Last week I attended Advocamp - the excellent customer advocacy conference which takes place in San Francisco each year. The event is organised by Influitive, a software company that is helping create the advocate marketing category.
Customer advocacy is a concept that many have talked about for years, but only now is software becoming available to help power scalable and repeatable advocacy programs. With Eloqua Founder, Mark Organ at the helm of Influitive, I expect we’ll be hearing more about the customer advocacy movement in the coming years.
Over the three days at Advocamp I saw more than 20 talks, met a dozen HubSpot customers (which is always a pleasure) and spoke with a handful of people that are shaping customer advocacy marketing. It was a valuable trip that has given me much to think about.
Here are five customer advocacy lessons that stood out:
1. Operationalise customer advocacy efforts
Businesses will undoubtedly have some advocates among its customer base. But most do not have the people, processes and platforms in place to help identify and nurture customers into advocates. To run an effective customer advocacy program organisations should invest time and resources to systematically turn customers into advocates.
2. Foster neighbourly relationships with customers
Relationships between businesses and customers begin on a transactional level. When customers buy a product or service, a transactional, logical relationship forms. But to forge a more meaningful and emotional connection, businesses must develop neighbourly relationships, where one party does something with no expectation of anything in return. Investing in the creation of neighbourly relationships is crucial - this is where customer advocacy begins.
3. Map customer success milestones
Organisations need a firm understanding of what success looks like for its customers. Using this information they can map out customer success milestones, such as a sale, campaign launch, NPS, renewal or product upgrade. When a customer hits a success milestones that is the perfect to moment to reach out with an advocacy request like a referral, sales reference call or product review.
4. Apathy is the biggest threat
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but when customers criticise a business or product, it is a good thing. These people care passionately and are sharing real concerns that must be listened and responded to. The biggest threat is the silent majority that are indifferent or worse still, apathetic to a business or its products. Organisations can avoid apathy by running programs that nurture customers into advocates.
5. Give more than you ask for
This was a theme running throughout the conference. The best customer advocacy programs are mutually beneficial, but the company always gives more than they ask for in return. This helps build a strong relationship and a bank of trust for when the company asks its advocates to take action. Businesses should create moments that reward and delight advocates by being kind, generous and helpful.
In theory the business benefits from customer advocacy are significant. When nurtured correctly advocates are retained longer and refer customers, both of which have a positive impact on the bottom line. In practice, customer advocacy is less predictable or recurring than many marketing activities, but that does not diminish its importance or value. Advocates are more credible, trusted and authentic than marketers - they are a tremendous asset that can and should be leveraged.
I’m delighted that I attended Advocamp. It has given us some fresh ideas that we plan to use at HubSpot as we develop our customer advocacy and referrals programs within the sales enablement function. I realise that I’m lucky to work at a company where many of our customers are genuinely passionate about our mission, product and business, the challenging part is figuring out the best way to leverage our customers’ positive experiences. It’s a challenge I look forward to tackling.