The quality of your reviews can make or break your sales. No one knows this better than James Scott, President of Brightpearl Inc.
Brightpearl, a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning software platform for retail management professionals, had received negative reviews on popular technology sites from a few of its customers.
Unfortunately, this small number of reviews was causing a large amount of unwanted friction for Brightpearl’s sales team.
“We heard that CEOs were Googling us and finding these bad reviews,” says James. “As a result, a number of deals were derailed. The frustrating thing was that we knew these few unhappy customers were in the minority and we had hundreds of very happy customers whose voices were not being heard.”
So, Brightpearl launched an advocate marketing program, called The Commerce Acceleration Zone, using Influitive’s AdvocateHub software. Their goal was to drive customer engagement—and increase positive reviews in the process. In the program, the brand’s most enthusiastic customers were invited to take part in fun and educational challenges for rewards and recognition. They could also advocate for Brightpearl in many ways, like sharing content on social media, submitting referrals and writing online reviews.
Within one year, Brightpearl’s advocate marketing program saw the following results:
- 740 advocates joined
- 18,000 advocacy activities completed
- 2,443 social media shares
- 26 referral leads
- 70 positive reviews written on websites like GetApp and WebRetailer
“We had a massive change in our reviews after launching our advocate marketing program,” says Victoria Stavpniuk, Community Manager at Brightpearl. “We’re getting tons of five-star reviews and haven’t had a bad review in months.”
This initial success showed Brightpearl how educating and empowering their advocates could turn the tide for their online reputation—as well as make their customers happier.
However, Brightpearl wanted to do even more to engage a larger portion of their customer base. So, the brand decided to expand its efforts by launching a customer community (using Influitive’s Communities feature) in conjunction with their advocate marketing program.
Setting community goals
Brightpearl had two initial goals for their community:
- Uncover more advocates. “We knew that we had hidden advocates within our customer base, but we just couldn’t find them,” says Victoria.
- Let customers connect, motivate and inspire each other. “Customers would usually speak with a Brightpearl rep if they had questions or technical issues,” says James. “However, we wanted them to meet and help each other.”
Customers helping customers be more successful
When Brightpearl launched the new community, they invited existing members of their advocate marketing program to join, which gave the community an initial rush of activity.
In addition to reaching out to advocates, Brightpearl also invited new customers into the community. For example, Brightpearl’s support, success and implementation teams started pointing customers to the community for added support.
However, Brightpearl didn’t want the community to turn into just another support channel. They wanted to create a place where customers could network, share ideas and learn how to be more successful.
Within the first three months of launching their community, Brightpearl:
- Generated 148 topic threads
- Received 268 individual replies
- Had a 50% average repeat participation rate for community members
- Boosted engagement in The Commerce Acceleration Zone, with members who visited the community going on to complete an average of seven other advocacy activities in the same session
Here are five ways Brightpearl uses their community to make customers happier, more engaged and eager to generate positive word of mouth for the brand.
1. Give customers a space to share negative feedback directly
Brightpearl starts a discussion every time they issue a new release and asks customers to post comments in the thread. This allows Brightpearl to get one-to-one feedback and bug reports in a private forum—instead of learning about customer difficulties in a public channel.
“Interestingly, our most active community members are some of the people who spoke the most negatively about us on Twitter and Facebook,” says James. “Now, they’ve got somewhere to share constructive feedback if an issue comes up, and validate their feedback with other customers at the same time.”
So, while the brand’s advocate marketing helped power positive word of mouth, the community helps contain negative customer feedback—giving Brightpearl, and their advocates, the chance to address the issue early.
2. Involve customers in your content to boost marketing results
Brightpearl’s advocates consume and share the brand’s content with their social networks through the community. This expands Brightpearl’s audience and helps them attract new leads. One way Brightpearl does this is by building buzz for their webinars and events, which helps increase registrations.
Brightpearl also asks advocates for help crowdsourcing content ideas. For instance, the brand might get their advocates to vote on the title of a white paper. This helps Brightpearl create more relevant content for their customers.
3. Find hidden fans and turn them into advocates
“One of the biggest benefits of our community is that it has allowed us to identify new advocates,” says Victoria.
These “hidden” advocates will say positive things about Brightpearl and talk about their successes in the community. Then, Brightpearl will ask some of these advocates to share their stories in meetings or case studies.
“Through the community, we’ve been able to bring new people into our advocate marketing program,” says Victoria. “I create links between both areas, which strengthens customer engagement across our advocate base.”
4. Create a collaborative space for best practices to make customers successful
Brightpearl used to post product tips as educational challenges in their advocate marketing program. However, customers might forget what they learned once the challenges were completed as there was nowhere to access the tips afterwards.
Now, Brightpearl adds product tips to a community forum. Then, Brightpearl posts a challenge in their advocate marketing program that asks advocates to check out the topic and leave feedback. “Our customers are having great conversations about our tips,” says James. “We’re generating a lot more engagement than we used to when we just posted a tip individually.”
In addition, customers share their own best practices. For example, they’ll post code in Brightpearl’s API thread. Then, other customers—and Brightpearl’s development team—save this code and use it to improve the product experience.
“We’re trying to help customers learn best practices from each other, so they can be more successful with Brightpearl,” says James. “Hopefully, this also results in fewer support calls so we can reassign some support resources to other more proactive duties.”
5. Crowdsource customer feedback to make better product improvements
Prior to launching the community, Brightpearl would publicly post their roadmap on their website and invite customers to suggest new product features. However, not many customers responded. Now—through their community—Brightpearl is collecting lots of valuable feedback.
Since customers can now see responses for product feature requests in a public forum, they often chime in if they agree with the idea, or offer their fellow customers a work-around or solution they think is better— making it clear to Brightpearl what the majority of their customers really want and need.
“This engagement is helping our product team,” says James. “Before, we may have missed the mark with some new features. Now, we’re confident that we’re putting out enhancements that our customers need.”
Why customer advocacy and communities go hand in hand
By engaging customers through both programs, Brightpearl gives their customers valuable content and connections while generating valuable acts of customer advocacy for themselves.
“Today, hundreds of Brightpearl customers interact in our community to connect with peers and learn how to grow their retail businesses,” says James. “That’s the kind of experience our customers want us to deliver, and Influitive’s unique integration of advocacy, social media and community helps us get there.”