November 30, 2022
Starting a new role can be nerve-wracking, but starting a new role and suddenly becoming the sole subject matter expert in your organization can be a little intimidating.
That’s the position I found myself in when I became Esker’s Advocate Marketing Specialist in 2020. There was no way out but through: I learned the ropes, leaned on partners, and have taken our advocacy program global—proving that a great platform and a great partner can help anyone thrive, no matter the initial odds.
Adopting a Challenge
Esker is an AI-powered cloud platform that eliminates tedious procure-to-pay and order-to-cash tasks, allowing companies to automate the cash conversion cycle and freeing employees to perform more fulfilling work. I joined Esker in 2019 as a Customer Experience (CX) Advocate. When I moved to the marketing team in 2020, I took over as the Advocacy Marketing Specialist and admin for the Esker All Access (EAA) Customer and Employee Hubs, two online communities that originally existed in one place.
Esker has a strong company culture that thrives in an in-office work setting. With the shift to remote work in early 2020 we used our employee hub to help maintain that culture, keep everyone engaged, and create a welcoming environment for new employees. Our employee onboarding experience within the community includes the New Hire Checklist: During an employee’s first 30 days on the job, they complete 30 challenges (targeted asks) where they learn about the company and become part of the team. After that, the employee hub is designed to keep everyone connected and up-to-date on what’s happening at Esker.
When I started in this role, the customer side of our online community was in maintenance mode. We were working to increase the number of advocates on the platform and increase and retain engagement. The main engagement driver at the time was around the fun challenges and discussion posts. Esker-specific content didn’t get the traction we hoped it would, and we quickly learned we may not be offering our customers the maximum value possible. I wanted to change that.
Both sides of EAA were powered by advocate community platform Influitive. My predecessor gave me a crash course on the platform, but when she left, I became the main person at Esker to know Influitive inside and out. Thankfully, Influitive’s team offered great support as I taught myself what I needed to know, and I leaned on my Influitive CSM, Ernest Chiu, to fill in the gaps. After learning the platform, understanding how other Influitive customers were using their platforms, and having many meetings with Ernest, I decided it was time for a change within EAA.
The First Steps of Change
I saw the opportunity to turn our customer community into a resource center where customers could find help and support after implementing their Esker solutions. But there was more—our subsidiaries saw how much Influitive helped us turn our customers into advocates, and they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, too. I knew EAA would get crowded quickly with Americas customers, Americas employees, and customers from the six other global subsidiaries interested in using EAA. So, we decided the first step was to move our employee community to a separate Influitive instance while we expanded the capabilities of our customer community.
The process of separating the communities was a lift I’m not sure we expected. To say it was a bit chaotic was pretty accurate while we learned what was needed to get the job done while making it a seamless experience for our employees. There were many moving pieces, and I worked with our creative and corporate marketing teams to rebrand our employee community. After completing the technical and branding details, it was time to start migrating channels and challenges. It was an opportune moment to work with our internal training team and refresh our content.
Meanwhile, for our customer community, the need to build out the resources offered inside of EAA became more apparent. With the continued growth of Esker and the number of customers our teams were working to implement and onboard, our teams started to feel a bit outnumbered. We wanted to ensure our customers received quality help and support, regardless of how much Esker was growing. The goal was to use EAA as a “one-stop-shop” for our customers: to have a place to network with other Esker users, gain access to resources and content, stay up to date with what’s new, and, of course, unplug from their workday and have a little fun.
After further discussions with Ernest at Influitive, we decided a good “next step” in our community revamp was to utilize Influitive’s custom content pages as a sort of “Resource Center” for our Esker solutions. I began working with our content coordinator on the CX team to combine all tools and information across various channels, saving them all in one customer-friendly place. We created resource centers that offer videos, documentation, walkthroughs, additional training, and anything else our customers need to efficiently use their solutions.
In the initial launch of our resource centers, we created two custom content pages for Esker’s two workflows: the O2C Resource Center and the P2P Resource Center. Both are available in both English and French for some of our global customers. In the first nine months of launching the two, we saw over 1,100 total page views from our customers across 28 resource categories and 81 resource pages. We already knew we were on the right track.
One Team, Beyond Boundaries
At the same time, we were making significant changes to our EAA customer community. We were tackling the rollout of EAA to five additional global Esker subsidiaries to bring to life one of Esker’s company values: “One Team, Beyond Boundaries.” The US instance ran like a well-oiled machine, so our initial assumption was that the international instances would be the same. As it turned out, balancing various languages, customer behaviors, and time zones is easier said than done.
