How Has Economic Uncertainty Affected Your Planning as a Customer Marketer?

Being a customer marketer during the pandemic was tough, but it was a great learning experience for Ashley Ward, a Top 100 Customer Marketer at LeanData, as she adjusts her customer marketing planning during the current economic uncertainty. Find out the 2 strategies she uses.

Interview with Ashley Ward of LeanData

Being a customer marketer during the pandemic was tough, but lots of learning came out of it for Ashley Ward, a Top 100 Customer Marketer at LeanData. That experience helped guide her as she adjusted her planning as a customer marketer during the current economic uncertainty. Keep reading to find out the 2 key strategies she uses.

You’ll also hear about her journey to customer marketing, her thoughts on the difference between customer success and customer marketing, and a few of her biggest customer marketing successes in the past 12 months.

Ashley Ward interview

Ashley Ward

Name: Ashley Ward
Job title: Director of Customer Marketing
Company: LeanData
Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Fun facts about Ashley Ward:

📺 The show you’re binging right now: Shrinking
☕ Tea, coffee, or something else?: COFFEE.
🎞️ Your all-time favorite movie is: The Breakfast Club
🌴 Your ideal vacation includes: Warm sun, cold beverages and delicious food
🛫 Last place you’ve traveled to: Yosemite

How did you end up where you are today in customer marketing? 

Ashley Ward: My major in college was advertising and my first job was in advertising sales. I quickly learned that I didn’t love having to go out and find new customers, but I absolutely loved building relationships with my existing customers and growing the revenue with them as I grew those relationships. 

Eventually interviewed for a role in Customer Success which I had never heard of, but it sounded really similar to the account management side of my sales roles that I loved. So I started working for a company in Customer Success, but what was unique in this role was that two of us were hired together and we shared hundreds of accounts.

Basically, it was like, “Here, go figure out how to onboard, train and grow all these accounts in a scalable way.” And I loved it because we had so much creativity and flexibility to just build out scalable programs. I got to lean into my marketing skills and we started building out content and webinars, and we were able to pretty successfully manage all of these accounts.

Eventually, I started taking on your more traditional customer-marketing activities that I had no experience in. We didn’t have that role. So I started doing customer stories. I built out a community. I was driving reviews. We launched a Customer Advisory Board. Then, when I found this opportunity at LeanData, it was the perfect melding of all of those things that I love together. And now I’ve been at LeanData for three and a half years as Director of Customer Marketing.

What’s the difference between Customer Success and Customer Marketing?

Ashley Ward: If the ultimate goal of Customer Marketing is to have advocates who are out talking about your product, then you have to help ensure that you have successful customers and build them into advocates first.

At LeanData, we have spent a lot of time building out programs for our customer base. Our product is a little more technical, so we’re focused on product education. We are really focused on helping to make sure—in a scalable way—that our customers are successful. 

We have a great Customer Success team who are having those one-on-one conversations, but we’re providing webinars and training and resources that reach a lot of customers at one time. And through those programs, we can create and identify successful customers who often become our best advocates. 

Does Customer Success fall under the umbrella of Customer Marketing?

Ashley Ward: Right now it’s side by side. A lot of companies realize they have to scale Customer Success. And to do that, you have to have one-to-many programs in place, whether that’s campaigns or email sequences or webinars or events or community-building. 

I think it’s a natural fit for those one-to-many programs to come from Customer Marketing. Customer Success and Customer Marketing have different skill sets and different offerings, but they have to be really closely aligned to succeed together.

What are some of your biggest customer marketing successes of the past 12 months?

Ashley Ward: In the last 12 months, we’ve been able to do a few things in person again, which has been so amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed being in person until I was back in person. In September, we had our annual conference and I was able to meet a ton of customers and film a number of video testimonials. 

The videos were a huge success. The initial testimonial videos turned out great—nothing quite comes through as much as a customer telling their own story in their own words. We were able to create so much content out of those two days worth of work that we’re still creating content from it. That’s going to be like the gift that keeps on giving for us over the next several months—if not longer.

