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Your Buyers Don’t Trust You: Here’s Why Kaylee Edmondson Says That’s an Opportunity for Demand Gen

Ever been a victim of the “vending machine” approach to demand gen?

For every dollar the C-Suite doles out, companies expect marketers to promise three or four trackable revenue dollars in return.

Here’s the problem with that way of thinking: It pigeonholes marketing teams into spending their entire budget trying to capture existing demand through direct response channels like Google or Bing instead of creating demand. And from Kaylee Edmondson’s experience auditing demand gen for B2B SaaS companies, she knows they’re wasting money and time.

As the founder of DemandLoops, Kaylee kicks off new client projects with a revenue audit. Both paid media —  to understand which campaigns are working and where companies are wasting spend on broad or irrelevant keywords — and across the entire GTM function (marketing, partners and outbound).

You can’t uncover what’s working (or not) without taking a holistic peek under the demand hood. “Then, we reallocate that budget to actually go out into the world and create demand,” Kaylee explains.

When demand gen teams stay in “money in, leads out” mode, they usually don’t focus on the one thing their campaigns actually need to come across as trustworthy: customer proof.

Kaylee shared with me why customer evidence is the missing piece demand gen marketers have been looking for — and why effectively gathering and distributing it represents an opportunity for brands to stand out.

Here’s what she had to say.

What buyers want and why demand gen doesn’t have it

Buyers don’t trust vendors, and it’s a problem for demand marketers.

Source: Workweek

A survey from Workweek found that company websites are the least trusted source for B2B content, let alone ads from those companies. Buyers do put stock in what other buyers have to say, though — over 90% somewhat or completely trust their peers in the industry.

So they ask for feedback from people they know, surf social for recommendations, and read reviews. By the time they talk to a salesperson, B2B buyers are 57% of the way through their purchasing journey.

All of this signals that demand gen campaigns should lead with customer evidence. But according to Kaylee, customer proof campaigns are usually the last campaigns to get launched:

So many internal hurdles prevent me from getting customer evidence in the first place, and then once I get it, there are hurdles that prevent me from using it.”

Customers might be willing to be cited — but they want to remain anonymous or stay away from using the name of a competitor they switched from. “For brands working to take up real estate in your social feed, that doesn’t help them build credibility or authority,” Kaylee explains.

Internal red tape keeps social proof out of demand gen efforts, and it’s sad. Customer evidence is the one thing demand leaders need to power all of their campaigns, but it’s the one thing they can’t have.

Don’t lose heart just yet. If it’s difficult for every demand gen team, then leaning on customer evidence for key campaigns turns the problem into an opportunity to stand out.

There’s a path forward to better campaigns — ones filled with customer stories, competitive intel, product stats, and ROI data — and Kaylee’s holding the roadmap.

How to create demand with evidence-based content, step by step

Let’s close the customer evidence gap in demand gen, once and for all. Kaylee shared her process for powering campaigns with customer proof, from collection to distribution.

Step 1: Collaborative collection

If retention and expansion aren’t KPIs of focus for demand marketers, they don’t always work with customer success (CS). And when you’re not tight with the team that owns customer relationships, getting customer proof is a whole lot harder.

A strong relationship with your friendly neighborhood CS leader starts with trust. CS isn’t likely to give you carte blanche to talk to any customer whenever without knowing:

  • What you’re going to do with customer data
  • That you’re not going to harass or bombard customers
Kaylee Edmondson
Founder of DemandLoops
"Create a bridge [between marketing and CS] to have a qualitative and quantitative feedback loop of what you’re seeing and hearing in the market as a top of funnel demand leader, versus what your CS team is seeing, hearing, and learning, too."

Build a rhythm where you can ask CS for relevant customers when running an ad about a certain pain point — if you’ve built trust with them, they might respond with an entire list and ask which one you want to talk to. “But you’re not going to get that if you never talk to these people and you only go ask them for stuff when you need it.”

Foster a relationship now that you can lean on later.

Pro tip: Build a quarterly cadence

News flash: Demand gen isn’t the only team asking CS for customer interviews, proof, and insights — product marketing, brand, sales, and product want direct customer insights, too.

To avoid bombarding CS with requests, Kaylee recommends getting product, marketing, sales, and CS in the same room at least on a quarterly basis to hash things out like:

  • Campaign priorities
  • Where spend is going
  • Themes to communicate
  • Who’s involved in communicating those themes

This quarterly conversation aligns everyone on the major and mid-level priorities for the quarter. While smaller, one-off asks always come up, the teams can collectively set aside those minor requests as long as they agree on — and commit to — what’s most important.

Start on the same page to maximize alignment, trust, and collective success.

Step 2: Proactive curation

Have you ever heard the age-old statistic that up to 70% of B2B content goes unused? “That’s because people don’t prioritize — they’re excited to make the content but don’t bring distribution partners into the room at the right time,” Kaylee explains. “The content just sits in an Asana task or Google Drive somewhere.”