For starters, there was no way I could run six subsidiary communities. Instead, each subsidiary chose a program manager to take control of their respective community. The idea was for each subsidiary’s program manager to be responsible for the content, challenges, and customers within their regions. Each international program manager went through the Influitive Institute training course, which taught them about the platform’s various features and made it easier for them to understand how Esker works inside Influitive. That knowledge-transfer process was valuable because, until that point, we didn’t have any documentation on our communities or Influitive—all that knowledge just lived inside my brain.
The Influitive Institute helped teach new admins about the platform’s various features and made it easier for them to understand how Esker works inside Influitive.
Everyone got a solid foundation, but we learned that each subsidiary had to customize their new community to suit their needs and balance the requirements of globally-shared content, such as language and link URLs. A customer can only see subsidiary-specific content—our US customers see only US content, our French customers, only French content, etc. We then used Influitive’s multilingual capabilities to translate content, and from there, each subsidiary can update the links to reflect that of their own subsidiaries.
There are also differences in the type of content that customers want in each region. Every month, I build out the content calendar for the US community, with the goal of including at least three challenges per week: one fun, one educational, and one ask. While this has proven to be a winning formula for our US customers, we learned that our customers have different behaviors in different regions. For example, our German customers might prefer additional resources to frequent fun challenges, but in the UK, it could be just the opposite. Much like launching an online community from scratch, our international program managers learned it’s about trying to find the sweet spot for their region and understanding what their customers are most interested in seeing.
Influitive offers high-level dashboards and reports, but these don’t always resonate with program managers. It isn’t always beneficial to compare one subsidiary against another because things like content, challenges, and the number of customers differ across subsidiaries. Instead, we use Influitive’s reporting tab to segment each group, helping us keep our eyes on our own areas while still having the ability to zoom out and see the wider picture.
Lasting Advice From Our CSM
Throughout this process, Ernest remained my steadfast partner. I’m an ideas person: I’ll scheme up 15 ideas in a day and want to implement all of them. Ernest helped me map out my goals based on Esker’s larger goals and then identify the ideas that best align. Determining where we saw the most value for our time helped me prioritize.
The best advice I can give anyone on growing their community, whether starting from scratch or performing a massive overhaul like I did, is to keep it attainable.
A roadmap is only useful if your goals are realistic. The trick is finding the sweet spot between what you need to do and what you want to do.
Since separating the communities, I’ve used a few strategies to help grow our number of advocates and boost re-engagement. It starts with me inserting myself into the onboarding process. A customer moving from our professional services team to our CX team is in a 90-day onboarding cycle. During that period, I’ll meet with the customer, introduce them to EAA, take them on a tour through all the available resources, and then walk them through all things customer advocacy: case studies, press releases, and events. It used to be that customers didn’t interact with marketing until we approached them with an ask. Starting our relationship earlier means we start our advocacy process earlier. Customers aren’t caught off guard when we approach them later for something like a case study, and we both know we can be a contact for one another if we need anything in the future.
It used to be that customers didn’t interact with marketing until we approached them with an ask. Starting our relationship earlier means they aren’t caught off guard when we approach them later for something like a case study…This strategy has really helped drive community growth. From 2021 to 2022, we doubled our number of joined advocates.
This strategy has really helped drive community growth. From 2021 to 2022, we doubled our number of joined advocates.
Getting a customer to create an account is great, but how do we make them stay? We’ve tried a few methods to boost re-engagement over 2022, and what has worked best is sending personalized emails about a month after a person joins EAA. I’ll thank them for being part of our community, remind them of the high-level benefits, and invite them to a fun challenge to draw them back in. Reminding them of the community and its benefits is essential to retaining that advocacy. We also leverage our biggest event, the Esker All Access Conference, to drive engagement. People can register to join the community at the in-person event, and advocates can later replay sessions and jump into community-based discussions. In the months before, during, and after the conference, we see a lot more activity in our hub.
Customer Communities Are Mutually Beneficial, and Now Ours Is Global
I value Esker’s community just as much as our advocates. Customers usually interact with the CX team because something is broken or not working as anticipated, whereas they interact with marketing because they love us. I get to know our advocates as people, and I know I can lean on our best and happiest customers if I need anything, whether being a speaker at a virtual event or offering feedback on Esker’s roadmap. Because they trust me, I get honest feedback, and they know they can reach out to me for anything. Knowing there’s someone in the company who has their back has real value to customers—and those personal connections are now happening in communities worldwide.
One of Esker’s company values is “One Team, Beyond Boundaries.” Influitive has empowered me to step into this role and take our communities far beyond the limits of what they were before. We’ve gone global, and our communities are so much better for it.
Want authentic customer stories like this for your company? Learn more about Influitive’s Upshot service.