Veteran CMO Lisa Arthur Takes B2B Customer Community To A New Level

 

FORBES • JOHN ELLETT

Lisa Arthur joined Kcura as CMO last year to be the company’s marketing change agent and to enhance the function's strategic value by channeling the voice of the customer and enhancing the impact of its partners. According to Arthur, “Kcura makes software for legal purposes - investigation, compliance, litigation. If you think about the people who are in that ecosystem, they're very driven by facts. So one of my team's charters is to ensure as we scale our messaging, our product and our industry presence to tell a cohesive data-driven story, that it is authentic. That it is not based on hype and futures, but on reality and that we take that authenticity to new channels like our online community.”

“Part of our transformation as a marketing team is moving to be more strategic advisors and using that voice of customer at a bigger scale,” said Arthur. “The requirements of the litigation process brings complexity. All of that complexity brings the need to have high touch not only from us but our partners, to surround those users - corporations, law firms, government agencies - with a lot of service. The end vision is to empower and enable our channel partners in more specific ways to create a network effect.”

A challenge many partner-centric B2B companies have is they can lose touch with their end customers. They get so focused on the partner and they don't have a direct relationship with the end customer. But Arthur believe it is possible to be committed to partners and enhance relationships with customers at the same time. “We've been centered on a vision that doesn't fight that, but creates more of an ecosystem. Our vision is to simplify and accelerate the way the world conducts e-discovery and to bring that all together through an open and accessible platform. And that platform for us is more important for us than knowing every single user because that platform is the value. One of the things our marketing team is very focused on is the community, because if there's value in the community, we'll have a relationship,” shared Arthur.

“B2B company brands have often struggled with community. The way we've approached it in our past, present and future is the community isn't dictated by our brand but it's open. We began with our conference and then user groups.  This online community is the next extension of those. Back in 2010, we were hearing from the community that they wanted more education from us. They wanted a venue to connect together. So we offered our what we called Relativity Fest. We had so much positive feedback from that event, but we also knew that that once a year or once every few months as a user group wasn't enough. We've looked at  taking this community online so that we could help it scale,” said Arthur.

She continued. “We have 70 of Fortune 100 companies, 195 of the largest law firms in the US, dozens of government agencies, most I can't talk about, but I can say the DOJ and the EPA are part of the community. And there are 120 channel partners and 70 development partners. Everyone across those corporations, law firms, government agencies and the litigation service providers have a different role in the community. Some want to contribute, some want to consume and some just want to connect. The vision for this community is that it is open and transparent, just like our platform, and a community that is authentic. We're not cutting and pasting corporate brochures and PR responses out there. We're facilitating the conversation but we're not at the center of it. We are the conduit to the community.”

She admits, “People are excited about it because we're very open and flexible. There are a lot of customizations. People want to understand new ways to use our software. Most recently, we had a user come on and have questions about using the software in a certain way and got a lot of answers from the community and development partners. And out of that, she saw an opportunity to work with one of them to take that idea and turn it into action. So it's really designed as a true community, versus a Trojan horse for sales and marketing.”

Arthur shared her advice for other marketing leaders who want to leverage a customer and partner community to improve business performance. “An important part of the community is sharing ideas, ideas for the product, ideas for the way we do business together, ideas for the community site. It must be open so everybody can see. Users can provide feedback on ideas. They can browse and  look at other ideas. Let's say they're not a contributor, but they're a consumer and they want to weigh in, but they don't want to be active participants. They can vote for their favorites.  Accountability, listening, acting on feedback and closing the loop are also important. We heard  the interface needed to be more user-friendly from some of the early power users. So we made adjustments to that. We closed the loop with them. They were really excited to see that we were that responsive. [Users initially] had to be invited to the community and we changed it to self-registration based on feedback, making it even more open. And that went over very well.”  

If you are wanting to get more impact from your user community, take some lessons from Arthur. Be committed to openness and authenticity. Solicit feedback and act upon it. And give up total control to enable your ecosystem to be active contributors. You may end up with a vibrant community similar to Kcura’s.

John Ellett is CEO of the CMO Accelerator at nFusion, and author of The CMO Manifesto: A 100-Day Action Plan for Marketing Change Agents. 

 
John Mock