What does it take for brands to have thriving customer advocates?
Well, the common thread uniting these successful advocacy programs is that the companies driving them are all customer-obsessed.
So, what does it actually take to be “customer-obsessed?”
Last week, Lauren Turner – the Director of Global Customer Marketing at Qlik – walked us through that process. You can catch the full recording of the webinar here, but read on for a high-level recap of some key takeaways.
Why Be ‘Customer-Obsessed?’
It’s all about building genuine relationships with your customers. You want them to personally connect with your brand and the people behind it. When your customers see that you’re listening to them and acting on their ideas, their acts of advocacy will begin to emerge much more organically.
However, you won’t get long-lasting advocacy if you only excite or engage the customer for just one moment in time. That initial excitement will eventually fade.
Rather, you want to engage your customer throughout the entire customer journey, especially after they’ve signed onto your product or service.
‘The Empathy Gap’
It turns out that 90% of companies actually think they understand their customers.
This is good news in that, at least at some level, brands know that they should be focusing on the customer. Unfortunately, most of these brands aren’t!
In reality, only 38% of customers say that the companies they engage with understand them.
Lauren highlighted that brands are “grossly overestimating” how customer centric they really are. That’s the “empathy gap” that’s keeping customers away from becoming advocates.
Your Chance to Stand Out
COVID pushed a lot of companies to become customer-centric. So, in that period, we saw more investment in engaging customers, listening to them, and enhancing their experience.
However, Lauren highlighted how in the current climate (e.g., with more re-openings), brands are falling back to their old habits. In fact, consumers are finding that the customer experience today is no better than it was pre-COVID.
So, with companies letting up on the gas pedal, you have a chance now to differentiate yourself. The brands that drive customer-obsession the right way could gain a huge advantage over their competitors.
How to Become Customer-Obsessed
Lauren laid out her three-phased strategy for becoming a customer-obsessed brand. This is also the same strategy Lauren used to nurture her customers into advocates. In a way, these goals are closely intertwined; so, when working on one, you’re also working on the other.
Phase 1: Elevate
This is the start of the customer’s journey. You’re working to help them better understand your company, the brand, and your products and services.
Talk to Customers as Customers
You need content that specifically speaks to your customers.
Lauren discussed how a lot of companies don’t get this step right. They tend to lean on their existing content as-is. However, this content is usually written for prospects. As a result, your customers will get stuff that sound like sales pitches.
Your customers are already bought in. You’re not trying to sell to them. Rather, you now have to focus on what comes after they’ve onboarded with you.
Basically, shift away from sales-based messaging. Focus on how they can leverage the product better and make it more relevant to them.
For example, get a stock of the goals your customers are trying to achieve. Use that information to create guides or webinars that show them how to use your product to achieve those goals.
You can also create content that helps customers navigate the customer experience. This could include how-to’s on getting technical support, scheduling training for end-users, getting updates about upcoming features, and so on.
You should also sync with your other teams, like the product team and customer success. Doing so will ensure you engage your customers on the right foot.
For example, collaborating with your other teams can help avoid conflicting messaging. You can also deliver a consistent brand experience across all of your channels. Finally, you’ll also get on the same page in terms of when and how to communicate with your customers.
Make Them Excited
The goal of this phase is to nurture your customers’ loyalty. They don’t yet have an established opinion of your company. So, you’ll want to shape that view in your favor by providing them with the resources they need to succeed.
The relevant content we described above is key. But in addition to that, you should also make an effort to understand who your customers are as people. Look past their role and employer, see what makes them ‘click’ as individuals.
They have personal preferences, goals, ideas, hobbies, plans for the future and more. To build a strong relationship with your customers, you need to know who they are.
Moreover, different people resonate with different incentives and rewards. You’ll want to ensure that you’re providing a good mix of incentives so that you’re motivating everyone.
Lauren provided a framework for recognizing and rewarding customers: her ‘5 Customer Love Languages’ (see the clip):
Your program needs to show your customers that you’re interested in them as individuals. They need to know that you want to help them achieve their goals. If they sense that buy in from you, then your job of making them excited and supportive of the brand gets much easier.
Phase 2: Activate
Once you establish the relationship, you can invite your customers to your advocacy program.
Today, audiences trust other people more than brands.
As a result, customer advocates carry strong voices in today’s landscape. So, a passionate customer promoting your brand is a powerful asset.
But it’s important to give back too!
Think about what makes your customers ‘click’ as individuals. Look at linking their personal and professional goals to your advocacy program.
Help your advocates standout in their networks by building their personal branding. Position them as experts on your product and their area of work as a whole. Help them get their next promotion, or job, or reward.
If you pave the way for their personal or professional growth, you’ll get a customer for life.
Make Your Teams Customer-Obsessed
Lauren emphasized that it’s critical to get your other teams onboard.
To become a truly customer-obsessed company, you need to spend a lot of time with other stakeholders in your company.
You want to make sure that your advocacy program is consistent with the company’s vision and strategy. Get buy-in from important people in your company, especially your executive leaders.
Not only does company-wide buy-in help with alignment, but it can make your job easier too.
For example, your customer success (CS) team can nominate potential customers for advocacy. The CS team could also give you a pulse of how your customers are actually feeling. This gives you a lot of valuable insight when shaping your program.
To win the other teams over, you need to link customer advocacy to their departmental goals.
For example, if more customers take on the role of helping their peers with product support or best practices, that could free up time for your CSMs. In turn, your CSMs can focus on more strategic conversations with your customers.
Similarly, your product team can give customers an inside look into the product roadmap. They can even invite customer advocates to take part in beta-testing new releases.
To the customer, beta-testing recognizes their expertise by giving them an exclusive insight of the product. It positions the customer as an insider and expert on your product. In addition, the customer gets a chance to provide input.
To the product team, beta-testing gives them valuable user-based insights about a new release or offering. They can iron out the kinks and ensure the release meets customer expectations.
Share the Data
Lauren found that one of the biggest roadblocks to being customer-centric are silos that keep data and customer insights away from other eyes.
You need that information to get in front of the whole team.
First, that information helps elevate customer marketing as a whole in your organization. It gives other teams and executive leaders tangible proof that advocacy is working.
Second, the information also gives other teams a complete picture of what your customers are actually thinking about. It helps them get to where their customers actually are.
The final phase is to scale your nurturing and advocacy strategy to all of your customers.
Lauren discussed how she launched a platform to deliver relevant content to Qlik customers, inform them about events, inspire them with peer success stories, and provide support.
“Have you worked in a company that wasn’t customer-obsessed?”
Lauren: “Yes I have. Several years ago, I was a Product Manager. I was actually on the product development side of things. The products were completely determined in a bubble by engineers who were convinced they know what customers want more than customers.
They ended up with products that were built with the idea, ‘Because we know better than the customers, all we need to do is build it. If we build it, they will come.’
And they built it, and nobody came. It was a very expensive experiment for a product that went to market that did not resonate with customers.
Had they actually done the proper research and talked to customers beforehand to understand what their customer needs were, they would have recognized that the aesthetics of the product were actually as important as the guts inside.
People really cared about being able to personalize their experience with color. And offering just one color option to customers did not resonate with them. So, they ended up getting crushed when another competitor came out with color options. It was a very painful lesson and they got onboard with customer research much, much more quickly after that!”
Doesn’t being customer-obsessed require a fully bought-in executive team?
Lauren: “Ideally, you’re going to get to customer-obsession a lot faster when you have a spearheaded program or culture that’s driven by your C-Suite.
It’s not 100% necessary, but I’d say it’s 95% necessary.
If you have an army of really committed people at the lower segment of things who can push that type of culture and a C-Suite that can be convinced, then you could get there.
But it would be infinitely easier when you have buy-in from the highest levels of your company, who recognize how important customers are and be involved at every step of your journey.
If you don’t have that buy-in or see resistance from the top, it’s very difficult.”
Are there scenarios where you have to re-engage certain customers who aren’t as active in your communities?
Lauren: “Absolutely. Ebb and flow are a natural part of every program. It involves carefully planning out activities and types of communications to customers who lapsed.
An event is a really good way to get people started. We recently had an online version of our user conference.
That was a great place for us to reach out to customers who haven’t been as active in the community to know about upcoming events they might want to participate in. We also had special rewards that tied into that.
I’m constantly doing analysis within our Influitive Qlik Nation Hub to be able to see who has lapsed. We have automatic emails that go out to folks saying we miss them, to figure out what’s happened. And sometimes people don’t engage because they’re super busy, so if you give them a compelling enough reason to come back, they will.”