This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by Vice President of Marketing at Ekos, Christina Kyriazi. In this episode, Brandi and Christina are tackling the impact and importance of understanding your customers’ needs. A self-proclaimed data...
This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by Vice President of Marketing at Ekos, Christina Kyriazi. In this episode, Brandi and Christina are tackling the impact and importance of understanding your customers’ needs.
A self-proclaimed data nerd turned marketer; Christina Kyriazi has a deep passion for data driven marketing that puts the customer at the forefront of every decision. Through her obsession of analyzing results to get to the heart of customer needs, Christina strives to passionately amplify the voice of customers at every business meeting, effectively staying on top of ever shifting and evolving marketplaces and trends.
Join Brandi and Christina for this week's episode, as they discuss essential and informative insights on the importance of listening to the voice of the customer, how to access it and why it matters. With so much packed in to just 30 minutes, today’s session of Revenue Rehab is one you can’t afford to miss!
Christina says the one key thing is to start and to start now! The marketing landscape can look very different in just a few months so “don’t get into analysis paralysis”, she warns, just start small. Pull up that client list and talk to a single customer or client to begin with and you’ll be amazed at what you might learn.
Christina’s Buzzword to Banish is the phrase: Low Lift Effort. She says it is fraught with assumptions and likely misunderstandings. It’s used most times without any understanding of what is going on behind the scenes.
Get in touch with Christina Kyriazi on LinkedIn
Welcome to Revenue Rehab, your one stop destination for collective solutions to the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders today. Now head on over to the couch, make yourself comfortable and get ready to change the way you approach revenue. Leading your recovery is modern marketer, author, speaker and Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita, Brandi Starr.
[0:34] Brandi Starr:
Hello, hello, hello and welcome to another episode of Revenue Rehab. I am your host, Brandi Starr, and we have another amazing episode for you today, I am joined by Christina Kyriazi. Christina is the Vice President of Marketing at Ekos. Christina is a data nerd turned marketer. She has a deep passion for data driven marketing that puts the customer at the forefront of every decision. Christina is driven by seeing her work actually produce results, she is obsessed with analyzing results. Christina believes that she represents the voice of customer at every business meeting and passionately fights for what is best for the customer. Christina, welcome to Revenue Rehab, your session begins now.
[01:25] Christina Kyriazi:
Thank you Brandi. So good to be here.
[1:27] Brandi Starr:
Yes, I am excited to have you and to talk about voice of customer. But before we jump into that, I like to break the ice with a little woosah moment I call buzz word banishment. So Christina, tell me what buzzword would you like to banish forever.
[1:49] Christina Kyriazi:
This is such a hard exercise because there's so many. But if I had to pick one, or I guess a string of buzzwords all at the same time, it would be low lift effort. And especially that applies to when folks just assume that something may be a low lift effort on the marketing side or even other teams. It's a pet peeve of mine, that you should never assume something because you just don't know that person's world. So I would love to banish that and just come with more open mind of what it takes for things to get done. And just let the experts tell you that.
[2:25] Brandi Starr:
You mean everything in marketing isn't a low lift effort. I mean, you can just whip it right up as every other department seems to think that we do. But yeah, I do agree. A lot of times something is perceived as a low lift, and it really is almost out of ignorance because they don't totally understand what goes into getting things done, especially in marketing. So we will put that one in the box, at least for this discussion. And we will not be talking about any low lift efforts. So now that we've gotten that off our chest, tell me what brings you to Revenue Rehab today.
[3:13] Christina Kyriazi:
So as you said, in your intro, I am extremely passionate about the voice of the customer. I actually started my career in analytics, especially in market research and studying the voice of the customer. And thinking back at it, I was just so naive entering that world of marketing in the beginning. I just had no idea what it was, but as I grew into it, and then I grew into a marketing leadership position which encompasses a lot more than that, I actually have come to an extreme appreciation of what the voice of the customer is and how powerful it is, and how central it needs to be not just to marketing but to every part of the business. It really is overwhelming sometimes when you think about it of how powerful that is. So that is what brings me here today. I'm really passionate talking about the voice of the customer. So I was hoping I could share some of the best practices that I found and learnings that I've had throughout my career.
