A Guide to Customer Advocacy
and Driving Value Through it
*Sarah, a CSM, at ABC corp., focused on Onboarding, Renewals, Upsells, Churn and team management- the core CS processes, to increase retention and reduce churn. She wanted to support customers at every stage of their journey to increase product adoption.
However, the results weren’t great. She couldn’t achieve what she aimed for. The expectation was to reduce churn by 10% but in reality, it was just 5%. Similarly, 95% conversion rate (for trial users) was the target yet again, it was 75% only. Now, at this point in time, Sarah was advised by her senior management to engage in advocacy campaigns.
The decision to implement a “customer advocacy” plan was a game changer for her. She and her colleagues sat down and decided about different variable strategies for the campaign. It took time and effort but the result which it produced was remarkable.
Take a look at the following figures which Sarah and her team accomplished in 6 months:
- Reduced churn by 12%.
- 90% of free trial users converted to the new version.
- 98% retention rate for accounts (which were paired with the program).
- $50K closed in new business.
- 300 product reviews.
- 200 referrals (closed 1).
Don’t you want such amazing results for your business? If the answer is yes, you know what to do next.
Invest in Customer Advocacy!
What is Customer Advocacy?
“Customer advocacy is a form of customer service where the team is focused on what’s best for the customer. Essentially, it’s a shift in a company culture from being company-centric to customer-centric.”
But customer advocacy is not just about appealing to the generosity of your best customers. Rather it is about driving extra value for customers that can be your advocates. Every customer turned advocate has to get more out of the program than what they put in. That is the key to successful customer advocacy.
Customer Advocacy in B2B SaaS
Marketing is an ever-evolving space and the SaaS industry can feel the repercussions of being behind the times. One of the best ways to keep up is customer advocacy. With the subscription economy, we have made the move towards hyper-personalization of products & processes.
If you are a SaaS brand it is important to make your customers feel a part of your brand. Personalization paves the way to advocacy and you have to figure out how to deliver it. SaaS brands have immense data on their customers which makes the process a bit simpler.
With the Subscription economy, the power lies with the buyer. At any point of time, if you fail to deliver value, the customer can readily switch to another product and thus making customer advocacy all the more important.
These are ways to build advocacy & trust at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Social proof is the key currency of the SaaS industry. Whatever the customer shouts at the top of their lungs will be heard and written in stone. This makes it incredibly important for SaaS marketers to make their best customers into advocates. That is the crux of customer advocacy. Rather than chasing for paid media or influencer posts, you should be looking at poaching your network.
CraftedCrate made a brilliant move by giving out their company shares to their most loyal subscribers. This makes the shareholders more invested in the company, makes them feel special and ensures a lifetime value till the product lasts.
Let’s look at some more statistics:
A simple statement. Content shares work. Consumers now have higher trust in peers and leaders than brands and institutions.
84% of B2B buyers begin as a referral, 97% of IT professionals rely on peer recommendations and reviews, NPS is a great gauge of customer advocacy. Why customer advocacy is still an untapped reserve gold mine because this survey stated that 91% of customers are willing to provide referrals but only 11% of salespeople are actively asking for referrals.
Hard selling has disappeared with the capability of the customer to research a product, understand the nuances and have a conversation about it. The information reliance from the salesperson is gone and they are likely to look for alternatives with competitive pricing. So the onus falls on you to give them value beyond what they asked for.
Types of Customer Advocacy
- Socials– Advocacy through sharing your blog posts, articles, and other content on their platforms.
- Testimonials– Sharing their experiences through a statement or quote. Can be a video testimonial or can just be a quote. It is good shareable content.
- Case Studies– Very important if you have a complex solution or product. A case study showcases your strong points and leverages success stories to build a rapport. They can also be used with pitch decks.
- Referrals– Peer-to-peer recommendations are the gold you should be digging for.
- Webinars/Podcasts/Conferences– Asking your advocates to come to speak on your behalf is a powerful tool. Viewers trust an outside look and it is a promotion for the customer too.
- Reviews– It will include a detailed overview of your product, support’s capabilities, the customer experience you provided, and any additional information. They are good shareable.
Who Owns Customer Advocacy- Customer Success or Marketing?
The traditional lines between departments are blurry because of the emergence of Customer Success (CS). This situation begs a question; Who owns customer advocacy- Customer Success or Marketing?
- Social Channels are the best way to reach out to potential advocates. They fall under marketing. So the job of amplifying voices, reaching out, and connecting with those customers is Marketing’s job.
- This game is all about referred leads. Referred leads are 12x more likely to convert. If Marketing owns customer advocacy, they can work on increasing the referred leads.
- Customer Advocacy and Content Marketing go hand in hand. It helps with creating essential Sales tools like case studies & testimonials that become a pillar of your advocacy plans.
Why Customer Success?
- Customer Success knows the customer best. They are the key to making potential advocates happy and creating genuine customer advocacy.
- CS is already involved in the customer journey, they know the value of every customer and have the data to back up an advocacy program.
- Customer advocacy starts with a good customer experience.
