Get Your Community Talking!

Whether your community is an AdvocateHub, based on LinkedIn, uses company forums or some other structure, you’re probably faced with challenges in starting conversations and then keeping community members involved. This blog post from Influitive has tips on conversation categories that are engaging and should incite conversation.Many communities have welcome posts that can serve an onboarding role for new participants and a central point for questions about how the community operates.Threads which allow participants to introduce themselves to others are popular. Start the thread with some simple questions to give people ideas of what to cover in their introduction. Access to information about news and events is a key benefit of community participation.  Ask questions of your members in those posts to start conversation. What are their thoughts on your new announcement?  Will they be attending the next big event that your company hosts? The blog also shows how posts about product feedback/updates, thought leadership, and best practices can help encourage participant activity. Examples of successful posts are shown with each category, examples you can leverage in your own community.Influitive recommends fun posts, posts about pets or kids or favorite vacation spots might be an easy place for your members to begin posting in your community.  With a little positive reinforcement, you may see them become active across all categories.What tips do you have for increasing conversations in your community?

Referential's Andreas Silva: Takeaways from the Summit on Customer Engagement 2019

Andreas @ SCE 2019

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!

One Interview, Many Customer Assets

This ZoomInfo blog post is full of tips to get the most from your webinar content. The tips apply to your customer advocacy video content as well. Do you create the video, publish the video, and then sit back?  That content can do so much more in terms of raising awareness for your advocate and your program. The article is short and worth a quick read, you are likely to come away with several ideas you can put in to use immediately. Some of the ideas include:

·      Create a blog post with highlights of the content, include a link for those that want to learn more

·      Create an infographic of the content.  If the content lends itself to that format know that an infographic is read 30X more than a text article!  See this Hubspot blog post for more information about infographics

·      Create short clips for social media use

We do the above for our video clients. In addition, we use the content of the video interview to create a case study or success story.  That longer format allows us to tell a more complete customer story.  The quotes from that document are then pulled to be used as independent assets in marketing campaigns, on the web, even all over the walls at customer events.

A single interview should result in many deliverables, of different formats, with different uses. It’s a great way to get huge value from a single interview and have your customers really shine.

Any additional ways you use customer video content? Please share.

How Much Data is Enough Before a Decision?

This article from Harvard Business review by Ed O’Brien shows we use less data than we think to make decisions. Somewhat surprising in this age of easy access to information. People think they assess all available information before making a decision, but experiments show that isn’t the case. We make our minds up quickly, before we have a chance to work through all the data.

In a series of experiments, published  here, O’Brien and his co-author Nadav Klein tested the hypothesis that people overestimate how much information they will assess before making up their minds.

This was confirmed in several experiments. Two examples:

  • How many paintings do you need to see before determining if you like the style? Prediction 16 or 17 paintings, reality: 3 or 4 paintings.
  • How many essays will a hiring manager read? Participants wrote on average 4 essays, hiring managers read on average 2.

How do you make sure you look at ‘enough’ information and not decide too quickly? The article gives a range of advice. One tip is for experiences that don’t change much over time deciding quickly is appropriate, but don’t judge an employee’s performance too soon. And keep the perspective of others in mind. Will they really focus on your full multipage resume or should you put more effort into optimizing less content?

Very interesting read. Do you consider enough information before making decisions?

 

Move to Video! Thoughts from Referential's Alexander Feber

IMG_20171010_120507More than ever before, people are relying on reviews and opinions to help them make decisions, whether it be in their personal life or in a business situation. So why not take your success stories to the next level. Anyone can read a case study, but it doesn’t have the personal touch that video does. When an advocate shows their passion and their excitement for your product, it is leagues ahead of just an online review or endorsement.

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.

The SCARF Model: Product Insights, Customer Motivation

This article from Justin Owings discusses a fairly simple model for motivation and how it can apply to your products and your customers. What makes your customers, your advocates, act?  What makes them pull away or ignore requests? The SCARF model was created by Dr David Rock. It is about understanding motivation. You can read Dr Rock’s publication SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others. At the basis is the thought that we are motivated to approach good stimuli or rewards, and we disengage or avoid stimuli we see as bad or a thread. 

The acronym "SCARF" stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. Very briefly, if you use the model to gain insight to your products you might think through the following questions:  

Status: how does your product elevate the status of your customers?

Certainty: How does the product assure users it does what it's says it does?

Autonomy: How does my product empower my users to act?

Relatedness: How does my product help me connect to others?

Fairness: Is my product fair?

Dr Rock originally created the SCARF model to help us understand our motivations and the motivations of others. As we see above the model can help you gain insights to your products. The model has also been used as a framework for thinking through personas and then crafting collateral and messaging which then resonates with target markets.

What are your thoughts on the SCARF model and how it might apply to your products, processes, or customers?

 

Issue That May Impact The Success Of Your Advocacy Program

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:

influitive failures

influitive failures

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.

Learn from 777 Million Facebook posts!

If your company uses Facebook as part of their marketing portfolio you should look at this post  by Susan Moeller of BuzzSumo. To help us all understand how we can drive more engagement via Facebook BuzzSumo analyzed 777 MILLION posts. 

