7 Tips for Running Advocacy on a Small Team
Customer marketers have a lot on their plates: Keeping customers educated, informed and engaged through content and programs like newsletters, product roadmap webinars, launches and user groups is just one side of the coin. On the other side is developing and managing an advocacy program that helps feed those initiatives and produces results that have a proven impact on the business’s bottom line, such as improved retention rates and influence on net new business.
The depth and breadth of this work is even more overwhelming when you consider one recent study found that more than 60% of those surveyed had fewer than six team members involved in customer marketing. And 18% of those are just one-person teams.
If you’re part of this group, then you know that there are many challenges that come with running advocacy on a small team, and they’re all related to lack of time.
Phase 1: Define/Review Your Customer Marketing Program
Whether you’ve been tasked with building out the customer marketing program at your organization, or there’s already one in place and your focus is purely on building advocacy, everyone should start by reviewing their customer marketing programs. They’re a critical part of the foundation for any successful advocacy program because without them, engaging customers to develop advocacy will be challenging.
You need to give value to customers to get valuable advocates, so the key to building a sustainable advocacy program on a small team is integrating it with your customer marketing initiatives. Here’s how to start building this roadmap:
Tip 1: Create/Review Your Post-Sales Customer Journey Map & Plot Programs and Advocacy Opportunities Against It
Hint: If your organization doesn’t already have a post-sales customer journey map in place, you can read more about them and get inspiration here. These maps outline the customer journey from the moment a contract is signed, through implementation and onboarding, adoption, expansion/renewal and advocacy.
Think of the standard customer journey map as your base lens. Then, do the following:
- Step 1: Map out where existing customer marketing programs, such as an welcome and onboarding campaign or a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey should occur. You’ll also want to review where recurring programs fit in: Newsletters, quarterly product roadmap webinars, best practices content etc. You should have one or two of these programs in place so you’re engaging your customers and providing them with value before you attempt to scale your advocacy program.
Note: This exercise will likely be part current state and part aspirational and that’s okay — Rome wasn’t built in a day….especially not by a small team!
- Step 2: Now, add a second lens and identify logical points to ask for advocacy. For example, following an NPS survey, you could run a G2 or TrustRadius online review campaign to Promoters. Identifying these opportunities in the customer journey will help you as you automate and scale to fill the advocacy pipeline.
Tip 2: Establish KPIs and a Method for Tracking
For small teams, measurement often becomes a lower priority because getting campaigns planned and out the door simply becomes most important. But, you’ll have a hard time justifying headcount or budget increase requests if you don’t have basic tracking in place to measure your program’s growth. That’s why it’s critical to define some basic, easily trackable KPIs early. Some examples are:
- Net new advocates/quarter
- Acts of advocacy/quarter
- Advocacy coverage by account (or % of accounts with at least one active advocate)
- Revenue influenced by reference calls
Hint: Where you can, collect benchmarks for all of these numbers before you launch your program so you can use the data to illustrate growth over time.
How you decide to track these will depend largely on the resources at your disposal, but where there’s a will, there’s a way for every advocate marketer:
- The Good Old Fashioned Spreadsheet: Whether you’re an Excel purist or a Google Sheet freak, you can track key metrics with relatively little effort in a spreadsheet. Use a simple COUNT formula to tally acts of advocacy, and a SUM formula to add up the value of closed-won deals where a reference call took place. Simply duplicate the tab to create tracking for subsequent quarters (or even months if you want to get more granular), and voila! Your advocacy metrics are being tracked.
- Your CRM: Ops people are in pretty high demand at most organizations, but you may come across a unicorn in human disguise that’s willing to help you build some of these custom fields and reports to track advocacy. You might even get your very own dashboard! Then, all you need to do is log the advocacy in the CRM, and the reports/dashboard will update to give you (and your boss) at-a-glance tracking.
- Advocacy software like Base: This is measurement mecca. Using a software to both generate and measure advocacy, Base can help you determine the health of your advocacy program with analytics dashboards that show advocacy ask conversion rate, number of active advocates, and top performing advocacy campaigns.
Phase 2: Automate and Scale
Once you’ve got your foundation in place, it’s time to build and scale the program. The next three tips provide some ideas around how to do this as efficiently as possible.
Tip 3: Lean on Other Teams to Help Grow Your Program
Getting other departments involved in identifying, nurturing, and recognizing advocates will help grow and sustain your program’s momentum. Here are some ways you can ask your coworkers to help:
- Identify prospective advocates during the sales cycle to help develop a target list of soon-to-be-customers that are already champions
- Promote customer reference calls for late-stage deals
- What’s in it for them: Long term stickiness of accounts when advocates are developed; closing more deals faster when reference calls occur.
- Watch for good advocacy candidates during recurring meetings & flag their names
- Help promote advocacy initiatives with customers (ex. During meetings mention current online review campaigns, speaking opportunities, or ask to turn positive organic feedback into a quote for the website.)
