Telstra's Inese Kingsmill shares how customer advocacy is elevating marketing's role

Head of corporate marketing discusses the importance of customer advocacy in building lifetime value and business growth, and discusses ways marketing can earnt the respect of the board

Inese Kingsmill, Telstra
Inese Kingsmill, Telstra

Customer advocacy has become the cornerstone of growth and lifetime customer value at Telstra and has elevated the role of marketing, its head of corporate marketing reports.

Speaking on the latest episode of the AANA’s Marketing Dividends program on Sky News Business, the telco giant’s director of corporate marketing, Inese Kingsmill, said its focus on creating stronger advocates among its customers has become a key measure of lifetime value and growth across Telstra’s operations and markets.

Her comments echo those made by Telstra CEO, David Thodey, three months ago during an annual general meeting, where he stated customer advocacy as the company’s highest strategic priority and one of three strategy pillars.

“We fundamentally believe that customer advocacy has to underpin any growth that the business is going to be able to achieve, whether that’s in the core of our business or in growth markets,” Kingsmill said, adding that customer advocacy is also strongly related to trust.

Telstra is using econometric modelling to prove the lifetime value of a customer increases as advocacy rises, lifting this one-time ‘soft metric’ to something that is both understood and respected at a board level, Kingsmill continued.

To help, Telstra has been building a sophisticated research, insights and analytics function within the Telstra marketing team. The Net Promoter Score is also vital in illustrating ongoing customer engagement.

“We’ve got a very good understanding of what the drivers of advocacy are, and what the attributes are that then help us to shape our go-to-market products and services, solutions and brand focus so that we can build advocacy, build lifetime value for the customer and improve the growth of the business,” she said.

Read more: Telstra’s four Ps of marketing analytics
How Telstra is achieving real-time customer marketing

“The modelling work that we do allows us to look at value pools and to be able to create the right types of offerings, construct these offerings that we can take to market and deliver to people in a way that is relevant to their needs.”

Kingsmill said marketing is experiencing a transformation at Telstra as expectations rise around the role the function plays in the business. She also noted the business shift for Telstra from an engineering organisation to one led by sales and marketing.

“It’s about the ability for marketing to represent the customer agenda in what we do, and how that then plays a role in our growth strategies,” she said. “As marketers, we are now more concerned with how those products and offers are shaped, so they deliver a much better customer experience.

“We’re also more involved in shaping the business agenda and where the value pools lie. It’s about giving the business a radar to look to with respect to where investments are made.”

But while there’s great strides being made at the telco, Kingsmill agreed marketing as a profession needs a rebrand, and claimed many Australian businesses are still undervaluing its contribution to growth.

“We do still need to elevate the perception of the role marketing as a profession and leadership,” she said. “If you look at the boards of the top ASX200 companies for example, the discipline of marketing is hugely underrepresented. Most of those boards are still comprised of people with finance, operations or general management types of backgrounds.

“When you put a marketing perspective into a board mix, with the board’s role being to help shape strategy and future direction for the company, you get a diverse perspective that you’re just not going to get from a finance or operations professional mindset.

“It’s through that diversity and balancing those points of view is where you get that real richness in strategy that allows a company to grow.”

To earn that right, marketers need to speak the language of the board. Telstra’s marketing value is to build shareholder value, generate customer advocacy and generate demand, Kingsmill added.

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