Everyone Needs Community: Improving the User Experience for Both Advocates and Employees

 

January 21, 2021

When I began at Devolutions four years ago, I was fresh out of school and new to advocate marketing. I’d learned about inbound marketing in university and was eager to put some of those lessons into practice, but I was soon introduced to a new way of engaging customers. At Devolutions, I would learn how inbound and advocate marketing strategies can work together in harmony.

Devolutions brings best-in-class password, privileged access, and remote connection management solutions to small and mid-sized businesses. By offering these solutions at an affordable price, we help ensure these businesses aren’t left vulnerable to security breaches. Our range of products is admittedly niche, but we have a loyal user base that loves our products and wants to tell others about them. 

Before I joined Devolutions, my colleague, Max Trottier, was responsible for managing this user base through various channels. He was also in charge of gaining new users, mostly through inbound marketing. One of the unique things about our company is that we’re not interested in pushing our product on others; we don’t employ salespeople. Instead, we want customers to come to us based on their needs and help them find the best solutions. Having a strong community of advocates is an important part of that strategy, because they bring future customers to us. With advocates everywhere, Devolutions can be everywhere, too.  

 

A Simpler Method of Management

We already had advocates, but Max—who is now the VP of Sales and Marketing—wanted to find a way to better reward them and amplify their voices. He also thought we could put our advocates to better use if we had a platform where he could easily manage the community.

Through some research, Max discovered Influitive. We are based just outside of Montreal, and the Devolutions team valued that Influitive is also a Canadian company, from Toronto. Apart from Canadian camaraderie, the team noted that Influitive is one of the best solutions for boosting customer advocacy.

Put your customer advocates to better use by using a dedicated platform where they can engage with each other and with your company.

Other platforms don’t have the same expertise, resources, or ways to engage and involve users. Before, our advocates would talk about how much they love our product over email or on social media, but they didn’t have a dedicated platform for it, or a way to engage with each other. Influitive gave them that outlet and helped us direct and incentivize that advocacy. 

Our initial use cases for Influitive were to collect reviews, customer stories, and feedback on new features and bug reports. That hasn’t changed. When I took over managing the community, however, I decided to push our limits.

 

Modernizing and a Redesign 

Two years into my tenure at Devolutions I was a digital marketing specialist. Managing the advocacy program had become one of my tasks and I thought it was time for a refresh. Max had done a great job establishing the community, but over time, the company, and our products, had evolved. Not everything in our program was as relevant as it once was, so part of the refresh was simply ensuring everything was up to date. 

I also wanted to rebrand the community with a more modern design. We have a graphic designer, Patrick, who is also a cartoonist. He created Sysadminotaur, and I asked him to help create the new banner and design for the program as well. It makes the user experience quite unique for our advocates, because Devolutions doesn’t use that design anywhere else. 

In addition to the new look, I began to maximize our use of some Influitive features, such as Campaigns. Creating new challenges to post every day is time consuming. Influitive’s ready-built free and premium campaigns contain multiple challenges (activities that earn members points once completed). For example, the New Year’s Eve campaign was all about resolutions and projects for 2021. Scheduling a new campaign every month is much easier than creating unique challenges, and it’s a big time saver. I’ll use a campaign for the base content for the month, and then I can personalize it. If we have a webinar approaching, I build up to the event beforehand, posting challenges and asking advocates what topics they want discussed.  

Fun challenges are an easy way to engage users. Everyone likes to do a quick quiz or bit of trivia. The challenges that provide us with the most interesting feedback, though, are those that direct advocates to posts on social media. If I find someone on Reddit asking for a remote access tool, for example, I’ll create a challenge around responding to that question. It’s always interesting to hear how our advocates promote our products. I would say our most fruitful challenges are the ones built around customer stories, which help us create content for our blog. 

 

We All Need Community: Adding an Employee Program

Influitive isn’t just for our customers, though. Three years ago I had the idea to create an employee program. It was a great idea—at the wrong time. We were still spending a lot of time and energy building our customer community and onboarding users. We’re also in Quebec, and would have to create content in both French and English. At the time, we didn’t have the resources to do it and do it right.

With everyone working from home, companies have to find a way to maintain their unique company culture.

 

By 2020, things were different. We had more resources, including a new marketing team member, Laurence Cadieux, who spearheaded the initiative. We worked together to build our new employee program, and now Laurence manages it herself. There was also another shift: Everyone began to work at home due to the pandemic and we knew we needed a way to maintain our work culture. It’s difficult to build those same meaningful relationships with colleagues without daily in-person interactions. 

Our employee program has become a place where we can continue to hang out with one another. The HR team has fun creating the challenges, and the rest of us have fun getting to know one another in ways we didn’t before. Employees can also redeem rewards for gift cards or merchandise in our store.
 

A Win-Win Proposition

As much fun as our customer advocates have within their community, there are benefits for everyone involved. In addition to the quizzes, trivia, and social share challenges, Devolutions benefits tremendously from the customer product feedback and reviews. Just like our employees, our advocates like the rewards—which aren’t all tangible. They can gain access to beta phases and access to information before the general public. They appreciate being VIP members of our community. 

I know how they feel—I am an active member of the Influitive VIP customer community. I can share ideas with other Influitive users, and get new ideas on how to make the most out of our own hub. Even after four years of using this platform, I still learn something from VIP every week.

I’m lucky, because everyone at Devolutions recognizes the importance of our advocate community, so I don’t have to constantly prove its worth. We see that the engagement leads to valuable feedback and helps create content in a way that is in line with our overall marketing strategy. 

We’re a B2B business, and our focus is less on quantity and more on the quality of our members. You have to put in the work to retain community members, as well as quickly engage new advocates who join every month. Influitive makes this work easy, and because of that, our community is thriving. Typically, the middle of January is a slow period, but mid-January 2021 we’ve seen an uptick in new advocates. By the end of January, I expect we will have at least double the number of engaged advocates as we had this time last year. 

This year, we’re going deeper into Influitive’s core features, such as referrals and channels. The referrals feature allows our advocates to refer their colleagues or their entire company to us, driving up our number of advocates. It’s a great feature, and I plan to spend more time putting it to its best use. 

I also want to look deeper into Influitive’s integrations, and determine how Upshot can simplify the process of creating customer stories.
 

Going All-in with Advocate Marketing

Max and I recently gave a workshop about advocacy marketing and our success with Influitive. Our key piece of wisdom: Anyone looking to enhance their advocate marketing strategy should know that you can’t do it effectively with lackluster resources or effort. As with many things, you get what you pay for, and when you invest in a product like Influitive, the best way to get value is to maximize its features. When you have a robust foundation to build upon, engagement becomes much easier.

When you invest in a strong advocate marketing platform, the best way to get value is to maximize its features.

 

Influitive gave us an easy way to manage and bring value to our community, whether through content, soliciting feedback, or assisting other members. We now have a way to reward our communities, be they clients or colleagues, for their help and hard work. We’ve held onto our Devolutions company culture, no matter where each of us happens to work from today. 

I’m still a fan of inbound marketing, but I’ve seen how strong advocate marketing can complement those efforts. Instead of having fans who talk about us here and there, we can leverage those advocates with different campaigns and create a more holistic marketing strategy for our company.
 
 
 

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