And Grant, you said good ROI. So let’s start with you.

Grant Johnson: Well, yeah, they’re all in, you know, Salesforce and gain sight, and if there’s an active opportunity to accelerate, because we introduced our new analytics pro—suite that they try that out, and, you know, we report on it quarterly. Like every company, we have KPIs OKRs or those, you know, three letter acronyms. We’re looking at, you had a guest recently talked about the customer journey and how many touches, and so we’re looking at that, I mean, this really, especially when you can meet in person and have that one—on—one session, we can see that it’s an accelerator to trying to close some additional sales and therefore, we can see the ROI. And we will spend over $100,000 on these physical events are not inexpensive mind you, as you I think you well know. So we’re looking to get a couple million in pipeline. So we have ambitious goals, but so far, so good.

Drew Neisser: Right, as we say, revenue in the room. So you spend $100,000, but there’s $2 billion in revenue in the room or whatever the number is, that makes sense. Marca or Tejal, from measurement standpoint, what are your go to’s, go ahead Tejal.

Tejal Parekh: I think similar to what Grant shared, you know, we use a similar approach. And I found that approach to be very helpful, which is looking at equating number of touches or tracking number of touches and seeing how that eventually affects any kind of crosssell upsell, retention opportunities, and you do that enough number of times, then you’re able to measure it at an empirical level, and really get a sense for, do the number of touches increase the likelihood to crosssell upsell, and hopefully close additional pipeline.

Drew Neisser: And what you’re really looking for there as sort of correlation, right. If we do this, this, this, and this, we should get this outcome. Marca, anything to add in that measurement area?

Marca Armstrong: So there’s one metric that I hold the team accountable—or we all hold ourselves accountable to—and it’s the ARR that we influence. So the revenue that we influence as a percentage of overall pipeline target for the year of those customers that exist in the cross sales that you’re trying to get to. So if 50% of our pipeline is coming from existing clients, then how many of those existing clients—what’s that percentage of the pipeline that we want to influence based on the pipeline that we have? And how do we go about and do that? So that’s kind of at the top level from an OKR perspective, how we look at it. And that’s done through digital meetings, that’s done through government relations meetings, that’s done through webinars/event meetings so all of those things ladder up to that overall metric.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay. All right. We’re gonna come back to that. But now is the point in the show where we have to ask what would Ben Franklin say, and I think part of this whole conversation is that we’re talking about—you have a good product, you have a great product and your customers are probably happy with what it is that you’re providing, and you shouldn’t hide that. So I think what Ben would say is “Hide not your talents, for they, for use were made, what’s a sundial in the shade?” Okay, so we’re not going to hide our talents, we are not going to put a sundial necessarily in the shade. Customer marketing, we got to bring it out into the sunlight. So I wanted to get at this notion of the separate worlds of customer marketing. In Huddles today, we had a number of folks talk about how NPS, Net Promoter Score, was this magic number for a set of people—not everybody—but for a set of people. And because they didn’t want to measure them in sales, they didn’t want these folks to be forced to—because what you incent, right, is what people do. So talk a little bit about the separate, we’ve got customer support, we’ve got customer growth, and we’ve got one measured in one way and one measured another way. Where did the twain’s meet? That’s probably a tough question. But I’m going to ask Grant, what’s the structure here?

Grant Johnson: Yeah, well, for us, there are actually two separate components of our brands measurement system that I think I’m going to share with you before that we have a number of various metrics that we use to gauge the growing strength of members in the marketplace. And certainly, net promoter is one and but you know, customer adoption, it’s to some extent, it’s, it might be more of an indirect, it’s not to say that a dissatisfied customer is going to embrace your digital cross sell product, that’s pretty unlikely. Even if you have like a flat Net Promoter Score, if you have growing adoption of number of products per customer across the portfolio, and maybe it’s support times, so kind of happy, but they just don’t want to wait this long. You know, it’s not the product work. And so you got to sort of dig into what the correlation between those two scores, they’re not necessarily one moves in one direction, therefore, the other one is gonna move in the same direction.

