This week on the Voices of CX Podcast we hosted Marilyn Mead, VP of Marketing at Winmo. We discussed how applying the authentic voice of the customer throughout the organization (with a focus on marketing) is one of the best ways to put your company on the path to being truly customer-centric.
About Marilyn Mead
As VP of Marketing for List Partners’ flagship brand Winmo, Marilyn oversees brand, product marketing, demand generation, and retention strategies. With Winmo since its 2015 market launch, Marilyn’s intuitive understanding of customer use cases crafts a marketing strategy that speaks to the needs of Winmo’s core audiences. She’s teamed up with customers to present at events including AdWeek and the National Sports Forum, among others. She thrives on collaborating with her team of marketing pros, and chatting with customers any chance she gets.
Connect with Marilyn Mead
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About Voices of CX Podcast
The Voices of CX Podcast is a podcast that covers all things business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and tips for sustainable profitability. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation sprinkled in here and there. The guests span multiple industries, but all of them have years of experience to bring to the table.
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Hello to you once again to our listeners and viewers. Welcome to Season nine of Voices of Customer Experience podcast. Today I am joined by Marilyn Mead. She is the VP of marketing for Winmo. I’m not going to say any more – I’m going to let Marilyn introduce herself, but thank you so much for coming on. It’s such a pleasure to have you.
Absolutely. It’s a pleasure to be on the podcast with you. And yeah, I’m the VP of marketing for Winmo, and I love talking about customer experience. I have the great fortune of working for a company with an amazing product and with a customer set that sort of sells our product for us in many ways. So I work very closely with our customers and our product team.
So I feel like voices of customer experience is going to be a great conversation for us today.
That’s awesome. Marilyn, what is the thing that gets you most passionate about the work that you do?
It’s a great question. I think for me, seeing the lightbulb go off in someone’s head when they discover that you are a solution to a problem that they’re having is, that’s like my wow moment. That’s what drives me, is when you can communicate in the SaaS industry, especially when you can communicate a complex product offering into a simple solution to a problem that someone is having.
And there’s a sense of relief that they have and excitement. Seeing that emotion from someone is really what kind of lights me up and motivates me every day.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about your background for a second. Have you always been so involved in the customer? Have you always been a marketer? I didn’t start off in marketing, so I like asking this question to kind of get a good idea of background.
That is a good question. And yeah, I don’t have a typical marketing background. If you talk to a lot of people on CMO or VP of marketing or marketing directors In SaaS marketing, a lot of them started out down this path early on. I did not start out on this path, and I share that openly for anyone.
Yeah. Because it can feel kind of isolating sometimes when you’re like, I didn’t start out here, is it too late to make a change? I did not go to school for marketing. I have a liberal arts background from NYU. Was not sure what I wanted to go into afterwards. Ended up working for Pepsi right after college, which was a great sort of introduction to working for a major brand.
Loved, loved the company, great experience. I also discovered there that I didn’t want to work at such a big company. There’s a lot of benefits to it, but there’s also a lot of bureaucracy, red tape. And so I discovered pretty quickly that I wanted to work at a smaller company and had the opportunity to do so at a company called Advertising Database, where I started as a writer of marketing and advertising news and was really passionate about that.
And talking about customer-centricity, I kind of weaseled my way on to sales calls and customer calls to learn more about what people were wanting because I wanted to make sure that we were matching demand and sort of through that experience became a marketer because I discovered a lot about what they enjoyed in the product or wanted to see more of in the product.
And I would say that that was my first experience, seeing those lightbulb moments for people, and it really paved a path for me forward of discovering that this is what I wanted to do, this is what I was passionate about, and how I thought I could make an impact in an organization so that I had the opportunity to create the marketing department there.
And we were acquired by LIS Partners, which is the holding company of Winmo, and had the opportunity to build Winmo from the ground up, sort of the team that built the brand. And it’s been a great privilege to sort of be a steward of that brand for the past seven years.
How the company puts the customer first in every marketing message
Wow, that’s great. That’s much longer than the normal tenure of a CMO. I talk about this all the time, like, OK, I’ve been at Worthix since 2017 in this position. That’s not really so common. I think the average tenure is like max, four years or something like that, but when you find something that you really fit into culturally that you are passionate about the product and the problem that the company is solving, I think it ends up really working out.
