This article was transcribed from a panel at one of our sister communities (PMA) events. Find out more about CMA's upcoming events.

This article will go over:

  • Customer marketing at Zendesk,
  • Measuring success of customer marketing efforts,
  • How to convert loyal customers into advocates, and
  • Some customer marketing resources.

Introducing our wonderful panelists

Bozena Pieniazek: I'm Bozena, Director of Marketing at Maze, and I'm the host for today's chat with Valeria, Senior Marketing Manager for Customer Marketing at Zendesk - and, as of September 2022, is now working on customer marketing programs at Airtable.

Valeria Gomez: I'm Senior Customer Marketing Manager at Zendesk. I'm responsible for building out our advocacy community and managing our customer reference program to bring our customer stories to life and educate a wide variety of audiences, both internal and external.

Customer marketing at Zendesk

Bozena Pieniazek: Like product marketing, customer marketing can vary a lot from company to company. Maybe we can take a step back and look at what exactly customer marketing is at Zendesk.

Valeria Gomez: We take a slightly different approach from more conventional customer marketing. In a nutshell, customer marketing at Zendesk is a group of programs that focuses on showcasing the stories of our customers.

Our approach to customer marketing is centered around maintaining great relationships with them. We give them the platform to feature their successes, so they can inspire others in the customer experience industry.

Bozena Pieniazek: How and when did customer marketing at Zendesk get started, and what team do you report into?

Valeria Gomez: Our team has gone through several periods of transformation in the past three years. We started purely as a customer reference team, but we’ve evolved so much because we’re now a critical resource for our company, for customer references, storytelling, and ultimately, customer inspiration.

Currently, we report to our VP of Enterprise Marketing, which allows us to connect with many different kinds of customers all over the world. Right now, we’re three people, not counting our VP, so it's a small but very powerful group.

Cross-functional collaboration

Bozena Pieniazek: What does cross-functional collaboration look like for customer marketing at Zendesk? What are some of the other teams that you work very closely with?

Valeria Gomez: We’re a highly cross-functional team at Zendesk. We work with the rest of the marketing organization, for example, on communications campaigns, and social media. We also work closely with sales and customer success.

We work closely with our PMMs too, which puts us in a unique position to be close to our customers. We have a great understanding of our products and offerings, so we can translate that into the stories that we showcase with our customers. We're able to build our own partnerships with customers and empower them to inspire others. In that way, we can bring better relationships to the business world.

We also enable and empower other regional teams to execute customer marketing initiatives in their regions, by providing a program foundation so they can tell relevant local stories. That’s the key – we are a small team of three, so we need to empower and enable all of these other teams, so they can replicate what we do, always keeping the customer at the heart of what they do.

One of the things that product marketing does is enable other teams, so working with them puts us in a great position to do a lot of things at scale, despite only having a very limited group of people executing on that. It also puts us in a position to build trust with our customers. Because we are part of this wider group, we can make sure that we make the most of each conversation with each of our customers.

Bozena Pieniazek: So when you say empowering, it's about using customer stories to empower the sales team or local marketing teams to get Zendesk in front of the target audiences?

Valeria Gomez: It’s about a couple of things. One, we want everybody to be great storytellers. We want everybody to know the best and most relevant customer stories. For example, if you're a sales rep, you should know a handful of stories that are relevant to the industries and segments you’re selling to. Our customer marketing team empowers you with those resources and teaches you those stories.

For regional marketing teams, we make sure that when they tell those stories in their markets, the voice is consistent with the rest of the company. Sometimes they use different agencies or their own resources to create their programs, so we want to make sure that everything has the same feel, the same quality, and the same way of engaging with customers.

Measuring the success of customer marketing

Bozena Pieniazek: What are some of the metrics that you look at to measure whether your customer marketing is successful?

Valeria Gomez: One of the things is just how we engage with our customers. We look at how often our customers participate in all the activities we plan for them. Obviously, we also pay attention to how much our activities influence the pipeline, but our main goal is to give this platform to our customers to showcase their success.

Every time they participate, speaking at our events, talking to our team, talking to our leadership, participating in a written customer story, and things like that, that's how we measure success. Every time they participate on our platform, it’s just the best thing.

Developing loyal customers into advocates

Bozena Pieniazek: How do you successfully develop loyal customers into advocates? What does that look like for you?

Valeria Gomez: I truly believe that cultivating and nurturing relationships with customers is the best way to drive customer advocacy. We put maintaining great relationships with our customers at the heart of everything we do.

We do this not only because it's beneficial for us as a company, but mostly because we care about the individuals in the companies that use our products. We emphasize the human component in our customer marketing programs because they are the people who are changing the business world.

For me, in the end, it’s always about being helpful, staying human, and truly caring for our customers.

