New Research: Here Are The 5 Learning Stages All Advocate Marketing Experts Go Through

At the heart of every successful advocacy program is a single marketer—a forward-thinker, a trailblazer, an innovator—who recognized the power of advocate marketing and ran with it.

It takes a special kind of marketing professional to plan, execute, and measure the success of an advocacy marketing program—especially since they also must continually demonstrate to their company that this new kind of program is just as worthwhile as demand generation and content marketing.

Our product team recently undertook a study in which they researched, surveyed, and interviewed dozens of successful advocate marketing managers. They then analyzed their results to uncover five specific stages that each of them progressed through in order to eventually become advocate marketing masters.

In this blog, we’ll outline these five stages and how to progress to the next one no matter what level you’re at. Plus, we’ll share tips for identifying who will really shine as an advocate marketer if you’re looking to hire one (or to get hired as one!).

The advocate marketer’s professional development stages

Stage 1: Learning the basics of advocate marketing programs

Advocate marketers at this stage are new to advocate marketing as a whole, and are eager to learn more.

It’s important that  advocate marketing managers at this level are really bought into the program and are committed to creating the best advocate experience possible. They may also need help planning how to launch a program and setting up its basic goals.

How to move to the next step: At this stage, it’s crucial to focus on learning as much as possible about how to run a successful advocacy program.

Take inspiration from various sources and make connections with other advocate marketers you can learn from. Here are a few places and resources you can use:

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Make sure to experiment with different types of challenges (from fun to educational) and wording to see what gets you the most engagement from your advocates. This will help you learn what your advocates value and what makes them tick—which you’ll need to know to make your program an ongoing success.

Above all else, if you don’t see results as soon as you’d like, stay positive! Building up advocacy among your customers takes time, but it’s an investment worth making. Remember to start with smaller asks of your advocates (like social shares or surveys) before making big requests (like referrals or advocate-written blogs) to warm them up to the idea of advocating.

Stage 2: Learning your advocates’ motivations and needs

At this point, advocate marketers are enthusiastic about their program, but might not be as knowledgeable about advocate marketing best practices, or about their customer base

Now that they’re comfortable with the fundamentals and their program has been established, it’s time to gain a deeper awareness of what their advocates are hoping to get out of the program.

How to move to the next step: At this stage, it’s crucial to start developing an understanding of the different advocate personas you’re dealing with. Whether they’re divided by product line, role, or simply by personality type, learning what motivates your advocates is key to getting  them to return to your program.

Developing advocate personas and asking for advocate feedback will be invaluable at this stage to see if you’re on the right track. Talk to your advocates as much as possible, whether it’s at user groups or even just calling them on the phone. Create challenges that will help you get to know what they’re interested in, so you can provide a special experience for them.

This can also be a great time to focus on the kinds of rewards your advocates are seeing in your program. Rather than just providing swag (which advocates will quickly lose interest in) make sure you’re including rewards that provide real value in a variety of different ways, such as 1:1 time with the members of your marketing team or discounted tickets to your annual conference.

Here are a few resources you can use to get to the next level:

Stage 3: Improving internal alignment

At this stage, advocate marketers have built a strong foundation for advocacy, and are skilled at engaging the different segments of their customer base.

However, other people in their organization have to be on the same page in order for the program to really thrive. Advocate marketers might be struggling with getting their program visible, or aligning it with core goals of their company—which can put their advocate marketing resources in jeopardy.

How to move to the next step: To help your program grow, it’s crucial to find other people who can champion your program internally. If your teammates don’t know how well your advocate marketing program is engaging customers, they won’t buy into it, or just won’t know how to help it excel.

Here’s a few resources that can help:

Presenting program successes regularly to your department can also help your teammates come up with challenge ideas—reducing the burden on you. Once you start doing this, it’s also a great time to create a process around it—for example, our Advocate Marketing Manager created a quick Google form for anyone company-wide who has an idea for a challenge.

Stage 4: Show me the moneyAt this point, advocate marketers are seeing tons of value from their program (and their customers likely are too!), but they may not be tracking the impact advocates are having on the company with the hard ROI their execs can understand. They also might not have created specific goals they want to hit on a quarterly or yearly basis.

How to move to the next step: Now that your program is well-known internally, it’s the perfect time to integrate with other software to ensure program value is easy to share.

It’s no secret that execs love metrics, so creating specific goals and tracking your results will help keep your program around for the long haul. One way to do this is by creating dashboards in your CRM that allow you to see how your advocacy program is impacting demand generation, as well as customer engagement.

Here’s a few resources you can use to demonstrate ROI internally:

Don’t forget to work with your executive champion to set goals for your program. This will help keep it at the top of your mind and make it easier for you to focus your program efforts.

Stage 5: Advocate marketing mastery

At this point, the company recognizes the value of an advocate marketing program, even seeing it as the natural home for all customer engagement efforts. Advocates of all different kinds are also seeing tons of value in the program.

How to move to the next step: If you’ve made it this far, you’re well on your way to becoming an advocate marketing expert.

Here are some new ways to increase your results and innovate in your program:

  • Continue to connect and learn from others. Consider attending advocacy events or conferences like Advocamp to increase your knowledge and get new ideas.
  • Get some recognition for your customer engagement efforts by applying  to marketing awards with an engagement or customer-centric marketing category, such as the Best Advocate Marketing Awards (BAMMIES) and B2B Marketing Awards. .
  • Continue to champion your program internally. Find more ways to get more executive visibility and put advocates into your marketing and sales process, such as featuring advocates in your ads.
  • Dive deeper into other departments, like customer success and product development. There’s tons of fertile ground there to increase product adoption and retention, speed up onboarding, and craft a holistic customer experience across your company.
  • Continuously seek ways to grow your program and open it up to more advocates. Consider implementing an advocacy program for a new group, such as employees, influencers, partners, investors—any stakeholder group who’d be willing to help you drive more organizational value.

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How to find the ideal advocate marketer

Although every advocate marketer goes through these stages, there are certain personality traits that most of them will have in common which will help them succeed.

When hiring for the position (or if you’re interested in the role yourself), keep in mind that an advocate marketer’s key responsibilities will likely include:

  1. Program design – Managing the program design and planning process.
  2. Identification and onboarding – Creating the programs to discover and onboard advocates.
  3. Advocate engagement – Developing, executing, and measuring advocacy campaigns.
  4. Metrics and optimization – Measuring the effectiveness of the program by tracking and reporting on operational and strategic metrics.
  5. Recognition and reward programs – Creating and fulfilling an advocate rewards system.utho

(For an in-depth job description, see this blog.)

To find an advocate marketing manager for your company, consider looking for candidates with the following skills:

  1. The ability to connect with others and learn what drives them to act.
  2. A passion for online community or customer engagement program management (former content, social, or customer marketers can also succeed in these types of roles).
  3. Creative copywriting and campaign creation skills (which they’ll need to create fun, personalized experiences for advocates).
  4. Analytical skills to help them track the success and impact of their advocate marketing programs.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro at advocate marketing, there is always room for improvement. We hope you’ve found some helpful ways to level up your advocate marketing game—let us know how you’re planning to improve in the comments below!

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