This is the third of an ongoing series that will cover the journey of starting Crimson Hexagon’s customer advocacy program.
In the first post of this series, we looked at building a team. The second post looked at the plumbing or data integrity of the contacts and customers in the program.
If data integrity is the foundation of your advocacy program, a crucial set of pipes are your automated customer email communications. These are often hidden behind the walls and can include:
- New customer welcome
- Registering for a user account
- New user welcome (often a series)
- Event registration confirmation
- Thank you note after an event
- Support ticket open and close
- Pre and post account renewal notifications
We have all received automated emails with broken URL’s, promoting programs that no longer exist and out of date messaging. The author is probably long gone and it may even be hard to figure out where they are being launched from; the platform, the marketing automation or CRM system. Since these are automated, they are out of sight and, therefore, can be out of mind.
Suggestion: To collect these emails, become a user of your product.
Typically, advocacy gets launched after there are enough customers receiving all sorts of communications. Here, I’m sharing how you can plan to effectively communicate with customers and advocates so they have an optimal experience—not just a flood of emails.
But first… establish your tone of voice
Before you start planning your communications, your most important concern should be the tone of your communications. Be honest with yourself: are they all about us and our product?
One of the best customer presentations I saw while at Brainshark was created by Aviva, a UK financial services firm. As part of their re-branding, in 3.5 minutes, Our Tone of Voice made the point that it is not about the vendor, but the customer. All customer-facing communications—from how the phone is answered to text in the help center—should convey the tone you want to get across.
I will never forget a talk Tim Riesterer, the Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Corporate Visions, gave at a conference about companies that we-we-we all over themselves in their communications. As an example, this is from the Getting Started section of Crimson Hexagon’s Help Center. It is followed by the updated version.
Here in the Crimson Help Center, we have assembled a collection of materials that will help you become acquainted with our products. To begin, we have the Get Started section, which provides a walk through of the basic tools and functionality in our platform. Once you complete this introductory series, you can dig deeper into best practices and advanced techniques in our various Help Center sections. We also have a Community space where you can interact directly with our team and clients.
The original has 8 we’s. Let’s try again…with just 2 we-we’s.
Welcome to the Help Center. This is the best place to learn about the Crimson Hexagon platform, product updates, events, classes, and more. Start your journey at Basic Users. Then dig deeper into Advanced Users, Tips & Tricks, and Resources.
You are now part of a growing community of social media professionals that use social data analytics and insights to drive organizational strategies. If you have any questions go to Ask the Community to interact with other users and the Crimson Hexagon staff.
Suggestion: At least once per year, check your automated emails and other customer facing communications for their accuracy and tone of voice.
To start a customer newsletter or not—that is the question…
Let’s circle back to the importance of data integrity in relation to email communications. Data integrity is a lot like home renovations; try to fix a wall and before you know it you have the plumbers and electricians in.
As part of our initial data audit, I discovered that about 30% of our users in Salesforce.com were set up 2+ years ago and were not given access to the platform by their companies. Some customers literally bulk uploaded their entire employee database. Fortunately, we have other lists and can easily identify sub-groups of users and we will not have to bother the non-users in customer communications.
My instinct is vendors can send an all customer/user mailing no more than one time per month with an additional targeted email 2 times per month (i.e. inviting customers to a User Group in their city). That said, lots of internal constituencies have to communicate with customers. The product group announces new and upcoming features, marketing generates thought leadership, training offers new classes, client services surveys customers….
Newsletters seem old school. However, there is no better way to get three to four messages across in one communication. The original plan was to just send an email with four items—but that was sort of like going to a party without showering and shaving. We quickly decided to be presentable (and spruced up our design a bit). Customers were pleased with the result. It also turned out that our 200 employees were super excited to see what and how we were communicating with customers.
Suggestion: Make sure you send the customer newsletter to employees.
Coming up with a name is always tough, and you can imagine the brainstorming session which resulted in the first edition of Hexagon Happenings. But wait, once we got going we looked at all of our programs and thought about a naming convention. So, starting with “Hexa”, we named the newsletter HexaNEWS, webinars are HexaLIVE and the Influtive platform is HexaHUB.
HexaNews will not have a first of the month cadence. Rather, it will come out every 6 weeks or so, based upon the product team’s schedule and each issue will include a product update, customer use case, and upcoming events.
The open rate was 37% as compared to the 20% average for customer newsletters. The good news is that after 8 issues, even though we added less frequent users of our platform, the open rates have remained consistent..
Going beyond newsletters to reach customer advocates
There are others ways to reach your advocates without flooding their inbox:
• Log-in page. According to Sirius Decisions a B-B research and advisory firm. Every time someone logs in is an opportunity to communicate. This is very effective, especially for active users. The key is to refresh the login page at least once, if not two to three times, per week.
• In-app messaging. A company’s Product and Engineering team can be very reluctant to allow for communicating with customers through the actual platform. There are some legitimate concerns on one hand and turf issues on the other. At Crimson, the Product team experimented with Intercom’s, in-app customer messaging products as a way of reaching out to users. Once they decided it was safe and viable, Intercom was made available to Support and Advocacy, We are still working on governance. The key benefits of in-app messaging are to lower the need for e-mail and communicating with platform users in context.
• Company website. There’s no reason why customer events and advocacy opportunities cannot be highlighted in the events section of the web page.
• Landing page. When our customers register for training, user groups or workshops, we expose them to all the ways they can get involved with the brand by linking them to the Crimson landing page.
• Cross-promotion. Mention upcoming events, advocacy campaigns and initiatives during online and on-site events and highlight them in any follow-up.
Moving forward, in HexaNEWS we expect to create targeted editions for unique audiences. Agency customers might receive a different lead article, decision-makers would see some thought leadership, or an international use-case would be highlighted for international customers.
Another initiative is better nurturing accounts that do not receive a Customer Success Manager. Companies align their CSM’s in many ways (geography, industry, contract value), and the reality is that not all customers receive a fully engaged CSM. It just does not scale. That said, there is a lot that can be done by creating an email and in-app messaging nurture stream on behalf of customers that do not receive a CSM.
It is incumbent on advocacy to constantly be tweaking our approach, messaging, and methods of reaching out to customers.