How is all the economic uncertainty affected your planning as a customer marketer?

Ashley Ward: I feel like we went through this to an extent in 2020. There are a couple of things that I think about:

1. We are leaning into our customers.

A lot of our customers are also in the tech space and so are highly impacted by the economic uncertainty. There are a lot of conversations, a lot of listening, and just finding out what they need from us right now. That’s number one.

In 2020, this informed a lot of our strategy. Customers wanted more community. They wanted to talk to other people. They wanted to learn more to make sure that they were experts, whether that helped them keep their job or look for a future job. So we really leaned into training and certification and meetups because that’s what people wanted.

2. We are trying to be as scrappy as we can.

How do we deliver more with less without sacrificing on the customer experience we deliver? What can we bring in-house that we weren’t before? And how can we make sure that we’re doing everything we can to help support our sales team?

For our customers, it’s back to listening. Do we understand what challenges they’re facing right now and do we have the right resources to support them? Can we evolve existing programs to meet their needs over building out more programs? And for Sales, I’m thinking about how we can repurpose existing customer content. Can we highlight our reviews in different ways? Can they easily find everything we have?

What does leaning into the customers look like for you?

Ashley Ward: It comes down to listening, really listening, to your customers and actioning the common themes of feedback. We have a lot of people across different teams engaging with customers and it’s really important that we’re all sharing the feedback and insights. One of the best things at a company our size is that we can move quickly and address the needs of our customers in a way that can have a major impact.

How important are customer stories?

Ashley Ward: They are incredibly important. We truly have the best customers, and every time we have a conversation—especially an interview—we learn so much. I love customer stories because I love highlighting what our customers are doing. A big piece of my job is finding people who are doing amazing things and then helping them share their story. That’s one element of it. 

Obviously, for our Sales team and our Customer Success team, these stories are incredibly important because they tell the story of how our target audience can use the product to change their business. They need to understand how other people are solving a problem, and the best way to do that is through existing customers.

What are some of the challenges that come with producing customer stories?

Ashley Ward: Lately, the challenge I’m facing is that our customers will give us so much great information and you somehow have to whittle that down to a story that is short enough that you expect a prospect to actually read or watch it. People don’t have great attention spans anymore. Everything is like 10 seconds or half a page long. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we take these amazing stories and then create bite-sized content that really captures everything the customer’s doing. That’s hard!

How do you measure the performance of your customer stories?

Ashley Ward: We look at our customer stories alongside all of our other content and how it’s performing. I tend to look at the feedback that I get from the Sales team. That’s how I measure performance. I listen to what they have to say. I look at how the customer stories are being received internally. Our Sales team is very engaged. 

I know that the Enablement team uses customer stories as part of their bootcamp and training for new hires, so I can see that our customer stories are woven into everything that we’re doing internally. That’s my gauge for determining that these are important. People appreciate them. They’re using them in the field. 

Do you have any advice for anyone new to customer advocacy?

Ashley Ward: Customer marketing is all about the customer. Every organization is going to be different and have different needs and different expectations from their Customer Marketing department. That’s a big challenge for us in customer marketing. 

However, if the focus is on the customers—and if you’re in a role that’s mostly about advocacy—it is all about what they need. Do they need a community? Do they need content or education? 

Another important thing to consider is what each customer wants. Not everybody wants to do a customer story. Not everybody wants to speak on a stage. Understanding what your customers need and then building your program based around that is how you find success. 

P.S. Want more customer marketing insights?

If you’d like access to more customer marketing insights like this, sign up for our newsletter to catch all of our interviews with customer marketing leaders. 

No spam, we promise—just two value-packed newsletters about customer marketing and case studies every second Monday. 

Plus, if you’re also interested in content marketing, you can opt-in to receive two more monthly newsletters on alternating Mondays where we chat with leading content marketers.

