Customers now play by their own set of rules, choosing to engage with you at any time and through any channel. You need to be ready to respond.
The solution is to mobilize your customers as advocates who can tell your story. A strong advocate community is your secret sales force in today’s fast-paced environment where buyers digest information in 140 characters or less.
“Advocates are people who are not just fans of your products, but they are passionately engaged and ready, willing and able to share their story,” says Deena Zenyk, Advocate Marketing Manager for SMART Technologies, a vendor of collaboration hardware and software for business and education.
Before you reach that point, however, your customers must be kept engaged on a daily, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. They simply can’t be left to linger, otherwise you’ll be facing a mob of angry, unsatisfied customers instead of an army of advocates.
“Without customer engagement, we don’t have advocacy”
Customer engagement is a critical component of SMART’s overall business strategy. The company uses customer feedback to shape new products and develop events, among other initiatives.
“Without customer engagement, we don’t have advocacy,” she explains. “You need customers who like your brand and like what do, or you’re not in business very long. However, if you are not engaging your customers, you are not opening up space to nurture and growth those relationships. You need customer engagement to open the door to ramp up your advocacy initiatives.”
Deena says customer engagement has a huge impact on her role as an advocate marketing manager charged with building the company’s growing group of advocates. In her role, it is important to have a customer engagement plan that is easy to execute and measure, she notes.
What does the customer experience look like?
SMART Technologies has been better able to match advocates with the right opportunities using Influitive’s B2B advocate marketing software, AdvocateHub, Deena adds. The company had previously used a spreadsheet to manage its advocate marketing program.
The move to a more comprehensive system for managing advocate engagement has improved advocate satisfaction levels. “It has certainly had a positive impact on the customer experience, because the doors are now wide open between us and our advocate community. They choose their own experience. The process is now streamlined, so that they can tell us if they are interested in accompanying us to a trade show, writing a blog or other activity and respond to appropriate challenges.”
SMART is seeing engagement with its advocates skyrocket: “We used to reach maybe 10% of our advocates with authentic engagement. Now, with the ability to opt-in to the activities that suit their needs and schedules, engagement is off the charts. We’re seeing daily and weekly reports that more than 50% of our advocates are engaging.”
Deena says more engaged advocates are also able to grow and learn from one another. “They see the benefits of being a smart advocate and it just snowballs. They are also seeing the rewards of meeting other SMART advocates.”
Don’t overlook in-person customer engagement
The company is currently focusing its engagement efforts on in-person events and meetings.
“We all have a tendency to get bogged down in e-communication,” Deena says. “We don’t want our customer to become an email address, so we are bringing them together to connect with us and one another person to person.”