Community-Led Growth

Feb 22, 2022
Community-Led Growth with Isabel Ruiz

In #Episode60, it’s a pleasure to welcome Isabel Ruiz, Customer Education Manager at InSided by Gainsight, Top 100 Customer Success Strategists for 2021, and a host of a CSM Toolbox Podcast.


Tell us about yourself. What’s your story?

Yes, there is lot to unpack. I have been in Ireland now close to 10 years and it is now home, but I am originally from Mexico. So, I did a bachelor’s in each national marketing and back there and my university in my hometown in Mexico.

I actually started in cell separations, smoked renewals and then customer success. And in terms of studies, in 2020 I did a growth hacking course with growth drive based in the Netherlands, but I did it remotely. And as of last week, I started C school with the community club, and I’m getting certified in community management. So super excited. 


Oh, that’s amazing. So, you said you grew up in Mexico, where about? 

Yes, I grew up in a city called Tampico (shout out from anyone that is from that city right now in Mexico). So yeah, quite close to the Gulf of Mexico, and I worked primarily (right after university), I moved to a city quite close to the US border. I never made it to the US when I was living in Mexico. My first trip was when I was actually already in Europe. But yeah, I lived and I worked maybe two years after university in Mexico and then I moved to Europe after that. 


What made you make that move all the way from beautiful, sunny, warm Mexico to Ireland?

I moved here, as I said at the beginning close to 10 years ago, well first to Norway from Mexico then we moved here to Ireland. As well in those 10 years, we had a year in London which I really liked. I think if it had been for me, just personally I would have stayed longer, but definitely, the city and work I did there with Tableau was really good.


You worked as a Customer Success Manager at Tableau, then you moved to Pluralsight. You have experience in enterprise and Scals Customer Success. How did you go about choosing your Customer success Journey?

We must manage our relationship quite differently from enterprise to SMB, to commercial segments. Definitely, when it comes to those digital sites that teach our CSM, it is more about automation.

I know at Pluralsight, I had the fortune to work with people from a marketing firm, to copywriting, to products.

You cannot do it alone, I will say it takes a village to actually just support customers.

Isabel Ruiz


I think right now with customer education at InSided, it is allowing me to bring a lot of experience to this role. It might not seem like a start-up anymore, thankfully in a way, because I wanted to experience that environment where I can still build processes and having work on projects.

I think for me, the role of customer education might not be the same as with other companies because of the nature of it because of the nature of InSided being a start-up. I will say that it has allowed me to bring all of the different skills that I have gained from different roles in customer success.


What does a customer education manager do? How is that different from a CSM or traditional CSM role?

Well, if you have to build somewhere, let’s say you’re the first customer education hire in a company, you’ll have to look at how is the engagement at the moment with customers? Because in my case, how I want to reach out to customers will be through video webinars, collaborating with marketing, podcast episodes, blogs posts, the community in itself, the inside community in this case.

So for me, it will be those types of engagements that we need to have with customers versus “I haven’t done in the past”. I mean, at the moment, I think it’s still a mix between one-to-one and one to many, but I think it’s bringing all of these resources to actually engage with customers. So for me, this customer education role, in particular, has as an example, analyzing the voice of the customer work cross-functionally with many departments, which already overlaps with what a customer success manager will do anyway, but it is more for that adoption usage metrics, always looking at data.

And again, it is to study engagement with the delayed approach with customers. 


How is it different from a training manager? So you’re saying you’re not actually training your customers on a1:1 basis within the product, but it’s all about community led growth. Tell me more, what would be the main difference? 

Yeah, absolutely and that’s a good point. I think it’s because it is a work in progress to build that process in, customer education insight as well. Is that for some customers, as any customer success manager that you will have to have that type of approach. You just have to keep tailoring away. 


What is community-led growth? 

I will say that at the moment, what I will be really passionate about is how we have been talking about the product and customer-led growth, but now it is the era of community-led growth. So for companies to engage with their customers, for the community to drive customer success, that way also helps with acquisition retention account expansion.

It might sound too good to be true, but I do think that it is a powerful way to grow and to help a company, to help business, to just engage with their customers a different way. But at the same time, I was reading a blog post a few days ago where the community-led growth won’t be sustainable unless it ties back to a company’s business value.

I think it’s the same with even our own customers when they acquire a particular software or service that they need. Find out what are their goals and outcomes. Do I have the ability to measure this in some way? So I think the same with community, I think the idea for some companies that I have seen is let’s create this slack channel for everyone to join. And it’s like silence in that slack channel. 

The intent is there but I think again, it has to have value metrics. How are you going to measure that at the end of the day? And I think for community managers right now and think you mentioned this initially. There’s a lot of people out there already that have been doing this for years, And actually, now the course that I’m doing, they have said to me in workshops that we do that a lot of the concepts, they say these are things that I have been doing for quite a while now but there wasn’t really content or curriculum or I wasn’t calling it that, but I was actually doing it a few years back. So I think just the fact that we have, there are many courses I’m sure out there, but yeah, I think just when it comes to that community-led let growth I think it’s, a pretty cool space to be.


