Welcome to our new series: Customer Advocacy Experts! We'll be featuring the insights from incredible leaders in customer marketing and advocacy. Whether you're starting a brand-new customer advocacy program, refining your existing processes or simply looking to include more customer stories in your marketing, these video interviews will include practical guidance alongside high-level strategy.
We hope you enjoy Pascale Royal's video as much as we did. Her passion for storytelling and leading in a truly customer-first way jumps off the page, and we love her perspective on the three ingredients needed to make your customer advocacy program truly great, and what pitfalls to avoid.
Could you share 1-2 reasons why you’re passionate about customer advocacy and storytelling?
Pascale Royal: I am passionate about customer advocacy and storytelling for probably an unusual reason. My professional career, about 20 years ago, actually started in the performing arts. I used to be a professional contemporary dancer and trained for many years as a ballerina, tap dancer, modern dance choreographer.
Storytelling has always been a part of my life.
I just didn't use to use words. We would use our bodies to tell stories, use choreography and lighting and imagery and picture and, costumes to tell stories.
Moving into the tech sector through - my career in tech started in marketing because part of my dance scholarship in college was a marketing work study assignment with the Department of Theater and Dance. I used to create marketing materials for alumni and sponsors of the program and the school and things like that. So that was my first foray into corporate marketing. And to make the transition into a corporate storyteller has been really interesting. Telling stories is just in my DNA. For any company, the most powerful testimonials, the most powerful evidence and success of a company is their customer. So to link the two, and to elevate customer voices out and create these conversations in the marketplace, to me is just the most rewarding and exciting thing. I was never really good in sales, and so I can't think of another customer facing position in a company, that I would really be good at. So I'm very lucky that I have found a way for me to combine my love of storytelling, my love of visual storytelling, of creating an interesting narrative, to be able to marry that into a corporate career with our customers.
Please share an example of a customer video that had a material impact on sales or marketing.
Pascale Royal: A few years ago I was working with my former company's branding team in advertising, and we embarked on creating a campaign centered around the voice of the customer. One of those customers was Nicholas Children's Hospital. It's formerly Miami Children's Hospital in South Florida. And there was a doctor there, a surgeon. His name was Dr. Redmond Burke, and he was the head of the cardiac pediatric department. His job was to perform heart surgery on tiny, tiny little newborn babies. But Miami Children's Hospital at that time was using the technology to help guide Dr. Burke's practice. He used video and the technology platform to enable patients to track their children's progress, to see pictures and video of what the perfect procedures will look like. But more than that, he also leveraged technology to help him have balance in his life. He's married. He has three daughters. They're very active in sports and different activities. And the technology platform was a way for him to live his best life as a surgeon, as a husband, as a father. So we followed him around for a few days and we shot this incredible video. He was free diving in the ocean in Miami Beach, following him to his daughter's soccer games, following him through the hospital through an actual procedure / surgery, speaking with the parents of his patients and things like that.
That video for me was certainly an inflection point in my career, and that video ultimately ended up creating so much impact from a revenue influence perspective.
It was shared so much through our sales and marketing organizations and gained so many social impressions and so much traction in the market place. Hundreds of thousands of views of the video on YouTube. And at that point for me, it was also one of the first times that we really took this person Dr. Burke, and followed him and told his story. And through his perspective, not through the perspective of the technology company and all of that. It wasn't about the technology saves the day it was: Dr Burke, is this hero, and let's hear from him. And how does he live his life? And how is technology driving better patient care and also just improving his life? So that was just such an impactful and that one has stayed with me for so long. And I'm so proud of the work that we did with Miami Children's and that's probably one of the one of the videos I'm the most proud of.
What are the hallmarks of a great customer marketing and advocacy program?
Pascale Royal: It's really important that a customer marketing and advocacy program have a few key ingredients to really make it stand out and deliver measurable impact back to the business.
You need to provide the customers that are participating in your program with exclusivity, with enlightenment and with exposure.
