Companies not already leveraging customer advocacy programs in their marketing plans are missing an essential ingredient of today’s consumer landscape. Brands across all industries not engaging with their customers by offering perks in return for their advocacy risk falling behind their competitors who are offering consumers more, therefore losing customer loyalty. These programs aren’t only for consumer brands with loyalty programs but also for SaaS and technology services.
Customer voices hold a wealth of power in influencing buying behavior, but many marketers don’t know how to implement customer advocacy to yield valuable results successfully. The most successful programs often contain three common staples to transform customers into brand advocates.
The more tailored the customer journey is for each user, the better chance they will remain an avid customer. Each piece of content through every step of the advocacy program should be personalized and targeted. This should be informed by the information already gathered on the customer and their current activity within the program. Personalization is not only a standard practice in marketing today but also an expectation of customers for a brand to present timely, relevant content specific to them. For example, if a customer is wary about publicly advocating or is not satisfied with your product or service, ask them to first join a customer community to connect with and learn from other users. Brands should take the time to understand where a customer stands in their journey and personalize the benefits of participating.
Genesys, a global cloud leader in customer experience orchestration, was interested in exploring advocate marketing putting customers first. The company quickly learned the importance of nurturing connections with its advocates, which would allow the brand to get to know them on a more personal level. The team soon created GCAP, the Genesys Customer Advocacy Program, which was dedicated to discovering, nurturing, and mobilizing its advocates.
From the moment Genesys’ advocates onboard, they are greeted with a welcome video and personalized onboarding experience to orient new GCAP members and help guide them into the community. The brand even offers multilingual content and support, automatically translating and localizing the GCAP interface into one of eight languages currently available, based on the customer’s location or preference. The welcoming environment not only consistently rewards customers for their advocacy, but also engages them with educational materials based on their expressed needs helping them make the most of Genesys’ products.
When the global pandemic hit, this 1:1 connection with advocates proved to be more difficult yet more important than ever. Genesys quickly adapted and focused on leveraging the GCAP community hub to host a “Genesys Xperience” virtual event, catering to the interests of many different customers by offering art classes, activities for community members to get to know each other, and forums for customers to share their feelings about Genesys and its products. This programming resulted in a 40% increase in GCAP engagement that month and allowed Genesys to directly connect with customers and learn about their interests and feedback. Genesys also provided educational content helping to nurture relationships with advocates.
Recognition and Rewards
Two major motivators for customers to engage with a brand are rewards for participating and a recognition of their efforts. Gamification in the form of points, badges, and rewards is a major way for customers to feel appreciated and incentivized to engage and advocate. Strong advocacy programs shouldn’t look at this as merely a transaction but as a meaningful “thank you” for contributing to the brand’s success. While the reward the customer receives may be in the form of a gift card or points, the recognition from the brand should feel personal and genuine.
When privileged access, password, and remote connection management solutions company Devolutions, which specializes in security software for small and mid-sized businesses, wanted to get into customer advocacy, they knew identifying and rewarding participants would be an essential part of the process. The first step was giving their advocate base a platform to engage with each other and incentivize activity. Using gamification like challenges and trivia involving customer stories gave advocates a fun reason to stay active and generated content for a robust blog program.
Clients and colleagues enjoyed using the advocate hub because Devolutions gave back for their time and effort. Advocates were given the ability to earn rewards like gift cards and branded merchandise and gain access to beta phases and be the first to learn about future products before the public, making them community VIP members. Within the first year of creating the advocate hub with reward challenges, the community doubled in size.
Remain flexible in every ask during the customer advocacy journey, whether it is a review, a referral or a reference. Consider offering functions such as self-service customer support, online events, training/education and advocacy programs depending on what the customer is looking for. As customer expectations continuously evolve, be prepared to adapt and offer these different options. It has never been more important for a brand’s marketing and customer success plans to remain nimble.
Cloud-native endpoint security software company VMware Carbon Black saw the potential in customer advocacy when the brand realized hundreds of users in its Carbon Black User Exchange Community were driving forum activity and answering questions from other members while sharing vital information. The global 15,000+ member community has been a place to share customer needs as well as learn about the latest in threat intelligence, but there was clear untapped potential in elevating the voices of members who showed the most initiative.
Its user base was clearly in need of something more, and Carbon Black saw the benefits of giving back to its customers, knowing it could potentially create a system of uncovering product feedback for the R&D team to improve and expand security as well as raise the company’s market visibility. Carbon Black decided to make something that went beyond a simple discussion forum. This led to the creation of Cb Defenders, a private marketing hub for the top community members of the Carbon Black User Exchange Community, where participants could receive exclusive opportunities and perks.
By listening to what its customers wanted, the Cb Defenders community gave back plentifully. The brand quickly found over 100 customer advocates who actively contributed to the R&D team, and over 500 members’ valued opinions led to the efforts of Carbon Black’s marketing team. Customer advocates began to influence the development of solutions, giving essential feedback and connecting directly with the team. The customer’s voice became a guiding light in the product development process.
The creation of Cb Defenders led to 50 new reviews for Gartner Peer Insights, running six design studies in three months integrating customer feedback directly into product UI. This also lessened the time in recruiting over 25 customer advocates for design studies from a week to a few days and creating a subset of over 40 customer advocates who agreed to participate in analyst and reference calls. Carbon Black listening to and supporting its customer base created an indispensable hub lending itself to nearly every company initiative. From marketing to design, adapting to customer demand shifted the way Carbon Black makes important decisions for the future.
While every customer advocacy program will look different based on the brand, its industry and its customers, all successful initiatives contain these core aspects to mobilize advocates. Customers continue to hold more and more influence over buying behavior, and modern marketing plans should reflect this. Incorporating personalization, recognition and rewards and flexibility into the advocacy journey positions both the brand and its customers for continued engagement and overall success.