Podcast: How to Approach Customer-Led Growth

Shahin Hoda 17  mins read Updated: January 9th, 2024

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How to Approach Customer-Led Growth


Episode topic: How to Approach Customer-Led Growth

In this episode, host Shahin Hoda chats with Brett Chester, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Deputy, about how marketers can leverage the novel concept of customer-led growth to create powerful content pieces and drive better engagement.

Brett starts by defining this approach and talks extensively about why and how marketers should bring in customer success stories, customer quotes and testimonials in their go-to-market content pieces.

Brett also shares his views on humanising the sales cycle and emphasises the importance of having a solid product marketing function. Brett concludes the discussion by advising marketers to take inspiration from B2C marketing trends to innovate in the B2B space.

This episode’s guest

220325_P Brett Chester - Headshot

Brett Chester, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Deputy

Brett Chester moved from Australia to Silicon Valley as he was passionate about working with fast-growing brands. In his time in San Francisco, Brett has taken a few learnings from the Australian startup community. 

He believes Australian companies need to shift into taking a higher risk approach by crafting strategies that grow quarter on quarter rather than lagging year to year. 

Brett is currently the SVP, of Global Marketing at Deputy, an Australian workforce management software company that is rapidly scaling globally.

Connect with him on LinkedIn

Conversation segments on this episode:

  • [01:56] Defining customer-led growth
  • [02:49] Using your customers as a part of your sales & marketing strategy
  • [03:53] It’s not about marketing to customers; it’s marketing about them
  • [04:50] How to start with customer-led growth? Have an excellent product marketing team. No content ships without the “customers” in it
  • [06:48] While finding your customer advocacy base, look for measures like NPS
  • [11:09] How to decide which customers to get testimonials and content from
  • [17:40] Metrics for customer-led growth
  • [22:08] Don’t over commit to the customer 
  • [24:12] Advice for B2B marketers - you are not selling to businesses; you are selling to people.
  • [25:55] Exciting thing about B2B - Potential for taking inspiration from B2C

Resources mentioned in this episode:

About the Growth Colony Podcast

On this podcast, you'll be hearing from B2B founders, CMOs, marketing & sales leaders about their successes, failures, what is working for them today in the B2B marketing world and everything in between.

Produced by Shahin Hoda & Alexander Hipwell, from xGrowth

Get in touch!

We would love to get your questions, ideas and feedback about Growth Colony, email podcast@xgrowth.com.au


Episode Full Transcript:

Shahin Hoda  Hello everyone and welcome to another episode. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth and today, I'm talking to Brett Chester, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Deputy about customer-led growth and how you should go about implementing it in your organisation. On that note, let's dive in. Brett, thanks for joining us.

Brett Chester  Thanks for having me.

Shahin Hoda  Absolute pleasure. I'm super excited to talk about this. I think, you know, there's a lot of hype in the market about product-led growth (PLG). That's the abbreviation. I feel like every SaaS marketers top list of words that they're going to be using, but what is customer-led growth? You know, how do you define that?

Brett Chester  Yeah. Look, I think customer-led growth or customer-led marketing is something that I'm trying to coin, in lieu of there being anyone else out there thinking about it, or even talking about it. The reality is that every single day, you have advocates of your business, walking around and talking about the benefits of your platform, to any number of people, right? They're also detractors, in some instances, talking about your business to any number of people. We know that the power of social existed early on as a result of the multiplier effect you get from engaging with n number of people, and them hearing that message.

Brett Chester  The same methodology or the same thought needs to apply to our marketing. So I put it to each and every one of you out there that how much are you thinking about using your customers as part of your growth strategy, as part of your marketing strategy, as part of your sales strategy? And if the answer comes back and you go, then you probably need to start thinking a little bit more about customer-led growth or customer-led marketing. Because the reality is, is that you shouldn't be shipping anything when it comes to either sales enablement, materials, or customer-facing materials without your customers' stamp of approval, or advocacy behind it.

Shahin Hoda  Would you also define it as, because there's also the term customer marketing, right? Where it's about marketing to your existing customers and expanding. It's really around like, customer expansion, account expansion, so on so forth, this is not that, right? You're not talking about this? Is that correct?

Brett Chester  Yes, spot on. And I wish there was a better way to define this. But you know, like, as an example, if I am on this podcast right now, and I failed to mention some of our amazing customers, then I haven't done my job. And it's not about marketing to customers. It's about marketing, about them, about their wins, about their successes, and really positioning everything that you do through the lens of your customers' glasses, if you will.

