How Blackbaud’s Customer Marketers Gained Executive Support For A New Advocate Marketing Program

Building a new customer program or community can be scary for marketers. Even with careful planning, they know there’s always a risk their audience won’t participate or that growing membership will take longer than promised.

blackbaudchamptionsBlackbaud, a company that has been providing non-profit organizations with all-in-one software solutions for the past 30 years, faced a similar problem in mid-2013. They already had a customer reference program, LinkedIn group and other forums in which customers could engage with each other and the company, but they wanted to build a more comprehensive program that would compel their customers to share, engage with and advocate for Blackbaud across a number of different channels.

The result was the Blackbaud Champions, an advocate marketing program that rewards Blackbaud customers for participating in community-focused activities and encourages them to connect with others in the non-profit sector.

Within 10 days of the program’s soft launch in 2014, Blackbaud’s program quickly blew away their initial goals by generating:

  • 77 high-value customer referrals (more than they had received in the entire previous quarter)
  • 150 engaged advocates
  • 25 genuine customer reviews on third-party websites
  • 1,500 social shares across channels

000903fmichaelbeahmThese incredible results are the reason why we asked Blackbaud’s Customer Advocate Marketing Manager, Michael Beahm, and Customer Marketing Director, Amy Bills, to speak at the first-ever advocate marketing conference, Advocamp. In San Francisco on March 25, 2015, they’ll be breaking down how they laid the foundation for Blackbaud Champions by gaining internal buy-in through:

  • education
  • making a business case
  • finding the right team and partners
  • creating early adopters
  • committing to solid goals

Here’s a peek at a few of their best tips for launching a successful advocate marketing program – fast.

1. Know your fans and followers

Amy says Blackbaud already had an engaged customer base, but they didn’t have a strong program for harnessing their power and rewarding them for promoting the brand. “They were itching for more ways to be involved,” she says.

By inviting customers to participate in challenges and create content, Blackbaud was able to engage and entertain their advocates and create a sense of community around the brand.

“A lot of non-profit professionals want to collaborate and work together,” says Michael. That’s why he makes sure his advocate marketing program’s activities are geared toward the idea of helping others and contributing to the community. “We’ve really seen our customers respond well to it.”

2. Give as good as you get

Blackbaud had a few ways to connect with their customers and solicit for positive reviews and feedback, but they wanted to give more to their loyal fans with their Champions program. “We saw the importance of making it a two-way street, taking it from a reference program to an advocate marketing program,” says Michael.

Understanding their advocates’ desire for interaction and sharing was crucial to the program’s success. “It’s helps our customers feel a closeness to our brand by participating in different opportunities to share content and to share their story with us,” he adds.

That’s why Blackbaud rewards advocates and keeps them engaged by helping them build a profile within the community. “We help Blackbaud Champions be viewed as experts in their space,” says Amy. “With our previous program, we were never really able to play it up for them.”

3. Make it personal to employees

Michael says involving your whole team in your advocate marketing program is important to its success. “Then, advocates aren’t just engaging with the brand, but the people behind the brand,” he explains. Making your team visible to your community members will make them feel more connected to your brand.

Both Michael and Amy say Blackbaud had to put some work into promoting the Champions program within its own walls. “We had a substantial internal sales process for this program,” says Amy. They focused on explaining the concept of advocate marketing to educate their team, and clearly tied the program to quantifiable value, such as creating a new channel for referred opportunities.

At Advocamp, Amy and Michael will reveal their process for marketing the Blackbaud Champions program to their executives and colleagues to gain buy-in, as well as how to lay the foundation for building program membership quickly. “You can’t just flip a switch and have a successful advocate marketing program,” says Michael. “You need the strategy before the tactics. We’ll share the many steps—and a few missteps—we took to get our program funded, supported and launched.”

Both are excited to connect with other like-minded advocate marketers at Advocamp. “It’s such a new and powerful marketing tool. It will be fun to brainstorm with other folks who are rolling out their own program,” says Michael. “It’s a creative group of thought leaders and forward thinkers that are going to be there.”

Advocamp: the biggest customer engagement and advocacy event of the year
Register now!

3 Responses to How Blackbaud’s Customer Marketers Gained Executive Support For A New Advocate Marketing Program

  1. […] who work at not-for-profit organizations love being part of a community. That’s why Blackbaud, a non-profit software solutions provider, launched a customer advocacy program to engage and […]

  2. […] yourself and your program with both internal and external allies/mentors who can provide perspective and […]

  3. […] At the start of 2014, Blackbaud, a fundraising software company that serves non-profits, was in the process of moving to a SaaS model. Michael Beahm, Blackbaud’s first Customer Advocate Marketing Manager, saw this as the perfect time to play a part in the transformation of the company’s marketing. […]

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