I work at Zapproved, a pioneer in developing cloud-hosted software for corporate legal departments. I used to work as the 1:Many Customer Success Manager, and it was my job to create campaigns and programs meant to engage our customers (some of whom might have been inactive), share best practices and everything in between. These campaigns helped manage the high number of lower revenue accounts that didn’t previously have a CSM (until me!).

About a month after I started in Customer Success, I had a meeting with my manager to discuss a new initiative meant to increase the number of referrals, testimonials, and references we received from our customers: an advocate marketing program (powered by Influitive’s AdvocateHub software).

Normally, marketing is expected to run this type of initiative, but at Zapproved, we’ve found it advantageous to let our CS team (me!) spearhead the program.

The more I learned about the possibilities of our program—which we called the Z-Discovery Heroes—the more it began to make sense that I use this platform to expand our team’s 1:Many program and scale our communications process with customers.

I found that through the program I could manage all 100 accounts I owned without actually having to manually manage them.

Here’s a few advantages customer success teams can expect to enjoy when they take charge of an advocate marketing program.

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Giving customers a human connection boosts engagement

Since we never had a customer community prior to the launch of the program, we weren’t sure our customers would like the idea. However, once they were in, they loved it. We’ve learned that a great deal of our customers are interested in the ability to network, communicate and collaborate with others in the industry. The program gives them a place to do just that.

Just two short months before the launch, I was unknown to a lot of our customers. Afterwards, I became the face of the program, which was helpful for other aspects of my job. For example, outside of my day-to-day activities, I also answer support tickets when I have time. After the program launched, I noticed that after I would answer a support ticket, that customer would often go into the program and complete a couple of challenges. Seeing my name was an instant association with our community, which was great for keeping engagement up.

Getting a better understanding of customer behaviour

We’ve received referrals, had more customers join our reference group, and gotten some great content to use in our marketing from our advocate marketing program. But we’ve tailored the program to help meet the needs of our Customer Success team.

Having Customer Success take the lead changes the tone of the program and the ways in which advocates participate. First, customers are more familiar with the Customer Success team than they are with anybody in marketing—which makes things more personal almost immediately. We’re also less focused on asking for big things (like referrals and references) and more interested in getting to know our customers and offering them the educational resources they really want. I learnt which customers are history buffs, which are avid travellers, and what articles or books they’re reading. I’ve found this connection makes customers more responsive to us overall.

While the program has been great for relationship-building, it’s also been useful for gaining visibility into what’s happening with our accounts. Each week, the Customer Success team meets to discuss which of our customers are at risk. However, due to the nature of our product, usage can fluctuate greatly, and we’re only able to get usage stats once a month. Now, I’m able to get a better grasp on which of our customers are still engaged because someone who isn’t responding to emails may be in the program completing activities a few times a week. This helps our team prioritize which accounts really need immediate attention.

Scaling customer success in a personal way

All in all, having Customer Success run our advocate marketing program has been a blessing. It makes having conversations easier by creating an informal environment that our customers love. We’ve received constant feedback saying that it feels like we’re truly trying to partner with our customers. They feel like they learn more and learn better when they’re engaged through our program.

If you’re building a 1:Many program, I strongly recommend considering adding an advocate marketing platform like Influitive to your technology stack. Your customers will enjoy being engaged outside of health checks, QBRs, and support calls—and you might learn some interesting tidbits about them while you’re at it!

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