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Many marketers aspire to turn their customers into a tribe. They dream of their customers transforming from casual users to committed advocates. But this is easier said than done.

To learn more about how to actually build a tribe and convert customers into advocates, we talked to someone who has done it before: Chandar Pattabhiram (Twitter | LinkedIn). Chandar is the CMO of Coupa, a highly successful cloud platform for business spend. He is an experienced tech marketing veteran and a multi-time CMO.

On this episode, we talked to Chandar about how he builds tribes, his “Stairway to Heaven” model of marketing, and the future of artificial intelligence.

Chandar’s Start in Marketing - (01:45)
- Chandar got into marketing because it he found he had both a passion for it and a natural ability to do it well.
- Chandar now calls himself a marketer for life.

Being a multi-time CMO and Building a Tribe - (03:00) (Click here to read Chandar’s full article on building a tribe)
- “You bring lots of experience, a playbook, and a framework. But what you have to be careful of, is you can’t run the same plays and the same playbook at every company. So you have to have a beginner’s mindset, and try to understand the market, the culture, and the team environment.”
- “You have to have experience, and have a playbook, and yet be malleable to contextualize it to the new environment.”
- Building a tribe is crucial to building a successful brand. It’s much easier to build a B2C tribe than it is to build a B2B tribe, because people tend to get less excited by enterprise software.
- The tribe you build with a B2B company can actually be as much of a differentiating factor as features and function.
- “People don’t buy what they want, they buy want they want to be.” - Chandar Pattabhiram
- “All great brands use emotion as a weapon of mass influence to build relationships with a connection for life.” - Chandar Pattabhiram
- The way Chandar has often built his tribe is through customer education.
- “The shared experience is the key, and the collective we has to be smarter than the individual I.”
- Collective community intelligence is another way to build a tribe. Building a tribe that makes you look smarter and work better.
- “All great marketing starts with trying to understand emotion before you drive a go-to-market motion.”
- Too many companies start with motions, functions, and tasks to be completed before thinking about the emotion they are trying to spark.

Stairway to Heaven - (13:15)
- Chandar has created a "Stairway to Heaven" model to chart the path to marketing success.
- First it is crucial to understand the emotion that your customer is feeling and what you would like them to feel.
- The four steps are: awareness, acquisition, add-on marketing, and advocacy.
- This is the framework that Chandar is currently using at Coupa.
- “In today’s world, mass marketing doesn’t work because no one is listening. There is so much noise out there.” - Chandar Pattabhiram
- What does Chandar do instead? “Use thought leadership to earn the right to engage.”
- Mentioned by Chandar: Coupa partnership with The Economist Intelligence Unit.
- “Brand awareness doesn’t have to mean millions of impressions. It’s all about, does the right person know about me?” - Lauren Vaccarello
- For acquisition, Chandar uses machine learning to evaluate many variables to identify the best accounts to pursue.
- “People don’t buy candles because they want candles. They buy them because they want light.” - Chandar Pattabhiram
- Chandar breaks down acquisition into three separate areas: plays, parlance, and programs.
- Influencing Sales: You have to speak their language. Tell them how they are going to sell more and sell faster.
- Advocacy: Your highest paying customers are not necessarily your advocates. There are two kinds of stories: #DoLikeUs, and #BeLikeMe.
- “Advocacy is where so many marketers fall down.” - Lauren Vaccarello
- It’s important to have authenticity, even if it means that every customer story you tell isn’t perfect.

Artificial Intelligence - (40:50)
- Marketers need to have two kinds of AI’s: Artificial Intelligence and Authentic Interactions.
- Machine learning is more important right now for marketers than artificial intelligence, although they are closely linked.
- Transparency is key to authenticity.
- “Live through a lens of core values.”
- “A big problem we will face is when people try to replace the human interaction with an automated interaction, and people don’t want that interaction. People will self-select into the mode they want to be communicated with. Just because you can wield the tool doesn’t mean you should use it every single time.” - Ian Faison
- Brand coding is a new field of bringing the feeling of a brand into AI interactions.

Pardot Lightning Round - (47:20)
- Most fun app: He’s using an ad-blocker.
- Favorite recent book: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakuer
- Ad campaign most envious of: The Wolf by HP (with Christian Slater)
- Favorite podcast: Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell
- Favorite sport to play: Tennis. Favorite sport to watch: NFL Football.
- Favorite karaoke songs: Proud Mary by CCR, Roadhouse Blues by The Doors, Smoke on the water by Deep Purple
- What is Chandar most excited for about the future of marketing? Bringing together science and storytelling.

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