Advocate marketing programs usually start with the marketing department, but engaging with customer and employee communities brings benefits to other business units. As such, although an advocate marketing program may be led by marketing, there are a broader set of business stakeholders to consider when planning your program and selecting advocate marketing technology.
Organizations should first examine the objectives they wish to achieve – in marketing and beyond – before planning out an advocate marketing program and selecting supporting technology. Although this usually begins with looking at the objectives of the marketing department, to future-proof your advocate marketing program (and technology choices) you’ll need to consider the needs of your sales teams, product management, support groups and executive leadership. Failure to take these requirements into consideration will compromise your ability to support broader business objectives in the future – lowering the ROI that you will get from your brand advocacy platform. It is inevitable that this broader set of requirements will be too large to tackle in one phase. Break them down into a roadmap, ordered in terms of business value and risk (e.g. the ability to sustain the relationship in the long-term), to set out a series of practical steps that are realistic but will also demonstrate value early in the process.
Technology is the key to scaling customer engagement
Using a combination of spreadsheets and emails to coordinate customer engagement is not sustainable in large organizations and promotes data silos in different customer-facing departments. Advocate marketing tools that provide shared access to the common customer community and provide cross-functional visibility of all customer engagement enable easy scaling for large organizations.
Unified post-sales customer engagement is the key to long lasting relationships
Disjointed engagement coming from different departments (to fulfill different business objectives) confuses and irritates customers and compromises overall engagement. Advocate marketing tools which enable a unified approach to customer engagement – and a more consistent and satisfying customer experience – help deliver a more joined-up, strategic approach to post-sales customer engagement and contribute to creating a larger number of positive long-term relationships. However, integrating disparate customer advocacy, employee advocacy, referral management and reference management tools can be complex and stand in the way of making progress with your advocate marketing program. A unified technology strategy will support a unified customer engagement strategy and expedite you on the journey through your advocacy roadmap. Look for solutions that can be shared by all customer-facing departments to provide a single system of record for post-sales customer engagement – including customer advocacy, employee advocacy, referral management and reference management.
Ease of use is a critical success factor for advocate marketing programs
When tools require significant time investment from the customer, the size of the active advocate community will be stunted. Organizations using advocate marketing tools that are simple for customers to use benefit from larger advocate communities and more frequent engagement, meaning they get more from their program. Advocate marketing systems also need to be easy to use for the different stakeholders on the business side. Tools that require heavy training programs will compromise internal adoption and increase the likelihood that departments go back to a siloed approach to customer interaction. In order to succeed, the new software must be more appealing than the tools that each department is using currently.
Effective advocate marketing programs “operationalize” customer engagement
Top-performing advocate marketing programs are founded on good processes that enable repeatability and scalability. Advocate marketing solutions that support workflows promote a process-based approach from day one and enable better governance of vendor-customer interaction – which are both vital to building a sustainable advocate marketing program. In order to maintain control (and ensure star customers aren’t “burnt out”) somebody in the organization must take overall ownership of the advocate community and supporting processes to ensure the program remains balanced and focused on the longer term. Oversight is key to ensuring short-term objectives don’t damage customer relationships that may have taken many months or years to build up. Select advocate marketing technology that supports standard processes and provides good oversight of both the overall program activity and individual customers.
Integration with CRM
Advocate marketing solutions complement CRM solutions, with a focus on post-sales engagement. An advocate marketing solution won’t displace your existing CRM tool, but the two systems will need to share integration and sales teams will need visibility of advocate activity in the CRM systems in which they “live”. Integration between advocate marketing and CRM tools is critical to building a mature advocacy program, so factor integration into your roadmap shortly after your pilot initiative. Looks for advocate marketing solutions that have proven integrations with your CRM tool and ask the vendor for access to customers to hear about their experiences with regard to integration.