During those quarterly standups I mentioned in the last section, demand gen should get as specific as possible about upcoming needs:

As you curate those materials, aim to create one body of work that you can break down and repurpose across channels and mediums. That’s far more efficient than the all-too-familiar “piecemeal approach” of reaching out to the same customer three or four times in a short timeframe.

Skip the back and forth — get the customer in the room (either in-person or on Zoom) once, and record the conversation. “Now, you’ve got video, audio, and transcription text that can be turned into almost any type of media outlet that you need — one body of work distributed across eight different outlets, and all it took was a 30-minute conversation.”

Any strong relationship you have with a CSM is a goldmine here. Even if six different customers could work for your needs, CSMs usually know which one would be best.

As they remove obstacles and headaches, you move your campaign one step closer to seeing the light of day.

Step 3: Narrative distribution

In the scramble to create and distribute customer evidence, the foundational principles of great demand advertising are usually the last thing on marketing teams’ minds, in favor of the “Let’s just get it launched” approach. “That’s why a lot of customer evidence falls flat,” according to Kaylee.

What does it look like to distribute customer evidence well instead of simply getting it out the door? Start by telling a story — everyone loves a good narrative.

Most brands use customer evidence to put their product front and center because they think it’s the only way to generate demand. But when you put your customer in the spotlight, your marketing also stands out. Here’s an example.

You probably know Dropbox as a file storage solution. But their customer success stories aren’t in the tired problem-solution-outcome format.

The Dropbox team goes onsite with small businesses, interviews them for the day, and films these customers in their natural habitat.

But here’s what’s unique about their customer stories: “They spend 90% of the real estate telling the story of the customer — and very little time actually talking about Dropbox,” Kaylee explains.

Rather than zeroing in on the product, these journalistic stories feature beautiful imagery and put Dropbox customers on a pedestal. “Not a lot of software brands take that perspective. It’s almost always, ‘My file storage was a mess. I got Dropbox, my file storage is better, and now I save 10 hours a week. Do you want Dropbox now?’ It would serve so many companies well to take a page out of Dropbox’s book and tell a narrative story.”

Think your product is too dry for the narrative approach? It isn’t. No matter who you serve, your customers are trying to be the best-in-class versions of themselves. And if your product helps them do that, you can tell customer stories without droning on about how much time or money they saved.

“Speak to the emotion and the why behind your customer’s experience without shoving products in your prospects’ faces,” Kaylee advises.

Where to start applying customer evidence in your demand gen strategy

So you have a blueprint for folding customer evidence into your demand gen efforts. Check.

But how do you actually start?

If you’re at square one, your first step is to set up face time with customers — something marketers don’t naturally get. Review customer and sales calls, and set up tags in your listening tools to find trends and patterns at scale, too. Make sure you’re on the same page with sales and CS by getting access to the same customer feeds they’re looking at.

Next, explore your CRM data. Review the hard facts to understand:

“Those details let you know what to start asking customers to build the story — that’s got to be the baseline.”

Along the way, keep building those relationships with other teams, especially CS. Don’t neglect the quarterly standup with marketing, sales, product, and CS; build alignment, and grow your customer evidence efforts from there.

Cold calls in pursuit of customer evidence

Kaylee brought all of these steps together in a previous role in record time.

As part of her onboarding, she met with the CS leader. Kaylee candidly told them that, while she was great at marketing, she hadn’t spent much time with their target persona and didn’t quite know where to start.

When she asked if she could review customer calls, CS told her that they actually needed a hand completing more customer interviews — so Kaylee agreed to help. She made 40 cold customer calls, asking three questions on CS’s behalf and six marketing questions to get to know the audience.

She did it all within her first 45 days of onboarding. Along the way, she:

  • Spent time with customers and heard their stories
  • Gathered valuable intel
  • Built lasting goodwill with her CS team

That’s a win for everyone. “When you’re new, there’s an opportunity to roll time with your customers into your onboarding process as a demand gen leader,” Kaylee says.

Capture customer proof to create demand

I’ll cut to the chase: Stop wasting your marketing budget on the wrong keywords and bland product fodder. Start leading with customer evidence.

The vending-machine approach to demand gen is tried-and-true and trackable, sure. But as Kaylee says, “The problem is that not everything can actually be tracked, and not everything can be measured.” And if you ask me, not everything should be measured, but that’s a different blog post.

When you start using customer evidence and stories to create demand, you:

  • Tap into human emotions
  • Show prospects you get their pain points on a personal level
  • Create awareness and demand in compelling ways

If there’s one thing I’m taking away from my conversation with Kaylee, it’s this: Customer proof lets you drive leads and revenue and build trust with buyers — so go ahead, have your cake and eat it, too.

It’s time to create demand using customer proof and success statistics for more effective campaigns that grow revenue. UserEvidence can help.

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