The exclusivity piece - giving them exclusive access to beta releases of products, early releases, providing them with information. And that's under NDA that hasn't necessarily been released to the general marketplace. Basically just allowing them that early access to a lot of information and that exclusivity creates that feeling that they're special, right? You treat somebody special when you invite them into the private places.
From a new exposure perspective, customer marketing and advocacy should be the place where every customer champion has some platform to share their story, whether it's on a sales call, whether it's on a webinar, whether it's on stage in a keynote presentation at a major event or at an industry event. Whether it's giving them access to reporters for media opportunities or analyst opportunities.
The more exposure that we can give to individuals behind the success of our products' customers is foundational to any great customer marketing and advocacy program.
And then the enlightenment piece is where you can really open up that two way conversation with your customers and allow them to give you feedback. Open, candid, transparent feedback about what's working well and what's not working so well with your products or solutions with your culture, with changes, with acquisitions. It's always important to keep a pulse on what customers are saying out there. And so a good customer marketing and advocacy program would allow the enlightenment to happen on both sides. For your customers to be enlightened by the work that you're doing. But more importantly for you to be enlightened by the success of your customers and for them to explain to you why that happened.
Those are some of the key pillars of a great customer marketing and advocacy program. The last thing is also the recognition. It's so important to recognize your customer champions, in as many ways and as many meaningful ways as possible. So whether that's you know, through awards or through other recognition pieces: sending birthday cards or other things just to recognize that, "Hey, I see you and I appreciate you." It's super super important. Those are the hallmarks of great customer marketing and advocacy program.
What are some pitfalls in customer advocacy you’ve learned personally or observed?
In my opinion, one of the biggest pitfalls in customer advocacy is around not providing your customers with a closed loop feedback platform and not following up and following through.
Oftentimes we ask our customers to participate in an event, to do a keynote or something, and we don't just follow through and follow up with them with a thank you or just with a small gift. Sometimes we get customers to join advisory boards and things like that to provide us with feedback and guidance on really key strategic pieces of the business. And then their input has such an incredible impact on the future direction of the organization. And we never circle back with them to tell them that. Those were some pitfalls that early on in my career, I observed, and I've tried to be very methodical and consistent. We always following up following through providing that closed loop and making sure that our customers feel appreciated, that they genuinely feel heard and that they are seen on that we make every effort possible. to continue to motivate, encourage, inspire them to want to keep that connection with the company that they are participating in that program with so really important. The littlest things can make such a difference. It's thank you make such a difference, right? Just communicating that to people, saying we appreciate you and really meaning it is very important. That's probably one of the biggest pitfalls that you might run into.
How do you predict customer storytelling will change in the next 5 years?
Pascale Royal: That change is starting.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a forcing function on how stories are told and what people expect and want to hear from customer voices.
From a process perspective, we have had to become really creative and how we get access to customers. How we share those stories. The days of big video productions on location in an office - I don't know if that's ever going to return. I'm not sure it needs to anymore. There are some really interesting ways that we can continue to tell customer stories through not just written material, but through photographic imagery and through podcasting and things like that. We're seeing a lot of that happening, but I just think it's going to continue.
The other big change that I see happening over the next five years is really, truly centering the story around the human impact that the solutions provide.
It's not just about our technology is amazing, you know, we saved X amount of dollars and we increased productivity X percent. People want to understand. Did your solutions really improve the lives of the employees in the company and then, by extension, the people that they serve? And customer's customer? We've talked about it and in different ways have brought it to the fore.
Over the next five years that's going to be what's really important. The pandemic has again been a forcing function that has made everyone look in the mirror and say What is important to me? What has value in my life? What are the relationships that matter? And so when you think about storytelling, especially corporate storytelling, and this way, that is also a place where people are really making decisions about the next step of investment in all areas of the business, but particularly in technology. And so those trusted technology vendors and partners really become, very special relationship.
B2B relationships are changing, and so it's important that we really, truly keep people at the center of what we do and bring their stories to life, and I don't see that going away. I see that increasing over the next five years, and it's really it's quite exciting. Actually, it makes our work more meaningful, and for me, I get a lot more pleasure out of just telling people centric stories, not technology centric stories.