advocampCustomer advocacy, listening, engagement, and experience (CX) are hot topics in 2018. These terms were surely overused last year but they highlight a heightened awareness of the Customer Voice. It’s clear that brand affinity is increasing in power especially as competition heats up in many product and service categories.

Do you have your  Customer Advocacy plan in place? What are your competitors doing to build their customers’ loyalty and how is your strategy stronger? How will your brand help customers achieve their goals while helping you achieve yours?

These are hopefully some of the questions that Customer Marketing and Success professionals are asking themselves and their teams.

I attended Advocamp in San Francisco this past year and these very questions were discussed. Below are three key takeaways that resonated strongly with me – consider exploring and adopting them as you charge of your customer advocacy initiatives!

    1. Use Customer Advocacy to Drive Exponential Growth:

Building a strong customer advocacy program can help you sell more if you build it with a focus on serving the customer needs first.

Think about it, if you build a customer marketing program in a way that comes off as sales-like, customers will not be inclined to participate. Hence the birth of ‘customer engagement programs’ to replace ‘customer marketing’. Customer-centric communities, for example, take what the customer hasn’t adopted or purchased yet and turns it into a story they can learn from and leverage in their own organization.

How does one get started? It’s simple – start by talking to your customers!

      • Ask your customers!: Surveying post-onboarding what they want more of now that they are live and give them options along with an open text box to share their ideas. Chances are they will tell you they want more customer stories about companies who have used a part of the product they may not be using yet to drive their business goals. They want to know what worked, what didn’t and how they too can get started. Give them a story they can relate to in a medium they understand such as a video, a story with easy steps on how to get started or maybe an infographic.
      • Feature heroes: Ask customers if they are open to sharing their stories and if they prefer to share it in a video, at a conference, in a case study, or simply a quote. After all, who doesn’t love to look like an expert? Make whatever they choose easy for them to do. For example, if they are comfortable being featured in a video, tell them what to wear, bring the videographers, co-write the script in advance and have them practice it. Have someone there coaching them through the video. Make sure it has statistics that show the power of the product and actionable examples that other customers and prospects can understand and use. Customer testimonials are very powerful and your company is never too small to get started with storytelling.
      • Start a Customer Community: It is estimated that community members spend two times more and have a 33% higher adoption rate than non-engaged customers. If you don’t have a customer community, consider one like Vanilla Forums. It is easy to use, inexpensive and a great way to start customer conversations. Through communities, customer support calls can be reduced while enhancing experiences. WIth improved engagement, there is an opportunity to grow your brand and your loyal customer base. Accenture calls “improving customer experience a $6 trillion opportunity.” With predictions like Accenture’s and the stat below, it is time to start a customer advocacy program this year if you haven’t started one already.
    1.  Leverage Customer Advocacy before a Prospective Customer Visits Your Website
      • Encourage Public Product Reviews: Customer Success starts well before a prospect comes to your website. By the time they are on your landing page or walking into your store, they will have researched your product, talked to people about your service and looked at your competitors. These three actions exemplify why you should be leveraging your customers for brand affinity. Reviews on Google, and websites like Trust Radius and G2Crowd, a social media presence and customer stories, quotes and videos matter. They all influence the buyer journey and build your product and service credibility with authenticity. Salespeople are moving towards Social Selling and customer references are an important part of the relationship-based selling strategy. As you gather your customer stories across mediums, create a tab on your website where you can aggregate them for easy access for both your sales team and prospects alike.

Creating a customer journey that leverages the customer’s voice and starts at the point of need instead of post-sales will help your company’s sales strategy in 2018.

  1. Measure your Customer Advocacy Efforts – why and how:
  • Start with an Employee and Customer advocacy platform: While customer advocacy may be a new function in your company, there are ways and platforms that can be leveraged to ensure your company is measuring the value of a customer engagement program. Customer engagement should be integrated in a company’s goals. It can lead to more customer satisfaction, product stickiness, retention and expansion opportunities, and ultimately, profitability. Companies likeInfluitive, who hosted Advocamp, and Crowdvocate, that drive and grow brand advocacy are just a couple of companies simplifying, measuring, and growing customer advocates.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): There are also a plethora of companies from SurveyMonkey to Wootric to who provide Net Promoter Scoring tools to measure customer satisfaction. Medallia gives a nice overview of how NPS works on their website.
  • Customer Experience Measurement: products like Topbox measure B2B customer experience (CX) that link to financial growth. As the company nicely puts it, “align customer success with business objectives and watch your customer feedback data work for you.”
  • One word of caution when implementing any product: You need to create an action plan for how you will leverage the data you receive from these initiatives. The plan needs executive buy-in from the beginning. Sending an NPS survey without a plan to contact your Detractors, Passives, and Promoters in a timely way will result in wasting your customers’ time. Your detractors are probably going to churn and are definitely not sharing positive reviews about your company. Set up a committee to call them and understand their view – find a way to improve their experience! Your promoters are ripe for expansion, a case study, a quote, and a reference call with a prospect.

Parting Thoughts

Having a way to scale customer success to deliver value with velocity, while capturing loyal customer voices to sell more is what all companies should aim to achieve. Boosting customer engagement can lead to expansion opportunities that have the potential to spread virally as we have seen with Apple’s customer marketing strategies.

The importance of strong customer advocacy programs is nothing new for companies like Nike and Google. If it is new for you, here is “A CEO’s Crash Course in Brand Loyalty.”  Loyal brand ambassadors can strengthen customer relationships that ultimately lead to organic customer expansion opportunities. Not all companies have the money and domain authority that big brands have but many alike are rushing to move processes to the cloud, otherwise known as Digital Transformation. As companies create new ways to serve their customers, they are in need of a new way to capture and leverage the voice of the customer. Hence, the birth of a new product category called customer advocacy. As Influitive puts it “your buyers trust their peers, not your marketing machine.” How will you shift your company-centric marketing to advocate marketing in 2018?

Influitive shared all their Advocamp sessions. You can listen to them here.

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