Liz Greer

Hi, everyone! In this article, you’ll learn how to turn your customers into brand storytellers and how to leverage customer success stories to attract, engage, and convert prospects into raving fans – or in Salesforce’s case, Trailblazers. Jaz and I will be your trail guides.

My name is Liz and I'm a Customer Marketing Manager at Salesforce. I’ve been in customer marketing for three years and currently lead the team that focuses on customer storytelling for Salesforce Professional Services – our business of certified Salesforce experts that help our Trailblazers to continuously innovate and maximize their value on our platform.

Jazmyne Dodd

And I'm Jazmyne Dodd. I've been at Salesforce now for seven years – the past three within customer marketing, where I’m currently responsible for highlighting our most innovative manufacturing and automotive customers in joint marketing.

There are three stops on today's trail:

  1. Customer marketing at Salesforce – What it is, the value of customer storytelling, and the impact it has on our brand and our business
  2. The how behind the wow – How we position joint marketing journeys that excite our Trailblazers and deliver customer stories that wow our audiences
  3. Top tips and best practices to consider as a customer marketer

Let’s dive in.

Customer marketing at Salesforce

Liz Greer

Simply put, customer stories are the heart of Salesforce and our brand. Our customer marketing team cultivates strategic integrated marketing partnerships with our customers. We celebrate and elevate them to become world-class advocates that we call Trailblazers, who tell authentic, inspiring, and relevant customer success stories that fuel our marketing strategy and campaigns and supercharge sales.

When we talk to prospects and customers, we want to speak their language. That means instead of leading with our technology, we want them to hear about our success at NBC Universal, whose marketing teams can now reach new audiences 50% faster. We want them to see how e.l.f. Cosmetics is driving brand loyalty in a highly competitive market by deepening its digital customer experience.

We do this through the voices of our customers across all of our platforms, channels, and stages. Whether you visit our website, tune into a Salesforce class, or attend one of our world-class events, our customer stories are front and center.

Curate opportunities across every channel - events, thought leadership, digital content, and PR and media

Through joint marketing partnerships, our customer marketing team engages with our most innovative customers like Starbucks, Honeywell, PayPal, and AT&T. We amplify their brands and spotlight their thought leadership through opportunities that may include events, studio films, demos, PR, digital content, and even more.

We have a menu of joint marketing opportunities that our customers can order from. Each partnership is tailored to that customer's interests, preferences, and goals for telling their story, so no two are exactly alike.

What all of these options have in common is that they’re focused on getting the most juice out of our marketing squeeze. We also repurpose and maximize customer interviews and content by scaling each customer story across our platforms for the widest reach and impact.

Customer stories are our most powerful assets

We do all of this because we know that customer stories are our most powerful assets. According to the Salesforce B2B Content Marketing Trends Report, customer testimonials and case studies are considered the most effective content marketing tactic. And according to Wyzowl, a leading marketing video company, nine out of 10 people say they trust what a customer says about a business more than what a business says about itself.

At Salesforce, it's our customers who are the real stars of our events, our marketing, and even our sales conversations. This isn't surprising because technology marketing research firm Dimensional Research found that 90% of buyers claim that positive customer success content was influential in their purchasing decisions.

Now that you've heard all about customer marketing at Salesforce, I’ll hand it over to Jazmyne to share more about how we bring the wow to our customer stories.

The how behind the wow

Jazmyne Dodd

We've simplified the how behind the wow into three steps. First, it's all about understanding company priorities and driving internal alignment to identify and champion your most compelling customer stories. From there, you can start strategizing on the best places for these customer stories to show up. For me, that's where the fun begins – understanding your customers' priorities, positioning the joint marketing journey, and ultimately securing their interest.

Once your customers say yes, it’s time to move onto execution – scaling and promoting the content across your company's channels to increase the reach of your story.

Let's take a closer look at how we achieve all this.

Step one: Drive internal alignment

We have so many amazing customers innovating on our platform that it can be hard for us to decide whose stories to prioritize. To do this, as we build our customer marketing strategy for the year, we work to understand our marketing priorities and we drive alignment to select the most strategic customers that align to those priorities.

We consider the overall marketing strategy and the company narratives and priorities that are most important for our executives. We also make sure we understand all the big marketing moments coming up that year, whether that's product launches, new acquisitions, or even untapped markets we’re focusing on. These are all great opportunities to help fuel the business with customer stories.

We Simultaneously qualify those customer stories, leveraging nominations from sales and customer success, and even data from internal usage reports. We're also constantly keeping tabs on new strategic deal wins. As we explore these customers internally, we work closely with our sales and customer success partners to understand how these customers are innovating on our technology, and how we can build a beneficial two-way partnership.

On our side, we consider customer marketing priorities, brands that are disrupting their industries, customers with strong KPIs and impactful stories of innovation, and most importantly, alignment with our Salesforce values. We’re looking for companies with champions that reflect the diverse communities in which we live.

