Our managing partner, Helen Feber, recently spent a week in Rome. She joined a world wide meeting held by one of our clients, bringing customer advocacy expertise and focus to the event. Helen also taught one of our training classes, customized to meet specific needs of this client. After the training she then proctored a certification exam, the ICCAP Level 1 exam. Referential is authorized to deliver training in support of the certifications offered by the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals and to proctor the associated exams. It was a very busy week.Attentive students and a wonderful teacher led to a very high pass rate on the exam. Congratulations to all the newly certified customer advocacy professionals!Of course one can’t spend a week in Rome without some fun! Here's Helen as she was ready to cycle off on an adventure!Let us know if your organization is interested in customer advocacy training. We even have an ICCAP authorized training center at our site in San Jose California, should you not have a meeting in Rome scheduled!
An interesting post on the Glossy blog tells the story of how Crocs has leveraged user generated content from their Gen-Z fans. They have zoomed up the list of teens’ favorite brands, from 27th in 2018 to 13th last year. With well defined user segments, Crocs knew they had a young set of fans, and they were becoming an increasingly important consumer segment. Crocs wanted to increase their digital activity and relevancy and looked to user generated content from this younger segment. If you’ve thought of Crocs as footwear for gardeners, they are now seen everywhere from London Fashion Week, the pages of Vogue, to the feet of Dame Helen Mirren. Customer advocates are partially responsible for Crocs huge increase in popularity. A story worth a read, really highlights the power of customers telling a brand’s story.
Last Friday wrapped up another year of Referential’s sponsorship for the Summit on Customer Engagement. Once again, it was great to see familiar faces and meet new ones. Every year serves as a great reminder that we are not alone in the Advocacy world!There were plenty of great speakers, which gave me a lot to think about and how I can continue to elevate the Customer Advocacy Programs I support for my clients. Here are a few takeaways that I plan to implement.
1. The Power of Positivity
We see all the time on our LinkedIn feeds different articles and blogs about the Power of Positivity and how it can transform one’s way of thinking and how to go about each day. While the intention is good, it’s really hard to remain positive around everything all of the time. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment to be mindful of your demeanor.However, one trick that we learned from the keynote speaker, Mark Levy, was to begin each meeting (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) with your team going around to each team member and having them share their proudest moment since the last team meeting.Mark had the entire audience go through this exercise with a partner. It was shocking that it was hard at first to come up with 3 different moments that I was most proud of. It’s normal that we tend to dwell on the negatives and overlook where we may have excelled and made an impact.As a result, there was this tangible feeling of excitement in the room. Everyone got a moment to reflect and remember that the work that they do IS very meaningful. Advocacy Professionals can use this same exercise with their team and with their advocates to fuel a consistent, positive vibe.
2. Find new ways to track ROI
For most programs the monthly metrics are traditionally tracking things like:
Number of reference requests handled
How many pieces of new content were generated
Number of new customers recruited as advocates
However, these metrics are very advocacy focused and not specifically speaking to the key performance indicators of the Sales, Marketing, and Executive teams, so they don’t see the correlation to how that affects them and they tune out.Advocacy Managers need to think about making minor adjustments to the metrics they are tracking to better show the effectiveness of the program. For example, they can look to track:
How many unique clicks a new case study received in a given month, quarter, or year. From there the Advocacy Manager can look to track how many new leads were generated, which shows impact for Marketing.
# new leads generated from an event where a customer advocate provided a presentation to an audience. Tracking these leads from beginning to end can then show the revenue that was brought in – impacting the bottom line – from the efforts of the Advocacy Program.
# Sales Opportunities where a case study or video or some sort of customer evidence was shared. If the prospect found that content relevant and interesting, the program can attribute some of that revenue to the customer evidence provided. Advocacy Managers can then take a step back to see what types of content are most impactful and what types of stories they are telling. They can even evaluate if the deals that received customer advocate support closed faster than those that didn’t.
