How To Launch A Customer Advocacy Program When You’re Too Busy For Another Project

Truman Tang

As a B2B marketer, you have a lot on your plate.

If you’re thinking about launching a customer advocacy program, you’re probably wondering how you’ll add one more thing to your to-do list. (There’s only so many hours in a day.)

lea chatham headshotNo one relates to you more than Lea Chatham, Content Marketing Manager at Kareo—the only cloud-based medical technology platform built for independent practices. Lea is a super-busy content marketer who spends her days planning and creating content for Kareo’s 35,000 customers.

On top of all of this, Lea also runs the company’s customer advocacy program, Friends of Kareo.

“When we started Friends of Kareo two years ago, we wanted to use the program to collect things like case studies and sales references,” says Lea. “The program was handed to me because I manage all of our content programs.”

But as Kareo’s program grew to 300 advocates, it began to take more of Lea’s time. Collecting sales references, case studies and testimonials involved a lot of manual work since the program was managed using Excel spreadsheets. Lea either had to reach out to customers on an individual basis or make requests via mass emails (which wasn’t very effective).

“We wanted to ask for more specific testimonials more often,” says Lea. “Instead of randomly identifying people for a case study or sending out mass emails to a group, we wanted advocates to raise their hands and offer to help.”

In 2015, the company decided to re-launch Friends of Kareo on Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform. With the tool, Lea could better manage advocate relationships, and make requesting help fun and rewarding for Kareo’s advocates.

Kareo’s goal with the relaunch: grow the program to 700 advocates within the year to increase the number of sales references, testimonials, case studies and software reviews it received.

Lea was worried about how she’d achieve this rapid growth. “My biggest concern was that, as one person, I wouldn’t have enough time to get through all of the training and set up every piece of our new customer advocacy program on Influitive,” says Lea.

However, Lea realized that she didn’t need to go it alone.

To make sure Kareo got off on the right foot with its advocates, Lea enlisted the help of Influitive’s Professional Services team to build the foundation of the program.

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“We maximized my time by working with Influitive’s advocate marketing Professional Services team,” says Lea. “This ensured that I didn’t run into any problems trying to do everything myself. The team kept us on track, so we followed best practices and had a successful re-launch.”

Lea worked with the Professional Services team to:

  • Develop a strategy for achieving Kareo’s main program goals
  • Create content, challenges and rewards for the program launch
  • Plan advocate recruitment strategies and tactics

Professional Services also provided four weeks of additional content creation and strategic consulting post-launch.

Within four months of re-launching, Lea motivated 390 advocates to join the new Friends of Kareo program. Now, Kareo is already halfway towards hitting their year-end recruitment goal.

Here’s Lea’s advice for successfully launching an advocacy program—even if you’re short on time:

1. Get internal alignment

It takes a while to show people the benefits of a customer advocacy program. To get buy-in, you need to tie the benefits to their specific goals.

“For example, one group may want more software reviews while another wants more case studies,” says Lea. “Show each group how you can get them all of these things—and more.”

You also need executives to champion the program throughout your company. “Work with the leadership of these departments to help them understand how customer advocacy will move them closer to their goals,” says Lea.

You may need to work in stages, but ultimately, you need to get your entire company on board. This is because advocacy isn’t just something the marketing department does—it impacts everyone.

2. Have a long-term plan

Once everyone in your company is excited about customer advocacy, you need to create a long-term plan.

“We’ve worked together to come up with a plan for the next two years,” says Lea. “The plan outlines our goals and who we will invite to join Friends of Kareo.”

When you create your plan, talk to each team about their roles. What do they need to do before the launch? What do they need to do once the program is running? For example, how often should each group send you ideas for advocacy challenges?

“It’s easy to forget something before your launch,” says Lea. “For example, we focused on setting up our advocacy challenges and didn’t spend enough time working on our Salesforce.com integration. This caused some delays before our launch.”

3. Give yourself extra time before a launch

Lea stresses that customer advocacy isn’t something you can do whenever a team member has a couple of spare hours in a week. You need someone to dedicate a percentage of their time to running the program.

Before a launch, they will want to set aside extra time to think through how they will introduce advocates to the program. “Getting set up during the first couple of months will take more time than you expected,” says Lea. “Block off enough time for training and planning your program. All of your upfront time is worth it to ensure that you have a successful launch.”

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel

When you’re strapped for time, use challenge templates in your AdvocateHub to quickly boost engagement. The Professional Services team sent Lea templates for advocacy challenges that she could quickly customize and drop into the program to keep advocates engaged without taking up too much of her time.

Getting internal buy-in from other teams will also take some of the pressure off when it comes to creating content for your program. For example, sales and customer success teams can help invite new advocates to join your program and give you ideas for opportunities you can field to your advocates.

Why an upfront time investment in advocacy pays off

By investing time into the initial launch—and getting help from the Professional Services team—Lea has scaled Friends of Kareo and brought more people into the program without greatly increasing her time commitment.

“Our new customer advocacy program makes it much easier for me to collect sales references,” says Lea. “We can track more information about each reference, and the turnaround time is much shorter.”

Within four months, Kareo’s advocates have:

  • Posted 148 reviews on third-party software review sites
  • Provided 40 new customer references (with 73 in progress)
  • Created 135 testimonials
  • Completed 3,579 challenges

“I’m still getting into a groove, so my workload will decrease over time as I figure things out,” says Lea. “But we’re getting so much more value from the program that all of my efforts are worth it.”

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