Brett Chester  The reality is that we speak to people too much. And we don't speak with them, if that makes sense. So what I'm really saying is that, you know, we need to be able to show everything that we do through the eyes of our understanding of what our customers needs, and who better to highlight and celebrate those things that we do really well than our customers.

Shahin Hoda  Customer led growth, everybody, you heard it here first. Where should people start implementing? I'm gonna go ahead CLG, where should people start? How would I as a marketer, kind of even begin with the implementation of customer-led growth?

Brett Chester  Yeah, look, I think the root of all of this starts with having a really awesome product marketing function. Your product marketers should be, you know, like and I say to our product marketers all the time, like what's the measure of your success? Because it's hard to numerically tie a product marketer to a number. So let's give a fluffy metric. And it's like the number of shout outs that your sales team gives to you. I couldn't have done this without product marketing, right? So a great product marketing team is great because they understand the customer that they're servicing.

Brett Chester  Now, that's an internal customer, hey, what does my sales team need? Or an internal customer, what does my product team or CX team need? But equally, at the same time, it's about understanding the big broad world of prospects and customers alike that are out there in the world that are telling us, hey, this is the insights that's going to change the game for your business. So starting with a really awesome understanding of either customer research or product marketing, or both, or combined into one, a good customer advisory board.

Brett Chester  But really understanding what it is that makes your customer tick. Good ICPs, good personas. And then once you've established that, go out and meet your customers. Join them for a beer, wear your branded t-shirt, see what happens when you walk into the room, right? Like if I walk into a Deputy customer, and they see the logo on my shirt they're gonna, you're from Deputy? Oh, wow, that's amazing. So, you know, the reality is, is that you're gonna get a pretty good response from your customers, as you engage with them as to how excited they are to talk about you or not. So really get out there, establish your PMM function, understand the customers insights.

Brett Chester  Next step, actually find your advocacy base. Understand who those folks are. Like, look for measures like high NPS. Look for new customers that have signed up for certain reasons. And then dive into those reasons and map those reasons and insights back to your product release roadmap, back to your sales enablement materials, back to your content generation, back to your keywords, if you're bidding in search, back to your organic, and really start to map and correlate who your advocates are, what and why they're interesting. And then try and determine how to distribute those learnings via those channels that you've mapped to.

Brett Chester  And that's how you'll start to realise, hey, guess what, if I have a customer testimonial, we all know the power of customer, customer testimonials. But if I have a video, if I have a logo, if I have a clip, like we know these things intuitively already, that's why our landing pages have logos on them, right? But it's just a logo, we don't sell or buy from logos, we buy from people and we buy from stories and we buy from experiences. And that's what customer-led growth is all about sharing. It's about sharing experiences. It's about humanising sales cycles, and it's about creating and understanding of your customers and being able to mirror that to prospects.

Shahin Hoda  Very interesting. Okay. Okay. Now, you've talked about, you know, having logos on your website or having customers kind of present. And from our previous conversation, one of the things that you said is at Deputy nothing ships publicly unless it has a customer in it. So how does that work? But let's break that down.

Brett Chester  Yeah, for sure. So, you know, it's a hard and fast rule. I'd love to say that every single thing. I'd like to think that. But like this week, for instance, we shoot an amazing video of what we sponsor the San Jose Sharks, an ice hockey team here in the States. And we shipped a video with the sharks, where they used our software, our time scheduling software, our shift scheduling software, to highlight players on the ice, right? So that one out, we didn't have a customer logo associated. But guess what, there was the San Jose Sharks and best players of the month fall associated with it now software. So that's a win.

Brett Chester  But for folks that don't have you know, good brand plays like that. My counsel is, you know, don't put a press release out. And again, this is 101 stuff. But it's about  marrying these activities. If you're putting out a press release next week. It's nice to have a quote from SEO, it's nice to have a quote from your product person. But don't put it out without a real quote from a customer that talks or supports your value prop, right? Just don't do it. No one's going to pick up in the media, at least, anything that's interesting if it doesn't have a value piece that's going to talk to a buyer or a prospect base, it's self serving otherwise, right?