3. It’s time to re-think Customer Content
In the past, customer stories have always showcased really happy, positive customers who would be completely lost without “X” vendor. While the story is upbeat and bubbly, and the customer is talking about how great it is to work with the vendor, it’s just not fully believable. As humans, we know that we can design the “perfect plan” only for something to not go quite right. It’s time that customer stories reveal the truth: “Even in tough times, working with “X”, the support team worked hard to make things right quickly.” It makes the stories more authentic and genuine.Traditionally, customer content features someone like “Mark, Vice President of Technology” or “John, Chief Information Officer”. However, the readers and viewers don’t know who Mark or John are and why should they be listening to what they have to say. There needs to be more emphasis on the customer’s backstory, meaning the readers and viewers should get to know the individual on a more personal level. How did they get into the industry? How were they able to get to where they are today? Knowing that sort of information not only establishes credibility but it also helps the readers and viewers connect with that individual on a deeper level. They may share similar backgrounds and are able to relate to what they are currently going through; enhancing the human-to-human connection. Most professionals have LinkedIn and can do their research on who that individual works for. Instead of the traditional “Company ABC can sleep at night because of Vendor X”, why not try “Meet John, and learn how he transformed his organization’s IT processes.”Not only do programs need to consider how to get more creative around their customer content but they also need to think about different ways to encourage customers to create self-generated content. An example of this would be when a customer advocate makes an impromptu Tweet mentioning their success with Vendor “X” demonstrating how much they truly believe in the power of the vendor’s products and services. They are advocating as an individual and not on behalf of their company, which will attract the attention of their network of peers. Encouraging advocates to post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram can really bring out a vendor’s biggest fans. The detractors are equally as important as they are taking the steps to make their voice heard. Taking the time to make things right for those detractors can ultimately turn them into advocates.Many Advocacy Professionals have wonderful, creative ideas to elevate their programs, it’s a shame to not be able to sit in on every single session at the Summit because there’s always more to learn. I hope you find the three main points listed here are at least a great way to get the conversation started on new, effective ideas to elevate your program!
We all want to ensure the products we buy are going to behave in the way that we desire or need them to. So by choosing to capture your advocates’ passion on video, enables your potential buyers to understand why the solutions are working for them and to be activated by the advocates’ excitement into purchasing.
Bring the power of video to your success stories – producing both 2-3 minute pieces and 30-60 second ‘snackable’ soundbites that can be shared on solution pages and blog posts – and have the world see just how genuine and authentic your advocates are about the value your solutions provide.
As we have been heard to say at Referential, customer advocacy professionals don’t just grow on trees! It’s a specialized skill set requiring a keen understanding of frameworks and methodologies. Referential offers a tiered education program designed for advocacy practitioners at any stage of their career. Do you need to study the fundamentals of advocacy program design? We have a course for you. Want to master proven strategies for engaging customers or investigate both established and emerging methods of asset creation and metric reporting? There is training for that as well. Our education program provides in-depth training across the full breadth of skills and experience necessary for advocacy practitioners to thrive in any industry. Referential training is tiered to support the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals (ICCAP) three levels of certification. In addition to our classes, training can be customized to meet individual needs or interest in specific topics. See our training page for more information about the content and intended audience of each training offering or contact us to discuss customized options. We're here to help you polish your skills and excel at advocacy!
The Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals (ICCAP) will be holding three examination sessions immediately prior to the upcoming Summit on Customer Engagement event in Burlingame, CA. For those of you not familiar with ICCAP, it is a coalition of industry experts and practitioners who are committed to promoting excellence and accountability in the customer advocacy industry. The mission is to institutionalize industry standards and empower customer advocacy professionals.
ICCAP offers three levels of certification testing, all of which will be offered on March 13, at the Summit on Customer Engagement venue:
- Customer Advocacy Professional I – demonstrating an understanding of the fundamentals of customer advocacy.
- Customer Advocacy Professional II* – having at least two years of experience (or equivalent) and demonstrating knowledge of either being charge of a sub-team on an advocacy program or having more direct accountability for delivery/SLAs.
