This is the second of an ongoing series that will cover the journey of starting Crimson Hexagon’s customer advocacy program.
In the first post of this series, we looked at building a team. This post will be about the data infrastructure of our advocacy program.
It may be obvious, but communicating with customers is the core of an advocacy program. There are many ways to touch customers:
- Email and social media
- Interactions with the support team and help center web pages
- Community area on company’s web page
- Advocacy platforms
- Your product’s login page (don’t forget this one)
- In-app messaging
After all is said and done, email remains one of the most effective communications tools and we always see a spike in responses after targeted emails are sent. Customers generally expect to receive emails from vendors about events, how to use your product more effectively, product updates and more.
Therefore, data integrity is the foundation on which to build your program on. Below, I’ll explain why good data is important before launching your advocacy program and the steps you can take to clean up your data.
Cleaning the pipes
Crimson Hexagon uses Salesforce.com as its “plumbing”. Many companies sync their CRM with their product. It’s critical to understand if the sync is one or two way and which data fields go back and forth. In a perfect world you will want data related to customer utilization to flow from the product to the CRM system.
However, implementing or updating the Salesforce.com sync can be a challenge as engineering is needed and they are often too busy enhancing the product for customers. All I can say is make the business case. Product and engineering teams work hard to develop products and features. By tying utilization data into the CRM or other system, more eyes will be able to see what is being used and what is not. Advocacy programs can help determine the best way to promote and educate customer on features and use cases.
There are two main “pipes” that need ongoing attention: accounts and contacts. What comes out of the CRM are reports, from which you can manage and filter lists. The goal is to efficiently communicate with customers and avoid notifying customers in the UK about an event in San Francisco or sending a renewal letter to an end user.
This may sound silly, but is every account marked a customer really a customer, or are they an ex-customer or a pilot? A few ways to check include:
- Is there a renewal?
- Are there contacts?
- When was the last time they touched your product?
For customer accounts, are there any data points such as level of service, industry, or type of customer to be maintained?
You should also check the address fields in your CRM system (such as billing or mailing). Choose which will be the address of record for advocacy as well as finance. It’s also good to know where to send advocates special perks or invitations so they don’t end up in internal mailroom purgatory.
I most often see data integrity compromised at the hierarchy of parent accounts and their customer/prospect sub-accounts. Some companies will buy for all business units, others for just one department, and some will have multiple contracts. Contracts can also change at renewal time (for example, going from departmental to enterprise-wide). Now, add some resellers and referral partners into the mix and customer communications can get pretty messy.
There are always going to be outliers, so do not try to account for every possibility, but do agree upon a consistent hierarchy structure. I recommend one of the three:
- The corporation is the parent has entered into an enterprise-wide license. There is one account or instance of the application, which everybody shares.
- The corporation is the parent and has entered into an enterprise-wide license. However, each division is getting their own account.
- The corporation is the parent with each division purchasing and renewing its own license.
The goal is to set the stage for sending relevant and personalized communications. Each account is different, with some having many users and others just a few. It is important to know if a person is a user, an administrator, a main point of contact, an influencer, a decision maker, or no longer at their company.
The temptation is to focus on the decision-maker. DM’s are important for sales, however, it is not always clear who the real decision-maker is, particularly at enterprise accounts. For advocacy purposes, start by focusing on the day-to-day main point of contact or administrator because you want to make sure they’re engaged with your product. (They’re also the most likely to write you reviews, act as a reference or submit success stories vs. their executive.)
Ask yourself: does each account have a main point of contact or administrator, and do you have their title and location (as the company’s HQ may be in one city and your key contacts in another)?
Making sure you’ve identified executives in your advocacy program is still advisable. We recently came across a request from marketing to find a SVP level person from Southern California who could speak at a conference. In five minutes we were able to identify four main points of contact in the region with a senior title—and this is where all that work paid off.
For both account and contact reports, the more columns the better. You may need to work with your CRM administrator to pull some individual contact data into an account report (i.e. the main point of contact). If data is available through the sync, at a minimum add start and last use dates. If you can add how much of your product is used, that’s even better. When communicating with customers, rather than just blasting everyone in the database, we might do something like invite people to a webinar who have used the product in the past 90 days.
4. Data integrity
Once the report is written, I look for blanks and start filling them. The reality is that 10-15% of your data may be out of date and for key customer contacts your goal should be 1-2%.
Depending on the numbers and the urgency you can clean it up yourself, bring in an intern, license software, or outsource to a firm. Our list had two gaps: we didn’t know the key contacts for 20% of our customers, nor did we know the titles of 40% of them. We worked with the Customer Success team to identify the key contacts, and then used Social 123 to match most of our contacts within a day or two. The few remaining ones we were able to do manually by searching in LinkedIn.
It’s also important to check for email opt-outs and run them by the account team. There may be a key contact who has opted out. By explaining to the contact that they are missing the newsletter or invitations to events, the contact may re-consider their status. Opt-outs are one of the many reasons to have the multiple customer touch points mentioned earlier. This is where preferences may help. We now give people three choices: to opt out of the newsletter, events, and/or product updates.
It’s worth noting that collecting this data through advocacy challenges in your program can help fill in any gaps you may have.
Once your list is clean, keep an eye out for un-deliverables, hard bounces and those who are no longer at their company. When someone leaves, they may not notify you. As an extra bonus, an advocacy program can be used to keep in touch with key contacts that have recently left their company. These champions may buy again if you keep in touch. This is not easy to track, but definitely worth keeping on your roadmap.
Your work is never done. There are about eight data points we monitor on either a monthly or quarterly basis, which now take about one to two hours per month to update.
Having clean data sets the stage for measuring product adoption, which I will cover in a future post.