"We were trying to solve the problem every high tech company has," explains David Milam, Documentum's Chief Marketing Officer.
"That is having getting more customers to become advocates for our company, so they talk about and share their experiences with the larger community."
Although Documentum had 1,400 installed customers worldwide by early 2002, Milam and his marketing team only had personal relationships with possible spokespeople at about 50 of these companies (about two dozen in the US, a dozen in Europe and a dozen spread across Asia).
Which meant whenever he needed a client to give a quote for a press release, or to speak on a panel at a trade show, or to share their experiences with a prospective client, he had to go back to the same small group of folks over and over again.
This was a big problem because Documentum sells high priced software ($275k-$1 million) to the Global 2000 who want to see peer testimonials before they plunk down their investment. Also, Documentum sells across industry and national boundaries, so Milam's team needed an evangelical client-side spokesperson for a whole lot of different niches.
Last, but not least, the team needed a way to access these potential evangelists quickly so, if for example, a reporter called wanting a client quote, they could get back well before deadline.
Milam says, "Certain companies (Intel, Boeing, those types), historically are always very tough to get references from. We needed an icebreaker."CAMPAIGN
Milam had tested creating user communities in the past with success, so he decided to try to launch one for potential client advocates where they could network with each other (hopefully feeding the evangelistic spirit) and be easier to contact for Documentum's promotional needs.
Milam's team used six specific tactics to make sure the new community, Studio D, would really work.
Tactic #1: Pick a single purpose for the group
Like most software firms, Documentum already had user groups for techies, white papers, webinars, training sessions, and a wide variety of other offerings for customers. "We were going down the path for about a month thinking this would be a community for all interaction with customers," Milam says, "It could be for tech support, maybe product surveys, sales experience surveys, etc."
"Then I realized that was a mistake because you need to be very clear in your objectives. If we broadened the purpose, it all got muddled. It kind of fell apart and became just a chat forum for anything."
Instead, he tightened focus to one laser-beam goal: Cultivating evangelists.
Tactic #2: Do not hide your agenda
Instead of being coy about Studio D's purpose, Milam decided to lay it on the line. A sample of the recruiting copy (link to brochure sample below) reads:
"By signing up, you'll be contacted by a Studio D representative. They'll ask you what activities best suit your schedule and style. If you're super gregarious, you might want to try a speaking engagement. If you're a little more reserved, you might provide a quote for some printed collateral."
Tactic #3: Keep the community exclusive and private
"It needs to be private," says Milam. "A private community is easier to control. The people who sign up normally stick to it because they find value in interacting with the others there. If you have a lot of people who don't have the same reasons for being there, frankly I think that either waters down or sours the community."
That means to enter Studio D, you have to fill out a detailed registration form, and be accepted by the moderators. Applicants have the choice to remain anonymous in the community, in case they are worried about revealing anything to competitors as they chat on the boards.
It also means no extraneous Documentum staff (aside from Milam and his team of two Studio D moderators), are allowed in. No, especially not sales reps!
"They're a different type of animal," says Milam. "They have different incentives and agendas, focusing on day-to-day deals, bless their hearts. We need them to be successful, but roaming the virtual hallways of the community is probably not the right thing to do. I don't want sales reps starting a thread, 'who can help me close this deal?'"
Instead Studio D's moderators act as a liaison for sales. For example, if a rep needs a client in a particular niche industry to allow a prospect to do a site tour in Australia, the moderators quickly check the Studio D database, contact appropriate members and set up the meeting.
Tactic #4: Make it fun
You might think that if your clients are Global 2000 management execs, your site needs to be fairly stern and "business-like." While Documentum's main site does fit that blue-suit mold, Studio D is a world of it's own.
Imagine you have fallen into a crazy Hollywood cartoon of the late '50s-early '60s. Female characters have bouffant hair and the men are the smoothest hep cats around. Naturally all the cocktail tables are kidney-shaped. (Link to sample art from site below.)
"It's really a cool and swanky site," says Milam. "The first time people see it, they get the giggles. They really enjoy it.It's a real club, the kind of place you can go to relax and converse with other customers. You can interact like Cheers on TV. This is a fun community."
