Commvault is a recognized leader in data backup and recovery solutions, and winner of the Influitive 2019 BAMMIE award for Best Emerging Advocate Program. In our most recent customer success webinar, I spoke with the team behind the company’s exceptional customer advocate community, Commvault Connections. In the first year after launching the community, the team exceeded their lofty recruitment goal of 500 joined advocates by 152%. The team continues to publish creative campaigns within the community, generating value for their business and network of advocates.

Read on to hear from Kimber Mahoney, Director of Customer Advocacy, Zoe Meyer, Customer Engagement & Operations Lead, and Annabel Lamb, Social Media Intern, about their best practices for managing Commvault’s customer advocate community. 

Q: How did Commvault’s customer advocate community come to be?

Kimber: I was hired just over two years ago to grow Commvault’s reference program. When I met with our CMO and CCO, they wanted to hear my vision for how the existing reference program could be improved and my view on what’s in it for the customer. I explained that one of the most critical elements of success for this kind of program is understanding what customers want in return for being a reference. This is something that many programs overlook. Customers want the opportunity to network with their peers, the ability to provide input into the product roadmap so the tools they use can better align with their own IP strategy, and opportunities to elevate their personal brand.

These things can be easily done when you’re working with one advocate at a time, but when you’re trying to appeal to the masses, you need a vehicle that supports that. That’s where a solution like Influitive comes in, which I explained to the team. When I started in January of 2018 I immediately built a plan of what needed to happen to evolve our reference program and create an advocate community, which involved meeting with 50 stakeholders across the business to identify how they could benefit from a program like this. We hired Zoe to manage and launch the community and own the strategy. We had aimed to get the community up and running in less than three months in order to tie its launch with our annual customer conference and were thrilled to see so many customers joining within minutes of sending out the invites.

Q: How did you get internal buy-in for this kind of program?

Kimber: We wanted to leverage the advocate community to provide value not just to us, but directly to our customers so they could learn more about what Commvault has to offer and find opportunities to provide direct feedback. When we started thinking about content we could share to accomplish that, we reached out to various parts of the business. We initially got some hesitation from them, not because they didn’t see the value in the program, but because they had concerns about their own bandwidth to support another new tactic.

But, it didn’t take long at all to see that change. Just a few weeks after Commvault Connections launched, internal stakeholders started seeing the power of engaging with the online community and wanted to leverage the opportunities the Influitive platform offered. Since then, we’ve had many teams—ranging from customer success, product management, user experience, and marketing—collaborating with us to share content and collect feedback from our community members.

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Q: With multiple admins managing Commvault Connections, how do you work together to decide on the content and engagement tactics you implement each week?

Zoe: Annabel and I joined forces early on, prior to launching the community. We quickly found that our experience, energy, and creativity really balanced one another’s. This was very apparent when we worked together on creating the ‘Game of Thrones’ campaign we launched in Commvault Connections’ first year. I had never seen an episode, but Annabel just so happens to be a Game of Thrones aficionado. Together we executed this campaign, which exceeded our expectations.

Annabel and I meet on a regular basis to go through our content strategy and decide on its execution. We use a planning document where we can identify the content, the experience we’re looking to launch, who the target audience within our community is, and the call to action. We also make sure we stay on top of the company’s immediate goals and current activities in order to be relevant, timely, and responsive. From there, we divide and conquer.

Q: How do you strike a balance between creating content that is both fun and relevant to the community, especially with pop culture-related content?

Annabel: The challenge of bringing together technical relevance, pop culture knowledge and community expertise not only allowed Zoe and myself to spread our wings, but it also allowed us to involve other members of our organization. The Game of Thrones campaign was so successful because it began with a Commvault blog relating data protection to the plot of Game of Thrones, which Zoe saw and felt could become something much bigger. Being able to connect these dots is not only an exercise in content creation, but it also represents exceptional teamwork across our whole organization. It’s important to foster these kinds of collaborative relationships.

Q: After having considerably exceeded your 12-month goal for number of members joined, do you find that you’re spending more or less time recruiting new members?

Zoe: We’re putting in the same amount of time and effort into recruitment, but we’re doing it differently. Instead of just marketing automation, we’re now teaming up with our customer success team in order to enable our product onboarding through the community. So, we will be systematically bringing in new members to Commvault Connections from customer onboarding. We also use the API integration on our support page so that we can target folks who come to our support page and bring them into the community that way. 

Q: What was your biggest challenge in driving interactions within your community?

Annabel: Our biggest challenge was definitely convincing a skeptical audience of what the community could be. We are only successful if we’re having customer interactions taking place within the community. The fact that we held our user conference quite soon after we first launch was hugely beneficial for us, as it allowed us to connect on a very human level with our customers and give them our pitch in person. The great thing about customer experiences—like user conferences—being moved online in the near future due to the current health crisis is that bringing in those kinds of conversations and connections into an online community will be easier than ever. This could be very helpful for convincing future users to be involved in your community as well.

Q: How do you measure engagement within the advocate community?

Zoe: We look at engagement from the standpoint of how many members we have in our community over a period of time. So when reviewing our metrics and reporting dashboards within the Influitive platform, we’re especially focused on the number of members we have during a given period of time and what proportion of them are active. This division gives us the percentage that we track and use to measure our engagement on a monthly basis. 

Q: How has the Influitive VIP community proved helpful in supporting you along the journey of building out your customer advocate community?

Zoe: The Influitive VIP community is a crucial piece, whether you’re starting up your advocate community or your community has been around for 17 months like in our case. No matter how long we’ve been doing this, it’s still imperative that we live and breathe advocacy. It’s important to seek out the individuals who can share best practices and engage with your peers—whether this is within the Influitive community or not. As our team has been discussing plans to expand our program, I’ve often directly asked another Influitive customer whether this growth should happen online or in a more one-to-one fashion. The VIP community has been one the most important sources of guidance for me. It’s kind of like a safety blanket. I feel like I can turn to the Influitive community if I’m looking for a way to solve a problem, or simply for ideas. Our bi-weekly calls with our customer success manager has also been key. 

Check out the full webinar recording to hear the rest of Kimber, Zoe, and Annabel’s insights. You can read more about how the Commvault team launched their highly successful customer advocate community, along with stories from other customer marketing leaders in our new eBook, “12 Award-Winning Customer Advocacy Success Stories”.