Customer advocacy has come a long way since its inception. Today, the most fervent supporters of customer advocacy report an uptick in both customer loyalty and customer engagement, and a stronger sense of community among their customers.
But creating and launching a strong advocacy program can’t be done overnight. A successful program requires a dedicated team, a winning plan, and a commitment to getting it right. Our launch team has guided hundreds of launches and here we’ll share some ways to create a stellar plan to get the program started on the right foot.
Laying the Foundation for a Successful Advocacy Program
When thinking about establishing a strategy, a good place to begin is by thinking about the pyramid of needs and determining what you want to get out of your program. Whether the goal is to build rapport, spread awareness of initiatives and offerings, improve real time product feedback, or something else, figuring out your “why” will help you to create the appropriate vision for your program. And preparation doesn’t stop there.
It’s important you have a success plan in place for both launch and beyond. Creating long-term and short-term objectives before launching your program gives you a way to check in and make sure you’re meeting your goals and overall vision. Having realistic metrics, milestones, and KPIs in place that are consistent with your overall organizational goals allows you to work towards the goals strategically.
Knowing your goals also helps you identify content goals, and provides a way to determine when you need to make changes to your program along the way. Influitive’s ROI and reporting tools allow you to remain on track and allows you to easily bring results back to internal stakeholders.
Throughout the planning process, keep in mind that your customer advocacy program isn’t just about your company—you have to ensure that there are benefits for your customers as well. One approach to keeping customers front and center is to specifically identify ideal community members and actually build the community around them. This ensures that they will be able to thrive, and likely have an experience that they’re happy to share with others.
Having internal buy-in from your company also goes a long way to building a great experience. The more enthusiasm you have from various team members, the easier it will be to build content based on resources from different departments across all organizational levels. Involving executive sponsors and stakeholders is crucial, as that ensures your community stays relevant and top of mind while cross-departmentally relevant. It also ensures continuous support for the people running the program, which helps alleviate content burden.
Before your advocacy project kicks off, determine who will be the person responsible for keeping the project on track and building momentum toward an efficient launch, and who will be the program manager from that point forward. Both team members will be working alongside your Influitive consultant, and by making sure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, you’ll increase the chances of a smooth transition down the road.
Empower your program manager in their role, as this person is the face of your community and will be involved in a ton of direct interactions. You’ll want someone in this role who understands your demographic and who is driven by both metrics and creative content—but the ideal candidate also thrives on building meaningful relationships, creating memorable experiences, and has a knack for bringing people together. The right person in this role will go a long way to building a community of advocates.
Ready, Set, Launch!
Once everyone’s on board and you have a plan, it’s time to get to work building the program itself. Typically, it can take anywhere from 45 to 90 days to create, build and launch an advocacy program, depending on factors such as internal resourcing, recruitment style, and audience.
First and foremost, keep an open mind. Be creative when you’re coming up with program components, and most of all, have fun with it. No one is going to be excited about the program if your team isn’t!
Put yourself in the shoes of that ideal community member: what would you want to be a part of? What would captivate you? Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay flexible, and be open to feedback from your peers and community members.
Depending on whether you’re building a community for your most exclusive members, or casting a wide-net and inviting everyone, you’ll want to cater your approach appropriately. Active communities don’t happen overnight, and inviting your top most engaged customers first is a surefire way to generate authentic conversations.
There are a few launch approaches that a community could take. The first is CAB, where you collect input and feedback on the motivations and aspirations from a core group of your customers before building out your community. Another option is a soft launch, where you give a small group of your best supporters a first glimpse at your program and learn more about these users’ behaviour before you launch to your broader audience. This is our most popular approach. The last approach is a full launch, in which your program is immediately available to your entire desired audience.
Learning From—and with—Others
We’ve seen a lot of amazing launches! While each advocacy program is different, there are some similarities between the most successful ones.
First and foremost, the best programs have administrators who are constantly engaged with their community. Not only that, but they’re excited to push the program further and help grow that community into something even bigger and better.
This is an organizational initiative. As for who should be involved internally for launching a program, this will vary depending on your goals. Seamless integrations help a hub thrive across multiple departments, so you’ll certainly want to bring in your IT or Marketing Operations teams to help integrate your program with your CRM, marketing automation, and other relevant tools. Launches can involve people in sales, marketing, customer experience, product, and design to create a unique platform for your community, and also build a pipeline for feedback, ideas, and especially content.
As your community grows, you may find you need some additional resources. Influitive not only has services to help you successfully launch your community, but also an array of options that help you maintain and grow it. Our robust targeting capabilities allows us to get continuous engagement, provide personalized and enticing content (“what should they see and in what order should they see it?”) and ensures a customized advocate journey.
Other resources include:
Need More Support?
Your Influitive launch consultant is an extension of your team. They are your BFF and your go-to support throughout the process. They will help you think outside the box, push the boundaries of what’s been done, and keep your project on track. Post-launch, Influitive’s top-notch support team, engineering services, and stellar CSMs are focused on your continued success. The CSM in particular is the community manager’s point person and the person with whom they’ll be communicating the most.
We encourage you to tap into our robust collection of support and training articles, our very own Influitive Experience, our brand new Institute, and so much more! We practice what we preach and can even connect you with other customers who have gone through launch. We’re here to help you in any way possible to make your program the best it can be.
Kacie Shuster and Paulina Saliba are the rockstars of Influitive’s launch team. Kacie is a lemon-loving chicken farmer (no, really), with a passion for project management. Paulina likes long walks on the beach and dreams about launching successful platforms.