In Episode 12 of The inSide Scoop on Customer Success, we tackle a very important topic: How to start a simple Customer Success Community. Listen in as our VP of Customer Success and podcast hostess with the mostess, Anika Zubair, talks to Kristi Faltorusso, VP of Customer Success at ClientSuccess and Founder of CS Real Simple.
Starting a community doesn’t need to be complicated, but how do you go about starting a successful community? What are the do’s and don’ts? CS legend Kristi Faltorusso has a unique approach and on today's episode, she shares her secrets, learnings, and mistakes when creating her own community, CS Real Simple.
Forgot your headphones? No problem. Check out the transcript of the conversation below. Don't forget to follow The inSide Scoop on Customer Success over on Spotify!
Show Notes + Links:
- Connect with Kristi Faltorusso on LinkedIn
- Follow CS Real Simple on LinkedIn
- CS Real Simple website
- Follow CS Real Simple on Pinterest
- Connect with Jeanne Bliss on LinkedIn
Anika Zubair (00:02): Cool. Welcome, Kristi to the podcast. Before we get into today's topic, can you please tell all our listeners a bit about CS Real Simple, how it started, and what you're doing there.
Kristi Faltorusso (00:15): Absolutely. For the last couple of years, I've been really heavily engaged with the customer success community, and I've spent a lot of time in private conversations with folks helping them navigate some challenges that they've had and sharing my own experiences with them, and brainstorming, and what I've learned is that a lot of folks really struggled with overcomplicated methodologies and strategies around customer success, and things that I just felt like why are we over complicating these things? Where is the simplicity and brevity in all the things that we do? And it just didn't seem to be there.
Kristi Faltorusso (00:50): I'd listen to podcasts. I'd engage with people. I'd read articles. And I just felt like, wow, it just really isn't this hard. Having done this for a decade I know that to be true. So really, earlier this year I decided to take that challenge on, take everything I knew about customer success, and break it down into small digestible bits, things that have really a succinct storyline behind it, easy steps to follow, clarity, but more importantly that simplicity. And so, hence there was born CS Real Simple, and really what I'm in the process of deploying is a content experience that will house all of the tools, and research, and things that I've developed over the years to share at no cost with the community, because I really do truly believe that, one, there's no one-size-fits-all model, so even if I do put all this out into the universe it's not plug-and-play. People can't just take exactly what I've done in design and just put it into their organization, but at least it helps folks create that starting point.
Kristi Faltorusso (01:53): They've got a place to go, and reference, and somebody who's tested it out. These things won't always work for everybody, but it's going to give them a place to start where they're not reinventing the wheel every time, and that is how I think I can give back to the community, so that's what I've been up to.
Anika Zubair (02:10): Awesome. I love that, and I also love that the concept of sharing with the community, and there's really no limit to that because what you do can be completely different at what you do at a different organization, or a different company, so sharing really is caring, and I think that's how communities really thrive, how they continue to blossom, and I've really loved seeing all the content you share on LinkedIn, and just across all communities that you're a part of. Now, before we get into the real topic around communities, I want to do a little bit of a warmup. You're no newbie to podcasts, but I thought we could let all our listeners to know a little bit more about Kristi, so I have a few questions just to warm us up.
Anika Zubair (02:50): The first question is, do you prefer Apple or Google?
Kristi Faltorusso (02:54): I am an Apple girl, but converted, so-
Anika Zubair (02:58): Noooo.
Kristi Faltorusso (02:59): Yes. Believe it or not I was a Samsung girl. I had little Android figures all over my offices, and cubicles. My husband, who has been an Apple adopter since its infancy, a couple years into our marriage was like, "You've got to say goodbye. You've just got to let it go." And I've moved over to Apple and I've never looked back. Now, as I look at my desk I've got my two MacBooks. I've got my AirPods, my iPhone, my iPad, my Apple Watch. We are an Apple-connected family, so hands down Apple.
Anika Zubair (03:31): Honestly, I'm looking around my desk and I'm saying the same thing. iPhone, iPad, MacBook, everything's Apple, but I've been an Apple fan junkie from the beginning, but it's amazing to hear how an Android person actually made the switch because there's such polar differences.
Kristi Faltorusso (03:48): Big time. I swore I would never do it. I preached the word gospel of Android, and all it really took is maybe two days on an iPhone to be like, "Whoa, okay. I get it."
Anika Zubair (04:01): I love hearing that, because it's all about the user experience which we will go into.
Kristi Faltorusso (04:04): 100%.
Anika Zubair (04:07): I already know the answer to this next question, but for our listeners that don't know who you are, are you a dog or a cat person?
Kristi Faltorusso (04:13): Woof. Woof. Woof. Puppies all the way. I recently just welcomed into our home this February a little Aussiedoodle. She's a mini, and she's seven months old, and she's the love of my life, and if she wasn't sleeping on my feet right now I would pick her up and show the world, but she's amazing, and dogs, dogs, dogs.