Now, something that I noticed before bringing you on to the show when I was kind of browsing through the website, is the way the company puts the customer first in all of the marketing messaging. So what was the inspiration behind that? I saw that most of the messaging is around reviews G2’s, testimonials, case studies, where did you get that idea? Because I imagine that this is all your doing.
I don’t know, I don’t want to take all of the credit for everything. I think that we’ve always been a very customer-first company. That’s what I really enjoyed about LIS Partners when they acquired Advertising Database, I realized I want to work for this company. They get it. I feel like they understand that the customer is the most important person in this process of launching a new product and launching new features of promotion.
And for me, the importance of allowing the customer to have a voice in marketing and advertising is that there’s an authenticity there that just allows people… I can put together a messaging that says, “Winmo is the greatest thing ever,” or our sales, or whoever can say that we’re the greatest thing ever. And inherently there’s kind of distrust – rightfully so, on the part of the consumer – because they know that you’re trying to sell something, you have an agenda.
But when they hear from their peers when they hear from people who have a similar job as them at their company or a similar company or their peers and cohorts, how this product is solving a challenge, they just believe it. It’s much more authentic. It comes off, I think, it is disarming to the if you’re a prospect and you’re visiting a website and you’re not reading all of this fluffed up marketing copy. You’re reading the voices of your peers, talking about the solution, practically, how it’s solving their challenges.
Your walls go down and you want to have a conversation with the company because you inherently believe that their solution does what it says it’s supposed to do.
The power of influence and social proof in customer decisions
Yeah, you know, one of the most interesting things for me, not only as a marketer, but as a member of the customer experience community, is the power of influence and the power of social proof in purchase decisions. And it really does something magical to our brains. I was talking about this yesterday and how we failed to notice, on a conscious level, how susceptible we actually are to social proof.
But when we see other people sharing a positive experience or vouching for an organization or truly being a champion of that organization, somehow it causes us to see that company, even if we’ve never heard of them before. The product, whatever, it causes us to see them in an entirely different light versus a company that has nobody speaking on their behalf.
So the interesting part of that intersection of behavior, psychology, of understanding human nature and understanding what drives customers decisions, and putting that together with your marketing message and being able to be authentic about the way that you express yourself for me is really beautiful. And I appreciate that as a marketer.
Oh, thank you. Yeah. And I think just make sure, too, that your brand tone and messaging is that there’s not a disconnect between what your customers are saying about you and what you’re saying about yourself.
Yeah, absolutely. Now, in Winmo, within your organization where you work, are you the customer champion? Are you the person that speaks on behalf of the customer inside the organization?
I would argue that all of us are the customer champion within Winmo. I think that we are our executive team works with customers on a daily basis. There is no one removed from the customer experience, really. And maybe that’s not kind of the answer that you were hoping to hear.
I was hoping like, yes, of course I’m responsible for this.
It’s all me. It’s not all me. It’s, you know, our head of product development. Rob talks to customers all the time, so he’s not working in a silo. Our head of sales, Ryan our head of account management, Whitney, very involved in the capturing the voice of our customers and translating it back to the company. And some of the most powerful voices in translating the voice of the customer back to the company are not on the executive team.
You know, they’re account coordinators that are setting up alerts for our customers or sort of on the front lines working with people on a daily basis. So I think the best thing that we can do as an executive team is give them a platform to filter back that information and then continue to have conversations ourselves so that we don’t get removed from what the voice of the customer is.
Improving your sales pitch with the Voice of the Customer
You know, one really interesting thing that you shared with me in our pre-call is that the sales pitch that you guys use is actually pulled from voice of customer. Is that something that happens in all departments where the voice of the customer truly is the north star of the strategy and the decisions that are made?
I think so. I think it’s it’s always a challenge because you have ideas, whether it’s marketing or product development or strategic company direction, everyone has their ideas and a gut instinct or gut feel of where they want to go. And it’s a constant concerted effort to include the voice of customers and make sure that we are being led by our customers.
