Treat Advocates Like VIPs At Your Next Event

Several of our clients have their major customer meetings in the next three weeks.  We are helping with planning and will be staffing the events themselves. We also have three team members in Dubai for a week filming customer testimonials. So, as you can imagine, it’s a bit busy here! We have spent a lot of time with our clients helping them make their events very special for their advocates.  Everything from assuring pre-registration and bag drops at hotels to front row seats for the entertainment at the closing party. We’ve helped choose swag, arranged contests to recruit more advocates, created pull up banners with advocate quotes which will be autographed at the event, scheduled Customer Advisory Boards, designed customer award programs, arranged to film interviews for videos and case studies and much more. 

This blog post from Influitive is focused on ideas to make events special for advocates and begins with a very important idea, don’t just wait for your big event. Make your advocates feel special throughout the year. The post was written by Jeff Gabel of Quick Base and gives insight into how they made EMPOWER18, their annual user conference, memorable for their customers.

What has made your advocates feel special at your events?  Share your ideas below.

Target Advocate Program Increases with Gap Analysis - Tips From Referential's Lillian Kann

It’s the end of August, vacations are winding down and the kids are prepping for back to school. The calendar says it’s time to focus on the rest of the year! With the craziness of planning meals around sports and sizing up kids’ clothes and everything else they need, comes the opportunity to also review advocacy requirements and plan for success. Advocate recruitment tends to be a delicate synergy between identifying strategic customers for validation and predicting the references sales and marketing will be looking for to support sales opportunities and upcoming marketing requests. What can advocacy managers do to find the right balance?

Gap analysis of your reference database can be a key step in understanding reference coverage across your products, industries and geographic sectors.  It is also a helpful way to proactively plan for future request fulfillment. With an understanding of approved references and how this information compares to both your customer universe and request activity, you can proactively plan for recruitment and avoid the reactive chaos of high demand periods. A first step is  to create a snapshot of advocates:

  1. What references do you have today: Look at your universe of customers by product and compare this to customers successfully recruited for advocacy within that product area. This can offer visibility to necessary recruitment.
  2. How many requests do you expect: Using sales revenue goals by product and projected average deal size, calculate the number of deals required to meet goal. Adjust this number by the average number of references requested by each opportunity to better understand how many references you will need during the given period.
  3. Marketing requests: Check marketing calendars for visibility to upcoming events, speaker requests, analyst research needs and more.
  4. Where there are gaps: Comparing your anticipated deal numbers, the required references volume and your current approved references, you can identify gaps and proactively solicit customer nominations throughout your company to fill these gaps.

Once you understand the gap areas and request forecast, Sales and Customer Success may be your go-to teams for nominations and recruitment. Don’t forget about product management and product marketing teams. They can offer insight to customer lists and new product releases as well as early adopter customer lists Implementation and service delivery teams can help provide latest status on customer deployments. Sales leaders can offer insight to recent strategic wins All of these sources will help create a healthy pipeline of potential new customer advocates.

Gap analysis can offer an interesting view into overall advocacy success. If gap analysis is done effectively, this information can also offer critical insight, with metrics, into overall product success while offering insight to potential areas of concern.

We're already half way through 2018!

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!

Recruiting new advocates? Learn from the best - our Andreas Silva

  "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.

The Piece is Done - Now What?

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!

Nominating customers for awards - everyone wins especially when Referential writes the nomination!

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!

Olaf receiving KC Award 2018
Olaf receiving KC Award 2018

Are you speaking for your company or yourself?

  Working with customer advocates daily we’re often posed with a dilemma. Is the advocate speaking on behalf of their company or as themselves?  Speaking as themselves might allow them to bring a richer set of experiences, all they have learned in past jobs and through education. Yet the opportunity is being brought to them due to their employer. So which is it?

As you might expect the best answer here is ‘it depends’!  What are they being asked to do?  What knowledge allows them to be the best contributor possible? What does their employer allow?

We find that many of the advocates we work with have company policies for advocacy activities and social media involvement. Participation in an advocacy program can be the trigger to learn those policies! We have seen a wide range of policies and can work with any limitations they might set but we also see the flexibility for a wide range of involvement.

Does your company have advocacy policies? Policies for social media involvement? You might this article about corporate vs personal branding interesting. It’s from The Content Marketing Institute, written by Ann Gynn. It’s a good discussion about how advancing one’s personal brand and your corporation’s brand can go hand in hand. Worth a read.

 

Vote for 2017 Advocate Marketing Program of the Year – Deadline is Nov 24

BAMMIESThe Best Advocate Marketing Awards (BAMMIES for short) are produced by Influitive and designed to showcase the great strides that are being made by B2B marketing leaders who are working with their advocates to drive brand, demand and revenue.  The BAMMIES are awarded annually.  The 10 categories include “Building Event Buzz with an Advocate Swarm”, “The Advocate Marketing Hall of Fame”, and the big one – “The Advocate Marketing Program of the Year”.  You can vote for the winner of the latter category, which is awarded to the program you think has delivered measurable value through inspiring and flawless execution. Vote here.    

Here are the 2017 Advocate Marketing Program of the Year finalists, congratulations to all!

  • Ceridian HCM
  • Cisco
  • DocuSign
  • GoGuardian
  • InTouch Health
  • Pearson
  • PowerDMS
  • Staples 

Hurry, voting ends Friday, November 24 at 5 pm EST. Winners will be recognized at the Best Advocate Marketing Awards ceremony at Advocamp on December 6th-8th, 2017, in San Francisco.

Signature of Approval!