Anika Zubair (04:31): 100% for dog moms. I'm also thinking about my dog that's now also sleeping at my feet. Otherwise, I would hold her up and share her in every Zoom call I ever do. Awesome. And then, the last question for the warm up is if you were stuck on a desert island which three things would you bring with you and why?
Kristi Faltorusso (04:51): Do they have to be things?
Anika Zubair (04:52): They can be people.
Kristi Faltorusso (04:55): I'm taking my husband and my daughter, and I want to take my dog, but then I also feel like if it's a deserted island I don't know I feel like I need to take a book of matches or something. I feel like I need to have something, maybe a knife, or some tool to help me while we're on this island, but if I had that in one of our pockets I'd take the dog. Otherwise, I've got to find a utility something, tool, to just help us out there.
Anika Zubair (05:23): It's so evident that you're a people person, because you just named all three things as not objects, but rather human beings, and your dog, which I think dogs are part of human life and our families, but I also love that the survivor instinct in you is like I should take something useful.
Kristi Faltorusso (05:43): Help make sure that the people that I've taken along on this deserted island that we have a way to survive.
Anika Zubair (05:49): Yeah, awesome. Let's jump into one more warmup question, and this one more around CS, since that's the topic we are going to talk about. What inspired you to work in customer success, because I know you come from a nontraditional background, but really curious what led you to where you are today?
Kristi Faltorusso (06:07): Completely accidental. I was using a technology for a couple of years at a few different companies. I was a huge fan of the value I was getting from the product, and I was obviously a customer of theirs, so I very much connected to the community that they were serving. So for me, it was like, wait, I get your product, I get your customer, hire me. And so, they did, and I went along on this journey and for the past decade, I've been thriving. And you know what's so funny is I look back at my career, and I think, wow, how could I have ever done anything else. I love the work that we do so much, the good days, the bad days, the challenges, the highs, the lows. There is nothing that I could ever envision myself doing ever again in the world.
Anika Zubair (06:52): I love that. I also feel the same. I sometimes look back at it, I'm like how did I fall into it from sales into CS, but at the same time there's nothing else I would spend my day doing, and I think that a lot of other people who work in customer success could probably feel the same because we just have such strong feelings towards being empathetic towards customers or helping them, or just trying to see success in whichever way we can, so really love that. Really, really do.
Anika Zubair (07:17): Awesome. Let's jump into the topic of communities, especially the CS Real Simple community that you've spent probably more than the last year building up. I really want to talk to the audience about why should a SaaS company start a customer community. You started CS Real Simple. Why would any sort of SaaS vendor, or SaaS company, start communities?
Kristi Faltorusso (07:40): The real value behind it is that human connection, right? Leveraging technology, but sometimes it's in person as well, where at the community it's like bringing these folks together, connecting them, because it's mutually beneficial. Everybody involved in it gets value. If you are a technology provider being able to connect with your community in this manner, this asynchronous environment where you just have ongoing conversation and dialog, it's very organic, it's natural. You're answering what they need. You're adjusting their needs. Their peers are helping one another. There's just a ton of value.
Kristi Faltorusso (08:19): And when you can anchor it around your solution you've got an entire group of people who are coming together and you're at this epicenter, right? And you're helping them, you're guiding them, but they're all helping and guiding one another. There's an immense amount of value whether it's you're trying to help them build their careers, you're helping them transform and drive change management, you're helping them adopt and operationalize their workflows around your technology. You're just connecting them with other thought leaders. There is just so much value that everybody who's involved gets from a community that it's almost shocking that so many technology providers really haven't already gotten onboard with developing theirs.
Anika Zubair (08:59): I always think about it too, like a community can serve so many end-users it's not just for the purposes of, hey, let's scale our CS efforts, or let's find a different way to interact with our customers. Like you just mentioned there is connecting thought leaders. There's making sure you operationalize CS efforts. There's also just content and being very brand aware of what your business is doing, but making sure it's in front of your customers, and all of those are brilliant reasons to start a CS community.
Anika Zubair (09:31): With reference to the last year of building up CS Real Simple, I know you said it's a labor of love, which I think all communities are, but looking back at it what do you think was the hardest part of starting a community?
Kristi Faltorusso (09:45): Becoming relevant, right? And I don't know that there's an exact tie to why that's the hardest, but I had to make sure that there was continuity in my messaging, and my brand, and what I was putting out there in the content. I had to make sure that there was consistent content being pumped out there. I had to make sure that the content was resonating with the folks that I served. I had to be diligent about building that community and engaging with individuals, and I can't tell you what my ... I feel like my LinkedIn inbox looks a hundred times worse than my email inbox ever did, but I try to make sure that I'm getting back to everybody.