I really like that you’re so passionate about the community led growth. You’re doing courses, but you’re also so much involved in the customer success community worldwide.

Well, I think other than my podcast, at the moment, I have to confess that I had to step back from some of the volunteering that I was doing. Because while between the course, the new role, the podcast, I was like, I don’t want to leave things half done or feel I failed with those commitments. So I took a step back, but as you said, definitely the customer success network, the folks that a CS insider as well, and many of the leaders out there that, think they see as a community. 

I want to comment on something that you said that there are so many different paths and I, in a way, think that’s why I have been doing courses. And now with the community. If CSUN or customer success managers out there that perhaps you’ve already been looking at product management moving to sales, moving or to any other, I think if they have the option or the possibility to branch out, I think that’s great.

I think for me as well, I was even looking at marketing with the bachelor’s degree that I did. For me, I think I will always be interested in different things and that also compliments what I’m doing at the same time. I think it’s great if people just look into other areas and I think we have an advantage where we work with so many different departments that we can learn from them and they can learn from us. So we have that advantage. 


What would be some of your tips for developing your career? What are your main lessons so far?

Well, in terms of career tips so we were talking about definitely that franchise, whatever that might be of interest. I mean, I’m sure colleagues or communities out there will be more than willing to help you out. I think another tip and something that now I can reflect on and look back on that maybe something that I didn’t do is reaching out.

Even in a mentor, it doesn’t have to be “well let’s schedule this every month” or anything like that, but just even a manager that you trust that you can continue that relationship further. I think that’s also a great thing to do.

Another tip will be to even just in meetings, just reflecting back, I think there’s this, and I know the term has been thrown around a lot, imposter syndrome, where I think in a lot of meetings, I held back, I wasn’t owning my background, my skills, my journey but I think a lot of people we always go to remind ourselves that well, we’re there for a reason. So you do have something to say for sure. 


I’m glad that you said that Isabelle, I think this is fundamental and this is so important. We need to talk about those different backgrounds, different skills and how everyone’s background perspective matters, even more because, you’re bringing something new to the job.


It’s definitely something that we all should embrace. peak up because there’s always, especially if you’re coming from less traditional roles that’s even better. It gives even more opportunities to relate for different types of customers. Trying to put imposter syndrome on side by really owning your background and owning who you are.


Yes and it can be a challenge for sure. A few of the managers that I have had in the past reminded me of that voice that I was actually able to put myself forward for projects and things. I think you can do it in your own way. I will also mention that as an introvert, I will have that struggle, but at the same time, I know if I don’t put myself out there if I don’t do a shameless plug, but it doesn’t have to be ashamed to just call out what you have done or your accomplishments. It is a daily lesson for me as well.


How did you come to that whole amazing idea of a CSM toolbox podcast and how is it now having that new experience of being a podcast? 

So for me, I can say that it was born maybe out of the pandemic, but while that was mostly last year, but actually the idea came about from a speaking engagement that I did when they were asking me about 12 come up with a topic.

So for me, I was using tools at work. I already mentioned Loom, I have been using Hugo for meetings constantly, obviously like so many others. So for me, I think it’s the speaking engagement, I did a topic on that and then, later on, I think as well speaking to my boyfriend and I wasn’t really thinking of myself as a podcaster by any means.

But yeah, just the idea. And I started researching what platform do I need to use, even what microphone do I need to have and things like that. So that’s how I kicked things off basically out of that speaking engagement and I have the opportunity to learn from so many people, so many co-founders and heads of customer success, support, et cetera.

I like to keep that as an avenue not only to, in a way to promote a particular tool or for the guests to talk about where they work, but also for them to share experiences, something that I really like to ask is what have they learned from their customer’s feedback?

I was thinking that I didn’t make any sourdough or anything like that, or work on the garden, but I created a podcast. I don’t have, unfortunately, pictures of sourdough but yeah, that’s what I came up with through the pandemic.


What’s the question you wish other people would ask you more often? 

I was thinking about that and I will say that maybe if they will ask me about what has been the most challenging thing or situation, like in a work environment as an introvert. But I think right now, something that I think is that with things going virtual, I know a lot of people, especially a lot of my extrovert colleagues and friends, they found it really hard not to have that. I think for me, I mean, we can all adapt anyway but I think for me it was the opposite.

Maybe ways of communicating, my network grew so much in the last two years. And I think attending events that were open worldwide when usually we’ll be like attending the US let’s say as an example, but I think in more of a challenge, equated that opportunity. And I think a lot of maybe introverts out there that are listening to this, that I think, again, for me, it served us in ways of networking, speaking engagements, podcasts. So I think I just saw the opportunity and run with it. I mean, of course, it was unfortunate not to travel, not to do a lot of things, like obviously creating chaos all around as well. But I think just trying to look to view it in my particular case as an opportunity as well, to network and to do a lot of things that maybe I wouldn’t have before.


Isabelle. Thank you so much for this conversation. It was so, so nice. 

Thank you. Thank you so much.


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