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 (We just returned from the Cyber Defense Summit 2017 in Las Vegas.  Leading up to the Summit we worked with customers to create videos and quotes that were used throughout the event.  Our trip to Australia to film customers resulted in such great content we expedited processes and went from filming in one country to showing our videos on the main stage of the event 12 days later! 

Love this photo, Freud Alexandre, the Enterprise Architect and Security Manager for the City of New Orleans (and one of our favorite people!), was so happy to be featured he autographed his banner.  That is the signature of approval! What we like to see with all our customer deliverables.

2 clients, 2 projects, 3 days, over 300 phone calls!

phone photo
phone photo

We had two projects overlap this week.  One client needed us to follow up on survey results and another asked us to invite customers to participate in an important event.  Both projects were at the stage where it was time to leave email behind and make phone calls. Between the two projects, two team members have made over 300 phone calls quickly, all in just a few days.  One person even came in at 5:30 AM so he could connect with the East coast early in their business day.  We were able to exceed goals for both projects.  We did leave a lot of voicemails but had great conversations with everyone who answered their phone.  A conversation is a great chance to meet your objective but also check in with advocates, see what other activities they might be interested in, see if anything has changed for them or their company, and answer questions. A lot of talking, but well worth the time!

Advocacy - there's a science to it

What motivates someone to share their opinion?  How can you influence them to try to persuade others? A recent article  from Stanford Graduate School of Business titled “Where Do Advocates Come From?” cites a range of research into advocacy. Professor S. Christian Wheeler and PhD graduate Omair Akhatar coauthored a study which found that you can persuade people with fixed attitudes to advocate by positioning it as an opportunity to stand up for their views, rather than as one to engage in dialogue. And for people that believe attitudes can change, the opposite is true.

Another cited study showed that those who are uncertain are more likely advocates than those who are moderately certain!  Titled “the Curvilinear Relationship Between Attitude Certainly and Attitudinal Advocacy by Lauren Cheatham and Zakary Tormala confirms what we often see, those that are very certain on a topic are more likely to be advocates than others. Their surprising study shows advocacy has a J curve, peaking with those highly certain, lowest for those of moderate certainty, and rising again for those with low certainty. They found people with low certainty do share their views, they often want to gather further information, and are open for discussion. Someone highly certain can come across as judgmental, not so those in the low certainty category.

Interesting thoughts. We need to take time to frame our discussions and messages appropriately and not overlook those advocates that still have questions. Science can help us be more effective. What do you think of these conclusions?

Dramatic - and Fast - Increase in Customer Engagement

We recently worked with a client to launch an Influitive AdvocateHub as a new front-end to their existing advocacy program. The decision to do this was made swiftly with the requirement that it went live 3 business days ahead of their inaugural user conference. Being able to unveil a hub at a major customer event is the perfect opportunity to accelerate engagement and build excitement for an advocacy program, however in this case it gave us only 14 business days to design, configure and populate it with activities/challenges! We are not ones to be overcome by what seemed impossible odds. What most hubs take 6 to 8 weeks to deploy, we accomplished in 2.5!

For those of you not familiar, an Influitive AdvocateHub enables the construction of a wider advocate community by inviting customers, partners, prospects and employees into it to complete "challenges" that span fun activities, educational opportunities and taking action such as making referrals, taking reference calls, writing product reviews and more. As advocates complete challenges, they earn points, badges and progress through levels that can be used for a variety of perks and privileges.

For our client, the hub out-stripped all expectations and success metrics that were defined in the planning stage: Nearly 60% of all attendees at the event joined and immediately started engaging in challenges. It exceeded the initial expectations for the number of participants 8 fold! Hub members completed over 1000 challenges in less than a week; nearly half became new social media followers of our client, and tweeting and forwarding of blog posts reached the highest levels our client had seen. Participants gave glowing reviews and volunteered for a variety of advocacy activities from case studies to presenting in webinars and at future events.

Referential: Influitive's First Certified Partner!

Influitive certification logoWe just got the official word that we are Influitive‘s first Certified Partner!  Just in case you haven't heard of them, the Influitive platform provides companies with the ability to create communities of advocates and really leverage all the goodwill that their advocates have generated. Getting certified required the successful completion, by more than one of the Referential team, of a series of online and classroom training sessions, field training, and passing a final oral exam to demonstrate that we have the necessary skills and knowledge to represent Influitive to customers.

Influitive was created by the founder of Eloqua (since bought by Oracle for almost $1 billion) and is attracting a lot of attention in the marketplace. We've watched the platform evolve and mature over the last three years and definitely feel that the time is right to participate in what we think will be a game changer in our industry. One of the great things for us is that the AdvocateHub, as it's known, is a logical extension of everything we've been doing over the last 20+ years in the reference/advocacy space - it just makes things so much easier!

Influitive has offices around the globe and we’re really proud to be the first Certified Partner in the world!

Customer References or Advocates? Making the Transition

Customer references vs. advocates. Quite a topic of conversation. There are all sorts of articles about the differences between advocates and references. Simplistically customer reference programs have been a critical part of the sales process. Customers are recruited, requests are fulfilled, and sales increase. Usually ­­­customer reference activities are reactive. References are asked to participate in activities such as a call with a prospect or speaking at an event. Advocates, on the other hand, are proactive in their promotion (and defense) of your brand. An advocate will proactively engage in a community or at an event, amplify your message in social media, or help with new product input. And they will also take that important call with a prospect!

Here is an interesting article on how BMC made the transition from relying on references to a strong advocacy program. A valuable read.