- Customer Advocacy Professional III* – having at least five years of experience (or equivalent) and demonstrating knowledge of being able to start an advocacy program from scratch and/or having total ownership for a well-rounded one.
*= For these levels of certification, in addition to passing the examination you will be asked to provide details of your experience and 2 reference contacts that can vouch for your expertise.
To learn more and register, note that space is limited, please visit the ICCAP site The event special pricing for March 13 is $249 per exam; almost half-price!
We all aim for advocacy program success but there are valuable learnings from the failures of others. This blog post from Influitive discusses the 7 most common reasons an advocacy program fails and how you can address the issue before it becomes a problem for your program. Here are the key issues they have seen:
While the post is through the lens of an Advocate Hub the information is really applicable to all the various ways we structure advocacy programs.
Each of the seven areas is described, you’ll understand why they are potential problems, and then there are recommendations to fix, or even avoid, the issue. There are also links to more information. For example, one way to address the issue of a generic advocate experience is to customize. But how? The blog post includes links to further information about developing and using personas to target your information and asks.
One blog post won’t avoid all potential problems, but this does have good information and is worth a read. Address these issues so they don’t become problems for your program in the future. In the comments add any additional ideas you have for others, let's learn from each other.
Living in Maine along with her husband, two sons, and dog – Jennifer Doyon manages to be an active Advocacy Consultant for Referential. She enjoys being able to work with multiple clients, and she especially appreciates that in her role as a consultant she can focus on her work without the distraction of corporate politics. Jennifer mentioned how people love being able to talk about what they do, and that Referential helps find them the platforms to do so: She facilitates customer interaction to help them promote the products they use. She loves meeting customer advocates at events and interviews: Being able to hear about their experiences and to learn about their industry keeps her job interesting and informative.
Jennifer’s experience of working for a large technology vendor and understanding how a big enterprise company is structured – as well as the challenges employees face – enables her to connect with her clients on a different level. She also has experience working in a corporate communications team, which gave her extensive experience with analyst and press relations, customer interviews, and event planning and execution.
Aside from work, Jennifer enjoys walks with her dog, yoga, and spending time with friends. She has two boys that have always played numerous sports, so she considers watching them compete as one of her hobbies! During football season, she is especially busy, as her sons both play, one in high school and the other in college. In the summers, Jennifer's family spends time fishing and boating along the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. . She tries to travel whenever she can: She backpacked all over Europe after college and would like to revisit some of her favorite countries; Germany, Ireland, and Greece.
She loves that her co-workers are team-oriented, positive, and focused on learning and improving, which creates a very positive work experience. She enjoys traveling to San Jose at least twice a year for the all-hands-in-person weeks where everyone at Referential experiences working side-by-side and the team bonding is significant. She’s excited to be part of Referential’s positive trajectory!
Working from the UK, Lynn Watts has been an Advocate Consultant with Referential for 20-years! She also assists Referential’s creative team when needed, as she has a background as a graphic designer. One of Lynn’s strongest suits is being able to talk to anyone, whether it be an executive or a sales rep or a technician. She thinks of herself as a matchmaker of the business world; working hard to find the best fitting advocates to speak to each prospect. One of her favorite aspects about work is it’s always interesting; every day is different.
Being a team player enables Lynn to help both her clients and coworkers. She adores her Referential family and is grateful for the supportive and close dynamic they all share. In fact, what she finds so extraordinary about the team is the broad range of experience between them. They can leverage each of their skills and expertise, making for an extraordinarily strong group of consultants.
She recalled a favorite memory – which coincidentally occurred during one of her California visits – one of the team was sitting on a yoga ball and it happened to burst right underneath them! Thankfully, the colleague wasn’t hurt and the whole moment was captured on the cameras in the office, immortalizing the scene forever.
Aside from her job, Lynn loves to play tennis – at club-level impressively enough – walk her dog (that's Bertie in the photo), garden, spend time with her family, and just be outdoors.
She appreciates the gratitude and recognition she gets from clients, especially kudos those from contacts outside of the advocacy programs that suddenly realize what the program can do for them. And she’s thankful for her team at Referential for constantly expanding her horizons.