All of this culminates in selecting our most strategic customers to engage in co-marketing journeys.

Step two: Strategize on how and where to share customers’ stories

Next, we partner across the business to create a cohesive co-marketing journey across our content and channels. We work with teams like product marketing, PR, our film team, and so many others to identify the best places for our customer stories to show up. Then, we create a customer journey that amplifies multiple aspects of our partnership.

In partnership with the account team, we form a single marketing contact for the customer. That way, we can ensure we're showing up to them as one Salesforce and that they have the best customer experience every step of the way.

As we develop our co-marketing journey, we also need to understand the customer's goals and priorities, to ensure that we're positioning opportunities that will excite and delight them. Whether the company is looking to increase its brand awareness, highlight a new product launch, position itself as an innovator, or recruit top talent in a competitive market, our goal is to speak their language and build a co-marketing journey that aligns with their goals and priorities.

For some customers, that may mean assuring them that they have full control over how we represent their brand through our partnership. That's especially important for the example I’m going to share of how this came to life with one of our amazing Trailblazers, Mercedes Benz.

Step three: Scale and promote content across channels

Of course, as Liz said, every customer journey looks a little bit different, but by understanding Mercedes's priorities, goals, and the story they wanted to tell, we scaled their customer story and amplified their innovation across integrated content and campaigns.

We developed deep relationships with their PR comms teams, as well as customer advocates across the business – from their C-suite, IT, marketing, and service leaders to those that were directly implementing Salesforce.

We provided a platform to share Mercedes’s authentic story through a filmed visionary demo of their use case and executive interviews at our biggest stage of the year: the Dreamforce Keynote. Onsite attendees were also immersed in the Mercedes Benz customer story with artwork featured across the campus. Plus, attendees were able to interact with the story through an onsite customer experience featuring their all-new all-electric EQS.

We also scaled their story to those that weren’t able to join us in person. We did this with a thought leadership interview with one of their amazing IT leaders, who promoted our Salesforce+ streaming service. On top of all this, we featured the voice of the customer in informative quotes, audio clips, and short films that debuted on our Salesforce digital channel.

But that's not all. We also created a one-page story overview that empowered our Salesforce sales teams globally to share Mercedes’s story in one-to-one and one-to-many conversations. That, coupled with an internal communication strategy, ensured our global sales team could help amplify Mercedes Benz’s innovation within their day-to-day conversations.

For us, social is crucial to reaching new audiences and a critical part of every co-marketing strategy we create. We leveraged Salesforce-owned social channels and empowered Mercedes Benz to promote our content on their platform, further expanding the reach of our co-marketing partnership to new audiences.

By driving a close alignment with Mercedes Benz and ensuring that we told their authentic story, we were able to scale their customer story across all Salesforce channels and platforms for maximum impact and reach.

For our final stop, Liz will take us through some top tips and best practices as you build out your own customer marketing strategy.

Top tips and best practices

Liz Greer

Now it’s time to round things off with three best practices that are going to help you to build your brand through customer stories.

Tip one: Focus, focus, focus

If you’re just getting started in customer marketing, you need to be crystal clear on what you want to accomplish through customer storytelling. Is it equipping your sales teams with an inventory of customer success stories so they can close deals faster? Is it infusing the voices of your customers into your social media strategy to boost engagement with your target audiences? Identify the goal and focus in on it. From there, you can begin to build and scale.

Tip two: Know how to pivot

So far in this article, we’ve talked about some picture-perfect moments with customers who were featured across our marketing channels. However, there are roadblocks on the trail to customer marketing. Unforeseen circumstances like last-minute cancellations, delayed legal approvals, or hearing a ‘no’ from a customer when you're expecting to hear a ‘yes’ can rear their heads at any time.

Always be prepared with a plan A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, and be ready to pivot. We manage a lot of factors that can change at any moment, so we always have to plan ahead and get ready to change courses if something doesn’t go as planned.

Let’s take the pandemic as an example. Salesforce has a huge events presence, so the way that we worked with our customers had to completely transform. Instead of hosting them on-site at events, we shipped them ring lights and filming kits to our Trailblazers so they could record from their living rooms.

Tip three: Be customer-first

At Salesforce, customer success is one of our core values and is fundamental to the way that we operate. We always want to honor our customers' time and tell their authentic success stories in a way that is most true to them. We lead with their goals and interests at every opportunity and when we do that, we find success more naturally for both them and for us.

We play a trusted role as the sole point of contact for a customer's joint marketing journey. That means it’s up to us to safeguard customers’ time and ensure that we keep their best interests at heart.

Storytelling continued

Once upon a time, there was a customer marketer who had a product that would be perfect to upsell to their customers. But they knew that the usual tricks just weren’t going to cut it.

Introducing Storytelling: Masters Certified. This course is for anyone ready to boost their storytelling skills to the next level. Whether you’re just starting out in customer marketing, or just want to refresh your knowledge and further understand the science behind a story that sells, this certification is for you.