I’m in the corporate communications department at Apprenda, the enterprise leader in Platform as a Service (PaaS).
Several months back, I overheard my boss, VP of Marketing Jesse Kliza, discussing a new tool that would be really useful for internal and external communications: Influitive’s AdvocateHub—an advocate marketing program platform that helps companies find and recognize their top promoters. Jesse talked a bit about how much potential advocate marketing had to increasing referrals, social media shares and product reviews from our customers. He also mentioned that it could serve as a centralized location for internal communications about company initiatives for employees.
Maintaining a unique company culture has always been important to me, so this initiative sounded right up my alley. I liked the idea that this is something of an emerging category of marketing, similar to how PaaS is an emerging category of cloud computing. Jesse and I talked about the potential impact Influitive could have in every department. After some initial advocating on my own behalf (see what I did there?), Jesse agreed to bring me on as the admin for the program.
I was introduced to my onboarding specialist Selena via a conference call, and boom: I was pretty much handed the keys to a new car…or maybe an RV is a better analogy? However you look at it, I was put in charge.
Here’s my journey from newbie advocate marketing administrator to internal advocacy champion.
I’m put in the driver’s seat
Our hub is focused on building internal employee advocacy, with a goal to include partners and customers toward the end of Q3, if not sooner. At first, I was very intimidated. It was exciting, but I was anxious being given the reins to a new company-wide initiative. The tools, which now seem very easy and self-explanatory, were at first confusing and a bit overwhelming. Challenges? Rewards? Invitations? What is this sorcery of which they speak?!
Selena did an excellent job guiding me along, answering questions and pointing me in the right directions. Over the span of a few weeks, I attended every webinar possible, watched as many how-to videos and tutorials on Influitive as I could, and participated heavily in Influitive’s VIP advocate marketing program to learn best practices. (I’m at #36 right now on the advocate leaderboard—I’m coming for you, Liz Pedro!)
It was somewhat surprising how quickly this got me up to speed regarding the how and what of my program. It only took about three or so weeks to really understand how to approach the program to get results. That’s when Selena suggested I create an onboarding video for my advocates.
She sent me a few examples of how other companies had gone about this, and although many of them looked like they were much more high-budget than myself, I got the gist of it: outline the program at a high level, give an overview of how the hub works, a description of what the goals are and what they should expect. But, most importantly: make it fun.
I’m a goofball by default with my last name, so this was pretty easy.
Demonstrating results quickly
I decided to onboard a hand-selected group of employees to the platform to help me iron out the program kinks, establish what worked and find out what they’d like to see in it so I could expand on the initial vision for the program.
It felt amazing to hear laughter around the office when I launched that video as a challenge in the Apprenda PaaS Port hub. My “First Wave” advocates, who all got a badge commemorating it, began to advocate on behalf of the platform itself. I had people not yet onboarded come up and ask me what it was all about. I was watching advocate marketing happen in real time.
But before I got the entire company involved, I needed to get executives on board.
Now, I’d taken part in a number of challenges in Influitive VIP related to reviewing the product itself, and had read many of Influitive’s case studies. I realized that the best way to receive executive buy-in would be to demonstrate real, immediate value. So, because we’re a fast-growth company looking to recruit talented people, I asked employees to review the company on Glassdoor.
Roughly 75% of the “First Wave” employees I invited to the program submitted a review. We’ve hired a large number of people in the past few months, and the majority have stated that the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Glassdoor played a significant role in their decisions to join Apprenda.
When presenting my case to the executive team, these results made for a powerful example of the immediate results you can garner using an internal hub.
Getting immediate buy-in
I brought the higher-ups on as advocates to allow them to poke around the program and become familiar with it. In the meantime, I also took the opportunity to enroll in the Influitive Academy and earn my Advocate Marketing Certification. This really helped me learn how to quickly build out my objectives for the program itself.
A couple of weeks after my discussion with the executive team, I gave a company-wide presentation during a Friday luncheon; I even taped it and made it a challenge to watch the presentation again later on for anyone who missed it (for reduced points, of course). It was my first time presenting anything to the entire company. I was nervous, but it went better than expected. The big selling points weren’t so much the rewards and points participants would receive, but the future potential the platform offered for our customers. Reviews? Referrals? Case studies? This is a no-brainer—sign me up!
Final thoughts on becoming an advocate marketing program admin
If I can offer some advice to new program admins: don’t be afraid to take a wrong step. You’re going to; it’s inevitable. Sometimes you won’t know what works until you know what doesn’t work. But the worst thing that can happen is you just alter your approach a bit.
It’s worth noting that you can never know everything. Influitive does an unbelievable job of providing you with the latest in-depth information and, in many ways, they will become your biggest champions. They are here to help you and truly go above and beyond to do so. Does it take time to build confidence? Yes—but you’ll be surprised at how little time that is.
It was Warren Beatty who said you’ve achieved success in your field when you can’t tell if what you’re doing is work or play. All I can say is when you dive into an advocate marketing program, coming to work is a lot of fun.