Kristi Faltorusso (10:17): So, I would say it's really that being relevant, doing what I say I'm going to do, selflessly serving and selflessly giving back, but making sure that I was doing that with a level of frequency that was going to keep myself at top of mind, and now that I've done that for about a year now I think when people think of customer success I'm a relevant name that comes up because of everything I've done to serve them, and so it's been really hard to cultivate that and build it up, but I think now that we're there it's just making sure that we deliver.
Anika Zubair (10:51): I have to agree that I think a lot of people starting community always think like I'll post a few things here and there, and then other people will comment, and engage, and start posting their own things, and I think that happens naturally, but like you said it's taken a year for you to really see traction on those sorts of things, and really see more people contributing to the community. And also, I really loved that you mentioned that it's consistency, like making sure you're not burning yourself out, but also making sure that you are posting relevant content regularly to build up that audience, and that engagement, and then at some point it does flip. Naturally, the community is always going to see you as that thought leader, as that person that really knows what they have to say about the CS community.
Anika Zubair (11:38): But I think that you've also been a part of a lot of other communities before even starting CS Real Simple, which is awesome. I think it's great to be a contributor as well as a thought leader, but everyone can join a community, right? How did you get traffic onto your community rather than other communities?
Kristi Faltorusso (11:57): I think it was really being specific with what it is I provided. I don't try to be everything to everyone. I think there are a lot of customer success communities out there that are fantastic, and almost general hubs. My content and what it is that I'm trying to engage with folks on is very specific around strategies and operationalizing customer success in a simple way, right? So, I've become very specific about who I'm serving and it really does serve I think more specifically ... Anyone can use my content, but if I think about my audience in particular I really am serving a newer CS leader, right? Somebody who has got less experience, is trying to learn, is trying to move quickly, navigate challenges internally. That's who I want to serve. And so, because I was so intentional about who I was targeting and the content that I needed to provide for them I think it really helped to foster that digital dialog that happened organically as a result of that.
Kristi Faltorusso (12:54): They felt that I was serving them. They were able to engage with it, and it didn't compete with other areas. They just knew that if they were going to come to me, to my content, to any of my websites it was really for a specific need to engage in a certain way, and they knew that they would get what they were looking for.
Anika Zubair (13:12): I totally agree, and I think a lot of people get nervous about being super intentional and niche down, or be very specific, because a lot of people think maybe they're a competitor, or maybe they're going to steal my content and use it in their own way, which they can. That's actually I think stealing content is a form of flattery, but I think also being niche and being super intentional as to what you're putting out in a community can really drive your brand. Like you said, you've very much thought that you were about operationalizing CS. Yes, real simple, isn't everything and anything, but it is just how to operationalize, how to build it from the ground up, and keep things really simple, and that's why people would come to your community rather than going to a CS leaders community that's going to talk about board decks, or how to present, or all these kind of things.
Anika Zubair (14:02): So, it's very, very important I think for all businesses to hear that, is that if you start a community and you're putting any sort of thought leadership out there in a community you don't have to necessarily worry that someone's going to steal it, or someone's going to take it, and rip it off.
Kristi Faltorusso (14:17): Gosh. That's the biggest joke of all time. Let me tell you how many people ask me why are you giving all this away for free, and I'm like ... I'm almost confused because I don't get why they don't understand why I would give it away for free. It's not like you're stealing my IP. Just because I'm putting content out there doesn't also mean that someone can go and do the work that I do. They don't have the experience that I have. Not everything is plug-and-play. They're going to have to really take it, internalize it, and build a strategy around it that maps back to their product, their customers, in their organization. It's not like an outlet, right? You can't just plug it in.
Kristi Faltorusso (14:56): I'm not concerned. I see it as like, listen, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm going to go out there. I'm going to put it all out. I'm going to help everyone. I'm going to do everything I can to serve the community that I love, that I'm passionate about, and you know what the benefit is to me? Is I get folks like you who ask me to participate in these really fun conversations. I get a lot of opportunities to build my brand and get myself out there, so to me it is mutually beneficial and I feel like there's a lot of folks hopefully getting a lot of value from the stuff that I'm doing.
Anika Zubair (15:23): Definitely, and I think that if there was a company looking at communities, even looking at your experience and what you've done with CS Real Simple you're just building brand awareness, and you are just putting yourself out there to make sure that you are the right place for your customers, and future customers, to really trust in you as a vendor that you have all this knowledge to share. And like you said, it's not plug and play. You're not going to be able to ... Whether you build a community and share everything on it someone else isn't going to be able to just take that and be like, "Yes, I magically built another SAS software company that's exactly like yours," because of what you put on, a community, so I do totally agree with that.
Anika Zubair (16:03): But let's get into the nitty-gritty. We've talked about the last year, building up CS Real Simple, but honestly how much time did you spend on it. If I was someone new starting a community today how many hours did you spend? Did you ask other people for help? What was the initial push? Because as we know it's a labor of love. It takes a village sometimes to get things up and running. Where was the time spent?