Drew Neisser: And that gets us into this area where, when customer marketing programs aren’t working, what’s usually the problem and this way we can talk about you don’t necessarily have to have existing examples from your career, Tejal, you’re nodding your head, what’s not working, if your customer marketing program isn’t happening, what’s usually the problem?

Tejal Parekh: It depends on the kind of customer program that we’re talking about. Right? So the example that I just talked about where we, if we are measuring—and this is not the case at Terminal—but I’ve seen this in my prior experience. For instance, if we’re trying to ensure that the customers are nurtured through several touches and we’re able to essentially get them to convert, marketing needs that information from the account management team or customer success team in terms of who are the customers that we should be targeting for these touches? If we are going to put out an event like Grant was talking about, we need that intelligence, from customer success with high enough fidelity to really hone in on those few clients, few customers that we need to go after. Where I’ve seen that doesn’t work so well is when that information exchange is not happening in an effective way, in a way where it supports the overall business goals for both customer success as well as marketing teams. So I think it’s critical to really understand what is the goal for a particular initiative or a project and really ensure that the teams are really aligned on that. I’ll give you another example, at Terminal where we were trying to make sure that we were producing enough customer testimonials, if you will, right. So how do we get the advocates to speak on our behalf and essentially record it. And for a while there the process was set up where it was all pulled from marketing, essentially marketing requests every few weeks, every few months, who are the customers who are successful that we could connect with and move towards testimonials, and after going through several rounds of pulling for customer names, we realized that this is not very effective. And we flip the switch, flip the process, and we said, “All right, customer success, when you think you have a happy customer, you tell us who are those people that we should be reaching out to.” And based on that we also aligned various goals where customer success team was then responsible for on a quarterly basis submitting two nominations for this. And the process just felt like it was finally effective and things were moving, and we were moving a lot faster. So I think it’s about understanding what the goals are understanding where the friction is coming from, and then realigning to make sure that you’re setting up the teams for longer term success.

Drew Neisser: All right. So Marca has some final words of wisdom for CMOs, who are looking to strengthen their customer marketing programs.

Marca Armstrong: So Drew, I’m going to keep it really simple. If you’re going to be successful in a customer marketing program, it’s got to be a win—win. As a client, you want something that’s going to make you look good, and you’re going to benefit. And then obviously, as the supplier, you’re looking for information, and you’re trying to turn them into advocates. So whether you are doing webinars, whether you’re doing digital programs, whether you’ve got some kind of advocacy forum, the way Grant has set up, it’s got to be something where you’re receiving information, and the client is getting something as well. So as long as you’ve got that win—win setup, I would articulate and advocate that your customer marketing program will be successful.

Drew Neisser: It’s such a great point, it really is about a positive exchange of value, right? Because you’re asking the customer to do something typically and you better be giving them something of value to encourage them to do it. Okay, Grant, final words of wisdom.

Grant Johnson: Well, certainly dedicated budget and people but to me, the most important factor in customer marketing success is customer understanding. Make sure your team really continually gathers that insight so they can be relevant and meaningful to customers who we want to adopt more of our platform and retain customers for life.

Drew Neisser: And I just thank you for reminding us so yes, we’ve got to have this win—win situation. Well, you can’t get to a win—win situation if you don’t understand your customers, right? Because they’re the ones that you’re hoping to influence. You did mention budget. Okay. Tejal one one last words of wisdom for CMOs looking to strengthen their program.

Tejal Parekh: In addition to what Grant and Marca have mentioned, I would say Customer Success teams. Your Customer Success Teams are going to be your strongest partners for customer marketing success. Focus on ensuring that you’re building relationships. You have an advocate who understands how customer marketing can impact their job and how you can better partner together. Just ensure that you’re setting up a good relationship and just overall a framework for success there.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. All right. Tejal, Marca, Grant, you’re all great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

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To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!