Why Every Company Has Time For Customer Advocacy (And Where To Find It)

Marketers are busy people. That’s why the thought of managing another program or piece of technology every day sounds about as appealing as the next Justice League movie.

You’ve got growth targets to hit, right? You don’t have time to delight your customers with something like an advocate community. (Isn’t that someone else’s job anyway?)

It’s easy to dismiss advocate marketing by saying you don’t have time. And I’m not going to lie to you: the best advocacy programs involve a significant time investment from a creative marketer.

However, there are many places you can find the time for a program, like the countless hours your entire company currently wastes on other, less effective ways of activating advocates.

The “thrill” of the customer chase is gone

Remember the last time you needed a customer to advocate for your brand? It probably went something like this:

  1. You turned to the tiny group of customers you always go to and asked for yet another favor—increasing the chance of burning them out with too many requests.
  1. You begged your middle-man (or woman) in sales or services to help you find an appropriate customer who’d be willing to help. Then you waited for days before you got a reply. Or they got back to you with questions, further delaying the process. Or they gave you a candidate that didn’t meet your criteria—meaning you just wasted even more time and still didn’t get what you needed.
  1. You indiscriminately blasted your customer database with a generic email request and hoped for the best, creating a poor experience for your customers and not inspiring much in the way of results. (Customers just LOVE getting emails asking for favors!)

portrait of a customer marketer

I call this one “Portrait Of A Customer Marketer.”

An advocate community eliminates these tedious (and painful) processes, saving you and your team hours each week hunting down customers. Instead of sending requests one at a time to customers via email, you can ask dozens of advocates to participate for instantaneous recognition, status and rewards—all by simply posting a challenge in your advocate community in under 10 minutes.

By investing this newfound time into delighting and rewarding your advocates, you’ll increase:

  1. The number of customers willing to be advocates (many you’ll never have heard from before!)
  2. The speed with which they’ll respond to your requests
  3. The overall quality of advocacy (like in-depth reviews, meaningful feedback, relevant referrals, etc.)

Running a successful advocate marketing program is about a time shift, not a time addition. You’re not adding hours to your week or increasing your headcount. You’re taking the time you normally waste seeking out customers, and investing it into creating a fun and community program for your advocates. As a result, you can uncover more advocacy with less time and effort.

time ebook comparison chart

How to find enough time for advocacy
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Out with the spreadsheets, in with the tech

Bringing together all of your disparate customer marketing efforts together may sound daunting, but this isn’t the first time technology has changed the way companies operate. Three people used to do the job of a marketing automation platform. Now that many marketing teams have adopted these solutions, it seems silly to go back to the old, manual way of doing things.

Many of Influitive’s customers have discovered more advocates than they thought they had and have found a scalable way to create stronger 1:1 customer relationships–something spreadsheets and email blasts can’t accomplish.

DavinW“Before we had Influitive, we were doing our advocacy activity manually, but none of it was scalable. All of it was individual efforts tracked in an app that we built—which made it easy to track things, but not to generate advocacy. That’s what drew us to Influitive.”

Davin Wilfrid, Customer & Advocate Marketing Manager at QuickBase

Danielle_Camara headshot“Influitive’s AdvocateHub helps us respond to fire drills faster than ever before. Customer feedback from the Purple Select [advocate community] enables our executives to quickly make smarter business decisions. It has been a huge win for us.”

Danielle Camara, Sr. Manager, Customer Marketing at Marketo

michael_beahm_460“We used to rely on things like LinkedIn groups and our annual conference to engage customers.The ability to post a challenge, ask a question and get feedback almost immediately is pretty revolutionary. It gives us a way to engage with our clients 365 days a year. Our advocates really enjoy the experiences, incentives and rewards…It’s really simple, which is great for me operationally.”

Michael Beahm, Senior Marketing Manager at Blackbaud

Justifying the time you need for advocate marketing

Making this time shift may seem hard to justify to your boss, but times are a-changing and marketing teams that are ahead of the curve will be the ones that thrive.

Analysts agree: “Advocate marketing programs are essential in an age where your ability to gain and keep customers is the last-remaining defensible competitive advantage,” says Laura Ramos, Lead Analyst at Forrester in Advocate Marketing Creates B2B Customer Relationships That Last A Lifetime. “To draw upon reserves of customer goodwill, you need to shift your marketing effort from currying favor to nurturing advocates.”

Hank Barnes, Research Vice President at Gartner, also understands the benefits of advocate marketing. “The range of things you can do—with so much more ease and no telephone/email tag, no begging for permission from a sales rep to talk to a customer (even while the next day they are calling you begging for a reference), and no more asking for ‘more time’ to find that reference—is limitless.”

If the whole “improving the customer experience and driving advocacy” still sounds more like aspirational fluff than a strategic directive, check out these results from the advocate marketers quoted above:

  • Davin Wilfrid mobilized QuickBase’s advocates to help the company rank #1 in a new category on a popular technology review website. Learn how here.
  • Danielle Camara was able to generate 146 customer referrals, 538 customer reviews and 95% average retention rate of customer advocates Marketo’s advocacy program in one year. We’ve outlined how in this success story.
  • Michael Beahm’s advocates helped him exceed his annual referral goal 40x between 2013 and 2015. Read more in his success story.

It takes time to nurture advocate relationships and see results. But investing that time will change your marketing, your business, your career and—most importantly—how your customers feel about your brand—which is priceless.

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