Do you use the RO Innovation platform for your customer advocacy data? If so you should consider attending the 2018 Elevate Customer Summit being held November 14-15 in San Jose, CA. All the details are here. The summit is a great chance for networking, learning best practices, product training, and insight into advocacy trends. There are some great speakers on the agenda including our very own Helen Feber.
Helen is doing a joint session with Richard Clooke of Symantec at 1:30 the first day. Their topic is "Mastering Internal Engagement for Greater Buy-In". They will talk about a key to advocacy program success, which is ensuring it is embedded throughout your organization. You want to see customer evidence as part of processes throughout Marketing, Product, and Sales organizations. In the session you will get tips on working with various groups to embed customer evidence in their processes, campaigns, product launches, and all aspects of go to market and sales plans.
Join Helen and Richard at Elevate 2018!
Salesforce recently surveyed nearly 7000 consumers and business buyers to understand how customer expectations are changing, which technologies are impacting the consumer experience, and why trust is increasingly important. The full report can be downloaded here. There is a summary blog post here. The blog post has much more detail, but here are the highlights of 5 of the report’s key findings:
· Eighty percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services · Eighty-two percent of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves · Seventy percent say connected processes are very important to win their business · Fifty-nine percent say they’re open to companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their experiences · Sixty-two percent of customers say they’re more afraid of their data being compromised now than they were two years ago
Consumers want personalized experiences and connections with the companies they frequent. At the same time, they don’t fully trust companies to adequately protect personal information. This is an issue gaining in importance daily. How does your company build trust with your customers? What trends do you see in customer expectations and do they align with the Salesforce research? This is an important area, the report is worth reading.
Influitive’s Advocamp Field Day is October 3. We’ve sponsored past events and are excited to participate at this new venue. Referential's Jennifer Doyon will be at the event. If you are attending in person take a minute to stop by our space and speak with her. It’s always nice to make face to face connections! Online or onsite you will find it a valuable experience and well worth you time. Even a better value if you register by August 15 and receive a 20% discount! All the details are here. Spending time with others focused on customer advocacy is sure to give you many ideas for your program. Enjoy the camp theme, network with attendees, learn from Influitive - you'll enjoy it and come away with many new ideas to apply right away.
See you at the field day!
Intern-turned-employee Ryan Barron has worked with Referential for 18-months and currently serves as an Advocacy Consultant. Although he recently graduated from college, Ryan has plenty of experience gained from both working at Referential full-time during the summer of 2017, and delivering half-time throughout the school year. Originally, Ryan was unaware of the world of advocacy. However, today he loves that it’s much bigger than he anticipated and is a nice change of pace. He enjoys helping to expand customers’ product markets and grow profit margins by enabling their best customers to share their positive experiences.
Ryan credits his impressive success to being a people-person and having the ability to talk to almost anybody. That, in addition to his dedication, skill with Microsoft office tools, and multi-tasking abilities makes for a bright future.
He’s thankful to Referential’s intimate setting with bonds that are closer than those of an average workplace. Ryan finds comfort in everyone knowing each other well and says it helps the group to communicate with ease. He appreciates coming in to work, seeing familiar faces and having a good laugh. He says he hasn’t had a bad day yet – which means a lot because the work can be quite stressful – and he appreciates having some light moments that reduce the tension.
One of his favorite things about working with multiple clients is the exposure he receives to how different corporations go about business: Understanding how a company is run, how offices function and interact, and learning from co-workers. His day-to-day routine is to soak up everything like a sponge!
In his free time, Ryan plays basketball and takes part in the occasional video gaming session. He also watches a lot of Netflix, which he says should be a hobby! He looks forward to having a sustainable lifestyle.
Ryan works well with people and believes understanding where a client is coming from, and adapting to their style, is vital for success in a relationship. He aims to grow alongside his clients and looks forward to a bright future ahead.
