What does it take to become the market leader in your space? Amazing customer service? The most robust product offering? Aggressive marketing tactics?

While some of these may be part of the formula, the one thing most brands often miss is tapping into the power of their loyal customer base.

Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President for Ceridian, a cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) solution with more than 100,000 clients in 50 countries, knows a thing or two about capturing customer excitement to fuel business growth.

1a7c260“Ceridian’s success is equal to the sum total of our customer’s successes,” says Howard. His customer-centric focus is the reason Ceridian started its Ceridian XOXO Customer Success Program, which helps the brand’s top customers develop themselves professionally and become recognized for making contributions to the group. This community of HCM professionals has been the secret behind Ceridian’s growing market mindshare.

As a result, the program has become the poster child for how to leverage the power of happy customers. To date, the XOXO program has:

  • 1,120 engaged advocates
  • Created hundreds of peer-to-peer connections and referrals
  • Generated millions of dollars in sales and marketing effectiveness

These results are why we asked Howard to share how companies can gain an industry leadership position through empowering their advocates at our 2015 Advocamp event in San Francisco, the first-ever event focused on how businesses can grow by mobilizing their top advocates. (Click here to watch Howard’s Advocamp AmpTalk presentation).

Here’s a preview of Howard’s insights into the future of customer marketing.

1. Demand Gen is dying

“I think the days of marketers investing tons of money into demand generation are over,” says Howard. “You really can’t create demand. Nobody walks into a store to shop anymore. We walk into a store to buy. We’ve already done our shopping.”

Howard believes becoming a thought leader in your field is the key to attracting prospective clients earlier in the buying process. “We know that the customer success team at Ceridian has done their job when two people who are talking about human capital management center their conversations around the Ceridian brand.”

The key to this is by building an army of fans to speak on your behalf everywhere conversations are happening about your brand or industry. “Companies will gain an industry leadership position based upon the good word of people your prospective customers know and trust,” says Howard.

By creating a strong community of HCM advocates who discuss ideas, solve problems and share tips for best practices through the XOXO program, Ceridian has put its brand at the center of innovation in their industry. “We’re bringing together our community even though we’re just providing the vehicle to deliver that new tip, trick or technique,” says Howard.

2. Customers should be at the forefront of your marketing efforts

Howard says he’s excited by the recent shift toward customer-centric marketing. “Five years ago, we were focused on turning up the volume and arming the field. Now, we’re letting customers start and maintain conversations about us that we either should not—or cannot—start and maintain ourselves,” says Howard. “We let the success of our customers speak for itself, and we empower them to become thought leaders in their industry.”

As an example of Ceridian’s customer-first approach, the company now staffs their large tradeshow theatre with customer speakers rather than Ceridian staff. “We have our customers present their case studies all day long. Prospects would much rather talk to a customer than someone who’s got ‘Ceridian’ written on their business card.

The CMO’s Guide To The Next Gen Customer Experience
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Don’t leave your customer success program in the hands of newbies

Having senior, experienced staff at the helm of your advocacy program is better for customers. “Everyone on my team has more than 20 years of expertise in our industry. This is not a position for rookies,” says Howard. “You really need to have people who bring significant value to the customer.” These staffers are able to act as lobbyists for Ceridian customers, and have enough authority to affect real change for customers when they have an idea, or a concern.

To join in the Advocamp conversation from last year, check out our VIP Community. 

Engaging HR Advocates
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