Kristi Faltorusso (16:28): Initially, listen, this is not my full-time gig. It is that labor of love. I have to work off-hours, so it's a lot of hours in the evening and weekends spent developing and designing what I want to put out there. I will say the cool thing about it is there wasn't too much extra time that was required, right? This is all stuff that's in my head. It's stuff that I'm doing in my day-to-day, so it's already part of what I'm creating, what I'm designing. I'm just putting it out there and packaging it differently. I'm putting different messaging around it.
Kristi Faltorusso (16:57): And so, listen, it definitely took some more time. The more I wanted to ramp things up, and really start to build on it, it took more time. Building websites to support this stuff, getting things out there, the financial investments you're making behind tools, and resources, and designers, and other folks to help join and participate it's been a bit more work, but honestly it's been worth it, and the folks that have helped me aren't necessarily folks that are doing anything specific to do the work, but it's more like partnerships with folks like yourself, and Gain, Grow, Retain, and other platforms that believe in what I'm doing, and that are helping spread the word organically.
Kristi Faltorusso (17:43): I don't have an army of people behind me that are building my infographics, and my website, and doing all the things. Rather, I've got people who have bought into what it is that I'm trying to do, who believe in what I do, who feel that I am an authority in this space, and that what I'm doing is good, it's accurate, it's relevant, and supporting me in that regard. And I feel like that actual support has transcended and actually propelled the brand a lot further than if I hired an army of people to go build more and produce more content.
Anika Zubair (18:10): Yeah. I totally love that, and I think that with anyone that's starting a community, whether you're an individual, or a company, you definitely need that support system, and that support system gets you so far, more than hiring someone to do the job. You really need people who believe in it, and who really want to see you succeed with the community in order to see it to get to next steps.
Anika Zubair (18:29): You already mentioned that you have a few support people, and you have other thought leaders in the space that have definitely helped you get to where you are. Everyone can ask people for help. I think that's something that a lot of people can do, but how did you actually go about doing this? What was the tactical ways of asking for help without really giving any ... Not really not giving anything, but maybe not paying someone let's say?
Kristi Faltorusso (18:54): Let me be very honest with you. I think what I did was I created something that people believed in that felt was really helpful, and I didn't have to ask anybody, fortunately. And I'm not saying it's going to be the same for everyone, but in my instance I really had people reaching out to me to ask how could they help, right? I think if you're out there and you do have a very clear purpose, you have a very clear vision, and a mission behind it, you're doing good work, it is self-serving, it doesn't feel like you've got this self-oriented intent behind it where it's all about you I think people will naturally gravitate towards wanting to support it, right?
Kristi Faltorusso (19:34): People want to be a part of something that is bigger than them, that is really giving back. Think about charities for example. How many people get behind a charity? Not because they get anything out of it personally, physically, financially. It's because of that feel good just wanting to give, wanting to help, and I do believe that is big in the CS community, right? We are all helpers. We're all people that want to give back.
Kristi Faltorusso (19:59): And so, I think even as SaaS companies think about building communities if you are really intentional about doing something special that is serving your community, is serving your people, is serving a big, great purpose, and everything you do is around that, is targeted about that, and it's not about you, it's not about driving more revenue, it's not about driving your retention and your growth, let those be the ancillary things that happen as a result of the goodness you're putting forward and organically people will want to get behind it.
Anika Zubair (20:29): 100%, and I think that a lot of people don't look at the whole outcome of a community rather than I really want to just put myself out there, but then I need help, and I need to ask for help, and all these other things, which is natural, but like you just said everyone in the CS space, but also even when you build a community you're going to have people who are naturally going to want to push that community up because they're so impressed, or they're so amazed, or they just appreciate the knowledge that you're sharing that they're naturally going to share it with their peers, or they're just going to say, hey, look at this company, they have so much amazing content, and I absolutely appreciate that they're sharing it, so I'm going to share it with the world, but I'm also going to contribute because I believe in their community, and their vision, and what they're trying to share, which is I think a lot of the trick that SAS businesses are missing nowadays because everyone feels like I'm too worried that if I put it all out there that maybe people won't like, or people won't engage.
Anika Zubair (21:23): But you know what? It's human nature, human first. People are going to want to help build other people up, and when you are putting that kind of content out there that is relevant, that is connected to someone's core values and what they really believe in they're going to help. Like you said, the whole charity thing. People just want to feel good, or they want to contribute in that way.
Kristi Faltorusso (21:45): Listen, for communities also. It should be mutually beneficial. I talked about for me the benefit I get, right? I give the benefit of giving people a place to start, helping guide their journey, giving them tried and true tested playbooks and strategies, and guide rails for how they should go approach and operationalize their CS program.
Kristi Faltorusso (22:05): But I do get something out of it, right? For me, I'm building my brand. I'm building my relevancy in this space. I'm getting this platform to continue to grow professionally. And so, I think that even as you think about communities it's okay for them to be mutually beneficial. You don't have to make it not about you at all. Just be very clear about what it is that you're hoping to get.