[4:05] Brandi Starr:
Awesome! Yeah, I think this is one of those things that is so important that most organizations have not really figured out how to use another buzzword crack the nut and actually solve for that. In preparation for our discussion, I was doing a little reading, understanding what the industry is talking about voice of customer and I found an article written about six months ago by Deloitte or where Deloitte was quoted. And one of the things that they said was that the head of marketing's number one priority should be customer understanding and insight generation. The CMO has to spot trends and be that sort of pulse to the ground in terms of how the entire business needs to pivot. And that statement, it was a hefty statement. Because if you think about all the things that sit on the plate of the head of marketing, voice of customer can be perceived as just one of them. So I'd like to get your reaction to that statement and the importance of where that fits in the priority list.
[5:25] Christina Kyriazi:
I think that couldn't be any truer, I don't see it as a priority, I see it more as a foundation. So it's not something that you will do or not do. You can't build a house without a foundation. So you kind of have to start to make sure you set the right foundation, and you always keep reinforcing it and building it, especially if you're in a company that keeps growing. Because your landscape continuously changes. We know in SAS, it's a very competitive model. So I can't imagine not having the customer at the forefront and doing any kind of marketing strategy or really business strategy. So that's the way I think about it. Everything should start with the customer, with the market insights, understanding what is happening, and you should be adjusting and building your strategy based on that.
[6:12] Brandi Starr:
Okay, so let's jump in and talk about this tactically. The end, part of that paragraph that I quoted, stated that whoever's running marketing needs to be interacting with customers daily. And thinking about like, in my role, I do. And it is more so for me personally, because we are a smaller company, I wear multiple hats, and one of those hats is naturally client facing. So I almost have a little bit of a cheat in that a part of -- two of my hats is interacting with the customer. But as I think about larger companies, and all of the different plates and all the different hats, that the head of marketing has to wear, is it realistic to touch or interact with the customer on a daily basis?
[7:15] Christina Kyriazi:
I think it definitely is. And there's different ways to interact with a customer. So I think it depends on your level of definition. I think a lot of people just go straight into Oh, my God, I got to block out two hours of my day, every day and pick up the phone and call a customer or go physically be with a customer. And that does not have to be it. There are many different ways that you can do it. And it also depends on where you are on your lifecycle with the company, or even with your career. So for example, when I first start a new role, I always do what I call a 30 on 30. I like to talk to 30 customers in my first 30 days, because honestly, there's no better avenue of learning than talking directly to a customer. They will tell you the truth, they will tell you things that people internally may not tell you or may not be aware of. And they'll also expose many different facets of things outside of what your organization may be looking at. So if you are a certain type of businesses that is offering a certain service or software, usually the folks like if you talk to salespeople, they usually tell you about that very narrow, specific insight that are hearing from the customer. But when you talk to the customer, they might step back and they may tell you, well yeah, this part of the business is blah, blah, blah. But actually, when you think about the overall landscape, we are having these issues, and that might actually help you uncover additional insights. So again, when I first started job, I always like to do the 30 on 30 to make sure I talked to as many customers directly as possible. And that is a heavy lift, I won't lie. But that is your opportunity, when you start a new job to actually have that time to take and actually learn fast. Once you get into the groove of things, I think it can take many different lives of what that means. There are many different technologies out there like you can go and listen to a 30 minute conversation that a sales rep has had each day, there are recordings usually out there, many tools that offer that if your sales team has it. If they don't, you should be having a conversation with your VP of sales or head of sales about implementing something like that. Or the other thing you could be doing is looking at if you set up customer surveys or any other customer feedback, your support team can also be a great feed into this, but just reading what the customers are saying reading surveys, or what the support calls are saying, that can be a great way to make sure you're keeping up with what's happening. If you are a more complex organization and you have dedicated people, I'm a big advocate for building out insights and analytics within marketing, so I've actually started to build that out within my product marketing group, and we have a market intelligence channel internally where we post things as we see them. So it doesn't just have to be marketing bringing the insights, but marketing has helped facilitate bringing the insights to the business. And whenever someone hear something, or they get feedback from customers, they post it in that channel, and everyone can see it. And marketing doesn't even have to be, you know, in the middle of all that it's all kind of democratized and open to everyone.