Not the other way around. And so I’m not sure if that totally answers your question, but it’s interesting because the voice of your customers has to be at the center of what you do. They’re leading, they’re driving product development and growth. But at the same time, you sort of need people within an organization to develop a gut feel for the market because there’s also opportunities where customers might be coming to you and not asking what they’re asking you for is different maybe than what would actually solve their problem, or they don’t even know what’s possible.
Like when Steve Jobs came up with the iPhone, it’s not like someone was saying, Man, I really wish I had a computer in my pocket. Sometimes people can’t tell you that they want something that doesn’t exist yet. So you kind of need a balance of creative individuals within an organization who have a great gut feel and then a balance of customers who can say, Oh my God, this is solving a problem that I didn’t even know I had or creating an opportunity that I wasn’t even sure I wanted.
Customer Feedback: What CX leaders need to take action
Yeah, I think that’s the portion of actionability on customer feedback that a lot of companies fail at, and I’ve heard this more times than I care to remember where CX practitioners say, Oh, if you want to create a better experience for your customer, just go to your database or go to the dashboard of whichever platform you’re using.
Look at the number one complaint and solve that problem. And I’m thinking to myself, no, no, the number one complaint isn’t always what’s making or breaking the experience for your customer. The most crucial thing is understanding which breakdowns in the experience will cause your customer to leave. Which ones will they have no tolerance for? Which are the things that you’re currently doing as an organization that’s keeping your customers loyal because if for any reason, an executive in your company based on a gut feeling or based on a book they read, decide to interrupt that process, then you could accidentally sabotage your whole operation.
So I would say find out what’s making or breaking the experience for your customer. And then that’s when you need these creative minds or you need these individuals that are so in tune and are able to piece together the wants, the needs the pains perhaps of the customer with potential solutions that perhaps haven’t even been invented yet.
Totally. And, being I love that just being in tune, I think that that puts it perfectly, being in tune with it so that you have a group of people who are in tune with what actually moves the needle for your customers. Because the most common complaint, solving that might not actually move that needle for people out there.
If you were to ask your customers what if we solved your common complaint or you know, what if we invented this thing that hasn’t been invented yet, they might not even know like in front of them what the opportunity is that, you know, that you’re prioritizing. So it takes the voice of your customers and also your team members within your company being in tune with the customer experience and what drives them, what motivates them and what they need from your product to kind of come up with the solutions that actually move the needle.
Yeah, I mean, I was going to say exactly that and use the word need instead of focusing so much on what customers are complaining about. OK, yes. It’s absolutely important to know if processes aren’t working the way that they should or if products aren’t functioning correctly. But I think that especially when it comes to research and development and innovation and creating new products, what we need to tap into is the beginning of everything, which is the customer need.
When we have a very deep understanding of the customer need, that’s when we’re able to create potential solutions. And that’s what drives the market. That’s what has always driven the market. Innovation didn’t come from a customer like you said, complaining about something and telling Henry Ford to create an automobile. It came from him understanding that there was a dire need for transportation.
And what is a really interesting, intelligent, forward-thinking, innovative way to solve the transportation issue? So nowadays that may translate into autonomous vehicles or even, I don’t know, flying vehicles or space tourism, whatever. It’s still solving that age-old issue of the need. And when you have an understanding of that need, that’s when innovation can happen.
Totally. And I love this line of conversation because I think what it does, what good customer experience and good product development does is harness the power of imagination you know, which is what makes human beings different from really most animals on the planet. The thing that makes us different is that we have the ability to imagine things that don’t even exist yet.
So I think the more that you can harness that power of imagination, the more you can delight your customers. And I have talked to a lot of companies, and I’ve noticed that when people start stagnating is when they’re solely paying attention to like what you were talking about, the number one complaint item becomes the primary priority and you kind of lose sight of the imagination that made you successful in the first place.
You know, the ability to conceive of what other people might not have conceived of yet.
Customer Experience: Practical applications and concepts
Yeah. So let’s bring it down because I think that we’re both up here in this very beautiful conceptual part of customer experience. But if we’re to bring this down to kind of a ground level and talk about some of the practical applications of these beliefs and these concepts. So what is in your job? How do you make sure that this mindset is spread throughout the organization and that your customers feel heard and seen and understood?
