Why Marketo's CMO thinks advocacy starts from the inside out

The vendor's marketing leader touts the importance of storytelling, adaptive engagement and building customer advocacy and how he's trying to do all three at Marketo

Brands looking to foster stronger customer ties should start by looking inside their own four walls and build advocacy from the outside in, Marketo’s CMO claims.

Chandar Pattabhiram told attendees at this year’s Marketo Marketing Nation summit that brands are in a “battle for the mind” when it comes to customers, and recommended marketers tap into storytelling, adaptive engagement and brand advocacy in order to build a marketing strategy based around engagement.

“The battle for the mind can only be won by winning the battle of the heart,” Pattabhiram said. “True engagement always begins with storytelling – it takes art to reach the heart. Go beyond to build the bond with the customer.”

Pattabhiram’s second key ingredient, adaptive engagement, relies on an ability to listen to customers. He said what’s clear is that the power has shifted over the years from a situation where brands do the talking and customers listen, to customers talking and brands listening.

“This requires a continuous loop of listen, learn and engage,” he said. “The big difference is we can do this at scale today.It’s about shifting to behaviour-based engagement.”

To do this, marketers must “act out customer lifecycle, not just talk about it”, Pattabhiram continued. He noted a recent survey undertaken by The CMO Club in partnership with Deloitte Digital, which found only 13 per cent of marketers are doing this today.

Pattabhiram was also keen to espouse advocacy, and suggested marketers have historically confused loyalty with advocacy. In contrast, brands such as Apple, Nike, Netflix and Tesla have been able to build passionate advocacy around their brands because of their ability to tap into the emotional heart of consumers and make their key brand attributes a reality.

But the best brand advocates are sitting next to us when we go back to our offices, Pattabhiram said.

“When you build brand advocacy, build it inside out, rather than outside in,” he said.

Making engagement a reality at Marketo

In a follow up interview with CMO, Pattabhiram said Marketo has made a number of changes internally to improve the vendor’s own advocacy and customer approach, including the creation of a dedicated team of people for customer lifecycle focused on cross-sell and retention.

“We have a team that does acquisition, then another going after dedicated cross-sell, plus I have an employee engagement person, and someone responsible for advocacy, going after third-party sites but using products and technologies to make it easier for customers to become advocates,” he said.

The vendor’s Marketo Live program, for example, was launched as a way to build wider brand advocacy, and now has more than 1000 customerssigned up.

Getting to this point requires buy-in from both the CMO and CEO, Pattabhiram said, adding Marketo’s CEO, Steve Lucas, has led the strategic charge internally.

“I’ve pounded the table for years now that it’s the lifecycle that matters. It’s not the transaction or one interaction that matters, it’s how you grow that relationship,” he said. “We now have dedicated program dollars to this.”

Getting the right measurements in place is a core part of getting teams on the same page, and Pattabhiram said all marketing executives at Marketo now have the same KPIs.

“Our corporate marketing lead has a KPI for driving pipeline as much as my demand gen team has to create brand awareness and advocacy,” he said. “That’s as much as driving win rates, which my product marketing team also has. It’s the first time we’ve had the same set of KPIs across the marketing team, so no one can claim they don’t care about one thing or another.

“These are not isolated interactions, they’re all connected to each other.”

Pattabhiram said he’s also shifting the reward structure for his demand gen teamsaway from “vanity metrics” such as pipeline, marketing qualified leads, impressions and names to pipeline they drive aligned to revenue growth.

“I’d like to get this to customer lifetime value, because then the conversation with sales is based on the same language,” he said.

And as marketers increasingly become the custodians of engagement, Pattabhiram said the key attributes CMOs need to put more emphasis on strategy.

“CMOs need to put more emphasis on being strategists than they have been doing,” he said. “Engagement can be a foundation for competitive advantage. A lot of CMOs are doing the brand work, demand work and sales investments, but as a CMO, partnering closely with the CEO on driving strategy is an important thing to be doing. A lot of times saying no is a strategy – saying what products not to go after is as important as what you do go after.”

Understanding the metrics that truly matter is another core area to develop, Pattabhiram said. “Understanding cross-functional metrics that drive the business, as opposed to functional metrics that drive your function, is key.”

And all CMOs should be trying to keep abreast with technology, Pattabhiram added. “It’s a complex roadmap – I was talking to one customer yesterday who has eight technologies complementing Marketo, some of which overlap. It’s not easy, and we need to stay on top of it.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Marketo Marketing Nation as a guest of Marketo.

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