- What’s in it for them: Happy customers advocating reflect well on their work; higher retention rates are associated with healthy advocacy among customer accounts.
Hint: Adding a Prospective Advocate field/check box at the contact level in your CRM requires little operational effort to build, and makes it easy for Sales and CX to update. You’ll always have a current list of potential advocates at your fingertips to ensure you’re bringing new names into your advocacy program.
- Identify opportunities to insert the customer voice into current lead gen activities such as hosted webinars, whitepapers, website, external field/virtual events, nurture campaigns etc.
- Help design and build logic for customer-facing programs, such as review campaigns and/or customer marketing programs
- What’s in it for them: More leads at the top of the funnel; advocacy is a source of content for more campaigns.
- Shed light onto upcoming product enhancements that could be released early exclusively to the advocate community
- Pass along any positive product feedback received during research or beta testing to identify new advocates and opportunities to grow acts of advocacy
- What’s in it for them: Access to an early test group of engaged customers that can help enhance the product; feedback that’s converted into advocacy and featured on other marketing collateral reflects positively on their work.
Tip 4: Maximize and Repurpose Content
Content fuels customer marketing and advocacy programs, but it’s time-consuming to produce. Look for opportunities to repurpose and repackage existing content into different formats that will engage your audience and help you hit your goals.
Check out these ideas for inspiration:
- Harvest online reviews for powerful pull quotes for your website (with customer approval)
- Run customer-led webinars outlining real use cases to generate advocacy and create compelling educational content for the rest of your customers
- Summarize an existing case study and ask the customer if you can put their byline on it for a blog post
- Turn ad-hoc feedback given on customer calls into advocacy by providing a few templates for CS to ask if it can be used as a quote on the website
- Review educational content created by the product team internally and ask if you can repurpose it to send to customers
- Thought leadership content being promoted by your marketing team isn’t just for prospects; add value to the customer experience by promoting these in newsletters or in-app
- CS teams sometimes produce great content to help customers onboard and adapt; see if there are any training videos or best practices collateral that you can turn into a customer-facing asset.
Tip 5: Automate Advocacy Asks
Most organizations will have some form of marketing automation platform (or even better, a Base account!) so you can trigger campaigns automatically. Use this to build a “set it and forget it” approach to automating advocacy asks to reduce the time spent writing one-to-one emails, and drive new advocates into your program.
- Follow up campaign to NPS promoters: After your NPS survey goes out, trigger a follow-up campaign asking all Promoters (who give a score of 9 or 10) to take some time to write a quick online review. You can find some good examples here.
- Online review CTA in Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT) auto-responders: Similar to NPS, when a customer gives a good CSAT rating following the closure of a support case, add a CTA to the confirmation email linking to the online review site of your choice.
- Gamify it by running targeted Advocacy Asks using Base: Whether you need customer stories, references or a website quote, you can build a targeted advocacy ask campaign in less than 5 minutes. Customize the rewards customers will get, so once you turn it on, all you have to do is wait to watch the advocacy flow in.
- Include an advocacy question in all post-event feedback surveys for any webinars or user groups: At the end of the survey, give a brief intro to the program and ask customers to check all the activities they’d be interested in participating in.
- Promote your Base community or other advocacy initiatives with customer-facing email signature banners: Use a program like Canva or have your design team whip up a few email signature banners linking to more information on your advocate community. Sometimes creating awareness is half the battle, so having this on all customer-facing communications can help get the word out.
Phase 3: Measure & Focus
It’s imperative that you make time to review campaign results and adjust accordingly, even though it can be hard to find the time. This is where you’ll thank past you for defining your KPIs early. Taking time to measure will help you determine which programs have the highest ROI and will help you secure more headcount and/or budget to keep growing your program.
Tip 6: Block Time for Measurement & Publicize Wins
“If it’s not in the calendar, it won’t happen.” This is especially true for the stretched customer marketer. Block 1-2 hours on a regular basis — either monthly, or quarterly — to review your results.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Roughly how many hours did we put into building this campaign?
- What were the outcomes? (ex., how many advocates did it generate; how many acts of advocacy resulted?)
- If successful, how can we scale or make this a repeatable process?
- Were there external factors that caused some initiatives to be less successful than others?
Once you’ve identified the best results, it’s important to publicize this information, either within the larger marketing team, or to the entire company. The more visibility your efforts and success get across the organization, the more people will be excited about advocacy and motivated to help.
Hint: Announcing your campaign results company-wide is a great time to shout out those on other teams whose efforts contributed to the success. Recognition is a way to give back and make others feel good!
Tip 7: Invest in an Advocacy Solution
Last but not least, when it comes to building and measuring your campaigns, an advocacy solution will make you more efficient and alleviate a lot of the strain caused by manually growing an advocacy program. Base was built by customer marketers for customer marketers and allows you to run automated advocacy programs at scale, with robust analytics dashboards that give you real-time results so you can determine what’s working and what’s not.