Brett Chester  Don't put out a video that's just about you. Or that just has dummy footage of something that's not related to the value position of that video, right? Real people, real places, humanise and harmonise your message to the audience by using your customers to be your advocates. That's the simplicity of this. And then start to layer on the channel mix as well, right? So instead of it just being a press release, it's a press release with a video and it's a blog post with a different poll- with a different testimonial, right? The fastest way to resonate, is to get somebody else to talk on your behalf.

Shahin Hoda  I feel like one of the most challenging components in terms of incorporating customers in marketing is in the first place getting that customer to provide feedback or say something good about you. Obviously, you have to have that pre-determined factor of having a product market fit and product that works and they love it. What are some of the factors that you keep a very close eye on that brings a customer to the top of the list and you're like, we need to get testimonials. We need to do this, we need to, how does that work at deputy in order to collect this disinformation in the first place?

Brett Chester  Yeah, for sure. So like, there's always going to be the crowd favourites, right? The logos that you just intuitively know. Hey, like Gelato Messina amazing customer of ours, we've grown, they've grown, we've grown together, they continue to grow off the back of some of the software that we provide them. That's a great example of like, unknown brands, everyone knows them. You're pretty familiar with them. But outside of those guys, those well known logos that you just must talk about. There's a whole bunch of unwashed masses that become your customers that are really important to because they've got interesting use cases, right?

Brett Chester  Oh, they wanted an integration for that. Oh what? Wait, did I hear that right? They chose our software because of this use case? I haven't heard that use case before. That's really interesting. What's the TAM there on that? Can we dig into this a little bit more? So it's about keeping your ears to the ground in as far as your sales cycle is concerned, and having a great relationship with sales. I think coming back to product marketing, this concept of PDI is or post-decision interviews. And that's post-decision interviews that relates to closed one. Hey, guess what team? Thanks, sales guys for introducing us to this new customer. Why did you choose us? What was the sales cycle like? How can we get better at our sales cycle? What materials were you missing during that sales cycle, right?

Brett Chester  Building a relationship from the get-go on your closed one is really interesting, right? But similarly, inversely, tackling the closed last, and engaging with those folks and learning. Once you've found those closed lawsuits, and the reasons why you've lost them. You can go find the closed ones, your customer base, and try and find the antithesis of that, where they've chosen you because of it, and go and create enablement materials that are off the back of that person's input. And then you can start to say, okay, well look, we lost because price, how many customers are we got the can talk about pricing.

Brett Chester  And you could go and create a whole raft of materials to talk about price and why price is interesting. And that's a really bad example. I know, because like, price is a touchy topic. But it just highlights the fact that you can use negative experiences to research and find and create positive experiences. So I suppose leveraging PMM, making sure that your MSAs and contracts give you the ability to even talk pretty freely with customers about, hey, I created this piece of content about you, I heard through the NPS, that you really liked this ticket on their table and say, hey, guys, sign off on it. Like it's a red day for someone to not say yes, when you make them look awesome, right?

Brett Chester  So I think, you know, the next logical question is, once you've figured out how to select them, it's like, how do you get them to approve it? Well, guess what, like shorten the amount of efforts that they need to go through. Really reinforce the benefit of your channels for their career. Again, we're not selling some logos here in B2B. We're selling to individuals that have careers on the line, right? You know, it's just earlier today talking to, you know, head of robots, why are you choosing that software?

Brett Chester  Well, I can put my career on it. Like I can bank that this is a good software, right? Versus the other one where it's like, I'm not going to risk my career on that. So you've got people that are going to want to naturally advocate for things if it's tied to their benefits, right? And this is just natural marketing and sales motions, right? So again, PMM, sales cycles, and CS cycles, as well as like naturally having good MSOs that allow you to act proactively

Shahin Hoda  Right. And CS cycles you're talking, when you say CS cycles, you really mean like NPS score came out, and let's jump on top of this and get it maybe put something in front of the you mentioned, which was really interesting that you kind of prepare that and put in front of the signage for signature, or the alternative might be that you approach them and be like, hey, we just love to know if you if you be open to giving us a testimonial

Brett Chester  Exactly right. Yeah, just another another tidbit quickly, is we've created a deck for our customer success and sales teams to be able to pitch the value props of the different channels that we offer, to speak about our customers. So again, that removes the burden of needing to remember it's part of our sales deck. It's part of our cycles. So we've really integrated this approach into everything that we do.