Most importantly, do you have any systems in place?
We have a few things. I mean, in addition to just automatic systems that capture customer feedback surveys, NPS scores, those sort of things, we as an organization listen in on customer calls. We have Chorus. If I think if any organization has access to a Chorus or a Gong or, there’s so many meeting recording tools now, but that’s such an incredible wealth of insight and anyone can listen in.
So new hires, no matter where they are in the organization, they don’t have to be in on the call. They can listen to it. And the more of those that you listen to, the more you are in tune with the voice of the customer. And I love listening to different parts of the customer journey, and I love for my team doing the same, listening to a prospect on a sales call, learning about Winmo for the first time hearing where they have ‘aha’ moments and the light bulb goes off for them, and then listening to an onboarding call when they’re actually developing a plan for how they’re going to apply sales intelligence to win more business.
So I think listening in to the actual voice of your customers at every stage of the journey, there’s really no in my view, I’m sure other people could argue otherwise. There’s no better tool to be in tune with the voice of your customers.
Yeah. So for, our listeners and viewers who don’t know what Gong and Chorus AI are, these are services is that record calls and then can transcribe them. Right? Or just record the video so that they can be reviewed later. And I would second that. It’s beautiful what it can do, especially for like in my case, sometimes I don’t have perhaps the time to listen to a full call, but if there’s a transcript available that I can skim through and look for key moments it’s really, really valuable to get that understanding of what’s working in your pitch, what isn’t, where is friction?
Is there a part of your messaging that seems abundantly clear to you but falls kind of flat with your customer? So for those of you who are in the market and are looking for a tool to do that, the recommendations that Marilyn gave are amazing. Now, when it comes to the C suite as a whole and the strategic direction of the company, is there a system in place for bringing the customer experience, or customer-centricity really, as a kind of an integral cultural element in the organization?
So there’s a variety of systems in place to do that. And some of them are formalized. Some of them are calling customers on a routine basis just to make sure that everyone is aware and has a good sample size of customer feedback on directions that we’re going in or potential initiatives that we’re considering. I also think I talked to you about this on the pre-call.
One of the things that we’ve done recently is put a really concerted effort towards going back to events. Now that live events are kind of back, I think we’re doing 26 this year and people from every level, every department, virtually every department of our company are at these events, and that goes up to our CEO Dave, who was just at an event in Colorado.
So I think the more that we can meet people where they are and actually interact with them in sort of like their natural habitat, because sometimes you get a call with someone and you’re like, This Winmo and I want to hear your feedback. It helps. I find it’s really helpful when you get people in an environment where they’re enjoying themselves socially, it’s a happy hour, whatever.
You get a group of customers together and there is just an honest appraisal of your product that happens in those environments. And one of the comments that I heard at an event I think it was at Advertising Week in October, we talked to a number of our customers and one of our users from Getty Images said you are the only you know, I’ve seen you at two or three events this year and none of your competitors are here.
They’re not engaging in these networking experiences. The way that you are. So I think your customers see that as a competitive advantage when they can see, when they can see with their own eyes the level of importance that you place on their feedback and on connecting with them. I think that that’s a huge advantage for any organization
It’s interesting that you would say that because I was just looking at a list of events that I want to attend this year. And what I try doing is, I attend these events not as a vendor, but as a delegate. And so I’m not there to make any sales pitches. I’m not there to buy anything. I’m there to talk.
I’m there to meet people when almost it’s almost more for the lunch breaks and the coffee breaks and the happy hours when people disarm a little bit and they kind of relax and they start speaking more freely about their perceptions about their needs. And that’s when I pick up on where the market is headed, where companies are headed, what the B2B buyer is looking for in SaaS platforms, in the marketing research and Consumer Insights Field.
So that portion of just kind of doing the networking circuit as a chief marketing officer is one of the most important things for me. And I’ve missed it so much in these years where we haven’t had any event because I almost feel like I’m no longer a part of the market. I don’t have the same thermometer that I used to have to know how people are feeling and it’s not coming from the keynotes or the breakout sessions.
It’s coming from the people that I meet, that I talk to, that I have drinks with and I would say that that’s a really crucial element in my job. And your job is just to get out there and talk to people?
Absolutely. And I think it I’m going to go up here again and you’re going to have to bring me back. But I’m curious what your Myers-Briggs is for describing you like the way that you process information. I wonder what you are. So I, I am and I.
I’ll tell you later to reveal my secrets.
Yeah, no, but I’m like I’m a person who gauges things by perceiving and feeling and intuition. And so when the pandemic happened and I was sort of cut off from a lot of those opportunities to network with customer, not just customers, but just people in the industry who have a pulse on what’s going on and what’s going to be unfolding in the future.
Then all you’re left with is data you have because we do collect data, we do surveys we have in product utilization and different things. And I obviously have my eye on those barometers. But I was missing like like what you’re talking about. I was missing that feel right there, feel like there’s just something there’s an intangible that sort of lets you know this is the right direction or this isn’t the right direction.
So I’ve found that being back in the mix sort of with people and being back and having the opportunity to have conversations that guide me in a better direction when I go back and interpret the data and look at what people are using and what features they’re relying on and what they’re not using, I have a better way of making sense of that information.
Decisions are data-driven: Connect that data to real-life CX
Yeah. It’s interesting because so much is data-driven in today marketing. You know, there’s so much that’s metrics. So many decisions are metric-based. But the truth is if you’re not able to make a connection between those numbers and people, I think that our job in leading marketing is to bring that human element in. You know, I had a friend who was a judge and one thing that he said was that, my job is to be a human because if we were just going to follow the rules, we could have a computer just pushing out sentences all day.
But what you need in the Justice System and in everything else is a person that can understand and pick up on these nuances, on these intuitions, on these feelings, and then connect it with the metrics. And it’s a way of humanizing those metrics and those numbers and that data so that they work in your favor. Because I’m pretty sure that data alone is empty.
And if you’re making decisions based solely on data, without that human element, without the empathy factor involved, then you’re making a mistake.
Absolutely. And it’s an interesting time to be a marketer because there is so much data available to us and there’s a million ways to slice it. And I’m often grateful that I work in a smaller organization where I can get on customer calls. I can you know, I can talk to our customers and sort of take that in.
People who work at bigger, huge global brands don’t often have the opportunity to like talk to their customers. And so they’re working off of data. And I’ve seen it happen where data has led people astray or sort of limited the opportunities that I think are driven by gut feel or imagination like we were talking about before. Like there’s got to be a mix of that left and right brain.
There’s so much data available, but there’s also kind of that intangible, that human element and empathy and different things that you’re describing that I think are so valuable that you can miss out on opportunities if you’re not incorporating those and relying on our natural instincts.
Making sense of marketing research and analysis
Yeah, and I think that another problem as well, and I mean, you can tell me if you face a similar problem, which is that overload of data where there’s so much of it and depending on how you slice it, you can find a way to back up whichever narrative you want. There’s so much of it. So being able to tell a story in data that’s accurate and not biased by what you already came to the table believing is also really difficult. And it’s part of what we do here at Worthix is where we try to see through that and create a clear path and a clear story that makes sense of all of the data. But that is a pretty big challenge, I think that a lot of marketers face. And the bigger the company, the bigger the problem, I would say.
Yeah, absolutely. And there’s so much to sift through. How do you find the signal through the noise? Like there’s so much, and how do you find the signal through the noise and how do you make sure that it’s the authentic signal. The voice of your customers versus some sort of bias that you have that you’re looking to be confirmed, you’re looking to the data to confirm a bias?
So I think it’s a matter of us as marketers or anyone doing data analysis and of keeping yourself accountable to make sure that your agenda is to harness the want and the need of the customer versus prove out some internal sort of sense of being right about something.
Yeah. That confirmation bias in there, right? I remember when I first started dipping my toes into the marketing research, data science world and talking, I had the opportunity to speak to some brilliant people, but when I started asking about the basic process behind gathering voice of customer, I was very confused because, you know, they said, oh, we, we use, you know, scientific methodology, which is to come up with a hypothesis and then collect data to prove this hypothesis.
