Hot Takes

Fire Your Marketers, Hire Your Customers with Mark Organ

Marketing Sales

When was the last time you bought something risky or expensive because of an email you received from a vendor?

Chances are that you made that decision because of trusted customer evidence–but that is not the primary way you are going to market today.

The companies that will win in the challenging times to come are going to be the best at mobilizing customers to do more of what your employees do today. They are better at the job and cost less if you know how to properly organize and motivate them in a customer community.

In this session with Mark Organ, CEO Coach at Categorynauts you will learn:

  • A proven model for maximizing customer advocate involvement and investment in your operations,
  • How to operationalize customer advocacy with a community
  • How to integrate customer marketing with programmatic demand gen marketing for ultimate results.

[Transcript] Fire Your Marketers, Hire Your Customers

Joe Aicher

Welcome back! We keep moving on. We are on to our next speaker. You may have heard of him–Mark Organ. He is joining us today from Categorynauts. Mark, welcome!

Mark Organ

Pleasure to be here. Love this format. Rapid fire is like the little tweet compared to a blog. It’s really good. I’m sure it’s been engaging so far for sure! 

Joe Aicher

Yeah, “the tweets of webinars!” That’s a good tagline. Here we go. We’ll let you take over, and feel free to let us know what you’ve got going on in your hot take today.

Mark Organ

Oh yeah, we’re gonna take it up a notch! That’s what we’re gonna do! So today, we’re going to talk about “why you should fire your marketers, and you should hire your customers” to go and do their job, as well as other jobs in your company. Here’s why:

Think about the last time that you bought something risky or expensive, either personally or professionally. Think about that for a minute. Was it an email from a vendor? Is that what got you over the goal line, or was it an ad from an influencer? 

Probably not, right? If it’s something risky or expensive, it was a personal recommendation from someone you trusted. It was the reviews online, it was a video that you’ve seen of a successful customer using this expensive product or service, and that is why you moved forward. Yet, as marketers, how much are we focused on that in terms of surrounding our prospects, our buyers, with customer evidence? 

Chances are we are drowning our customers in email. So I want to change your mind and get you to focus more on surrounding your buyers with customer love. 

So a little bit about me: I am a long-time SaaS CEO. I founded Eloqua and Influitive and got those to exits or to being a valuable, profitable company.

I also wrote a book called “The Messenger is the Message.” It’s a best-selling book, and it’s all about how to mobilize customers to do more for your company.

If you’re a SaaS CEO and you’re right between 2 and 5 million ARR, you’re right in my sweet spot for coaching. My job is to help you get to 15 to 20 million dollars in ARR, which I’ve been able to do pretty consistently. 

So we’ve heard a lot about customer-centricity over the last 10 to 20 years, and it’s not enough anymore.

We now hear about companies like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos talking about being customer-obsessed, and the reason why is that technology really isn’t the issue.

In order to generate more sales, especially now, it’s much more about trust; as Jeff says, “If you build a great experience, customers will tell each other about that. Word of mouth is powerful.”

And that’s not just true for your product; it’s also true for the buying process and advocating for your company.

So think about that. How can we make it more pleasurable and valuable for people to go and recommend you to people they care about?

If you can do that, you’re going to get a lot more valuable advocacy. Trust is at an all-time low, and as a matter of fact, it’s now past this data.

Fire Your Marketers, Hire Your Customers With Mark Organ

It’s even worse now. People don’t trust businesses, they don’t trust the government, they don’t trust the media; they really don’t trust anybody or anything other than people who are close to them.

It’s more true than ever before. So if you’re not able to tap into the power of trust, you’re not going to be doing very well. It doesn’t matter how many emails and how many ads you subject your prospects to; it will not generate the kind of return that increasing trust does.

That’s especially true now because we are inundated with a barrage of information, disinformation, mal-information, and all kinds of other information. We are absolutely deluged with it.

So, we are hungering; we are desperate for sources of trust. Marshall McLuhan from my hometown in Toronto said, “The Medium is the Message,” and the idea here is the vehicle by which the message is reaching you IS actually the message of the time, and that’s what he said back in the 70s. 

Now, I think the message of our time is “The Messenger.” The Messenger is WHO you’re hearing the message from. You want your prospects hearing from messengers that they trust and respect.

