About our speakers

Jeni Asaba: Hi, everybody, my name is Jeni Asaba. I oversee Community Engagement and Advocacy at a technology company that's based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm incredibly excited to be here with Jen. Jen, would you like to introduce yourself?

Jennifer Susinski: Thanks, Jeni. I'm Jennifer Susinski, and I manage the Global Customer Experience and Advocacy program at HPE. I’m really chuffed to be here.

This article will go through:

Customer advocacy versus customer marketing

Jennifer Susinski: I'd like to first kick off our Fireside Chat by getting your thoughts on customer advocacy versus customer marketing. Do you think they're one and the same, or are they two different buckets?

Jeni Asaba: I love this topic. This comes up a lot in conversations around advocacy programs, and what I encourage people to ask themselves when they think about this is can you have one without the other? So can you have customer advocacy without customer marketing and vice versa? And does that matter?

I wholeheartedly believe that customer marketing is a natural byproduct of any successful customer advocacy program, but the reverse is not always, if ever, true.

This goes back to the idea that people do not like being sold to. I'm certainly not a big fan of being marketed to. But if you treat customers really well and show them that you support them through a well-rounded advocacy program, I believe they're going to get what they want out of the program and want to help you with your additional efforts, which naturally creates those customer marketing opportunities.

Jennifer Susinski: I 100% agree. I knew from the get-go that if I built a program that gave back to my customers, I would always be able to fulfill marketing requests. When you provide value to them, and you are a strategic part of their success, there are always going to be customers that are willing to do stuff on your behalf. Leading with asking and then giving back further down the funnel doesn't always work.

The importance of making your advocates comfortable

Jennifer Susinski: I think another misconception is that the customers always want to speak on our behalf. It's important for us as community leaders to identify where they're comfortable. Are they comfortable speaking at events? Are they comfortable speaking on webinars? Are they comfortable speaking to prospects? Having that information also helps us identify where we can safely place them in customer marketing.

How to create a customer-first mentality

Jeni Asaba: All stellar community leaders know how important it is to create a customer-first space, but I don't get the sense that everyone knows how to do this. Would you mind sharing some tips and tricks and feedback about what you've done to create this customer-first mentality?

Jennifer Susinski: I think creating a customer-first mentality has to come from both a program perspective and a personal perspective.

From a program perspective, defining key pillars is really important, so there are some key questions you need to ask yourself. What do you want to give back to your customers? What are the goals that you need to hit internally? And what are the goals that you need to have with all of your stakeholders?

Internal buy-in is essential across the board. Every single business unit needs a hand in the pot. Whether it's engineering support, product management, product marketing, or customer experience, if everybody is not on board, that will create roadblocks and prevent your community from thriving.