Today’s interview is with Joan Babinski, founder and vice president of marketing at Brainshark, which helps thousands of companies around the world improve productivity with cloud-based business presentation solutions for sales, marketing and training. Joan joins me today to talk about Brainshark and how they built a community of customer advocates that helped them grow their business.
Background: Brainshark has more than 400 champions in its customer champion programme and, since starting it in 2012, has more than quadrupled the number of companies willing to serve as references and more than doubled Twitter activity around the brand. Brainshark also won a Forrester Groundswell Award for it’s programme, which has resulted in amplification of its content, acceleration of the sales cycle and deeper levels of engagement with customers (for example, more customers are enthusiastic about joining beta programs, etc.).
This interview follows on from my recent interview: Great service, great coffee and great people creates loyalty – Interview with Nick Barlow of Small Batch Coffee – and is number one-hundred and eight in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.
Highlights of my interview with Joan:
- Created the Brainshark Customer Champion programme to leverage the good feeling that they had amongst their existing customer base.
- Focused on creating more of a reciprocal relationship between them and their customers.
- They identified their champions as people that had made a financial or professional ‘investment’ in the use of Brainshark’s products.
- Other ways to identify those champions could be people that are following you on social channels, contributing to user communities, sharing some of your content or maybe they could be some of your most active product users, your most engaged set of customers when it comes to attendance at events like webinars, someone who has just received great service or someone who has provided great feedback on a customer survey.
- Finally, they also have a programme where they ask their employees (sales, customer experience and helpdesk) to recommend customers for their champion programme.
- Rewarding people for their participation has been key and rewards aren’t necessarily monetary rewards.
- Rewards can vary from accumulation of reward points that can be redeemed against gift vouchers or they could benefit with free training for their company, free tickets to a local industry event (where Brainshark can give their champions first refusal on tickets they have access to) or attendance on a quarterly call with Brainshark’s President.
- They also utilise gamification and badges to reward and acknowledge a champion’s participation.
- The rewards that work best depend on the reasons behind why people want to be a champion in the first place.
- Match the rewards to the profile of the champion.
- Sometimes people need encouragement to speak up about good things that are worth talking about. Maybe that’s because they don’t realise how powerful their advocacy can be.
- Sometimes you just need a bit of a ‘carrot’ to develop a new habit of sharing.
- Your customers are not always thinking about you and you are not always at the front of their minds.
- Inviting a customer to be part of a ‘champion’ programme contains a large amount of social recognition.
- Joan’s top tips for getting started on creating your own champion programme are:
- One, figure out where your advocates/champions are and what are they doing;
- Two, segment your advocates and potential champions and understand what would be valuable to them; and
- Three, set up a system of rewards that is aligned with the profiles and preferences of your potential champions.
- Brainshark found that their customer champion programme became more successful when they launched an employee champion programme and integrated the two.
About Joan (taken from her Brainshark bio)
Joan Babinski, founder and vice president of marketing, is responsible for leading the company’s marketing communications and demand generation activities. Also, as a founder, Joan was instrumental in the launch of the company, the development of the Brainshark brand, and the company’s growth to its leading position as a provider of on-demand video presentation solutions. Joan is responsible for generating demand in Brainshark’s key markets through awareness and lead programs and in delivering customer-focused initiatives.
Previously, Joan was assistant vice president in commercial lending at USTrust, where she developed new business and managed key customer relationships, working with companies in technology, insurance, and service sectors.
Prior to USTrust, Joan worked with early-stage companies to employ web technologies and develop integrated web and offline marketing strategies. Joan earned an MBA with a concentration in marketing from Babson College, and a BBA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.