So I founded a company called Influitive back in 2010 that is focused on getting customers to go and talk more, to use that to go and generate better marketing.

Subsequently, I got really excited about this idea called “The Customer Powered Enterprise.” So not just in marketing, but in sales, in customer success, and in product, customers are so much better than your employees at getting this done.

How can we break down the walls in your company between customers and employees? How do we bring customers in so we’re all rowing together? Those are powerful companies. In fact, if you look at industry leaders, they are almost always the advocacy leaders as well.

So the question is, how do we do this? How are we able to mobilize customers to get more done?

We’re going to talk about that in a bit, but first, why is this so important, and why are industry leaders the advocacy leaders?

Fire Your Marketers, Hire Your Customers With Mark Organ

It’s really simple; If you’ve got more customers involved in your business–in every way–again, not just marketing, but you’ve got advocates that are helping to close deals with references, you’ve got advocates that are helping you build better products and services, you’ve got advocates that are helping you retain customers.

Well, you’re not paying a base salary, are you? People are not cheap.

If you’ve got people who are working for you, essentially for free, and they are really effective at their jobs, do you know why they’re so effective at their jobs? 

It’s because they speak a special language called “Customer Ease,” okay. They understand customers better than your employees will ever understand customers.

So if they are more effective at helping you generate more customer revenue and they also don’t cost a lot, then that’s a recipe for winning.

So hopefully, now you’re convinced that this is something that you need to invest in.

So, how do you do it? The way that I’ve done it through my companies, my coaching, and my advocacy is with a “community.”

A community can be very sophisticated, and you can see an example here on the left: Cisco’s multi-award-winning Community called “The Gateway.”

Fire Your Marketers, Hire Your Customers With Mark Organ

It’s a gamified community that gives people points and rewards for executing on the company’s behalf.

For doing referrals, for doing videos, for generating five-star reviews online, for helping to recruit people, for even helping to choose the songs that happen at a live event–all kinds of things, you can use your customers to do what they do in a community,

But it doesn’t have to be an expensive, big community. It’s where you eventually, probably, want to get to and take seriously.

You want to be able to have a professional, gamified community for your company, like Influitive. There are other companies out there, like and Incited. There are also other companies like Salesforce, and you can do something similar.

Still, you can also start simple through a Slack community or a WhatsApp community, where you just invite your customers and use it to get people talking to each other. You can provide challenges for them to get them to execute on your behalf. 

One story, it’s kind of interesting; when I used the community in sales, I had 9 out of the top 10 software companies in the world using my product. I didn’t have Microsoft. I went out to the community and said, “How do I get into Microsoft? How do I win these guys as a customer?”

A smart person said: “Well, you need to go after the parts of the company that are close to the CEO, but they’re not doing very well.” Bing which is on fire now, but at the time, Bing and Teams were not doing well. I asked other people, “Who can get me in there? Who has a connection?” that led to those major folks; the rest is history; Microsoft became a great customer. 

So it could just be a simple community. It can even be a quarterly dinner that you have with your customers. That could be enough to give people the feelings that they’re looking for.

So, customer-powered marketing–you can use customers everywhere in the marketing process.

Content marketing–what should you write about? Your customers can tell you what you should write about better than your own people. Once you write the content, how do you make that content better? How do you distribute that content to people? Again, these are all things customer advocates can help you do at the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel.

You make your events more effective. Get a lot more engagement at events, and get engagement after events.

Really there’s no limit to what you can do in marketing, and so again, I encourage you to get your customers involved as much as you can. In order to do that, what you really need is to give them a great experience, which I’ll get to in just a bit. 

A story here around customer success stories. I hope people here are fired up about generating customer evidence. I sure am! Chances are you need 10 times as many stories as you have today, maybe even 100 times as many stories.

So there’s a company called Hero-K12. They got 31 customer stories published in just a few months and the reason why you need more is because you need one for every use case that you have, for every type of customer you have.

I mean, those are the stories that really resonate. The kinds of stories that your sales reps and your customer success managers are going to want to use to advance the buying process and generate more attention.

Again, the community is an amazing place to source ideas for stories, to actually get the use case that’s most important to you, to get a story around that particular use case.