And just in case you missed it, check out our 2024 Customer Story Trends & Insights Report, where we surveyed 115 customer marketers to gather their insights and experiences with customer stories.

Here’s a preview:

How to Gain Enough Industry Knowledge to Write for Experts

How do you gather enough industry knowledge to sound like an expert when creating content? Read our interview with content marketer Katie Mitchell to find out how she helps junior team members face this challenge—plus 3 more common content marketing challenges.

Interview with Katie Mitchell, Content Marketer

As content marketers, one of the biggest challenges we face is establishing credibility in the content we create, especially when writing about topics we’re not experts on. For our content to hit the mark, it needs to read like it’s been written by someone who shares the reader’s deep industry knowledge. This gets even harder when our audience is in a technical industry like software engineering, finance or healthcare, to name a few.

So how do we convince our readers—who are experts in their respective fields—that we know what we’re talking about?

The short answer? We fake it ‘til we make it.

The full answer is a bit more complex than that. We talk to subject matter experts and customers and we immerse ourselves in research, trying to absorb as much industry knowledge as possible. But creating relevant and helpful content for an audience of experts takes time. A lot of time.

Being an effective content marketer means balancing expertise (or relative lack thereof!) with efficiency. Establishing credibility in writing means making sure we understand our audience’s jobs—and “jobs to be done”—well enough to create content that offers readers real value.

Ultimately, how you use your time determines whether your content will succeed or fall flat, as Katie Mitchell knows all too well—something we discussed in depth in our interview. 

In our interview, we discussed a wide range of topics, including:

  • how she ended up in content marketing and what’s next for her
  • “paying it forward” by sharing your knowledge
  • how content marketers can create authentic, helpful content when they aren’t experts on the topic

Katie Mitchell interview

Name: Katie Mitchell
Job title: Marketing director roles
Company: Formerly at Sprig and EVERFI
Homebase: Washington, DCDegree: MBA, Marketing and Strategy

Fun facts about Katie Mitchell:

🥙 Food you’re craving right now: I am obsessed with a good ham and cheese croissant
📚 Book you think everyone should be reading right now: Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America
📺 The show you’re binging right now: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
☕ Tea, coffee, or something else?: COFFEE!!
👪 You’re a parent to: Two fun kiddos – 6 and 4

How did you get to where you are today in content marketing?

Katie Mitchell: In the past, I’ve mostly worked for small marketing teams at growth-stage companies, but recently I was at a startup called Sprig. Like many marketers, I have done a little bit of everything. I’ve been the jack of all trades.

I started out on the demand-gen side, just nuts and bolts, working on everything from websites to CRO to paid. I have done that type of job at just about every company I’ve been at. 

The longer I’ve been in marketing, the more I’ve realized that the thing I really like to do is create content and write, anything from landing pages to campaigns. So it’s been a journey of coming to that realization.

What’s your current job?

Katie Mitchell: I actually just left my last role as head of marketing at Sprig in December. My family is moving abroad in July, and I’m going to be spending some time leaning into my family. 

But right now, I’m working pretty closely with Emily Kramer, helping her run a lot of her content and all the things that she’s got going on with her newsletter.

Who is Emily Kramer and what does she do?

Katie Mitchell: Emily creates content for marketers about marketing—everything from growth to content to product marketing. She covers the gamut. Emily was an early-stage marketer, and she’s since gone out on her own and runs a fund. Her Substack newsletter has about 20,000 subscribers, so you should definitely subscribe if you haven’t already.

Emily also teaches a variety of different courses and advises marketers and founders. She was my advisor for a while, and I decided that since I’m not working full-time right now, it was a good opportunity for us to collaborate.

When you post on LinkedIn, it seems really intentional. What motivates you to share your expertise?

Katie Mitchell: I think most good content marketing is figuring out what you know that your audience doesn’t know yet. If you can figure that out—and how can you package it up and share it with your audience—you’re golden.