Kristi Faltorusso (22:26): So, when you're going and you're designing your community think about the fact that, yes, you're putting stuff out there, but also how are you going to help other people? If I'm a community member, right? I'm hoping that maybe what I'm getting out of the community is my ability to share my thought leadership, and build my platform, right? Elevate myself, be a thought leader. And communities are a great way for your customers to do that and build off of it.
Kristi Faltorusso (22:49): So, just be I think very clear on how everyone benefits, so that way it doesn't ever feel icky, right? Everyone is very clear on, hey, you're going to get this, we're going to get this, here's how we're all going to grow, and how we're all going to be a part of this journey together. I think that transparency is key.
Anika Zubair (23:06): Yeah, and having that mutual beneficial partnership is really where the key to communities are, but also it's a many to many approach. I like to see communities as everyone else helping everyone else. No longer is it me helping you, you helping them, or whatever. It's really a communal, again, that's why the community word, but it's a communal effort, but also communal outcomes as well based on what sort of effort you are putting into the community.
Anika Zubair (23:33): Awesome. So, let's talk a little bit about what didn't work out, or what didn't go well, so looking back in hindsight you did ask people to help, and there have been lots of platforms, lots of places where CS Real Simple has been elevated, but what about the opposite? Looking back on it, what didn't go well, and what would you have done differently in hindsight?
Kristi Faltorusso (23:54): It is very difficult to have a passion project that you can't give 100% of your time to, so I think what I built over the past even couple years ... Think about it if I'm just even isolating to LinkedIn before I built a brand around what I was doing. It deserves, and it warrants, and I wish I could give it 100%, and so really only being able to make it a second thought, or a side project, it's tough. It's really difficult for me.
Kristi Faltorusso (24:27): I wish I could be responding faster to people. I wish I could be producing more for folks. I get a lot of outreach for, hey, can you share this, and can you do this, and can I see this deck, or what have you done here. I want to be able to do all of that faster and quicker, and have things that I can address at scale, but not being able to focus more time on it and actually be focused on it has been a challenge. It's delayed my ability to push things out, right?
Kristi Faltorusso (24:53): I had intentions of getting the website out a little bit sooner. It'll go live this month, and I'm excited that it will go live at the end of May, but I was trying to shoot for the end of March. So, I think the challenge is when you stretch yourself too thin you're not going to be able to do what you want to do. You might end up letting yourself down a bit. So, that's been the hardest thing for me is just the time allocation and focus on it.
Kristi Faltorusso (25:16): What I would say to other folks you're going to run into is something similar. Whether it is even your full-time job if you're starting a community you're likely not starting with head count behind it. You're probably asking one of your CSMs to help, someone from product to help, somebody from marketing to help, and guess what? All of those folks have full-time jobs, and so it's the same thing for me. I had a full-time job, and I'm trying to do a lot with a little, and if you're a SAS company looking to do this you're probably going to be scrappy and try to do it the same way. Just be real about what you can actually do. Set realistic timelines. Set real objectives about what it is that you hope to accomplish.
Kristi Faltorusso (25:55): Don't try to boil the ocean, and I feel like that's where I miss stepped. I tried to do in my head I can do this all, and I'm going to get all this stuff out there, and it's going to be fantastic for launch, and the reality of it is I'm going to go live with a little bit of a lighter content stack than I had hoped, but I'm going to build on it, and it'll continue to grow and morph, and I've got a lot to say, and a lot to put out there, and it'll be great over time.
Anika Zubair (26:16): Yeah. I can totally see that, and I think that is a natural tendency of people who want to do a little bit of everything and make sure that everything gets done to its fullest. I think with building a community it is a long game. It is a long game. You do have to build that relevancy like you said. You have to take the time to really make sure you're intentional with your content, but also consistent and I think a lot of people trip up and say I'm going to put 110% in for two months and then it'll be totally fine. But like you said, it's been a year, and there's even been some delays in that, and it's totally fine, but you just have to keep on going, and keep on building, and I think like all other things you just have to put it out there and then eventually keep building on it, and you'll end up with something great, but you just can't expect all of Rome to be built in a day, for lack of better words there, but I think that a community does take time.
Anika Zubair (27:07): And with a lot of SaaS businesses they are not allocating one direct full-time person to it. You have someone from marketing, or from sales, or CS, or whoever's doing it, and you just really have to be very mindful that it might take a year before you see any sort of return on your community, so I totally agree with that. But now, that you're a year in, and you are seeing more traffic, and you're about to launch the website and everything how are things evolving. What are things changing now for CS Real Simple? What's the biggest traffic source?