Where you can go to the community and say who is it that uses our product to achieve X result to go global, or to reduce costs? This way, you will get the specific case study you need in order to solve those problems. You can use your community for that. So again, how do you motivate your advocates to do more? 

This is what I cover in my book “The Messenger is the Message:” Three main things. Exclusive Tribe, Meaningful Impact, Social Capital. 

Exclusive Tribe–people like to be part of something bigger than themselves. I mean, why do people paint their faces at football games like these Raiders fans?

Why do they tattoo Harley Davidson on their arm? People want to feel like they’re part of something. You can do that by naming your community, by giving it a very special feeling and flavor. Making it a club–an exclusive tribe. When you do that, you’re going to get a lot more advocacy. 

Secondly, Meaningful Impact–people want to know how well they’re doing. So if someone’s generated a referral for your company, let them know that the referral is now in a demo or that it’s now a closed deal. If they helped you write a story, tell them how many hits it has had and how much impact it has had in your organization. If you give people that feedback, they’re going to do a lot more activity.

Finally, Social Capital–If people are going to improve their life and their career because of the advocacy that they’ve done for your company, then they’re going to do a lot more of it.

So I encourage you to provide that Social Capital. Give people things that they can write on their LinkedIn or other aspects like that. Find out what they’re looking for in their career growth and development.

Are they looking for more speaking opportunities? Are they looking for more writing opportunities? How can you elevate the careers of your successful customers? If you do that, they’re going to do a lot more advocacy. 

So that concludes my Hot Take. I hope I have convinced you to go fire some of your marketers and hire your customers, and you’ll achieve better results.

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Hot Takes Live


Catch the replay of Hot Takes Live, where 30 of the top SaaS leaders across Marketing, Sales, and RevOps revealed some of their most unpopular opinions about their niche.

These leaders shared what lessons they learned and how they disrupted their industry by going against the grain (and achieved better results in the process).

Joe Aicher

Yeah, for sure! Thank you so much, Mark!

I think every company out there has got a couple of case studies that they’ve already been working on, or they’ve got a handful they’re starting to grow, but what I took away is making that next step and really developing that sense of community within your company.

Enabling them to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you at times, potentially to get those key stakeholders from another business involved like that. Those ideas are great! I’m curious how you saw that develop in your own experience, whether it was Eloqua or the other businesses, from just those simple starts with the case study, to where it grew.

What were some of the steps along the way that you guys made sure took place?

Mark Organ

Yeah, I mean, the light bulb really went off for me about 5 years after I started Eloqua–so it was 2005.

A number of people came to me, and this was before I had a live event or any sort of a community at all. These people said, “The big reason why we picked you guys is because we wanted to be part of the club. We like what you’re building here; we like the feeling of what your company is all about,” and the light bulb started to go off there.

I first noticed that when looking at the buying process of our customers, referrals are really important. Customer evidence is a key part of their decision-making process, and I would encourage everyone on this call, including marketers, if you don’t understand how people buy from you, the mechanics, the buying process, then you’re not doing your work.

It’s really valuable work and I do a lot of that in my coaching as well. So I noticed that advocacy was really important, but it was not easy to get people to advocate.

You’d get a spike if you do a referral campaign, and it goes right back down again. It wasn’t until I did my first ever event, kind of like hot takes live, but bigger, in a ballroom and me in a tuxedo, that I noticed that we had a huge amount of advocacy from people that were at that event.

That’s really when a big light bulb went off for me.

Why were we getting advocacy even though we didn’t even ask for it? That’s because people were having an amazing experience. They just loved being part of the whole Eloqua club. Their results, their behavior was that they provided a big burst of referrals and all kinds of other stuff for us.

So that’s kind of where I put two and two together, which is: if we want more advocacy, which is really valuable, we need to provide a better experience for advocates, and then I realized that would be another company. So I was able to start that company a few years later. 

Joe Aicher

Well, great! This has been an awesome talk, Mark. Thanks so much for joining today. If anybody wants to go back and listen, you’re welcome to do that. Take a pause at any point and grab some of those key little tidbits of the slides. Once again, thank you, Mark! I hope we can connect again soon, and good luck!

Mark Organ

Looking forward to it. Thanks, Joe! Have a great event.