In the most recent installment of our thought leadership webinar series, we had the chance to chat with Laura Ramos, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research about a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Influitive, “Prioritize Postsale Customer Marketing To Drive Business Value and Growth.”

The webinar was jam packed with great questions from the audience. So many in fact, that we didn’t have time to address them all live. Read on to hear Laura’s perspective on key measurements, where customer marketing should sit within an organization, and how to mitigate advocate burnout.

What are some specific areas that we should measure to demonstrate advocacy’s impact on both new and renewal business? 

There are definitely quantitative elements you can measure easily that tie to your business, like percentage of referral business, but you should also consider metrics that demonstrate growth in engagement amongst your customer base. For example, consider measuring the percentage of accounts that are involved in customer advocacy, the names and logos of those acting as advocates for your business, and the quantity of activities each advocate is taking on. 

You also need to look at what types of activities are being taken on and what kinds of assets are being produced as a result of that advocacy. Over time you should know which activities are increasing or decreasing and adjust accordingly. You also need to know how these acts of advocacy are helping your sales organization accelerate new business opportunities and ultimately close deals. 

Conversely, you must also measure the value that customers are getting out of your advocacy programs. Without that knowledge, you can’t truly understand your customers and build relationships and goodwill with them. 

Where should customer marketing sit within an organization?

This will of course depend on the size of your organization, but I believe that customer advocacy should report into the Chief Marketing Officer and sit within the marketing department. Ultimately, marketing is the part of every organization that has the most to gain by having strong customer advocacy because those advocates will create assets that would otherwise cost marketing considerable time and resources. There’s no question that the quality of your assets increase when customers are involved in the creation process because you’re projecting the authentic voices that prospects want to hear from when they are making buying decisions. 

Typically, how large are customer advocacy teams? 

Forrester recently surveyed this topic and asked “how much headcount is dedicated towards the idea of customer marketing.” We found that when customer marketing was tied to advocacy, the number of team members was actually quite small. I don’t think that’s enough investment. If you’re a large mid-market or enterprise company, you’re going to need a customer marketing team that is commensurate in size to what you’re doing for demand generation. Your customer marketing function really needs to focus on existing customers and be able to support sales and customer success management teams by creating communications and content that are relevant to the post-sale experience. That can include initiatives like customer advocacy programs, acknowledging key milestones along the customer journey and more.  

How do you prioritize acts of advocacy so we surface the actions customer advocates would like to take without burning them out? 

When speaking to Forrester clients about this, I always advise them to really understand their advocate’s preferences and refer them to our four advocate personalities: Educators, Validators, Status Seekers and Collaborators. You need to match up your customer advocates with a personality type which will help you determine which ways they’ll want to engage with you. 

For example, Educators best fit community engagement activities whereas Status Seekers will want to speak at events on your behalf. This helps ensure you aren’t hitting advocates with every request every time. 

You will need to look out for gaps in acts of advocacy and motivate members to participate based on their preferences. 

How can you best expedite customer corporate approvals to produce customer-generated content?

Don’t be a stranger to your customers until you want to ask something of them. Be involved in their early stages of being a customer so that when they become loyal, successful advocates, that ask for a case study won’t be as surprising. If along the way they’ve shared their successes with you, you’ll know when they’ve achieved important milestones, crushed their goals and can bring everything together holistically and that case study just became even easier to write and approve! 

Every customer is different and approval cycles will always exist. Thinking back to those advocate personalities I shared, your Status Seekers will be motivated to cut through the red tape of approvals to get their story out there. That said, be prepared in some cases to move forward with content that is either anonymous or combine many anonymous stories to create a composite of your customer’s experience. 

How should organizations best manage customer communications?

I think it’s important to think about the ways you are delivering information (tactics) and the message itself. The message should be crafted and owned by your customer marketing team. The message should always focus on how you’re making customers successful and what value they are getting from you. You want the message to scream, “don’t you want the same kind of value? Let us show you how we can do that!” 

The customer marketing function, first and foremost, should be a content organization rather than an operational organization and must work closely with your different channel owners in marketing and sales to ensure the content is optimized for each channel and circumstance in which it’s being used for.  

Lastly, always make sure that content has substantiating proof, data and evidence needed so that what you’re saying to the market has impact for the customers you’re speaking about. 

Listen to the full webinar recording to hear more from Laura about the value of customer marketing and advocacy programs. Be sure to check out our Webinars page for upcoming thought leadership events.