Why does it seem that analyst requests are getting more and more demanding? It used to be that they would ask for five references with a name/email address/phone number for a report not coming out until early next year. Lately, we have seen the requirement for references has increased significantly; not only do the analysts now want a phone interview, but they’re asking each customer to also complete an extensive survey. Your customers are busy and so are you, right? Let’s think about these three Rs to help you determine your response: What is Realistic? What is Reasonable? What is the Return?
What is realistic?
Is your product really ready to be included in this report? Can your company compete with the major players? Are you asking customers to comment on products they haven’t truly tested? If it’s a stretch, perhaps you can opt out and revisit the option next year.
What is reasonable?
Have they asked for 20 references and they need them by Friday? Don’t hesitate to ask for an extended deadline if the ask is going to cause major disruption to your team. More importantly, don’t ever jeopardize your relationship with a customer because of some external pressure. Hopefully, you already know which customers are willing and able to connect with analysts. If not, ensure you have the time needed to identify and properly vet your references.
What is the return?
What percentage of your audience is going to make their buying decision based on this report? Will it affect the company’s bottom line? Identify the most influential analyst evaluations where you expect a solid return, and focus your attention on those. If it is a lesser known analyst report among your prospective buyers, determine if it is truly worth the time and effort of your customer advocates.
In the end, remember that analysts are people too, and they have many priorities, just like you. They are helping our prospective clients make informed buying decisions. Analysts have a responsibility to dig in to find the real story and connect with real users. Sure, their demands seem a bit unrealistic at times, but if you’re prepared and selective, you’ll make the analyst “work” for you.
With buyers looking for input from their peers more and more often, be it in consumer or B2B situations, it’s increasingly important to ensure that you have the voice of your customers prominent in all stages of the buying cycle. Hubspot research shows that sales and marketing people are not viewed as particularly trustworthy. In fact only 3% of survey respondents trust salespeople. To put that in context politicians are at 1% and lawyers at 12%. Though 49% of us trust doctors.
With low trust for sales and marketing, buyers are turning to people they know and trust, their peers and your customers. It’s increasingly important to have the voice of your customer prominent at each stage of the buying cycle. Where to start? This infographic from ROInnovation is one example of how you can map customer content to the stages of the buying cycle. While it may not be the perfect fit for your company it’s a good place to start. What customer content do you have? Is it easy to find and being used appropriately? What are you missing? Anything you would add to the infographic? Give us your thoughts below.
Hard to believe but we are half way through the year. Time for mid year check points not only with employees but also with clients. We just completed a round of client reviews. Simple format – one slide with goals for the client and progress in the first half, plus a second slide with action plans should there be any issues and comments about what is expected in the second half. These reviews complement the monthly metrics and client checkpoints that we also do. In addition to a checkpoint of first half results, we also looked at statistics which allow us to compare client performance to industry norms. We looked at everything from what percent of customers contacted agree to participate in advocacy programs to how long does it take to fulfill an average request for advocate participation.
It’s good to take a step back and assess. Each team has done very well in the first half and is looking forward to an even more impactful end to the year. The reviews are always a valuable experience. There is a chance for learnings that we can bring to all clients, valuable insight to share with our lead contacts, and there were many pats on the backs for jobs well done! The first half has been full of amazing accomplishments and huge financial impact for our clients. Looking forward to even greater success in the second half of 2018!
"I'm going to give him an offer he can't refuse." You can channel your inner Don Corleone during recruitment calls! Now, we don’t mean THAT sort of offer, but there is a way to position advocacy activities during a recruitment call with a customer where they really can’t refuse you.
Traditionally in the advocacy world you have a laundry list of activities that you want/need customers to participate in like taking reference phone calls, participating in analyst surveys, speaking at conferences, writing case studies. The problem with that is the customer only hears what you, the vendor, is getting out of the relationship. They’ve most likely been burned so many different times by other vendors that the laundry list begins to sound as monotonous as Luca Brasi rehearsing his pledge to Don Corleone at his daughter’s wedding.
