Customer advocacy is increasingly becoming a “need-to-have” for brands, rather than simply a “nice-to-have”. Research has proven time and time again that buyers—a whopping 83% of them— trust their peers more than big brands.

When it comes to B2B purchase decisions, the influence of customer references and testimonials is second only to previous customer experience in motivation to buy, according to a study from SiriusDecisions.

Having a strong customer advocacy program doesn’t just benefit your marketing team—its impact can be leveraged across the organization, including Product Development, Sales or Customer Success.

However, there are some common pitfalls that businesses can run into when it comes time to launch a customer advocacy program.

Thanks to SiriusDecisions’ new three-step customer advocacy model, you can avoid these missteps and set a clear path to achieving your goals.

The SiriusDecisions Customer Advocacy Model
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The SiriusDecisions Customer Advocacy Model outlines the stages to delivering an outstanding customer advocacy program. The sequence of steps is important to follow for optimal success. Here’s how the three-step model works.

Stage 1: Define

The first step to setting up your advocacy plan is nailing down what you hope to accomplish with an advocacy program in the first place. Having a clear “why” behind everything you’re doing will help guide your program as it scales.

Your first course of action will be to set your program goals—the problems you’re trying to solve or the outcomes you’re hoping to incite. These goals can cover a wide range of activities such as:

  • Accelerating existing pipeline
  • Generating more product reviews on third-party sites
  • Increasing social media reach
  • Sourcing more referrals

These objectives will most likely be subject to change as you take inventory of the top priorities for your business and the technology you have at your disposal. That’s your next task—defining the scope of your program.

You’ll also need to collect insights on your progress towards your goals in a measurable way. Make sure to determine which metrics you’ll be using to track the impact of your program (be it NPS score, social shares, or reviews on third party sites) and ensure the data on which these metrics rely is both accessible and reliable.

Most common pitfall: In the define stage, what most commonly trip teams up are a lack of clarity as to what the program goals are, and an undefined plan for measuring progress.

Superstar Example: Wiley

The publishing company Wiley set lofty goals for their advocate community WileyPLUS Studio, but was able to deliver on them by selecting clear KPIs that would help them measure their success.

Customer Success Advocacy Manager Christine Moore and her team set out to improve Wiley’s retention rates, increase adoption of their current platform and boost conversions for their newly revamped WileyPLUS product.

In choosing asks for their customers that had clear, measurable results (such as getting advocates to sign up for limited free product trials and disseminating product feedback surveys), Wiley was able to incite:

  • 14% reduction of churn on WileyPLUS Studio member accounts
  • 90% conversion rate of limited free trial users to Wiley’s current platform
  • 98% retention rate for accounts of users paired with Student Partners

Stage 2: Design

Once you’ve settled on a clear direction for your advocacy program’s goals and how you intend to measure your progress, next comes the critical planning of what your program will look like. Now’s the time to decide on:

  • Where your program will live and what your technology needs are
  • The visual aspect of your advocacy program (name, logo, and other branding and design work)
  • Who your program’s stakeholders are and where dependencies may lie
  • Where you’ll need to align with other departments and whether there are any smaller advocacy initiatives currently taking place in specific departments

You’ll also need to understand what a quality advocate looks like to you. Some acts of advocacy are more worth the effort it takes to nurture them.

For instance, it’s great if one of your happy customers wants to share your content on social media, but are they willing and able to share their story in front of an audience of over 3,000 people? These are the kinds of advocates you’ll want to invest in. You can better prioritize your efforts by outlining advocate personas and determining what their strengths and limitations are.

Most common pitfall: The most common misstep that occurs in the design stage is teams’ lack of defined advocate personas.

Superstar Example: ADP

In 2018, ADP set out to leverage their customer community, ADP Ambassadors, to enable their product development strategy. Sr. Strategy Analyst Sarah Schreiner and ADP’s customer advocacy team made sure to align with more than 10 internal teams (such as Product Management, Sales and User Experience) and learn how they could all benefit from customer feedback.

ADP demonstrated a clear understanding of which advocate personas were most valuable to them in their prioritizing of balanced, varied feedback coming from anyone in their customer base and not just happy promoters. They also targeted opportunities to specific advocates whose feedback was most needed.

Through these efforts, ADP was able to:

  • Reduce the time it took for their product team to find participants for studies from weeks to hours
  • Save 359+ hours of administration work
  • Save $8,000+ as a result of no longer needing to offer customers monetary incentives to participate in studies

Check out ADP’s full story here.

Stage 3: Develop

After you’ve laid out the groundwork for your customer advocacy program in the define and design stages, it’s time to put your plan into practice.

This is where cross-team alignment becomes critical, as the actual roll-out of the program may require support from multiple departments to help with content creation, onboarding, customer success and more. A strong advocacy program has the potential to benefit your entire organization, so make this known to your larger team when securing internal buy-in.

You’ve launched your customer advocacy program. Great! Now what?

Getting the program off the ground is half the battle, then you have to ensure your efforts are enabling your advocacy program to thrive and expand in the long-term. You’ll want to think about how you’re identifying good potential advocates to bring into your community, and what your process for inviting them is.

Most common pitfall: Teams often get so wrapped up in the planning of their advocacy program that they neglect to think past the launch stage and consider how they will be able to provide the continuous support needed to ensure the program’s sustainable growth.

Superstar Example: Cvent

Cvent, a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider, launched a rebrand of their advocate community, Cvent Celebrity, in the summer of 2018. They set a goal to increase their engagement rate to 40%, which had historically been around 15% until then.

To help meet their goal of increasing engagement and support the long-term success of their advocacy program, Cvent invested in growing their customer marketing team with hires like Melody Leatherbury, Customer Advocacy Marketing Manager.

Melody and her team partnered with internal stakeholders such as User Experience and Product Marketing to produce dynamic content and offer webinars, industry reports, and beta testing opportunities to Cvent’s advocate community. Through their efforts, they were able to:

  • Up engagement to 34%
  • Attract 1,516 new advocates
  • Generate 445 referrals

The path to customer-powered growth

The case for customer advocacy can be made across all areas of an organization. By aligning with departments like Marketing, Sales, Product Development and Customer Success on a customer advocacy program, you can supercharge your entire business with the power of the customer voice.

SiriusDecisions’ three-step model provides a great starter guide (or refresher on best practices) for those looking to achieve customer-powered growth with an advocacy program. For a more comprehensive view of the framework, download your free copy of the report here.

Take your learnings to the next level at the 2019 SiriusDecisions summit. This year’s theme is “TOGETHER: Achieving High Performance by Aligning the B-to-B Revenue Engine.” Join us May 5-8 in Austin, Texas and get great insights on how to become customer-obsessed. Register for the event here.

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