And I was like, Wait, that’s really this that’s how y’all do this? Like, that can’t be right. Because it truly, truly is – if you’re looking to prove something in the data and you’ve got tons and tons of data, you’re probably going to find it. So being able to speak to your customers by removing all of that bias and coming to the table with just a clean slate and allowing that raw voice of customer to come through is such a challenge to so many organizations.
And it’s I mean, luckily, we have technology that’s finally coming through to solve those problems. But again, we always have to be so hyper-aware of how we’re influencing what’s ending up on those final results, which ending up on those dashboards and which decisions are going to be made based on data that could possibly be skewed by our own opinions that we’re bringing in.
So while it’s so important to have that intuition and to listen to that gut feeling, we also have to remember that our gut feeling could be wrong.
You know, this all requires humility. To do any of this well, interpreting data, following a gut feeling, it requires humility and you can never be in a position where you have to be right. If you’re operating with that mindset, I think it’s a challenge to be successful. So there is, I told you on our pre-call of things that I had a gut feeling about that I thought, we are absolutely going to do this.
And I know and it was you know, we had a number of sort of areas that we were considering going into and supplying data on, you know, areas of interest from our customers and e-sports, political advertising, thinking of different things that we could track and provide to our customers. And I had a gut feel on what I thought was most important and then sampled customer sat groups to hear their thoughts.
And I was wrong. And, you know, you have to be willing to say you have to be willing to seek out the feedback to prove or disprove, you know, what you’re thinking and then to accept it if it is in conflict with what you originally thought and then be able to say, I was wrong. So we’re going to go in this direction, you know, and have to be able to amend plans as new information comes to light.
A 360 View: capture voice of the customer with a diverse tech stack
That’s really interesting because it reminds me of the importance of diversifying your stack when it comes to how you listen to customers you know, if you’re only listening to your customers in one specific channel, the chance of it being skewed, the chance of it being biased or just simply not representing a portion of the problem is really, really big.
So especially when you’re in a large organization that deals with massive data sets or speaks to hundreds and thousands of customers at the same time getting a second opinion, almost like, you know, when we have a medical condition and we receive diagnosis if it’s big and if it’s serious and if it could be life-changing, we definitely get a second opinion.
And we don’t just blindly trust a single source because there are so many ways in which that source could be faulty. So being able to capture different or source that voice of customer from different places and from different platforms and different technologies to provide you with that 360 view of the full picture, I think is really important.
Absolutely. And I think also involving customers at different stages and sort of different cohorts when you were talking earlier about the most common complaints, I’ve seen this in my organization. I was actually in a number of organizations where there’s a small contingency of people who are very, very loud and very vocal about certain things, and they can kind of lead you down a dangerous path.
If those are the only voices you’re listening to, the loudest ones. So I love getting feedback from customers who are sort of on the outskirts. Like maybe, maybe they haven’t logged in in a while. Maybe they’re not giving us feedback. They’re kind of going silent. So let’s engage them, let’s see their thoughts on a potential direction that we could go in and also ask, Hey, by the way, you haven’t been as active in the product or what’s going on?
Are you busy and sort of get some information there, but hear from people that might be quieter and might not be providing data that you’re analyzing because they’re not filling out surveys. They’re not filling out support tickets. They’re just not part of the data that you’re collecting manually.
Yeah, that’s great. I’m loving this conversation so much, and I’m actually sad to draw it to a close. I’m going to have to bring you back on for a future season. So that we can continue this conversation because it’s been so great. I think we’re very like-minded in a lot of ways. But Marilyn, for our listeners and readers, if they want to reach out to you, if they’re interested in finding out about either about Winmo or even tap into a little bit more of your experience, what’s the best way to do that?
Absolutely. So you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, on Twitter, Marilyn Mead, however, whatever works for you, I kind of want to give my email, but I don’t I’m trying to limit myself in throwing that in every place. Because it’s coming back to bite me. So LinkedIn is great, and then we’ll take it from there.
Perfect. Well, thank you so much and thank you to our listeners and viewers for joining us once again. And we’ll see you next time.