Figuring out how to get quality product feedback from your customers quickly can be a big challenge for product teams. And yet, your success as a software product depends on it. The truth is, your customers are busy professionals who need a good reason to spend their valuable time filling out a customer survey or participating in an interview.
When your company nurtures and delights advocates through customer communities, you’re greasing the wheels to ask for favors later. You can then mobilize customers to provide their honest feedback, and reward them for doing it. Product teams can collect better insights, accelerate product iteration, and ultimately run better product launches through this approach.
On the first instalment of our Customer-Powered Webinar series, I got the chance to speak with Tiffany Beddow, Senior Customer Marketing Manager at ON24, a provider of webinar software. We were joined by Jake Sorofman from Pendo, a product cloud that helps digital product teams understand and guide their users.
Tiffany has devoted the past 3 years to managing the Webinerd Network, a customer community designed to help her customers succeed. She is part of a larger initiative to make ON24 a customer-powered enterprise—a business strategy that involves customers in all key initiatives. This approach has shaped how ON24 creates departmental alignment, and involves customers in their product development process.
Read on to discover Tiffany’s best tips for using your customers to collect meaningful product insights that will help your team build better products.
Chris: What does the term “customer-powered” mean to you?
Tiffany: When I think about what “customer-powered” means, I think about infusing the customer voice into all aspects of the business. For our sales team, that means making sure they’re using our customer stories and anecdotes in their sales process. For our product team, that means leveraging customers to validate our messaging and test our new products.
I want our customers here at ON24 to take control of their own journey, and that’s something I’ve been working on this year. We want to make sure that customers are having a consistent experience across the board.
Jake: Tell us about your customer-powered vision for ON24 in 2019.
Tiffany: Our big vision for 2019 is to align all departments—account management, customer success, customer marketing, product management and even our training teams. We want to agree as a team on what our messaging is and how we can help our customers.
We want to take advantage of all our different channels, whether it’s in-app, email, Pendo, Influitive, in-person events or our QBR. Our goal is to inspire customers to come to us when they want to see more demos, present at Webinar World (ON24’s annual user conference), and learn more about additional services.
Chris: What are the 3 top challenges you’ve experienced in building a customer-powered enterprise?
Tiffany: First of all, a big challenge has been to actually implement change. The toughest part has been working cross-functionally with departments I haven’t worked with much before and gaining their trust. To do that, I involved them from the beginning and made sure they felt heard and were bought-in from step one, which wasn’t always easy.
Secondly, another challenge has been meeting the high demand our teams have for customer content. As an organization, we’ve seen a shift towards getting more vertically strategic and targeting our campaigns to specific industries. The stories that might have worked for the broader group don’t work anymore. It’s tough finding those super industry-specific stories and nurturing those relationships.
Lastly, I would say scaling in general is tough. It’s easy to get the quick wins when it comes to engaging with your customers. But long-term, it becomes a little tougher, especially as your customer base grows.
Jake: How does ON24 use Pendo & Influitive together?
Tiffany: We use Pendo and Influitive mostly to identify and mobilize our power users. Power users are going to be huge for your community of advocates and customers.
For example, when our product team is testing a new “look and feel,” they want to get people trying it out. But, rolling out this change all at once can be quite jarring if it disrupts how customers are used to doing things.
ON24 got users to opt in to their new user interface with a simple button
To make it easy for customers to opt in and test out the new view, our product team added this new beta button. However, we didn’t have a good mechanism in place to collect feedback. Customers also didn’t have a way to feel connected to our product manager. We wanted to make sure that our customers who were using this new view felt a part of the actual product development process and were feeling heard.
With Pendo, I could find out who our power users were (we defined these as people who used the new view five times in the past 30 days), save this segment and put it into Influitive. Only about 10 of the 50 power users we determined were already a part of our advocacy community, which blew my mind!
First we targeted these existing advocates to get feedback on this new experience and establish a connection with our product manager. After inviting the power users who weren’t already advocates into our program, we were able to bring them into the community and get them involved in the discussion too.
A challenge driving ON24’s advocacy community to provide product feedback
Chris: What KPIs or ROI metrics do you use to measure success?
Tiffany: I look at pipeline influence when it comes to the activities I’m doing—whether that’s customer-specific webinars or communications I’m running—and how that might be affecting renewals.
I noticed something interesting from our “Ask The Experts” webinar series, which is where our product team talks to our customers about new releases, new features, etc. From 2017 to 2018, we saw a 38% increase in renewal dollars attributed to that program.
I feel that this was likely due to our product managers starting to build more of a following. People want to hear directly from them.
Jake: What are your top 3 recommendations for someone getting started with an advocate program?
Tiffany: First things first, I would get a lay of the land of what tools you might already have at your fingertips. Find out what your product team is using (for example, a tool like Pendo) and see if you can get access.
My second recommendation would be to go through the effort of really aligning with those internal teams. Go through the process of mapping out the customer journey and figure out where in this journey it makes sense for you to communicate your message. That might be in-app, by email, at an event or in a QBR.
Lastly, I would say that you should always talk to your peers. I love hearing what other customer marketers are doing. (You can see what insights other customer marketers have to share by joining our Experience VIP community.) It’s so easy to have your head down and work in the silo of your company’s own little world. That’s why I think it’s important to break out of that and listen to what other people are doing.