1397fa7Every company knows that keeping customers happy leads to higher retention rates and up-sell opportunities. Increasing customer loyalty often falls on the customer success team. However, many brands don’t realize the value this department has to build long-term growth.

Creating an amazing experience often turns customers into advocates. These happy users will promote your product or service everywhere they go and generate revenue via referrals and recommendations in the process. According to the Journal of Marketing, a referred customer has a 16% higher customer lifetime value (CLTV) than a non-referred one. This means companies that invest more in driving new business rather than focusing on boosting their current customers’ experience are missing out on future gains.

Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, a complete customer success management platform, says your CS team has the power to create raving fans that bring untapped value to your brand. “A big part of customer success entails engaging and motivating your advocates,” says Nick. “I’m a firm believer that if you make a customer an advocate and engage them, they will be more successful and stay longer.”

But how do you empower your CS team to do this? Nick shared his best practices at Advocamp, the world’s largest conference on customer experience, engagement, and advocacy. (Click here to watch Nick’s full Advocamp AmpTalk presentation).

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Below, he breaks down a few ways customer success teams can help build and leverage a network of advocates to boost your brand’s bottom line—not just next quarter’s renewals.

Re-thinking how you measure customer lifetime value (CLTV)

Customer success teams have the potential to affect more than retention through the power of advocacy. “The second-order effect of advocacy is much bigger than the value of the individual customer,” says Nick. Some of the hidden value brands may not think about when they analyze CLTV include:

  • A champion leaving and buying your brand again elsewhere
  • Informal recommendations for your product
  • Formal referrals and references
  • Marketing evangelism (case studies, blog posts, etc.)
  • Product feedback

CS’s ability to tell help attract new business is the reason why Nick recommends setting team goals around not just retention, but also case studies, referrals and other acts of customer advocacy.

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He does warn that—to quote Albert Einstein—“not everything that counts can be counted.” While tracking these stats is important, not every item needs to be tied directly to a sale. “Instead, realize that the value of advocacy is many times more than all of the paid marketing you do.”

For instance, informal referrals can’t often be tracked. Also, if the CS team can help increase advocate engagement by encouraging customers to leave reviews, try out new features, or engage with your content, it may inadvertently lead to more referrals, explains Nick.

He also points out that engaged customers are more likely to become successful advocates—not just the other way around. “When they become an advocate, they become more invested in your brand’s success.”

Now that you know how important it is to invest in the success of your customers and advocates, where do you begin?

Finding your advocates

“The customer success team should be your eyes and ears when it comes to identifying potential advocates,” says Nick. By monitoring customer feedback and product usage data, CS can tell you which users love using your service. Nick says Gainsight’s product includes advocacy as a part of their customers’ health score. “When we identify new happy clients (via product usage or NPS scores), we invite them to our advocate marketing community, and their increased advocacy drives up their health score.”

He recommends your team invite decision makers and product users to participate in advocacy activities. “Many times, users can offer informal advocacy and on-the-ground feedback that decision makers can’t. In addition, there are usually far more users than decision makers!” says Nick. He recommends not trying to restrict the number of advocates you want to engage. “People love to be advocates, as it helps their own brand too.

Your CS team can also help you find unexpected internal champions for your product. “We sold our solution to the CSM team of a large public SaaS company, but it turned out that the sales team was getting a lot of benefit through driving up-sells as well,” says Nick.

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Building better advocates

Customer success teams are in a unique position to foster advocacy. For example, CS teams can source customer stories that can be turned into case studies—which make for effective marketing collateral.

CS can also find relevant references for prospects by looking at product and satisfaction data. “Just having a reference say ‘We like the product’ doesn’t cut it anymore,” says Nick. CS can nurture references by arming them with the latest product updates and customer content.

Nick stresses the importance of sending advocates thank you notes and tokens of appreciation to solidify these valuable relationships. He recommends CS partner with their internal customer marketing organization to help manage and fulfill advocate recognition. Having a formalized advocate marketing program that engages users in acts of advocacy in fun and creative ways, and then recognizes them for their participation is ideal.

Tracking your advocates

No matter where you advocates go, the CSM team and advocacy team should partner to follow them, Nick says. “Sounds a little bit stalker-ish, but follow them no matter where they go—whether they get promoted, move to a new job internally, or go to a new company.”

Advocates are super important, and if they ever go somewhere else down the road, Nick suggests keeping tabs on them so you can look for opportunities to continue to work with them. “At Gainsight, it’s really important to us to track those relationships. Track your advocates wherever they go.”

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This blog was originally posted on March 20th, 2015, and was updated on February 16th, 2018.