It’s easy to forget in the middle of all the craziness of trying to insert a customer voice in every situation possible that Customer Advocacy is a two-way street. The customer will gladly sing your praises from the hilltops of Sicily because you made them feel special and that they had an impact, so give them an opportunity to make that impact and to do the things they really want to do.
Andreas Silva is our recruiting expert. Instead of asking advocates “Would you be willing to take a reference call?” he asks “How would you like to connect with your peers?”
Instead of asking “Would you take an interview with an analyst?” we ask “Would you like to make an impact on your industry by giving product feedback to an analyst?”
And finally, instead of asking “Would you speak at a user conference?” try “Would you like to be seen as a thought leader amongst your peers?” or “Have you ever considered elevating your personal brand by speaking at ____ Conference?” You can almost hear those gears turning in their heads.
See the difference? Hard to say no, isn’t it?
The key to all of this is really listening to the customer and understanding what makes them tick. These are people and at the end of the day and we all have things that get us fired up. Position the various advocacy activities in a manner such that they really see the value of being engaged and participating in all the activities you have to offer. Soon enough they’ll be jumping out of their seats when you, “The Don”, come calling.
You have worked with your advocate and created a fantastic video or case study. It’s on your web site, but now what! How do you get additional visibility for this great piece that sings the praises of your products as well as showcases your customer as innovative and a thought leader? Social media is one approach. These stats from April show that Facebook has 2B, yes billion, active users each month. Instagram, number 6 on the list, has over 800 million active users. .
Here is an article from Influitive, with ideas on how to best use a range of channels to get higher visibility for your content. You need to give thought to language, time of day for posts, audience and much more. For example, with LinkedIn Influitive encourages you to consider targeted updates on your company page, rather than aiming at your entire audience.
In addition to social media consider email. An article from eMarketer shows that email ROI is more than 4X that of other marketing formats! What about your company blog? Many of our clients do blog posts about new customer content.
Do post pieces on your website but don't stop there. Get your company, and your advocate, additional visibility. What approach has been most successful for you? Share your tips!
One of the most gratifying activities we get involved with is creating a successful award nomination – nothing beats seeing the look on a client’s face when they learn that they just won a major award!
We collaborate with our clients to target specific industry awards for the coming year and then work with account teams to identify noteworthy candidates; either individuals, teams, or whole companies. We typically then do a short interview with the lead nominee and put together a submission for the individual award. Then it’s out of our hands!
We have a stellar track-record for nominations that get picked as winners and category finalists. We are very proud to have Deutsche Bank win a very prestigious award for an IT Risk Management project at a ceremony just held in Munich – the recipient notified us from the banquet hall floor! See their photo below. We also were delighted to hear that Johnson & Johnson received one of the top prizes at the latest Dell annual conference. However, not all our submissions are for large corporations: We championed a regional consumer services provider and were equally excited to be notified that they will be presented with the “Best in Class Contact Center” honor at a major industry event to be held in June in the US. All three happened in the last month and all were nominations written by our mangeing partner, David Feber.
Irrespective of the ultimate outcome, we repeatedly see major returns from even just submitting a client for an award – all too often people don’t get positive feedback, so being nominated is understandably viewed as being a huge deal! We’ve found that for a modest amount of work, the payback is dramatic and the sense of goodwill lasts for a long time – we highly recommend it!
Nearly all B2B decision makers start their journey with a referral. By nearly all, the Edelman Trust Barometer says 84%. That is significant. This, and other important stats, are shared in an infographic on the Influitive blog titled, "17 B2B Referral Statistics You Should Know (But Probably Don’t)".
Influitive teamed with Heinz marketing to survey North America B2B professionals from sales pros to executives. The results tell us a lot about the impact of B2B referrals on both sales pipeline and revenue growth.
It’s clear that referrals have a higher conversion rate and close faster than deals from other sources. You can see the stats in the infographic plus access the complete report. Even though referral sales are so very valuable it’s surprising a larger percentage of companies don’t have a formal referral program. This study notes only 30% have such a program.
Does your company have a referral program? Do you leverage your advocacy program through to referrals? Share your insights below.