Shahin Hoda  So wait, what does that what does that mean? Does that mean? Like, I'm going I'm experiencing sales, from Deputy's perspective, I'm a customer, and you're taking me through the slides. And the slides, and every use cases has like a case study associated with it, is that what you mean?

Brett Chester  Like towards close of cycles for bigger deals, it's like, here's four slides on how we'd like to work together with you post signature, right? Our marketing team would love to work together with you to create a blog post, to create a celebration of one of your internal staff, etc, right? We've got four or five different types of labours, where people can say, I'm all in, I want to do all of these things with you.

Brett Chester  And it could be hey, talking with us on a panel at the next show, we go to all the way through to hey, we just want we need a testimonial, would you be interested in that? And so we actually enable them with these materials, and make it happen as part of their natural motion to mention this, which primes the later conversation. Hey, we spoke about this before, I'd love to introduce you to one of our marketers, they're going to talk to you about these things. Off we go, right?

Shahin Hoda  I love that. So you set that expectation, before they kind of sign on the dotted line, that hey, these things that come in, are you fine with it? And then the ask becomes so much easier down down the track? I absolutely love that. That is genius. We touched on a little bit of the metrics that you look at. You talked about the some of the your own your own words, fluffy metrics for for product marketers, but what are some of the other metrics that again, marketers need to think about when they're thinking about CLG?

Brett Chester  Yeah, look, I think the reality is that everything comes back to improved X rates, right? So, you know, look at your baseline right now. And then go put out a piece of content, that's the same as the baseline, but with more of a customer-led story in it, and look at the micro metrics, or the leading indicators for that piece of content, right? Let's say it's an email cadence, you know, change the subject line to say, I don't know, Gelato, Messina x improvement in y, right, and see if your open rate by virtue of subject line is better, right?

Brett Chester  So start to really test all of the micro measures or leading indicators that you can and see where I insert a customer reference, or a customer quote, or a customer video, have a look and inspect where all those places are. Insert them and look at the micro measures and leading indicators and see what your uplift is. I guarantee you that you'll start to find improvements pretty quickly.

Shahin Hoda  Love it. Do you also have metrics in place for, hey, we need to get X number of testimonials per month per quarter, or video testimonials or case studies or whatever it is. Do you have kind of KPIs on that front as well?

Brett Chester  Yeah, definitely. So I've got measures for the content team to generate n number of customer stories, and interviews, and then those spliced up into different types of materials. The plans as much as humanly possible to go and start with video, video can be turned into audio can be turned into stills can be turned into written testimonials, as an interview, it can be turned into interesting quotes, it can be turned into a blog post. So certainly, you know, look at the zoom out as far as possible, what's the highest level of content invariably that's video.

Brett Chester  And then use that in a planned way. I'm gonna go in and ask these questions. I'm gonna go in and know that I need these results from this conversation. And then you can come out and say, Okay, well, I've got this, this, this and this, I can now repurpose it and translate it. So yeah, the content team definitely do have that we're pretty spoiled, you know, we've got a pretty fast-growing business. So you know, we've got an NPS channel, where, you know, we look in Slack, and we say, like, oh, that's a great quote, reach out to them.

Brett Chester  Hey, how are you doing, right? So the guys are constantly moving their finger down the screen, that was my error, noise, and just checking out to see who's really going to be a good advocate for us. I think the risk for anyone in this situation is that, you know, probably five out of 10 customers are still going to have great, no matter how awesome they think you are. So making sure that your team are adequately prepared to answer questions. And that means it's okay to say, I don't know the answer to that. Let me get back to you. Because what you don't want to do is upset a customer further by saying yeah, we can do that. I don't know why you can't and then you're really walking yourself down the wrong path, right?

Shahin Hoda  Sounds like it's definitely has happened before.

Brett Chester  It's definitely an experience from time gone by. But yeah, that's a conversation over beers. I think.

Shahin Hoda  That sounds good. Sounds good. Sorry. You're saying, Brett, I cut you off there?

Brett Chester  No, that's okay. Look just adequately prepare your team, either by taking charge yourself if you're one of the leaders and actively sitting there and saying, okay, well, if I don't know the answer to this question that your route somebody to the right place for an answer, or by giving the best customer experience possible, taking ownership of that problem, and introducing them to the person that can solve the problem for them.

