Rob Meinhardt Explains How Advocate Stories Fueled KACE’s Incredible Growth

1ca6c41Creating a cult-like following for your brand isn’t an accident. According to Rob Meinhardt, founder of Dell KACE and partner at Toba Capital, it takes the perfect blend of product design and targeted marketing strategies to turn customers into zealous fans who promote your brand wherever they go.

You may think creating advocates isn’t possible in the straight-laced world of B2B software—but Rob has proven this isn’t true.

The KACE systems management tool was easier to use and less expensive than its competitors when it launched. But that wasn’t the only secret to the brand’s success. Rob says their playful marketing messages focused on the soft benefits customers received instead of the technical specs other software providers relied on. “We drove KACE customer advocacy early on,” says Rob, “because one person’s excitement can catch on.”

Building emotional customer stories around the KACE experience made the brand one of the fastest-growing companies in the category. As a result, Dell acquired KACE in 2010. “Creating raving fans that attracted other new customers made a lot of sense,” says Rob of their strategy.

This success story is the reason we invited Rob to speak at Advocamp 2015, the first-ever event focused on harnessing customer enthusiasm to drive sales and revenue. (Click here to watch Rob’s Advocamp AmpTalk presentation).

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Here are a few ways of the unique ways Rob broke the corporate mold and fueled customer advocacy to grow the KACE brand.

1. Tap into your customer’s passion

Rob says many software producers focus too much on talking about product features, datasheets or demos. “They don’t reflect their customers in their marketing.”

Rob recommends focusing on customer anecdotes and stories in order to humanize your marketing message. As an example, the KACE team used photos of actual customers rather than stock images on their website. “We saw big results from this small change. Something about these passionate customers who were really using our product resonated with people. They saw a regular person they could identify with.”

KACE also recorded customer stories at their user conference. They asked one question: how they saved time or money by using our product? “One thing we discovered was customers had personal benefits of using the product that went beyond features,” says Rob. For instance, one customer said the product had saved him enough time to leave work early and attend his child’s baseball games. “Their personal anecdotes told the emotional side of our story.” Consider promoting the soft benefits to your customers to make your messaging more personal and hit home.

2. Be aspirational

Delighting customers with rewards can encourage brand affinity. However, Rob recommends stepping outside the regular mug/calendar/sticker approach and making sure your swag is something people actually want—not something they’ll stick in a drawer and forget about. “Gear can be so boring and corporate because we want things to match. Making it cool makes your brand cool, not the color scheme,” says Rob. “Your brand should be aspirational.”

Case in point: KACE took swag to next level and included a hat designed by the creator of the US Olympic Team’s uniforms in every box they shipped out. “I wanted it to be so cool that kids at Abercrombie and Fitch would wear it. I didn’t care if it spoke to our brand. I wanted it to be cool,” says Rob. He adds that, years later, people still ask to copy the hat design.

That being said, Rob doesn’t recommend trying to change your value proposition when working on your product. “Be something special to a specific group of people,” says Rob. “Build a product that is unequally the best for a certain type of customer.” Trying to be everything to everyone won’t win over any zealous advocates.

An important part of this formula is succinctly identifying what your brand does and why it’s valuable. “If everyone is talking from the same playbook, customers will respond to your message a lot more,” says Rob.

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3. Use story telling to inspire employees

Employees have an important role in telling your brand’s stories. An interesting story about a time the team went above and beyond to help a customer can empower employees to create unbelievable experiences for buyers. Make sure these corporate mythologies have a way of being shared internally to improve the customer experience and, ultimately, drive more advocacy, suggests Rob.

While he emphasizes bringing the emotion back into your corporate story telling, Rob is a self-proclaimed data hound. However, he recommends always digging deeper into your data for the real insights. “If you have a 70% overall win rate, but you peel back a layer of the onion, you may find that some market segments have a 90% win rate, and others only 10%,” he explains. Breaking down the numbers allowed KACE to repackage their product for the lower segment to improve their win rates.

To join in the 2015 Advocamp conversation, check our our VIP Community. 

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4 Responses to Rob Meinhardt Explains How Advocate Stories Fueled KACE’s Incredible Growth

  1. […] your marketing. Rob Meinhardt, founder of Dell KACE and partner at Toba Capital, has proven that differentiating your brand can pay off big time in the B2B world. In his Advocamp presentation, he shares his top four tips […]

  2. […] Dell KACE has cracked the code. They’ve created an exclusive advocate marketing program, called KACE Konnect, to engage their customers. They’ve tailored the program to their customers’ challenges and interests, and used game mechanics and rewards to encourage customers to share their love for Dell KACE with others. As a result, they’ve generated valuable acts of customer advocacy—like online reviews, in-depth customer feedback and social media shares of their content. (To learn more about how an advocate marketing program works, read this.) […]

  3. […] most successful communities leverage the power of stories to attract members, and keep them coming back for more. Sarah suggests finding ways to empower […]

  4. […] Kobie also emphasizes including both the old-school “Crayola” marketer (who understands the art of marketing) and the new-school quantitative marketer (who understands how to measure product performance) on your team. He says that by acknowledging the value of both sides of the marketer persona, the two can work together to create new initiatives and ultimately fuel business growth. […]

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