The 80s called…they want their advocate marketing system back.
But there are two big problems with this approach:
1. You can only engage a handful of advocates at a time
While it’s definitely possible to create an advocate marketing program without software, it’s impossible to scale without it. “As you grow, automation is essential for your sanity, and for program health,” saysBridget Heaton, Social and Advocacy Manager at Schoology. When she made the leap, she scaled her program to almost 1000 advocates worldwide.
Without a consistent way to invite advocates into a program and manage their experience, you’re leaving all kinds of potential advocates unengaged.
2. It’s a poor experience for your advocates and your team
Without a way to properly track advocate activity, it’s all too easy for your team to burn out the same few advocates with constant requests. Plus, it’s hard to systematically recognize and reward them. This makes it tougher to nurture the kind of meaningful relationship that will encourage them to help out again in the future.
Taking your advocacy program to the next level means moving off spreadsheets and migrating to advocacy software.
But this begs the question: what exactly should you look for in a brand advocacy platform?
Here are the top ten factors we think are crucial for evaluating your advocacy software options.
1. A centralized home for all advocate interactions
Advocacy programs need a real, digital home of their own—not just a Google Drive folder that only your team can access.
To truly feel a sense of purpose and belonging, advocates need a home base where they can see their progress, and interact with your company and their peers. A web portal gives your advocates a place to sign in and find all of your latest content, contests, and opportunities to help out. Plus this means you can track their activity, and extract analytics to prove ROI to your C-suite (more on this later).
“It sits in the middle of our community engagement, lead generation, reference programs, events, social media, and external forums. It works to strategically pull all of those disparate programs together.”
2. Community-driven discussions that matter
Advocates crave opportunities to network with and learn from one another. Your advocacy solution should give them a space where they can connect with their peers, whether it’s to discuss your product or the variety of challenges they face in their day-to-day roles.
“We noticed that, unlike other departments, HR professionals did not have a broader community to learn from and lean on,” says Amy Rosenberg, Marketing Manager at Namely, an HR platform. “Instead, they came to Namely Support Consultants with questions spanning from ‘Where do I buy the right kind of envelopes to mail W2s?’ to ‘What process should I use to tie compensation to performance?’ We knew that creating a client community could help us with retention.”
Giving your advocates somewhere to talk about their real-life struggles and learn from each other will make them grateful toward your brand for facilitating those relationships.
3. Advocate segmentation to create personalized experiences
Maybe you have a lot of different customer personas and types.
Maybe you’re trying to build a community for your employees as well as your customers.
Maybe you just want to invite local customers to your user groups.
Whatever the reasoning, your advocacy software should allow you to create groups or segments depending on different factors. This will ensure that you can create targeted, personalized experiences that appeal to all your advocates.
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4. Gamification to add an element of fun and competition
Badges, points, leaderboards, and contests are fun motivators that can help drive advocate activity. Having the ability to give points or badges based on the type and level of activity advocates complete over time is also important for:
Keeping advocates engaged through a sense of mastery and accomplishment
Creating a goal for them to work towards, which will support long-term engagement
Plus, since many advocates are motivated by competition, presenting point or badges on their profiles or in a leaderboard will compel them to complete even more challenges.
Sometimes competition can motivate advocates just as much as actual rewards. “We found [that] there were only 8% of our customers who actually redeemed points for rewards,” saidChris Peltz, former Customer Success Operations Manager at HP during his 2015 Advocamp talk. “And that’s because they are not really motivated by rewards. What they are motivated by…is to win. They’re motivated to compete. They’re motivated to be higher up in the leaderboard.”
5. Branding you can customize to fit your company’s look & feel
Keeping up a strong brand identity on every customer-facing piece of content you share is crucial—so why should your advocacy software be any different?
Giving your advocates a space that matches the branding of your other corporate trademarks creates an integrated, familiar experience.