Kristi Faltorusso (27:39): Right now, I think the biggest thing is all the LinkedIn content that I design and create. I've been really great about designing a brand that I think when people see my color palette, when they see my infographics, they're easy to digest. They resonate really well. I've done a great job of being consistent with producing that content and putting it out in a way that people really enjoy. I get a lot of folks who tell me all the time, "I download and I share your infographics with our team. It's part of our internal knowledge base that we take all of your content and we share it. We talk about it in our team meetings."
Kristi Faltorusso (28:14): That stuff is crazy. I never thought that the content pieces that I was creating, as simple as they are, are being circulated and having an impact on organizations the way that they are. I've got people who are just tagging other people in the comments on LinkedIn, and my Pinterest page, which everyone was like, "Why Pinterest as an avenue?" These are images, and Pinterest is for images. It's like, I don't know, it felt like a good place to house them.
Kristi Faltorusso (28:41): So, maybe I didn't do things overly traditional, but I found something that works for me. I found something that allows me to be true to the format, and the content, and what it is that I'm trying to produce. And I'll tell you, that's been the driver. It's funny when I put out a new infographic or a new strategy, or a new playbook it's so interesting to see the number of new signups and registration I get on my website as we're preparing to launch. It's just people signing up for the early announcement of when it's live, and so that's just been really cool.
Kristi Faltorusso (29:10): I think the traction I'm getting off of LinkedIn as my initial platform has really helped feed a lot of that.
Anika Zubair (29:17): Yeah. That's awesome to hear, and also having such a large mailing list even from just, like you said, sharing infographics at first. What is it that drives people to actually register? Do you think it's mainly because they're excited for the next bit of content? Do you think that they're ready to have a whole house, or hub, of all your information? What is it that's getting people excited to actually go from viewing your content to then registering and being on your mailing list?
Kristi Faltorusso (29:46): I think it's that, right? I've been very clear that I'm going to give it all away, right? It's going to be in little pieces, and drips and drops here and there, but eventually over time every playbook I've ever designed, every strategy, every approach that I've ever had, all my decks, all my templates, that's all going to be available. That's the intention of this is to be a resource hub that folks can go to when they're building something. They've got their stuff. They don't know where to start. They need something to help them get their creative juices flowing. They're going to be able to use my content.
Kristi Faltorusso (30:17): And so, the more I put out there I think it's feeding that, right? If you've seen two or three of my infographics if you like the content you're going to want to see more, right? You want to know when that next piece is coming out so you can then go and tackle your next strategy, your next project. I think it's the anticipation of the mass amount of content they'll be able to get from the website.
Anika Zubair (30:39): And are you going to be only putting content onto the website? Are you going to continue LinkedIn? How are you going to drive more people onto the website rather than LinkedIn? Because I know a lot of your audience is on LinkedIn.
Kristi Faltorusso (30:50): I know. Listen, I can't reproduce what I've built as far as my following on LinkedIn anywhere else. My LinkedIn context and community there are so robust. Hopefully, my website community does get that big, but highly unlikely. But what I'm trying to do right now is figure out to your point where do you draw the line in the sand? What will be content that I'm sharing on my CS Real Simple LinkedIn page? What am I pushing out there myself in my own personal profile versus what's going to live on the website, and the reality of it is I will continue with the infographics and the visuals that will continue to go out on LinkedIn because I do believe that they do really well there. They resonate with folks, and it does hit a mass audience.
Kristi Faltorusso (31:30): The content of the website will be that plus, right? All my infographics are very high level. The content that I have will all live in blog post format that will go deeper, right? It'll answer more questions. It'll be more thought-provoking. It'll be more provocative in some ways, but it's going to really help to go that next level of depth because even a LinkedIn post has a character count cut off. You can't really help divulge that.
Kristi Faltorusso (31:57): I'm hoping that it will be an infographic packaged with a bit more content and my story, and I think that's what people relate to is, "Kristi, how did you get to this? What did you do? What failed? What didn't work?" Because I think that's really where people will be able to take those learnings and really grow professionally. It's not just about finding someone's playbook and trying to put it in, but really understanding how I got to that point.
Anika Zubair (32:19): Yeah, and I totally love that because I think that a lot of people will actually be really keen on all the additional information that you do put on the website because an infographic is great. Like you said, it's a screengrab. It's maybe a catchy way of just thinking about something, but how did you actually do it? Where did you implement it? What were your learnings from it? All that would probably be way more than just a LinkedIn post because you're limited by character, which will be interesting because then obviously people come to the website and then read more about it, and maybe even engage if you have comments, or something like that, on the website.
Anika Zubair (32:52): And I think it will be really cool to see how your evolution of liking and people downloading infographic into continuing a conversation onto your website, because I think a lot of companies also do this between having a blog for example, and then a community space where people can then have a further conversation, because I guess your blog is LinkedIn where you're just openly posting things, and then your community would be your website where people can continue the conversation, but both don't have to compete with each other. They're complimentary.