So most of what I write is stuff I think other content marketers would find useful. As I learn things, I share. So if I have an experience where I’m, like, “Wow, it would’ve been really helpful if I knew that before,” usually that’s when I’ll share because I want to be able to pay it forward.

That’s part of the reason I love content marketing. As a professional, we’re helping professionals be better at their jobs. And, before now, there weren’t really a lot of ways to do that. You had to muscle through and experience it and make mistakes, and now there’s ways for you to not have to make mistakes. You just read what other people did wrong, and then you can sort of do it. That’s my main motivation.

What’s the biggest challenge in content marketing?

Katie Mitchell: Gaining the industry knowledge needed to establish credibility.

It’s incredibly hard to be a B2B content marketer because you are basically faking it until you make it. You’re trying to pretend that you know more than your customers about an area that they are an expert in and you are not. And that is a pretty hard job.

And I think that’s the biggest challenge for content marketers because people don’t want to read marketing, they want to read something that’s helpful, and the most authentic content marketing is the most successful.’

How can content marketers create authentic, helpful content?

Katie Mitchell: So it comes down to expertise, right? How do you get that industry expertise in a way that’s consistent and scalable? I’ve always been very focused on developing relationships with subject matter experts, but just having the relationship doesn’t really solve your problem because you need their time

If you can take some of the time to do deep research yourself, I think that can help build expertise and help you figure out what type of content will actually solve your audience’s problem. This research can include talking to customers and your Customer Success team to better understand what the customer or ICP is going through, and what they care about or struggle with.

What are your top content marketing goals?

Katie Mitchell: The goals really depend on the company. What are the company goals? At every company that I’ve been at, the content marketing goals have been different because the company-level goals have been different.

The one thing I’ve always felt was important—and this is more as a marketer generally and not as a content marketer—is how do you really figure out the actual thing you’re trying to make happen (the outcome), versus the output?

A lot of marketing teams are, like, “We want to create 10 blog posts, or We want to create 15 social media posts,” or whatever it is. But I think the key is to try to get out of output and into outcomes as much as you can.

If your company really wants to increase traffic with a certain persona, what is the company goal that ladders to that? And then how can your specific KPIs as a content team support that? 

Eventually, you will get to output, but how can you at least start with outcomes-based goals, like “We want to drive X amount of traffic to these 10 blog posts that would be useful for Y persona, which would then have this many conversions to signups or demos for that persona.” That’s generally how I think about it—how can you get really close to that core goal?

What are some of the challenges that come with creating content?

And for each example, could you explain what makes it challenging and how you think about or overcome this challenge?

Challenge 1: Creating content is really time-intensive

You want to be efficient, but you also want to create great content, and it can be a pretty big time investment. I think figuring out who is doing what and resourcing effectively can be a big challenge. 

Most often, the content that falls flat is content that’s been written by someone who’s not as experienced or doesn’t have as much knowledge—and you can see through that really quickly. And the reason that’s happening is because the people that are experienced don’t have the time it takes to do all of the content creation.

That dynamic is something you see in every company because you have experienced managers and subject matter experts and you have newer folks without as much industry context. There’s that push and pull between who is experienced and who is learning and trying to optimize everyone’s time. 

Challenge 2: Everyone creates content differently

Content is particularly challenging because if you gave three different people a content prompt, you’d get three completely different outputs. It’s always going to be different. 

Let’s say you’re a content-marketing director and you’re working with a manager or specialist. What they produced is how they perceived it in their head. You might have had a completely different idea because this is an inherently creative discipline. Melding something that everyone is comfortable with is a complex process.

If you’re a content marketer, it’s important to have empathy for yourself and be kind to yourself and understand that everyone approaches content differently.

Challenge 3: It’s hard to prove that what you’re doing works

You’re influencing people’s perceptions, but how do you prove that? Pulling anecdotes and the soft results that aren’t in the numbers are often the most impactful because the numbers don’t really tell you a lot. They tell you something, but they don’t actually tell you what’s happening.

You have to talk to people and you have to get those anecdotes to really see that. And I think if you can talk to a few people to understand what they think about your content, and you find out how you are impacting their thought process, then you can assume it’s happening with everyone else. 

As an experienced content marketer, how do you nurture newer, younger team members?

Katie Mitchell: People like to feel productive. And to most people, being productive is putting pen to paper and creating something. And something that I told my team all the time: “You should not write a piece of content today. We’re going to spend time at the whiteboard. We’re going to spend time talking. You’re going to read. You’re going to listen to calls.”

You almost need a full day each week where you don’t produce anything and you just calibrate with both the market and with your manager. Because if you spend all day writing, you’re never going to actually get the information that then makes your writing better. I had to deprogram my team because they didn’t feel like they could take the break to actually do that stuff. 

But it makes you 500 times more productive if you take the time because content marketing is taking all of that and then regurgitating it. And if you don’t feed the machine, you’re never going to be able to have anything good come out on the other end. I will die on that hill. I think it’s so important, but it can really mess with your brain because you feel like you spent a day not doing anything and it makes you feel like you wasted your time.

How do you spend those days when you aren’t producing content?

Katie Mitchell: I wouldn’t necessarily say do it all day. I think there are customer pillars: 

  • Can you get on calls with customers and shadow them or talk to them? Can you spend a couple of hours collaborating with your manager on a piece and getting on the same page with what you’re writing about? 
  • Can you just spend time researching and thinking and then present very raw thoughts to your manager? 

As a manager, how do you make your team members feel they can come to you to brainstorm ideas?

Katie Mitchell: You have to tell them all the time, “Come with me!” I do think being in person really helps. We had one day in the office, and it was so amazing how that day was so much more productive. It’s hard in a remote world. I think if you can try to find time to be in person, it definitely makes a big difference. You just have to be open and share.

P.S. Want more marketing insights?

If you’d like access to more content marketing insights like this, sign up for our newsletter to catch all of our interviews with content marketing leaders. 

No spam, we promise—just two value-packed content marketing newsletters every second Monday. 

Plus, if you’re interested in customer stories and customer marketing, you can opt-in to receive a two more newsletters on alternating Mondays where we chat with leaders in customer marketing.

Speaking of customer stories, have a look at our 2024 Customer Story Trends & Insights Report, where we surveyed 115 customer marketers to gather their insights and experiences with customer stories.

Here’s a preview:

5 Tips for Tackling Something New to You in Customer Marketing

As much as Shannon Howard, a Top 100 Customer Marketer, shares her knowledge with her community, she’s also leaning on them (and her past experiences) to figure out how to do new things in customer marketing. Find out her 5 tips for tackling something new.

Interview with Shannon Howard of Intellum

If you’re anything like many of your customer marketing peers, your journey to customer marketing has been long and winding—gathering a wide variety of experiences as you go. 

Interestingly, it’s these varied experiences that have helped you excel as a customer marketer because you’re able to pull from past experiences to figure out new solutions in customer marketing activities that may be new to you.

Shannon Howard, Top 100 Customer Marketer, sits down to talk to me about this very thing. During the conversation, she provides 5 tips that every customer marketer should keep in mind when trying to tackle something new.

We also talk about:

  • how Shannon got started in customer marketing
  • 3 challenges she’s currently facing (you can likely relate!)
  • 3 pieces of advice for anyone getting started in customer marketing

Looking for a customer marketing solution?

Check out 29 Top Customer Marketing Solutions to Drive Customer Growth and Retention (2023)

Shannon Howard interview

Shannon Howard, Customer Marketing Manager at PeopleGrove

Name: Shannon Howard
Job title: Director of Customer & Content Marketing
Company: Intellum
Shannon’s hometown: Black Mountain, NC

Fun facts about Shannon Howard:

💖 The person you most admire is: My Nana
🥙 Food you’re craving right now: Bread
📚 Book you think everyone should be reading right now: The No Complaining Rule
⛱️ Vacation you’re dreaming about: Costa Rica
📺 The show you’re binging right now: Firefly Lane

How did you get your start in customer marketing?