You can see below how Cisco’s customer advocacy program, The Gateway, uses their own logo, colours, and branding to make their hub feel like a natural extension of their customer experience. (Read more about their thriving program here.)
6. Reporting & analytics so you can prove ROI, get buy-in, and optimize
Reporting advocate activity, engagement and ROI is crucial for understanding program performance and securing internal buy-in.
Your software should not only track advocate activity, but it should also allow you to build reports and visual dashboards based on types of activity. Activity completion rates, engagement rates, and activity progress tracking should also be available.
To see the impact your advocates are having across your entire organization, integrations with your CRM and marketing automation platforms are also a must.
7. Rewards fulfillment
Showing advocates appreciation for their efforts is important for continuously securing their engagement. Your customer advocacy marketing software should offer a way to display and automatically fulfill some rewards for advocates to keep admin burden low (preferably, using a points system where advocates can redeem their points for set rewards.)
Your advocacy software should provide advocates with a mobile experience to seamlessly integrate your program into your customers’ daily routines—just like checking their email or social media.
By including all the same opportunities as the desktop version, your advocacy software will allow advocates to participate no matter what else is going on in their lives.
Being able to embed advocacy requests outside of your program will also help with discovering and recruiting new advocates on web pages where they’re already hanging out.
Influitive’s answer to this is Advocate Anywhere. Sam Brennand, VP Strategic Partnerships at Uberflip uses it to guide his customers “to perform valuable acts of advocacy while they’re most engaged with our brand—on our website, in our Knowledge Base, and within our application.”
“Since we’ve implemented AdvocateAnywhere into our Knowledge Base, we’ve seen a spike in engagement from customers who are in our onboarding process,” says Sam.
9. Integrations with your other marketing software
By integrating with your existing marketing technology infrastructure (such as your CRM or marketing automation platform), it’s much easier to see how advocates are impacting your overall business goals.
Other integrations, such as automatic reward fulfilment, social media tools, or popular online reviews are key for mobilizing advocates outside of your platform and making it easier for your team to track activity without having to log into separate platforms.
10. Referral functionality
Asking advocates for referrals can sometimes be a challenge—but including it within your advocacy program makes it much easier because you’ve already established a relationship.
“If you just jump out of the gate and do a referral campaign without…getting to know your advocates, it’s not going to be successful. Your advocates are going to feel used. Get to know them and let them get to know you before you make the referral ask.”
The most important functionality for your software to have is keeping the process transparent—for you and for your advocates. This way, you’ll both know exactly what’s going on at each stage, and they’ll be more likely to refer to you again.
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Aside from looking at a feature list, you should also look at your advocate marketing software’s online reputation to gauge how good they are at mobilizing and generating brand advocacy.
Online reviews & grid placements. If any advocacy platform company doesn’t have advocates writing great reviews, they may not be the advocacy experts they purport to be. “If I see their users are unhappy, I move on in my vendor research,” says Emilia Janczak, Social Media Manager at Evolve IP.
Advocacy and social proof on website. Do they have a lot of testimonials, quotes, and real customer faces on their website? If they don’t feature real advocates in their marketing, it’s not a good sign.
Number of case studies. Advocacy platforms should be able to help you surface customer success stories. If they haven’t produced a fairly large number of case studies, they may not have a lot of advocates themselves.
Company expertise. This goes for any new technology vendor—you’ll want to look for:
Strategic program support from CSMs or account managers
Strong professional services or partner programs
Knowledge of security best practices
Dedicated, efficient onboarding and ongoing education
Technical expertise and support
“At the end of the day, the vendor must be able to flex and grow with our organization so we can keep getting stronger,” says Sarah Lamb, Client Experience and Innovation at ADP. “The support is also crucial for new programs, because they can offer guidance on best practices.”
Finding advocacy software that’s easy to use and provides key features like the ones listed will help you engage your customers and increase customer advocacy.
More customer advocacy marketing software resources: