April 21, 2023
In 2019, my organization was part of an acquisition that brought together several companies in the spend management technology space. In 2020, we officially rebranded as Emburse – a leader in spend optimization, focused on humanizing work for more than 18,000 customers worldwide.
As Emburse continues its expansion and brand evolution, the marketing team’s role is to take our diverse product portfolio and work toward being a unified Emburse. Our customer advocate community is a key driver in this process, and at Emburse, one of the biggest questions around our merger from a brand perspective was, “What do we do with our customer community?”
Altering Our Community to Reflect Our New Identity
When I joined the company in 2018, we already had an active advocate community—but when we rebranded as Emburse, it became clear that the existing community needed to be revamped in a major way.
In addition to a facelift to reflect our new brand’s look and feel, I realized there was a lot that needed to be optimized on the backend as well, such as how we were classifying challenges and acts of advocacy, how our integrations were set up, and how we reported on community health metrics.
When we became Emburse, it was the perfect time to make these updates. We wanted to open the community to customers across our product suite, rather than just the legacy customers from the original community who were primarily only using one of our product lines. Rather than rebranding the existing community, we saw the opportunity to build and launch something entirely new: the Emburse Collective.
How We Optimize and Try New Things
When we launched the Emburse Collective, I started working with the Influitive content and services team, which has been a priceless resource for me. I’m part of a 50-person marketing team, but when it comes to customer advocacy, I’m a team of one. The Influitive team has become an extension of my team, and they have the bandwidth and expertise to help me try new things, like themed campaigns and targeted journeys.
When it comes to customer advocacy, I’m a team of one. The Influitive team has become an extension of my team, and they have the bandwidth and expertise to help me try new things.
It takes time to build themed campaigns, so it’s not something I had bandwidth to explore prior to working with the content and services team. With Influitive’s help, I created seven themed campaigns in 2022. Each one was quite elaborate, typically with 8-10 challenges (targeted asks) focused around specific themes and goals. We typically start out by introducing the campaign with some engagement-based challenges; then post the primary ask related to the business goal at hand—and this is where our advocates can earn the most points. Depending on the campaign, we may also offer special badges or prize raffles.
For example, in February, our All You Need is Love campaign focused on advocate recruitment. In June, Emburse in Motion helped drive registration for our customer events. In September we launched Back to School to generate written and video testimonials. To close out the year, we did 12 Days of Emburse to drive community engagement and user-generated content to help support our year-end social campaign.
In addition to campaigns, I also use the Influitive campaign library and produce a lot of standalone content – but the themed campaigns are the most engaging and often tie into our bigger business objectives. We don’t want our advocates to feel like we’re always asking them for things, so we try to have a good balance of fun and educational content for them, too.
Integrations Are Key: Just Look at Our Reviews
One of our biggest successes since launching the Emburse Collective has been our review campaigns, which have generated 100+ reviews to date and help us place better on grid reports. Influitive’s integrations with G2 and TrustRadius make it easy for customers to complete reviews and automatically earn points in the community once their review is published.
These integrations maximize the impact of advocate activity. Without the integrations, rewarding reviews is a manual process: advocates have to upload screenshots of their posted review, and the community admin has to manually validate it prior to awarding points. Integrations automate that process, saving time for our team and ensuring that advocates receive their reward instantly.
One of our biggest successes since launching the Emburse Collective has been our review campaigns, which have generated 100+ reviews to date and help us place better on grid reports. This wouldn’t have been possible without the Influitive integrations with G2 and TrustRadius, which make it easy for customers to complete reviews and automatically earn points.
To help drive reviews year-round, I run one to two themed review campaigns annually, along with evergreen review challenges that advocates can access at any time. This is particularly effective for new advocates joining the community, and is a great way to present them with a high-value activity right from the start.
Generating reviews is important to multiple stakeholders across Emburse, but it’s not the only ask. The community is a vital tool for sourcing and creating customer success story content in the form of case studies, videos, and testimonials. In 2022 we had more than 15 advocates contribute to 20+ marketing activities, with their stories featured on our website and in email and social campaigns. I partner closely with our demand generation and events teams to promote webinar and event registrations, as well as source customer speakers for them – in 2022 we had 9 advocates participate in speaking engagements. I also get requests from our PR team when they need customers to participate in analyst interviews or provide quotes for a press release, which helps us build social proof in the market.
Outside of marketing, the product team finds great value in our advocate community. They frequently ask to run product surveys in the Emburse Collective, with customer feedback directly impacting decisions around the roadmap and product enhancements. In 2022, we hosted our first online product focus group in the community with about 20 participants who were tasked with testing an add-on product and providing weekly feedback through targeted challenges and discussions.We got some great product feedback and enrolled new advocates in the community in the process.
Target and Re-engage: The Plan to Maintain High Engagement
As we’ve opened the community to customers across our suite of solutions, we have begun to explore more advanced targeting and retargeting of our advocates. Much of our targeting is based on the primary products they use, while some challenges require additional targeting by industry, job function, or region. The Influitive Salesforce integration is really helpful from a targeting perspective, as it pulls in many key account fields. As we continue to optimize the community and our Salesforce instance, I look forward to crafting more targeted journeys and experiences as new advocates join the Emburse Collective.
The Influitive Salesforce integration is really helpful from a targeting perspective, as it pulls in many key account fields.
While engagement ebbs and flows throughout the year, we’ve maintained an average of 20%–30% engagement rate since launching the Emburse Collective, while more than doubling our total membership year-over-year.
I keep a close eye on these numbers each month, leveraging Influitive dashboards to identify two groups of people: newly joined members who have not engaged, and previously engaged members who have become inactive. I pull those lists each month and send a personal email, trying to re-engage them by highlighting the value of the community and calling out particular challenges or discussions that may be of interest. Sometimes, the personal touch is just what people need to return to the community.
Historically, we ran quarterly re-engagement challenges targeted to members that have not engaged in more than a month. I recently fine-tuned this approach, with guidance from the Influitive content and services team. Instead of focusing on single re-engagement challenges each quarter, we now have an evergreen five-challenge re-engagement campaign. The campaign is targeted to advocates that have not engaged in more than three months, with new advocates added automatically. The Let’s Reconnect campaign aims to bring these inactive members back to the community, while re-educating them about the value and benefits of their participation—plus, they earn high-value points once they complete the full campaign. This approach, coupled with ongoing recruitment efforts, should help maintain our strong engagement rate going forward.
Proving a Community’s Worth to the Business
The community’s value really comes from those teams who depend on our customer advocates the most: the product team who gets great feedback through the Emburse Collective, for example, or marketers who use advocates and their success stories to elevate campaigns and go-to-market programs.
Without Influitive, it would be much more difficult to source customers for our various initiatives. Everything would be a lot more manual and time-consuming, and it would be significantly more difficult to identify, engage with, and reward advocates.
Without Influitive, it would be much more difficult to source customers for our various initiatives. I’d have to rely on the customer success team much more than I already do, adding to their already full plates. Everything would be a lot more manual and time-consuming, and it would be significantly more difficult to identify, engage with, and reward advocates. Influitive helps me create an exclusive space for our most valued customers and streamline asks in a way that isn’t pushy, while also building our brand among our base.
Positive feedback from various teams serves as a kind of soft ROI, and that’s why it’s important to bring on board key stakeholders from other departments, particularly leaders from areas that could benefit most from the community. The more teams that benefit from customer advocacy, the easier it is to get the resources necessary to build, maintain, and grow an advocate community.
The more teams that benefit from customer advocacy, the easier it is to get the resources necessary to build, maintain, and grow an advocate community.
While positive feedback is great, sometimes it can be a challenge to tie an actual dollar value to our advocacy efforts. This is a top priority—we want to find more ways to monetize our advocacy programs and measure ROI. Two ways we are looking to do this through the community are with referrals and references. We’re looking forward to exploring how we can rely more on Influitive for automating and tracking references and referrals to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, and to gain a better picture of our advocates’ impact on our business. We’d also like to look more holistically at customer engagement and identify ways to measure the Emburse Collective’s impact on metrics such as customer NPS, satisfaction, and loyalty.
If advocates love the community, they’re more likely to stay engaged. Influitive helps me create a great space for our most valued customers, bringing them closer to the Emburse brand with every interaction.
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