Customer marketing wins

Bozena Pieniazek: Can you give me an example of a customer marketing program or initiative that has been particularly successful at Zendesk?

Valeria Gomez: Something that is very close to my heart is Luminaries, our community for engaged leaders in customer experience. We provide a platform where they can share stories that showcase their expertise. They can also network with other customers from all over the globe.

Our Luminaries program enables us to nurture those customer relationships and provide a cohesive customer program foundation for all Zendesk customers to engage with us as part of a unified experience. It also allows them to share stories, best practices, and lessons learned with the community as a whole.

Bozena Pieniazek: That's really interesting. I had a chance to look at the Luminaries landing page before this chat, and I was very impressed. It looks like a great initiative. I'm curious to know, do you have to proactively reach out to those customers, or do customers come to you to participate?

Valeria Gomez: They often reach out to us to participate. At Zendesk we emphasize relationships, and that's how it starts.

Through this program, our Luminaries can participate in a lot of opportunities, including exclusive networking opportunities. It’s a great way for them to get recognition for all the amazing things that they do in their company. They can also interact with us, give us feedback, and share their ideas, and we can showcase their exceptional customer experiences and stories on different platforms.

So yeah, they generally come to us, although sometimes we reach out to them because some people are not aware of the program. I have to say that we have a really good customer base in our Luminaries program.

Bozena Pieniazek: That's great. How long has this program been running?

Valeria Gomez: We launched during the pandemic. We had big plans to launch during our user conference in March 2020. Unfortunately, we couldn't do that, so we had to pivot quickly and launch it online.

We have over 3000 customers participating in our program right now, and we’re really looking forward to meeting them in person soon. We love to engage with our customers, so we'd like to hang out with them and get to know them.

The digital world is great for reaching people across borders, but we also believe that you need to build relationships in person. We want to provide that so customers can engage with us and they can engage with other people.

Getting creative with customer stories

Bozena Pieniazek: I'm curious to know, what is something else that you're excited about? Do you have any initiatives or programs on the roadmap that you’re looking forward to?

Valeria Gomez: Absolutely. First, we’re planning to take our Luminaries to our customers in person. That's on our radar, and we want to do it as soon as we can.

Another thing that I'm very excited about is exploring other ways that we can showcase the voice of our customers, especially around multimedia assets in this new digital time. For example, we need to reinvent what customer videos are going to look like.

We can’t always be with our customers in person, so we need to find a way to still tell the stories that our customers deserve and make sure that we keep these videos human. We have a few ideas, and hopefully, we'll be able to share a few examples in the next few months.

Bozena Pieniazek: That's great. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I guess it's a challenge these days. Of course, the pandemic made filming difficult, but also as companies are growing and you have more and more international customers, it's a challenge to connect with them – you can't always send a video team everywhere.

Valeria Gomez: Absolutely. And we want to tell local stories that are relevant to different markets. When you have to travel with your video crew or find a local agency, it's a little bit challenging.

We did a small project with our social media team creating new digital assets with the new slogan “champions of customer service.” We created some short digital videos, but because our customers couldn’t be there, we had to be creative with images, headshots, voiceovers, and things like that. We always want to have our customers in front of us though, so we’re looking forward to doing more of that soon.

Customer marketing resources

Bozena Pieniazek: To wrap up, if anyone is interested in learning more about customer marketing, are there any resources that you would recommend?

Valeria Gomez: There are also a lot of things online. PMA has put together a lot of great resources on customer marketing, so you can access those.

You can also look into industry resources like Gartner and Forrester. They have a lot of resources. They’re not all free, but if you have an analyst in your company, you can check if they have a license and access those reports that are curated for high-level industries.

Then there’s LinkedIn. The customer marketing community there is small but growing, and I think everybody is really willing to really share their ideas. Sometimes when I want to bounce ideas off other people, I just reach out to them through LinkedIn and say, “Hey, I know you're in customer marketing. Would you mind taking 30 minutes for a virtual meet and greet?” Most people in customer marketing, believe me, are more than willing to share what’s on their minds.

Bozena Pieniazek: I think sometimes it's the best way to learn – reach out to your peers, get their feedback, and see what they're doing. That worked well for me in product marketing. I would just reach out to people either on PMA or on LinkedIn and have a chat with them, see what they were doing, and learn from them.

Thank you so much for this chat, Valeria. It was super interesting.

Valeria Gomez: Thank you so much for having me.

Cerificate for customer advocacy

Over recent years, companies have shifted their focus from customer acquisition to customer retention and engagement. This course will provide you with the perfect resources, mentor, and development needed to keep up with and excel during this change.

Customer Advocacy: Certified will take you through the foundational skill and knowledge needed to launch and manage customer advocacy programs and excel in your career.

Propel your business growth by prioritizing and supporting your customer experience.