Tactic #5: Set up a compelling rewards system
Most major corporations have rules about employees receiving gifts from vendors, so Documentum's rewards for participation in Studio D had to be carefully chosen. They include:
- Low-cost-but-fun stuff like hats and t-shirts
- Coupons redeemable for Documentum tech training
- No-cost tickets to Documentum conferences (normally $1600)
- Significant donations to the charity of your choice
Studio D members earn the rewards by racking up points as evangelists. Some examples:
- 2,500 points = Providing a quote for a press release; or allowing your logo to appear on Documentum's Web site or on its sales reps' PowerPoint presentations.
- 5,000 points = Being available for media or analyst interviews
- 17,000 points = Chatting with a prospective customer on the phone who wants to get your perspective on what using Documentum is like; or, participating in a product development advisory council; or, appearing as a panelist at a trade show to speak on the topic of content management software.
- 20,000 points = Nominating Documentum for industry awards, and being available to speak with judges on their behalf.
- 30,000 points = Allowing a prospective client to take a tour of the system as its used on site; or participating in a detailed Case Study; or, being filmed giving a testimonial for a DVD the sales team can distribute; or, giving a key speech at a trade show (versus just being a panel member).
The marketing copy promoting Studio D membership also focuses on one more reward: Fame. Who does not secretly yearn for the press to call them up, or to wear a coveted "speaker" badge at their industry trade show? It is fun to be outed as an expert.
Tactic #6: Promote membership through multiple channels
First Milam's team beta tested the launch by approaching customers at a user conference. Clients were psyched about the idea and fun cartoon characters, so then Milam's team began a full-throttle campaign approaching customers through every channel, including:
- A postal mailing with an enticing brochure (link to sample below).
- A broadcast email announcement to about 90,000 customer staffers who had proactively requested to get news on Documentum. (It is worth noting that Milam has more than 300,000 email addresses on his client database, but refrained from promoting to any that had not specifically signed up to get that type of email. We applaud this best practice in action.)
- A small cash incentive for sales reps who get clients to join the program.
However, the marketing process did not end with registration. Every qualified registrant received a fun box via postal mail packed with instructions and goodies such as a 1950's-style radio for their desk. (This year bobble-heads for Studio D characters will be added too.)
Plus, every new member gets a personal welcome phone call from one of the moderators, and continual hands-on attention whenever they require it from then on. Milam has assigned two staffers who spend the majority of their time on member relations.
As you can guess, a program of this scale is not cheap. "We had to build a complete Web site, with chat facility, and we're constantly adding things to it. This is not inexpensive. This is several hundred thousand dollars to get off the ground," notes Milam.
Studio D is one of Ducumentum's most successful customer marketing projects in the company's history. In the 18 months since the program launched, the company has grown from 1,400 accounts to 2,600. Milam gives credit to the sales team but says Studio D made the growth far easier than it could have been.
- Just over 500 individuals have become Studio D members, about 2/3 of whom are the sole representative from their company. Milam notes this is right in line with expectations.
"It's middle management level," says Milam. "But it's not really the title I target, it's a passion. I'm looking for the person that has really deep experience with us. That's what's credible. It's not just a document user, it's usually someone with fairly broad responsibilities, a broad perspective."
In other words, the evangelist in the company.
- The number of industry awards Documentum won in 2002 doubled from the year before, in large part due to Studio D members' help.
- Documentum's conference speaking program has become very, very aggressive now that they have more prospective speakers to fit into possible slots. "We've got seven conferences coming up in just the next couple of months," says Milam.
- Putting together this year's annual report was a snap compared to prior years because Malim could grab appropriate quotes from customers in every country and industry when he needed them.
- The sales force loves the program. "They say, 'This is really cool. It can give us the edge to slam an order, to get them to sign on the dotted line.' Our Exec VP Sales is thrilled by the whole program."
- Only about 10% of Studio D members request anonymity for their participation in member chats. Because it is private, people feel a real degree of trust that they will not be betrayed by their involvement in the community.
Links to creative samples: