At Influitive, we’re building a new software category around the idea of advocate marketing (also sometimes called “advocacy marketing”).
Naturally, we get a lot of questions about what we do and how we do it. So, we’ve rounded up the most common ones we receive and answered them.
But, we’re doing one thing differently: we’ve asked our customers—who are some amazing advocate marketers—to chime in, too.
1. What is “advocacy/advocate marketing”?
Advocate marketing (or advocacy marketing) is the process of harnessing the voices and experiences of your company’s customers to power your marketing and engagement strategies.
Here’s the less jargon-y version: advocate marketing is a system for making customers happy, and then capitalizing on that happiness to achieve your business’ goals. It’s more authentic than traditional marketing because it’s powered by real human connections.
By the way, if you tap into your customers for references, case studies, testimonials, feedback, etc., you’re already “doing” advocate marketing in some small way.
Mind = Blown
Our advocates’ definitions:
“Advocate marketing IS modern marketing: it’s where you spend more time helping your clients, who then talk about you to others because of all the results you’ve helped them achieve—instead of spending more time on traditional marketing that keeps you tied up and too busy to be there for your clients.”
–Margaux Novak, former Product Marketing Manager at Virgin Pulse
“Advocate marketing is nurturing your customers to help them move from brand satisfaction to loyalty to advocacy to love.”
–Liz Pedro, Director of Customer Advocacy at Five9
“Advocate marketing is the act of building a strong two-way relationship with your clients, where they feel comfortable asking you for help and support, and you (the marketers) can rely on them for reviews, referrals, and numerous other acts of advocacy.”
- Watch this short video that explains advocate marketing
2. How does advocate marketing work?
Inspiring people to continually advocate for you is a really simple formula:
- Step 1. Give them something they want or value.
- Step 2. Offer them a variety of ways to advocate.
- Step 3. Recognize them when they go to bat for you.
Advocate marketing works best when you develop a formal system for discovering, nurturing and mobilizing your potential advocates. This is also known as an advocate marketing program or advocate community.
Our advocate’s take:
“We engage with our advocates on a personal level, while helping them hone their skills to become industry influencers who can represent us in the field. Advocacy is far more powerful than traditional means of marketing, allowing us to reach prospects and users in meaningful, emotionally-engaged ways. We are no longer outside knocking on the door trying to sell them something, but a partner of one of their friends, family members, or trusted colleagues. This completely changes the dynamics of the conversation.”
–Mike Stowe, Director of Community at Tigera.io
3. This sounds nice, but what is the ROI of advocate marketing? How will it help me hit my goals? HAVE YOU SEEN MY TARGETS?!
Rather than tell you about this ourselves, we’ll let some of our advocates explain why advocacy is a necessity.
An advocate marketing program gives your company an ‘on-demand’ community that can be called upon to quickly support your marketing efforts, defend your brand, provide critical feedback, and help close revenue. Here’s a high-level look at the three main areas where advocacy can deliver huge value to your business:
1. Reach a wider audience through trusted channels
Nobody believes what you say about your brand. They believe what other people say about you. Advocates can help increase brand sentiment and buyer trust by sharing their positive experiences on social networks, review websites, at in-person events, in case studies and so much more.
2. Accelerate sales pipeline and revenue
Sales cycles are getting longer and buying committees are getting larger—which makes forecasting and closing business harder. Surrounding buyers with advocate social proof (via references, reviews, case studies, and more) throughout the entire buyer journey is the fastest way to make them trust your solution. Also, without a formal advocacy strategy, you’re missing out on valuable warm referral leads from your advocates, which close faster than other types of leads.
3. Increase customer engagement, retention and growth
Buyers have lots of choice—so they’re picking vendors who will be invested in their long-term success. An advocate marketing program allows you to regularly engage, educate and communicate with customers so they feel appreciated and heard. Plus, it keeps your brand top of mind. The results? Decreased churn, new account growth via cross-sell/upsells, and higher overall customer satisfaction—which usually means an increase in customer advocacy, too. (See how we did that?)
Our advocate’s take:
[Our advocate marketing program] has supported our strategy in improving our renewals and expansions, but more than that, it has changed the way we interact with our customers and opened new doors for referrals. Ultimately, it touches all aspects of the sales cycle. Prior to Influitive, the only lines of personal communication we had with customers was via account managers. We [now] have the opportunity to easily collect testimonials, quotes, stories, guest blog posts, round up blog posts, online reviews, and so much more.” –Jennifer Skogen, Customer Marketing & Advocacy at DreamBox Learning
4. Isn’t this just like an online community? Or a reference program? We already a bunch of engagement programs. We don’t need more!
Advocate marketing programs can replace redundant or under-performing engagement programs. The right customer advocacy platform (shameless plug!) can often handle the functions of:
- Reference programs
- Referral programs
- Online communities
- Rewards/loyalty programs
Advocate marketing programs can also run alongside existing one to make them more successful. And, with the right integrations, the advocate experience can be seamless.
Our advocate’s take:
“We use both an advocacy program and an online community within our company. While they have certain similarities, they provide different values for us. Our online community is used more for technical aspects and discussions between members. We use our advocacy hub to engage more personally with our “champions” in order to gain testimonials, references, reviews, and overall feedback. It is crucial for us to have both an online community and an advocacy program!” –Carly Snyder, Associate Marketing Programs Manager at Blackbaud
5. Who’s going to advocate for my company? I don’t think anyone would put time into this…
Good news: you already have advocates who are talking about you! An advocate marketing program simply lets you organize the process of uncovering, nurturing and mobilizing them. Humans like to advocate for things we love. This psychological urge is called reciprocity, and it’s hardwired into our brains. We often feel obliged to give back to people who help us. As long as you give advocates something valuable, they’re happy to return the favor. This video explains how it works in the context of an advocate marketing program:
Trust us: everybody advocates—no matter their industry or title. Our customers helped us write a series of guides explaining how to engage advocates in different verticals, including:
- The C-suite
- Project managers/consultants
Plus, advocates aren’t always customers. They can also be employees, partners, or investors.
Here’s what some of our customers’ advocates say about the programs:
“I was sold on the program as soon as I joined. I thought ‘This is brilliant.’ The advocate program should be where power users go first for product ideas. This program is the best I’ve seen.”
-Josh Miller, Program Manager, Operational Effectiveness at a global courier delivery service; advocate in the QuickBase Heroes program
“If I didn’t participate in the advocate program, I would have no idea about some of the SMART product features. It’s also fun. It makes me feel a little bit closer to [the SMART team].”
-Jose Halupa, Manager, training developer and evangelist at Cineplex; advocate in SMART’s Collaboration Champions program
“[This program] made me feel like, ‘Hey, we truly value you as a person and as a user. It connects you not only to MongoDB, but to the developer community at large. Being a part of that is always fun.”
-Douglas Duncan, database administrator; advocate in the MongoDB Advocacy Hub
6. How do I incentivize my advocates to get the most out of a program?
The key to a successful advocacy strategy is understanding what truly motivates your advocates. Is it access? Influence? Clout? Perks? Networking? Getting results with your solution? Career advancement? (Hint: The best way to find out is to ask them.)
Once you’ve know this, you can engage your advocates properly and trigger acts of advocacy. Offer them opportunities build community, gain status, be recognized and learn. Then, they’ll be happy to advocate for you.
Here’s the real *secret sauce*: let your team get personal with your advocates. When advocates know and like the real people behind your advocacy requests, they’ll be more inclined to help. Plus, your team will enjoy building lifelong relationships with your advocates, too. (Aww!)
Our advocate’s take:
“We were expecting only a small uptake when we launched [our advocate marketing program]. However, we quickly saw that when you ask advocates to do one thing, they’ll do much more. I invited our Blackbaud Champions to try and get 30 referrals in 30 days because I was turning 30. I told them it would make me really happy. We ended up getting thirty referrals in six days. It was one of the most successful referral campaigns that we’ve done, because it was personal.”
–Michael Beahm, Senior Marketing Manager at Blackbaud
- 4 powerful motivators for customer advocates
- 4 meaningful ways to recognize your brand advocates
- Guide: Everything you need to know about customer success
7. How do I get buy-in for this? There’s no budget for advocate marketing.
Getting buy-in for something new can feel daunting. That’s why we’ve written a lot on this topic. (See the helpful resources section below for our top pieces.)
Advocate marketing programs can help every department hit their goals. They can also save your team a lot of effort when it comes to sourcing customers for specific tasks. (Your account/customer success managers will appreciate it!)
If your company says it’s “customer-obsessed,” making the case for an advocate marketing strategy shouldn’t be too tough. You could also send them this post 😉
Our advocate’s take:
“Customers are often the solution to many department business objectives. Our advocates have had a phenomenal impact on our product development. Their feedback shortens our engineering and quality assurance cycles. Product Management engages customers for visionary executive councils. Human resources receives new employee referrals, and support is lightening its load by having customers support other customers.”
–Carlos Gonzales, Vice President of Customer Support Operations at Ceridian
- How to get funds and build a budget for advocate marketing
- A step-by-step outline for getting internal buy-in
- Why you don’t need as much time as you think to get an advocacy program going
8. Why do I need an advocacy solution? I think we can do this ourselves…
You *can* do advocate marketing with email and/or spreadsheets—but that’s not really scalable for building relationships with a large number of people.
An advocate marketing platform (sorry, last shameless plug!) will make generating advocacy easy, engaging and rewarding for your team and your advocates.
Plus, with the right integrations, it can easily help you measure the value advocates bring to your business.
Our advocate’s take:
“Before we had [an advocate marketing program], we were doing our advocacy activity manually, but none of it was scalable…it [was] easy to track things, but not to generate advocacy. That’s what drew us to Influitive. We have around 5,000 customers and 1 million users, so not everyone gets a close relationship with a sales rep. Influitive helps bridge the gap—allowing us to get to know our customers better, and allowing them to interact with us in ways that are meaningful and add value to their experience with our product.”
–Davin Wilfrid, Customer & Advocate Marketing Manager at QuickBase