As with previous years, video is the most engaging type of Facebook post. 59% more engagement than other types of posts, with 3-4 minutes being the sweet spot in terms of length.

There is information about best time of day, best day of the week, optimal length of text posts, and so much more. Some of the information may not hold true for your specific audience but will give you helpful information nonetheless.

Also of interest is the data about the Facebook pages with the most engagement for 2018. They may give you ideas to improve your page’s engagement, even if you don’t feature vides of babies, animals, or food! The author does a good job of highlighting what each page does well and how it might apply to others.

Read the post to the end for helpful tips on how you can improve your reach.  Look at your own data, analyze your most successful posts and see what you can apply elsewhere.  Adjust, analyze, and repeat.

While some of the information in this post is specific to BuzzSumo the majority will be helpful to anyone who uses Facebook as part of their marketing.

Customer Expectations - Research from Salesforce

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.

The 3Rs of Supplying References to Analysts: From Referential’s Jennifer Doyon

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.

Podcast Fan? 15 Business Podcasts to Explore

Like podcasts?  Here's a list of 15 top business podcasts from Lean Labs. Listen while you run, while you drive, while at the grocery store, or even on your commute.  The audio format gives tremendous flexibility. If you listen to podcasts today, these 15 probably include old favorites and no doubt new ones to add to your list. If you aren’t part of the 40 million that listen to podcasts weekly maybe it’s time to give it a try! 

This isn’t the only list of great business podcasts. A quick google search will show you lists from other organizations or more focused sets of choices. Interested in product marketing or business development or entrepreneurship?  There are podcasts for just about any other topic you can think of. If you aren’t already a fan try this easy way to fit learning, and even entertainment, into your day.

Ensure the voice of your customer is strong throughout the buying cycle

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. 

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!

Marketing blogs - reviews of the best

This blog post is one of about 2.5 million that will be published today. A number that is growing.  So how do you find quality content?  Specific to content marketing blogs this article  from SnapApp offers a good starting point. They scoured the web, reviewing blogs based on quality, frequency, and reader engagement and came up with a list of 109.

Now 109 is still a lot but they have divided them into 14 categories – social media, account based marketing, and marketing technology , to name just a few. In addition, there is a short description of each and a link to a recommended post.  With this list you are bound to find helpful sources of information. 

How many will you start to follow? Which are already on your favorites list?

The Power of B2B Referrals

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.

Worldwide Business Etiquette Insight from Referential's Lynn Watts

At Referential we work with clients from all over the world and we have staff in the US, the UK, and India. There are many similarities between the way business is conducted throughout the world, but there are also differences that need to be considered. There are differences in greeting style if meeting face to face, how to address others in correspondence, communications may require an interpreter, and varied meeting structures to name a few. Some business cultures are quite relaxed in style, while others are serious or regimented. As Advocacy Consultants we spend a lot of time corresponding with people globally, so to avoid confusion it’s important not to use slang expressions or local idioms that could be misinterpreted. We need to be mindful that in some countries people expect to be addressed formally. For example, in Germany and The Netherlands it is standard to address people using their academic title. Someone with a PhD should be addressed as Doctor and titles should be used until you are given permission to use their first name. When in doubt, erring on the side of formality is safest.

In order not to offend the people you are interacting with, it is important to consider and adapt to how business professionals operate in different parts of the world. There is no global standard of business etiquette. What might be commonplace in one culture could be unusual or even offensive in another. Where possible, do your research in advance of professional interactions with international clients. When in doubt, ask. People are very helpful and like to advise about what is and isn’t acceptable in their culture.

Derin Cag at Richtopia provides a very enlightening article and infographic to further illustrate this topic.  Share your insights into business differences around the world!

 

Secrets to more online customer reviews from Trish Bormann of Fortinet

Our client, Trish Bormann of Fortinet, was recently interviewed by Nichole Auston of ROInnovation.  Nichole was interested in learning more from Trish about how she has been successful at increasing the number of online reviews for Fortinet at Gartner Peer Insights.  You can see the video here.  Full disclosure, we did work with Trish on this project. The video interview is short and well worth your time to view. We all know that while vendors are good sources of information they aren’t seen by customers as the most trust worthy source.  For trusted insights customers are increasingly looking to their peers, friends, even family. With 90% of consumers reading online reviews you need to be there.  Your product needs customer reviews.

In addition to the great interview with Trish, the same link has an article from ROInnovation with tips for determining your needs, creating an action plan, implementing your plan, and then evaluation of your results.

Have you been successful at increasing the number of reviews at Gartner Peer Insights or any other site that is key to your customer base?  Share your tips below.

Document your communication processes - the many benefits

The Forbes Communication Council recently shared their ideas  for documenting communication processes. Those processes are often fundamental to business success and once in place will allow you to act quickly and even scale smoothly.  They share an eye-opening stat that communication breakdowns can cost businesses as much as $37 billion a year!  The 14 council members each share a tip. Whether it’s ‘Start with the Basics’, ‘Create a Handbook’, or ‘Know Who to Ask and When’ the ideas are sound and with information on how it’s helped council members or how they implemented the idea internally.  Council members span universities to high tech companies like Cisco and Microsoft. Obviously successful organizations we can all learn from!  It’s a quick article that is sure to give you ideas to improve your documentation as well as your communication processes.