Creating and nurturing vocal advocates for your brand requires the support and enthusiasm of every part of your organization—from product, to sales, marketing and customer support, right up to the executive level. At Advocamp 2015, three experts—Jenny Cheng, Chief Product Officer at InsideView; Jeanette Gibson, former Vice President, Customer Experience & Community at Hootsuite; and Jill Rowley, Social Selling Expert—debated how organizations can shift their thinking and increase customer engagement. Watch the session below, or read our recap, to get insights on creating advocates at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
1. Who is responsible for driving customer advocacy?
Every division in the company has an integral role in encouraging advocacy, but each area has its own strengths and involvement.
Community is an integral part of the advocate experience. Community managers may be charged with supporting customer marketing by listening and directly engaging with advocates wherever they are (social networks, online communities or advocate marketing programs). They should also help manage the feedback loop with other areas of the business. “We are on the front lines,” says Jeanette.
Product managers and developers are also important. Without a product that truly meets your buyer’s needs, it’s impossible to generate customer advocacy. No amount of slick messaging can save a product that fails to deliver. Jill says a good product, the right marketing and the proper sales mentality are all needed to create advocates early in the buying process.
A single person in the company should own, prioritize and drive your advocacy program forward, says Jill. But it doesn’t matter which division they work in. She believes it is less about where that person sits in the organization, and more about their competency and characteristics, and what they want to accomplish.
2. What are the key characteristics of a customer advocacy leader?
Passion is of critical importance to an advocate marketer. “It has to be someone who is extremely passionate about delighting customers and helping them be successful,” says Jill.
But they also need business acumen. They need to be able to quantify revenue and customer lifetime value, and explain how advocacy will impact the company’s growth while also helping with board-level and shareholder discussions. “It has to be someone who can convince the executives that this is a path they should be going down,” says Jill.
3. What needs to be at the core of any advocacy program?
Taking a long-term approach to advocacy is the best end goal for businesses. Developing true, lasting relationships takes time. People might be incented to play the short-game to meet or exceed targets set by executives, shareholders, or VCs—but they need to realize that every person matters, Jill adds.
There’s more value in sales reps looking at the long-game. “The easiest person to go back and sell to is the one you’ve already sold to and is happy,” says Jenny. This is why measuring the CLTV of advocates is so important.
While building customer advocacy can start early in the sales process, most brands lose touch with their customers once they sign a contract or launch their product. Companies must map out a way to continuously drive value post-sale. Jeanette says this is the point where brands can really create a positive and meaningful customer experience—as long as they don’t treat advocates as just another vehicle to send messages or drive more sales. “That will help lay the foundation to build a customer advocacy program,” she says.
4. How do you measure advocacy?
Jenny suggests measuring monthly active users, and looking at what parts or features of the product are being used and how often. This can help you model out your user types and their behaviours—including your biggest advocates—who can offer you valuable insights on making your product more sticky.
Jeanette recommends looking at how many advocates and ambassadors you have in each region, then targeting advocates locally based on these strategic metrics. Look at the lift to see if your initiatives (like events) are driving more free signups, and if that leads to higher conversions on renewals, cross-sells and upsells, for example.
Jill thinks measuring the number of advocates that sales reps sign will incent your team to focus more on driving customers success, instead of closing bad deals to meet quotas. Try changing the sales compensation plan to give out bonuses based on Net Promoter Scores and advocacy, she suggests.
There are lots of ways to measure the value of your advocates. “I don’t think there’s any one right answer,” says Jenny. She says it’s important to spend time looking at your data and trying to draw correlations to figure it out.
5. How can you overcome advocacy program roadblocks and internal skeptics?
Jenny says it’s important to tell executives, like the CFO, why they should invest someone’s time in an advocate marketing program, and what the company is going to get out if it. “Most of us work in a financial situation where it’s ‘What am I going to get back for that dollar?’” she says.
Jill says you’ll need to convince sales leaders that since buyers have more access to information than ever before, they won’t rely on what your salespeople are ramming down their throats to make a decision. Having your customer advocates share their recommendations and insights with prospects will mean more than slick marketing speak.
The fact that customers can now talk to anyone in a company over social media is a huge disruption to the way sales and other customer-facing teams used to “manage” customer relationships. Jeanette says brands must change the way the company handles communication with customers overall. “Whoever is the most passionate can help bring people to the table to say ‘We need to formalize this role,’” says Jeanette.
Advocacy is a new way companies can strategically think about their customer relationships. “I really think we are going to see more companies realize why they have to care more [and tap] into the emotions and the needs of individuals and the recognition and rewards people need to do the hard jobs that they do,” says Jill.
By creating connections with customers and fostering customer advocates, brands can enjoy more word of mouth and increased customer satisfaction.