Kristi Faltorusso (33:24): Yeah. They're two different platforms. They serve a different purpose, and I think that's the other thing. And we talked about this earlier, but be very intentional. Have specific goals and objectives tied to all of your efforts, because at the end of the day this is part of your content strategy. Whether it is content where you're having that dialog. That's content that lives to support your vision, your mission, the work that you're doing as a company, and all of these little bits and pieces should all really work together to support one another, but just have different purposes.
Kristi Faltorusso (33:56): My website is intended to go deeper. I'll be doing video content also which will hopefully allow me to type a little less. I am not a strong writer, but I will talk to anyone to death for hours about all the things I've done. So, my hope is to also package a lot of video content up that will again tell the story, hopefully, get people engaged, allow them to hear, and then my goal is to allow them to ask questions and engage, and give me feedback. I can't wait to hear from people what they have implemented, and what worked and what didn't work for them, or what they had to alter or modify to make it work for their business.
Kristi Faltorusso (34:30): So, I think it's all of that, then I'm really excited to really hear back from folks on how it's resonating on that level.
Anika Zubair (34:36): Yeah, and I feel like, again, they won't be competing like you said because you're so intentional with what type of information you're putting out there, and also it didn't have to be competitive, because again, your content, what you're doing on either the platform or whatever social platform versus your blog can totally be complimentary as well, so totally love that.
Anika Zubair (34:56): Now, we've talked a lot about your infographics, and a lot about the content you create, and it's beautiful, and I know how much time you spent on Canva sometimes doing this, but did you produce it all yourself, and how much are you going to produce yourself, versus maybe are you going to get community members involved producing content as well? What's the balance right now in all of that?
Kristi Faltorusso (35:19): Right now, everything I produce is 100% mine. I don't have anybody working with me behind the scenes. That's why currently right now the brand is CS Real Simple by Kristi Faltorusso. Hopefully, I will drop the by Kristi Faltorusso and then CS Real Simple becomes this idea of simplified processes that other people can contribute to. I know I'm not the only one out there who feels this way about simplicity and ease of structure, so I'm sure that folks have their own point of view on how do you approach certain things, different strategies, and I really want to create a platform that is empowering other folks to share their ideas and what's worked for them.
Kristi Faltorusso (36:00): But right now, it's online. Like I said, in the future hopefully this serves the platform to empower people to creatively share and think about their own strategies, and hopefully give back the same way I have.
Anika Zubair (36:11): Yeah, that's awesome, and I think that's how most communities want to evolve naturally. You end up spending a lot of time upfront doing things yourself because, again, you're pushing that community out there. You're pushing that content out there, but like you said, what you are sharing a lot of other people have views on and at some point naturally people are going to want to say, "Hey, I've done this, and it's really simple, and I also want to share on a platform that believes in the same ethos and the core values that I do."
Anika Zubair (36:37): So, I'm really keen to see actually all the other people that end up posting on there. One last question around the types of content you are posting, and what's working, and maybe what's not. To anyone who's starting a community what pieces of content really work and which ones are maybe better to do it another day?
Kristi Faltorusso (36:59): The things that have really resonated with folks are the tactical playbooks. For some folks, it's new content. They haven't thought about this, or they haven't been able to tackle it yet, so you're giving them really an easy guide of steps to follow. For other folks, it's validation, so they're like, yes, great, that's what I thought we should be doing, and now I have somebody confirming that this is right, and we can go and run with that. So, the playbooks seem to have done the best. The other piece of content that seems to get a lot of engagement are my Friendly Reminder Fridays, which are just really human posts. They are my human cry don't forget.
Kristi Faltorusso (37:39): My last one was all about being human, and a reminder almost more to myself than to anybody else that I am human. I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to get things wrong. I'm going to let myself down. I can't do it all myself, and that's okay. And we're all human. Other ones around like don't panic. We're all navigating the same challenges and objection handling with customers. The Friendly Reminder Friday posts they get a lot of engagement and people really sharing because they love the human element of it.
Anika Zubair (38:09): I love that, and I think a lot of people in the SAS space forget that we're all human. Yes, we're dealing business to business. Yes, we are dealing in contracts or the way we're working, or we're selling to a business, or we're helping or evangelizing for a business, but at the end of the day the person you're speaking to is a human, and being human first with your content, or just remembering that can probably resonate so deeply in any community that you build, and also just remembering that you are speaking to humans, not robots, and they love that little short-form content of reminder, like hey, I'm human, and I make mistakes, and this is the content that I'm producing.
Anika Zubair (38:48): I love that that was the most successful piece actually, because that just reminds us all that we are human. Awesome. Listen, Kristi, we could keep going forever as we always do whenever we get chatting, but I want to wrap this up and I want to finish with our quickfire questions, so I'm going to challenge you on trying to get these out as quickly as possible, but I know we love a good chat.
Anika Zubair (39:07): The first question I have to wrap up today's conversation is whom do you admire in CS, or in the tech space?
Kristi Faltorusso (39:16): Literally, this couldn't be a more difficult question because there are so many folks I admire. There is just so many people doing amazing things, but I'm going to say, Jeanne Bliss. She is just somebody whom I have really gravitated towards. I've had the opportunity to meet her virtually, not personally, but I really love her story. I love her philosophy on customer experience. Her books, her content, is so engaging, so human, and I really love her approach and methodology, and how she's tackled this at really big organizations.
Kristi Faltorusso (39:49): She's inspired me and somebody whom I want to emulate a similar story and path, and so hopefully I'll get to be as notable as Jeanne.
Anika Zubair (39:57): I think you're already on the way there, Kristi, and I do also love Jeanne. I think her books are amazing for anyone who's either breaking into or even excelling their leadership into CS. She definitely puts that human element into how you can be successful in customer success, so I totally relate to that one.
Anika Zubair (40:16): Other than CS Real Simple, because I think the next question might be related to CS Real Simple, but what is your favorite resource on where to find more about customer success whether it's a community, or a book, or something like that?
Kristi Faltorusso (40:27): I think one of the other communities that's really done a great job of cultivating an audience and engaging them is Gain, Grow, Retain, and I think Jay and Jeff have done a phenomenal job. I'm thrilled to have been a part of their journey and building that out. The folks they latched onto something. They created a forum that allowed people to really engage thoughtfully, so I love what they have done there as far as the content and engaging folks to really participate authentically. I'll tell you if I've got a question I can usually go over there and type something into a search and find an answer, and so I think that they've just done a really great job.
Anika Zubair (41:04): Yep. I love Gain, Grow, Retain. So much information in there. And then, again, Jay and Jeff have really just made sure they've utilized everyone to build a community. They've really worked on the-
Kristi Faltorusso (41:14): Yeah. It's the story of don't do it alone. I'm very inspired by their strong ability to delegate.
Anika Zubair (41:22): Exactly. They are very good delegators. I have to say. They definitely have a team, or an army, of everyone that wants to share on that community, so really love that community. And then, the next question I have is what is your favorite tool or software that you cannot live without.
Kristi Faltorusso (41:39): I have to be honest it's Canva. Listen, I can list out a bunch of tools that are game-changing. I love 15five. I love WorkRamp. I love Trello. I love Monday. I love my own platform. There's so many tools and software out there, but I'll tell you for me building my brand Canva's a lifesaver. I am not a graphic designer. I am not an artist by any means. I came up with a cool color palette that felt good, like it represented my brand and who I am, even though I only wear black or white. I loved my pinks, and tans, and all of that, but Canva really makes it simple for me to pump out really beautiful pieces of creative art that I want to call them and package my content up in a very beautiful way.
Anika Zubair (42:23): As someone who also loves monochrome I'm very surprised that you picked non-monochrome colors for your brand because I've also seen you only ever in black and white.
Kristi Faltorusso (42:32): I'm like I only wear black and white and my background is gray. I'm just not a pop of color kind of gal. My personality is my color.
Anika Zubair (42:40): You picked every other color other than black and white in CS Real Simple though. It's very colorful for someone who doesn't wear the color, but I love that. Awesome. The last question I have before we wrap up today is what is your one piece of advice for someone who's getting started with customer communities?
Kristi Faltorusso (42:59): Be authentic and intentional. I think that being transparent, and being authentic, about what it is that you're trying to do, serving a bigger purpose. Don't make it about money. Don't make it such that it's about you achieving your goal. A community is about giving back. It's about serving the greater good. It's bringing people together. Don't lose sight of that. And then, just be authentic. It's okay. We talked about being human. Nobody's expecting everybody to be perfect. You know what? Have typos. Use brevity. Use emojis. Use gifs. Just go out there and have a personality behind it, and I think that authenticity will help cultivate a brand and a following that you wouldn't otherwise have.
Anika Zubair (43:43): Totally agree, and I think that, again, even if you're in business being human, and then also being authentic, and really serving a purpose, and being intentional can result in such a successful community. But thank you so much, Kristi. I appreciate all your time and wisdom as always. This was so much fun. We should do it more often.
Anika Zubair (44:01): But if anyone wants to reach out to you I'm guessing it's CS Real Simple, but do you want to let our audience know where they can find you?
Kristi Faltorusso (44:07): Absolutely. Best place to find me, LinkedIn. You can find me under Kristi Faltorusso. Just give it a good little search. There are not many Faltorusso's out there, so as long as you get the spelling right you should find me at the top of the heap. Otherwise, the website, www.csrealsimple.com. We'll be live by the end of May, so if you are listening stay tuned, go enjoy the content, give me some feedback, but like I said it will be a journey. It is an evolution of content that we'll be putting out there, so hopefully, you all enjoy it.
Anika Zubair (44:38): Amazing. Thank you so much, Kristi. Appreciate it.
Kristi Faltorusso (44:40): Thank you.
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