[10:21] Brandi Starr:
And I think you hit on something really key in trying to really be effective at capturing the voice of customer. You've got to have those different mechanisms. And I won't say low lift, but we have to have those things that are more coming to you, that you have access to, in addition to those things that do take a little bit more of a time commitment on both your part and the customer’s part. And so I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about what do we do with this information? Because one of the other quotes that I read, it talked about that the data gives us the what. Data tells us what is happening, that is information. But the why and understanding why it's happening is the insight. And so when we are able to look at analytics, look at the data, and also have these interactions as we are absorbing what we're hearing, what are your recommendations for disseminating that information throughout the business. Because it's one thing for us to leverage that to better market, but you know, product or whoever develops what you sell, has got to be able to speak to the customer sales has got to be able to speak to those same things, you know, customer success service unit, depending on the business model, there's so many different people that need to be leveraging that information. What are your recommendations?
[11:57] Christina Kyriazi:
That's a good question. I think you hit the nail on the head there and it goes back to the point that I always try to make, is democratizing data and insights within the business. And you have to set up processes to do that. So one good way to do it is to actually set up what I call a customer insights hour, that is a regular internal pull up, that marketing can help drive but also other folks from across the business can help provide insights into. And it's sort of like a dedicated time to talk about customer insights, the latest and greatest that we're seeing from the market, as well as directly from our customers across the business. So anyone is invited to join, you may pre-pick a topic, maybe marketing did a market research projects that they want to present out all the research to everyone, or maybe customer success has heard a bunch of insights from all their calls, etc. It's sort of a predetermined time for everyone to come to you and listen to customer insights. The other thing I like to do is if your company has regular town halls or company meetings, whether it's on a monthly basis, quarterly basis, always, always reserve a time to talk about that stuff. So to bring insights that you've learned from the past quarter or past month into that, and actually explain the why and how it ties into your business strategy. Ideally, your leadership team has digested that stuff. And they've actually, you know, turned it into business strategy. So you can more clearly show your employees of how you heard something in the market or something changed in the market, your customers told you something, and then you reacted to it, and you build a strategy around it, and you turn it into something valuable for the business.
[13:38] Brandi Starr:
Exactly. I really like that because, with any sort of data, whether it's actual numerical data, whether it is just the insights that you're gleaning, from talking to customers in these various interactions, it's always difficult to figure out what do we do with that? And how do we get that out. And I do really like the variety of creating dedicated space to dig into those things, in addition to leveraging things that people are already paying attention to, like an all hands or a town hall meeting. Because when those things just live in marketing, which I've seen happen before, it's like CMO is all in on talking to customers, and you know, gathering information, and then it all just lives there. And it's like, it makes the marketing team better, which is great. But, you know, it's only going to move the needle so far. So thinking about the opposite of that's what it looks like when you do this. Well. If you know a CMO is struggling to make time to gain traction, you know, to really glean insights, what do you potentially lose? What's the risk to the business when you don't have your finger on the pulse when it comes to customer?
[15:03] Christina Kyriazi:
Not to be an alarmist, but you could potentially use lose your entire business. I think there's plenty of examples out there of how many companies just didn't keep up with the trends, they didn't keep up with their customers, and the market changed so much around them that their entire business became irrelevant. And that is a scary place to be, especially at the pace that the world is moving these days, it can't be that you can push it off another quarter or push it off another six months, because think about what the world was like six months ago and what it's like today. It's completely different. So if you're not keeping up with the world, I'm not even sure how you make sure your business is growing and remaining relevant. Unless you're in some ideal scenario, you where you have complete monopoly and complete rights to any you know, IP, or anything like that. But that is very rare, most of us are in a very competitive environment. So I would say, especially these days, you can't push it off, it can't be something that happens in the future. In some theoretical world, it has to happen, even if it slowly in a little bit at a time today, right now.