Advocacy requires the best of both departments. An advocacy program won’t function at full capacity if both departments do not collaborate. Customer Success is likely to be responsible for generating advocates and keeping them happy. Marketing should convert them into value for the company (convert referred leads).
How Does Social Media Listening Increase Advocacy?
Customer advocacy is a customer-centric approach, you want to meet their needs and then some. If you go the extra mile, customers become loyal. This means putting them first. Always.
But how does Social listening help? Social listening is all about that sweet data across your social media channels. In SaaS, more data means more potential. Analyzing data across channels constitutes social listening.
Listening to potential advocates to understand their patterns, pain points, and motivations is important for the best customer experience. Companies understand the importance of outstanding customer support. This involves tools that help give valued customer interactions like:
- Blueshift: An AI-based software to give you insights to create a personalized experience.
- PureClarity: Uses analytics to give personalized recommendations on email, search, etc.
- MailChimp: For personalized email campaigns.
- Zendesk: To provide the best customer support.
- CustomerSuccessBox: A customer success tool that helps drive advocacy with segmented insights & playbooks.
Combined with such powerful tools, social listening works in synergy to create the best advocacy program.
What are the different Customer Advocacy tools?
These are the tools or the software which assist in building customer advocates for your brand. They are used by CS leaders worldwide to help them to:
- Increase brand visibility.
- Help in analyzing outcome metrics (used to measure the effectiveness of advocacy campaigns).
- Create advocates for their brand.
- Get Real-time reports about their revenue drivers.
- Manage campaigns at a single place that gives real-time insights.
Examples include Extole, Influitive, Crowdvocate, SaaSquatch, etc.
How to Launch a Customer Advocacy Program
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. Converting a loyal customer into an advocate. It is never easy to create brand evangelists but if your product is solving problems for customers, you have half the process figured. When done right, these evangelists will stop at nothing to tell the world about your brand. Most importantly, they will be passionate about your work, and other potential customers will be drawn to your work through them. But before you start poaching, you need a good strategy.
Customer Advocacy Strategy
A good strategy has a clarity which gets highlighted in the objective of the strategy. Define a primary goal for your advocacy program like to generate more revenue, or to grow awareness.
The next step is appointing a leader to oversee the program. This is where customer advocacy specialists come into play. The advocacy specialists’ first job is to define the perfect persona for your brand advocates. General qualities that your persona should possess are loyalty to the brand, a wide social media presence, and a way with people. Create a list of potential advocates and use surveys & other feedback garnering forms to take the conversation further.
There is nothing too big or too small when it comes to customer advocacy. The initiatives can differ, it can just be feedback or testimonial or quote or can also be a case study for example. If you take part in podcasts or webinars, inviting advocates is a great way to gain more traction. It is an exhilarating feeling of seeing customers talking about your brand everywhere they go! With Customer Success Box as an example, we have case studies & customer stories from our advocates like Pipedrive, Raken, Sales Screen, etc. With exemplary service provided to them by us, they have become a part of our advocacy.
Advocacy is attached with incentives and rewards. A simple thank you never suffices. You can say that with personal experiences too. You must also love getting that 10% off on your mail from a trusted brand and the feeling of being special attached to it. Recreate that feeling with your advocacy program.
Understanding the Different Advocate Personas
Educators: Every product online forum has a few people who focus on helping others understand better. This teaching genome is a great trait for advocacy. These clients are patient, willing to help others, and are great spokespeople.
Status Seekers: Customers with a wide network who can be brutally honest. Their honesty attracts their following, they won’t be afraid to point out mistakes. Strong speakers are likely to do well at podcasts, webinars where they can become the center of attention.
Validators: They are your authentic customers, groomed through various months/years of using your product. Comfortable with your product, their experience makes them credible and fair.
Collaborators: Working to build their own network through reciprocal arrangements, collaborators can be influential advocates. They are ideal for business reviews and other joint ventures.
NPS sets the standard, maximize it
An efficient way to know if you will benefit from customer advocacy is through Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS measures whether a customer will refer your products to their circle. The score can be calibrated through simple surveys. According to the score, they are divided into three categories.
This will make segregation easier for you and you will know if a customer can be converted into an advocate. You should always care about the group with low NPS scores and identify problems. Such proactiveness can turn them from detractors to promoters in no time.
Start a Referral Program
After setting a goal, delegating responsibilities, and segregating customers & potential advocates start a referral program. This is a personalized program based on the knowledge you have gathered about your customers. Have multiple touchpoints in it for ease of tracking and segregation based on the type of advocacy. An effective referral program is based on driving additional value for everybody involved. If the incentives are just monetary your advocates will be disappointed.
It is important to have engagement methods in your referral program. Now the only thing left is to track your success. Customer advocacy tools can help with preparing reports with metrics like NPS, influence rating, revenue influenced, and leads acquired. It takes about 4-6 months for a referral program to show some results.
Over the recent years, B2B SaaS has become a highly competitive space. The voices of your customers have a unique value and it stands out! Customer advocacy is beneficial for reducing your marketing costs and also a great way to propagate the industry.
Paying for credibility is old-fashioned when you can generate some. Understand that advocacy strategies will stay for a longer run than any marketing strategies. You can read more about advocacy and customer success on our blog here.