Taking Act-On Software’s Customer Marketing Program from Zero to Sixty

The Reference Management Elite - Cynthia Langston

Meet Cynthia Langston

Cynthia Langston, Customer Marketing Manager at Act-On Software, hasn’t always been in customer reference management. With a background in project management and having spent two years at Act-On as a Customer Success Manager, she understood the value of happy customers and the power of their voice in the market. “I had a large account base and helped my customers find value in the platform and meet their marketing goals and run successful campaigns in Act-On,” she explains. “I really enjoyed the positive relationships I built with customers and wanted to do more with that. That’s when I moved over to the customer marketing role.”

Langston is looking forward to working with a larger team rather than working solo. “Going into 2017, we now have a team of three. It is definitely awesome to have an extended team of resources now.” Reporting to the director of customer marketing, her main responsibilities in this role include customer advocacy and “all that entails—enabling our customers to shine by sharing their success stories through events, case studies, user groups, media analyst interviews, betas, webinars, sales reference calls, newsletters, upsell campaigns, and customer communication including email cadence.”

Filling a Void

Before Cynthia took this role, Act-On didn’t have a formal customer advocacy or customer marketing program. When someone from corporate needed someone to do a case study, someone in marketing would say, “Let me dig up somebody,” and they would look in their CRM to find the right customer for that case study. If sales needed someone, they would send a request via email to all of sales asking if somebody had anyone they could use. “It was really a shooting-by-the-hip type of program or a non-existent program.”

The marketing team tried to track activity in an Excel spreadsheet, and sometimes would log it in Salesforce, but often activities weren’t captured. Since it’s a manual process, “a lot of stuff slipped through the cracks.” Not having a dedicated resource was a big issue as well. “You don’t have the attention given to really grow your advocacy base and create that loyalty and community that lends itself toward the retention you look for. As you know, it costs more to onboard a new customer than it does to keep your loyal happy customers who are actually going to help promote your brand and continue to renew with you and upsell and bring on their peers.”

Langston says she finds reference management most rewarding when she is able to align the right customer with a prospect—and then hear the stories of how they see value with the platform, or where they were before they came to Act-On and what problems Act-On has solved for them. And, having the deal close, of course! The hardest part is that in the reference manager role, sometimes a reference request simply can’t be matched because it is too niche of a use case. “That is disappointing when it happens,” she admits.

Fun Facts About Cynthia

  1. Cynthia’s very active. Her interests range from mountain biking to snowboarding. She and her wife (“both very active”) are marathon runners and Spartan Tri-Fecta athletes.
  2. Stranded-on-a-deserted-island essentials: The one record she’d take would be Foo Fighters Greatest Hits, and the one customer reference metric (that she uses to measure the success of her program) would be Revenue Influenced.

Why Now Is the Golden Age of Voice of the Customer

If you’ve been paying attention to trends and changes happening, the Voice of Customer is being incorporated into corporate strategies with urgency these days. As a Reference Elite member, we wanted to get Cynthia’s take on the peer-to-peer selling movement. “I’ve been hearing the buzz term for years—VOC, customer advocacy, even having customer marketing programs or functions within the organization, but those all seemed like buzz terms to me without a lot of resources devoted to it,” says Langston. “It’s coming around and getting resources because it’s getting attention. Langston feels confident that they now have the right influencers at the right level—people with the strategic background and vision who have already built programs for other companies.

While it’s certainly wonderful and necessary to have programs in place, they’re no good unless they’re used. Langston’s advice for combatting this challenge with sales and marketing audiences? “Get in front of them. We have regular meetings which those key stakeholders and influencers attend. I’m putting together a series of new video clips to push out via the internal spotlights feature, so I expect we will again see an increase in adoption at that point. I’m also going to be leveraging a couple of my own user advocates to showcase the successes they’ve seen with the advocacy program.”

Making a Difference

Langston certainly isn’t lacking in the “true believers” department. “I have this one advocate on the East Coast who is up for anything—he’s literally taken calls on the beach in Mexico while on vacation. He loves Act-On and he loves me,” she laughs. “I’ll ping him at 6pm my time and it’ll be clearly 9pm his time and he’ll say, ‘Sure, no problem, set it up for tomorrow morning.’ He’s spoken at a lot of events before, and he’s one of our biggest advocates. At the drop of a hat I can ping him and say, ‘Hey are you available today to take this call’ and he’ll say, ‘Sure.’ And that’s because we’ve developed that relationship. I have folks like that.”

Final Thoughts

What advice would she tell someone building a program from scratch like she did?

  • Align with your customer’s goals. Langston says this is the single most important thing a reference manager needs to know and focus on in 2017. “Enable your customers to shine by sharing their success stories via the advocacy channel that best aligns with their values and goals.” As she so aptly puts it, “It’s not always about the sales call.”
  • Customer service is a definite must. “You have to be able to have that ‘happy face’ on because you can make or break somebody’s day by your attitude. And I’m not just talking about when you’re engaging with your customers who are advocating your products, but also with your internal sales reps and corporate, who are your program’s customers.”
  • Research skills are critical. Understanding but also knowing your customers is important—some things are just not captured in a CRM. “When I came over from the customer success team, I already had a ton of customers that I knew and could quickly turn around a request on, because I already had the relationships and knowledge,” says Langston. “But that’s not always the case and I often do homework to find the right match.”
  • Project management. Being able to multitask and be self-directed are critical skills for reference managers who often have many tasks and competing priorities on their plates.
  • Building your customer’s brand. It’s also important to understand that the VOC isn’t just about a reference. It’s a way you can help your customer expand their brand and affinity for their own customers as well. The more they get their brand out there and get recognized, the better it is for them.
Cynthia Langston

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Nichole Auston
Customer Marketing Director at RO Innovation
Nichole Auston is the Customer Marketing Director at RO Innovation. With a background in digital marketing and nearly a decade of experience managing marketing programs for a variety of SaaS companies, she’s passionate about sharing insights, best practices and stories about sales enablement and customer reference management, and the people and technology that power it.