Customer advocates can do a lot more than just share your tweets. In fact, using your advocates to support your marketing efforts is only the tip of the iceberg.
Advocates can improve your business not only throughout the customer lifecycle, but also across many departments. One popular trend is to use advocates to bolster the Customer Success Function of your business.
If you’ve spent time getting to know your advocates, and nurturing them by adding value, then you’re ready to reap the rewards of a highly engaged community.
In this blog, we’ll present 5 ways you can use to guide your advocate community towards success. The truly top tier programs help advocates achieve their own success, and also enable advocates to help newer customers.
We’ll also provide 5 examples from leading advocacy professionals on how they’ve accomplished impressive results using the power of their communities.
1. Ask advocates to help create educational content
Finding the time and resources to regularly create content can be tough. Asking your top users to help create this content can help make this process quicker and easier. That way, you won’t struggle to deliver a regular stream of educational resources to your community.
The key is positioning the ask as an opportunity for advocates to shine in front of their peers. Look at those who are interacting with your content the most to figure out who these potential authors could be. Paying close attention to comments, forum replies, social shares, and other web tracking method can be good ways to start.
How Rapid7 turns customers into product experts
Evan Jacobs is the former Senior Manager of Customer Marketing and Advocacy at Rapid7—an IT security data and analytics company. He educated customers on how to create content with the company through testimonials, blogs, videos, and webcasts via their advocacy program. He also offered program members opportunities to share feedback with the Rapid7 product development team, and then make “Feature Friday” videos about newly released product features for other customers to watch.
These videos encourage other customers to learn about new features and get more value from Rapid7 products. The customers who make the videos are positioned as experts in front of their peers, and they feel special for getting a sneak peek into the product development process. Some of the videos are also leveraged by sales to help bring in new prospects.
One of Rapid7’s power users shares product tips in an educational video.
2. Save money by getting advocates to help your support team
A huge value you can deliver to your advocates is helping them connect with peers, so they can solve each other’s product issues—which can reduce the burden on your support and customer success teams. This tactic can be achieved through community forums and discussions, or live events and user groups. Giving your customers access to those connections makes them more likely to succeed.
How Saba Software incentivizes customers to answer each other’s questions
Saba Software—a provider of cloud-based talent management solutions—used their advocate community to provide all of their customers with product tips, relevant industry-related discussions, and the chance to interact with each other and the Saba team. To keep activity humming, the team seeds the community with helpful content and fun quizzes, while also incentivizing members to help each other out.
“We pose customer questions that need answers in challenges, and encourage members to respond directly to the discussion thread,” says David Beaton, Senior Customer Marketing Manager. While customers can climb the community leaderboard for replying to more discussions, David feels they don’t do it just for the recognition. “Customers like knowing they are helping each other,” he says.
The sense of community and resources delivered through the program has helped over 1,700 customers feel closer to the Saba team, and have a better understanding of its offerings. As a result, active community members are twice as likely to buy another module or service, spend more in upsells, are much less likely to terminate, and have NPS scores significantly higher than average customers.
Pointing out relevant discussions to advocates makes them more likely to participate.
3. Organically plant the seeds for upsell opportunities
Pushing for an upsell can often feel like a cold sales pitch if you haven’t been consistently engaging your customers in meaningful ways during the process. And email blasts featuring new products and services can often get ignored. Instead, treat upsells like a typical marketing campaign that you would send to prospects by creating plenty of relevant, educational, interactive content. If it helps customers understand why new features or tools could be useful, then they may ask you for details on their own.
How PolicyMedical delivers educational content to uncover potential upsells
To teach customers about upsells of their flagship offering, Tracy Staniland, former Director of Marketing at PolicyMedical—a policy management software for healthcare providers—hosts regular webinars about product upgrades. She then publishes on-demand recordings in PolicyMedical’s advocacy program.
“Then we ask customers if they are aware of the upsell product and if they would like someone from our team to contact them,” says Tracy.
Making customers more aware of their product offerings and letting customers self-identify if they’d like to learn more has helped PolicyMedical create more sales opportunities.
“We have received leads for both upsell and cross-sell products through the content we’re sharing through the program,” says Tracy. “We are also able to provide our customers with a number of educational materials which is helping with product usage.”
Tracy uses a fun image and personalization to get advocates learning about new upsell opportunities.
4. Uncover cross-sell opportunities
If you’ve been helping advocates surface their success and asking them to share their stories, it should be easy to pinpoint which users may be willing to internally refer your solution to other divisions.
The key is making the process as transparent as possible to your advocates. No customer wants an overzealous sales rep unleashed on their peers. Instead, explain how the process will work, and offer to let them make the introduction. Give them ideas for what to say (so they don’t have to think too hard about how to fulfill the request), and encourage them to highlight their success so they can continue to build up their profile internally. You could even ask advocates for introductions to specific team members who you think could benefit from your platform.
How Esker, Inc. turns cross-selling into a fun game
Amanda Samuel, Marketing Coordinator at Esker, Inc.—a provider of document automation and order management software solutions—embedded a request for cross-sells within a fun, spy-themed contest in their advocacy program.
“I created a fun referral challenge by simply asking people to think about their coworkers in different departments that may not have Esker yet but could benefit from our solutions,” says Amanda. The request also came with clear instructions as to who exactly Esker wanted to talk to. This way advocates didn’t need to worry about who exactly to refer.
Using a spy-themed Challenge, Amanda made it a fun experience for advocates to give referrals.
5. Foster 1:1 connections for ongoing retention
Maintaining a larger advocate community through information sharing, professional recognition, and special access to your team will encourage customers to stick around in the long run. If you’re constantly collecting advocate feedback and monitoring their engagement with your programs, it should be easy to determine which accounts are more likely to renew, and which ones need more help.
When you turn a business professional into an advocate, and they have a community they can continue to engage with, you’re more likely to stay top-of-mind with them if they switch companies. So, consider letting churned users stay in your engagement programs to increase the odds of a resale.
How Rosetta Stone simplifies the customer experience to increase retention
Rosetta Stone—a leading provider of language-learning software—realized that some of their customers were churning because they hadn’t implemented their software properly when they first launched.
“Customers would try to contact us for help, but in many instances, they either didn’t know who to reach out to on our large support team or where to find the materials they needed easily,” says Katie Raeburn, Customer Marketing Manager at Rosetta Stone.
In 2017, Rosetta Stone launched an advocate community where they could house their support resources in one place. Customers can also connect with each other to get help through discussions and webinars. By reading new content or replying to discussion topics, advocates can earn rewards, like branded swag. Katie also gives active members a shout out in the community by posting their photo and a quote about why they’re so great for all to see.
She also gave her client management team access to the backend of the program so they could see what advocates were doing. Now, the team can review advocate activity data and user feedback to understand how they can better influence customer success and retention. “I let client managers know what’s going on with their accounts to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks,” says Katie. Client managers also help answer questions in the public discussions section of the program.
As a result of Rosetta Stone’s robust advocacy strategy, customers in the program have up to 58% higher renewal rates compared to customers not in the program. “And it’s all because we’re connecting with them more and helping them succeed,” says Katie.
Katie created a single home for their educational content that advocates could easily access.
Advocates in customer success and beyond
An active community can make all the difference when it comes to ensuring the long term success of your customers. From creating educational pieces to offsetting support costs, customers are often the most underutilized resource in Customer Success. By integrating customers into your CS strategy, you’ll see massive ROI.
Interested in taking the deep dive? Download The SaaS Vendor’s Guide To Customer Engagement, Retention, and Advocacy for 16 proven strategies and 25 real customer examples.