[16:11] Brandi Starr:
And I think probably the most common example of an organization, you know, failing to listen to its customers is going to be blockbuster, you look at Blockbuster versus Netflix, and, you know, Netflix started off as those DVDs in the mail, you know, competing directly with blockbuster. One is thriving, especially in the height of the pandemic, the other, is more of a thing that ends up in museums. And I think my opposite example of a company that did this really well is Bear. Early on, bear struggled to compete in the aspirin business, and they had that low dose aspirin. And all of a sudden, they were hearing that this was great for her patients. And so they slapped a new label on the exact same product, and now they are the go to when it comes to those that need aspirin in the low doses when they've got heart conditions. And that is purely coming from Voice of Customer in that the people who preferred bear were those that need that lower dose, and something as simple as changing a label, putting that little red heart on the label, all marketing there, has completely transformed their place in the market. And there's tons of these examples of people who have done it well, and have thrived because it and those that have perished, Blackberry is another one, when you think about it. They had the corporate cell service, like cornered, for the longest that was, you know, I can remember getting my first BlackBerry. It was the little one that looked like a big lump of clay, felt I had made it in my career when I, you know, got the company issued Blackberry. And now, I mean, can you imagine walking around with a Blackberry? It's like having a bag phone. Almost as bad. It's totally retro. So yeah, there are definitely the positives, and the positives that you get. The other thing that I was looking at is talking about trend spotting, which I think is what you're referring to, in hearing from the customers around what the trends are. And I think, for me, even in my day to day actual interactions with clients, being able to put some of those, you know, some of the things that you're hearing together, can be difficult, you know, think about how many interactions where someone, for bears, someone had to catch that, that customer said, I've got a heart condition. And it's not necessarily a question you could ask in a survey, because it's health data. But you know, it's like someone has to put those pieces together. And those connections are not always obvious. And so any ideas or thoughts and how you really think through and bubble up, like what are those trends? Where do you need to hit the bell and say, we've got to pay attention to this thing.
[19:32] Christina Kyriazi:
I wish it was very easy, and I wish I had a clear solution. But it's a little bit of that magic that comes through with human behavior of observing a pattern and then at some point, it clicks that there's something there. I would say one of the shortcuts that you could take is to make sure that you have a dedicated team member or teams looking at the market data and actually having it be their job to extract those insights and then connect the dots to actually turn them into the right insights that you need. So it's one thing to have a stream of data coming through or insights coming through to your business. It's another thing to actually connect all those dots and make a strategy out of it, which technically, is what a strong leadership team should be doing. You're your executive leader should be the ones connecting those dots. But there should be ideally, a process or, you know, dedicated folks that are thinking through this, and hopefully identifying these trends and turning them into a business strategy.
[20:34] Brandi Starr:
Okay. Yeah, and I do agree, it's always hard to articulate how to think through something. Because especially when it's something that comes more naturally. So thinking about those where this does not come naturally, you think about head of marketing, there's a lot of paths to marketing leadership. And I think if you were to compare five VPS, of marketing or CMOS, you're going to see a trajectory that looks very different from one to another. Which means we all have our strengths and weaknesses. And so, if really getting connected with the customer, prioritizing voice of customer, hearing and being able to communicate those insights, if that kind of thing just doesn't really come natural to you. Any recommendations on how to grow your skill set and to improve there?
[21:36] Christina Kyriazi:
Yeah, I'd like to specify something, I don't think that the CMO or VP of Marketing, needs to have that skill set and do it themselves. I think the power comes through, knowing what you're good at and not good at and then hiring the right people around you that have those skill sets and can get it done. And then it's your job to listen and actually do something with the things that your people are telling you. So it goes both ways. For example, I'm really strong in the analytics and market insights sort of world, but maybe I'm not as strong on the creative side. So I always like to hire very creative people around me to make sure that I complement for that. So it kind of goes both ways. I would say, if you don't have that strength in yourself, it is totally okay. Make sure you build your team around you in a way that they can provide those insights into the business. And it does not always have to be the CMO that sits there and does the research or talks to every single customer every single time. It can be that the CMO is facilitating a process or a team, a team or a team member that is bringing those insights into the business. And I think that actually builds a great team environment, because then you're kind of almost raising the next generation of CMOs under you to help them get into that seat eventually and grow into a leadership role.
[22:55] Brandi Starr:
Yeah, I love that. You lean on your strengths, hire for your weaknesses, and that way, you've got a complete team. So I would say that talking about our challenges is just the first step. And nothing changes if nothing changes. So in traditional therapy, the therapist will give the client homework, but here at Revenue Rehab, we like to flip that on its head and we want to ask you to give us some homework. So our listeners are running marketing departments all over. And so help to summarize for us your key takeaways around voice of customer and give us that one thing, what action item would you like each of the Revenue Rehab listeners to take?
[23:44] Christina Kyriazi:
I would say the one key thing is to start and to start now. Don't get into analysis paralysis, and try to overcomplicate a process or overthink things. Whether it's picking up the phone and talking to one customer, if it's one customer a week, one customer a month, whatever it is, pick up the phone and do it or take action and actually do it. Then think about how that thing evolves into something bigger. So again, Rome wasn't built in one day. You start small. So don't let things overwhelm you always start small and build up on that. And learn from that process rather than trying to boil the ocean right from the beginning, which can actually get you into complete paralysis mode, and then you end up not doing anything. So I talk to a lot of people that are like, Oh my God, I need to first set up a whole research department hire ten people and then I need to have the right counterparts in the other teams. And then we can start bringing insights into the business. I'm like, no! How about you just pull up a customer list, talk to your CEO and ask him/her and ask her what are the top ten customers you would want me to talk to? And go pick up the phone and actually call them. So start small is my key takeaway and then build on top of that, don't try to boil the ocean all from the beginning.
[25:04] Brandi Starr:
Okay, and what's that one thing? What's our first action item? What are we all going to walk away and do from here?
[25:10] Christina Kyriazi:
Talk to one customer in the next week. You'd be surprised. If you talk to someone today, go ahead and pick up the phone, pick a random customer and go talk to them, you will be surprised.
[25:22] Brandi Starr:
I love it. So for everyone listening our action item coming out of our conversation with Christina is to pull up that client list. You can close your eyes and point however you choose to make that decision, but pick just one and see what you can learn from that. I think that's the perfect action item and should be doable for everyone. Well Christina, I have enjoyed our discussion, but that's our time for today. Thank you so much for joining me.
[26:00] Christina Kyriazi:
Thank you so much for having me, Brandi.
[26:02] Brandi Starr:
Awesome. And thanks everyone, for joining us today. I hope that you have enjoyed my conversation with Christina. I can't believe we're at the end already. I will see you next time.
You've been listening to Revenue Rehab with your host Brandi Starr. Your session is now over but the learning has just begun. Join our mailing list and catch up on all our shows at revenuerehab.live. We're also on Twitter and Instagram at Revenue Rehab. This concludes this week's session. We'll see you next week.
VP of Marketing
I am a data nerd turned marketer! I have a deep passion for data-driven marketing that puts the customer at the front of every decision. I am driven by seeing my work actually produce results and I am (some would argue) ridiculously obsessed with analyzing results. I believe that I represent the Voice of the Customer at every business meeting and I will passionately fight for what is best for the customer. Because at the end of the day...
"There is only one boss-the customer. (S)he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." - Sam Walton, founder of Walmart