Shannon Howard: Like many people, I kind of ended up in customer marketing without realizing it. In my first corporate role, I was a curriculum developer. That led to marketing course launches, which eventually led to managing a community of 60,000+ graduates, building out our referral program and experimenting with retention initiatives. 

From there, I ended up in tech because one of my former employees introduced me to the company she was working for. While I originally interviewed for a sales enablement position, I ended up in content marketing. A year later, they promoted me to product management, building out a learning platform that would house all of our marketing and learning content. Part of that role was thinking about learning as part of the customer journey—from prospect to customer onboarding and beyond.

My first formal customer marketing role was at Litmus, where I worked on customer lifecycle, product releases and adoption, customer communications, retention and engagement. 

At PeopleGrove, I spent a lot of time on customer success at scale—creating materials that enabled both customers and CS. That role also included rebuilding our customer community and advocacy work. That was new for me, because I’ve done a lot on customer stories and case studies, but not a lot on building a pool of advocates and having these different advocacy activities. 

At Intellum, I’ll be building out the customer marketing function from scratch, which is really exciting. 

Overall, my journey has been largely unintentional—mostly just what people throw at me and figuring it out along the way.

When you’re figuring out something new in customer marketing, what’s your approach?

Tip #1: Pull from past experiences

Sometimes there are projects I’ve done before that are similar, and I can pull from those. Also, because I’ve worked in operations, acquisition marketing and product management, there are things I learned in each of those areas that are really helpful to customer marketing. 

Tip #2: Spend a year in product management

My potentially unpopular opinion is that everybody should spend a year in product management. It teaches you to have a long-term vision for something, how to break it into phases and take an iterative approach, and how to ship, learn and iterate.

In marketing, we tend to take on these gigantic projects. We bet the farm on this big project instead of testing the waters and learning, then building on it.

Tip #3: Tap into Slack communities

I might Google “How are other people doing this?” Or I’ll go to different customer marketing Slack groups and ask people, “What does your reference process look like? How are you measuring this? How are you tracking things in Salesforce?”

Tip #4: Adapt learnings to fit your own situation

One of the things I’ve realized is I can’t always do what other people are doing because we don’t have the data for it. Or we don’t have the RevOps support for it, or we don’t have the budget or the bandwidth for it. If you’re a smaller, less mature company, you might not be able do the things that someone is doing at a Marketo or a bigger company.

Tip #5: Keep Customer Success in the loop

It’s important to make sure Customer Success is in the loop on all things customer—whether it’s your program, Customer Education, Sales or Marketing including customers in what they’re doing. Otherwise, people are just tapping customers left and right. Customer Marketing can serve as almost “air traffic control” for customer interactions at scale. 

What are some of your favorite Slack groups for sharing information?

Shannon Howard: CMAweekly. Another one’s called Customer Marketing Community. HubSpot started it, and Crowdvocate picked it up and had a community manager engaging people on there. Now they’re starting to do more with it. Those are the two that I tend to lean on.

What are some challenges you’re facing in customer marketing?

1. A big one has been data

My last company was only a few years old. Like most startups, our systems were built up as we went. It’s like building a plane as you fly it. It wasn’t always the most intentional process, and then you’re patchworking things on top of that.

For example, I didn’t have an accurate list of my customers for about six months because we didn’t keep the fields for that report up to date. And the way Salesforce was set up was a little wonky. That was a challenge because a lot of customer marketing is knowing who people are. How long have they been a customer? How many admins and users are on the platform? How are they using the platform? And if none of this data is syncing to a central place, you can’t really segment and target communications appropriately—especially not in real time.

As I talk to more and more customer marketers, a lot find themselves in a similar boat. So just a reminder that this is a fairly normal challenge for us! We just have to learn to be creative in how we work around data issues.