Brett Chester  All of this is just another measure on customer satisfaction, right? Every touchpoint is an opportunity to impress, every touch point is an opportunity for your brand to shine. So don't ruin that by answering questions that you shouldn't answer. And don't ruin that by making promises on behalf of product or sales or CS that you shouldn't be making. Stick in a swim lane. Be polite, be courteous, but don't overcommit anybody, especially yourself.

Shahin Hoda  Yeah, yep. No, that's a great point. Brett, I want to ask you a couple of rapid fire questions. But before we kind of dive into that, are there any anything that maybe I didn't touch on, you think it's important for us to talk about regards to customer-led growth?

Brett Chester  Look, I think I just a quick summary. No one's thinking about it in a holistic way. Everything I've said will resonate. So why is it that nobody's doing it? And that's because no one's actually thinking about bundling this up as a tried and tested strategy. So my, my counsel to everybody out there is that don't walk away shaking your head saying, you know, this is a no brainer, actually get out there and try it, test it, right? It is a no-brainer. But guess what, link it into your strategy and build your strategy around your customers, and you'll find benefits.

Shahin Hoda  Okay. So the first thing I want to ask you is, give me one resource, or it could be couple could be a book, it could be a blog, podcast, talk, whatever it is, that has had a profound impact on you, either personally or professionally.

Brett Chester  Okay, that's an easy one. This Is Marketing by Seth Godin. Amazing book, recommend it to everybody. This Is Marketing, rather. There's also another book called Play Bigger. If anyone's interested in how to establish yourself as a category king, these guys are the book for you, right? Differentiation Category Kingmanship. Great book, I think on a personal basis, yeah, I'm a huge fan of The Count of Monte Cristo. It's a story of what not to do. So fantastic story. You know, prior to going to law school, everyone said read dense stuff. It's like, well, why it's like, because if you can get through the Count of Monte Cristo and join it, you'll be able to get through, you know, a number of case law. So okay, good advice. Thanks.

Shahin Hoda  Oh, wow. I love it. I love it. All right. Question number two. If you could give one advice to B2B marketers, what would it be?

Brett Chester  Oh, that's an easy one. I think I shared it earlier. And that is, you're not selling to logos, you're selling to people. Start to look to what your B2C brands are doing. And don't be 10 years behind them anymore. Let your marketing be just as see focused, as the B2C companies leverage the new technologies, leverage the opportunities that thinking about our customer, being a person represents to your business, rather than selling to a logo. Easy one.

Shahin Hoda  I love it. Number three, what are some of the influencers that you follow in this space?

Brett Chester  She's, again, Seth Godin, guy's a genius, Adam Grant's another genius. I think that, you know, if I were to take a step back, yeah, think about what we do as marketers. We're basically in the business of influencing change, right? So the ways to actually think about influencing change starts with the folks like Yuval Harare, right? Folks that are giving us insights around our evolution as people why we believe in things how we believe in things.

Brett Chester  You know, even the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant again, like these guys are giving us human- led insights. That's why Don Draper was so awesome, you know, madmen. Don Draper was awesome because he found an insight as corrupt a character he was, he understood his audience, right? And that's, you know, that's why the likes of Yuval Harare, Adam brands, Malcolm Gladwell are all going to be impactful in your decision making.

Shahin Hoda  That's that's that's awesome. Question number four. Last question. What's something that excites you about B2B today?

Brett Chester  B2C.

Shahin Hoda  Controversial. That's good. I love that. I love that.

Brett Chester  Yeah. Look, you know, every morning we engage in social in some fashion and we're being bombarded. You know, pick it, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter. We're being bombarded by B2C companies that are ingraining themselves in our lives. Why aren't B2B marketers doing that? Why aren't we doing more of that? Right? And, you know, there's an amazing initiative going on here at deputy. And I'm not going to shout it out too, specifically, but, you know, check out our social right now. We're really trying to ingrain ourselves in the lives of our prospects and the lives of our customers. And you know, that's taking a leaf from B2C's bible.

Shahin Hoda  That's so good. In 111 word BDC. I love that. Look, Brett, this has been a awesome conversation. I really enjoyed this. I think you've brought up this, this customer-led growth model. And there's there's just so many interesting points there. And just like you said, a lot of it is like, yeah, that makes sense. But a lot of it is not systematically implemented into organizations and that's, that's what probably needs to happen more. So I really appreciate you coming on the on the podcast. Thank you so much for your time and looking to chat more.

Brett Chester  My pleasure. Thank you.

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