2. Managing change

My last company significantly expanded the sales team to three or four times bigger than what it was. There were also new customer success managers and a new CS leader. And sometimes, when we’re working on programs, we forget to consider those end users and internal stakeholders. Are they prepared for change management?

If we’re introducing, let’s say, a new reference process and the sales team is in the middle of learning a whole new sales methodology, do they have the capacity to take in this new reference process at the same time? Or do we need to let that information settle before we bring in this new process? That’s been difficult to time properly because there’s a lot we want to do and we can do—there’s a ton of opportunity when you’re building a program or function from scratch—but I also can’t move at my pace. I’ve got to move at the pace that everybody else is available for. 

3. Keeping a pulse on what’s on everyone’s plate

At the end of last year, our customer success team was really focused on renewals, which is what they should be focused on at that time of year. But when it came to new strategies or goals in Q4, a lot of the work to communicate these with customers fell onto my plate because the customer success team was busy. We had to work around different availability and figure out who had the bandwidth for what. I think that’s the beautiful thing about customer marketing—you can really be this support for all these different teams to scale what they’re doing.

How do you manage projects where different stakeholders have different priorities? 

Shannon Howard: I think of it like a six-lane highway, each lane being a different project that I’m working on. Where is there a traffic jam or where have people slowed down? And where is there room to continue moving forward? I’ve tried to look at it like that so I’m not just sitting there twiddling my thumbs wondering when everybody else is going to be ready. Where can I make progress? Sometimes the game you have to play is shifting lanes based on where everybody else is at. Respect that other people have different goals, priorities, and projects they’re working on, and move where you can.

Are you using case studies right now, and, if so, how are they working for you?

Shannon Howard: This response is from my previous role, but yes, we’re using case studies. Right now, we have superficial metrics in terms of views or shares from our sales enablement platform, but we don’t have them all attached to deals. That’s something our new RevOps director is working on—attaching case study views or customer story video views to opportunity records. That way we can actually track influence on revenue.

Our sales team is a really big fan of video stories. It’s interesting because the data actually shows that more people are looking at our written stories. But I understand there’s power in video and hearing someone’s voice in their own story, in their own words. So we try to find a blend of both. Obviously, it’s much more production-heavy if you have a video.

Do you have any advice for someone who’s getting started in customer marketing?

1. Start with the customer and the business problems

There has to be an intersection of the two. Some things that we want to do for our customers don’t meet an immediate business need, so they can’t be our priorities. We have to think about both.

I’ve worked for companies that are all-in on references because they’re a high-level contract, it’s a high dollar value. But then other things—case studies, testimonials, reviews, things like that— are more popular with customers. So you have to look at your own customers, your own prospects, the buyer’s journey, and figure out what actually matters most. 

2. Get creative

Last year, I hand-wrote over 150 cards to all of our customers and I customized them with the name of their platform and the name of their school and things that I knew about them because I stalked them all on LinkedIn! You need to figure out what is within your budget to do and be comfortable doing that. It’s OK to not have the budget for things. A lot of us are in that position, especially now. Get creative! What can you do?

3. Start small

I think people want to launch with a top-tier program, whether that’s a customer awards program, customer conference or reference process that uses a nice tool. But it’s okay to be where you’re at and grow over time. Figure out what your business and your customers want, and then remember it’s okay to start small and grow.

P.S. Want more customer marketing insights?

If you’d like access to more customer marketing insights like this, sign up for our newsletter to catch all of our interviews with customer marketing leaders. 

No spam, we promise—just two value-packed newsletters about customer marketing and case studies every second Monday. 

Plus, if you’re also interested in content marketing, you can opt-in to receive two more monthly newsletters on alternating Mondays where we chat with leading content marketers.

And just in case you missed it, check out our 2024 Customer Story Trends & Insights Report, where we surveyed 115 customer marketers to gather their insights and experiences with customer stories.

Here’s a preview:

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