Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Transformation to Advocacy: Summit on Customer Engagement Summary

This past week I joined more than 100 customer reference and advocacy professionals at the Summit on Customer Engagement in the Bay Area. I was there to learn as well as share what I've experienced with our customers at Influitive. The theme of the conference was to go broader when it comes to reference management and advocacy - to get to "the other 90%". While I came away from the conference with many great ideas and met some incredible marketers, my feeling is that most B2B organizations are not even close to leveraging all that their advocates have to offer.

It was kicked off by Megan Heuer from the B2B think tank SiriusDecisions. She quickly threw down the hammer and set the bar very high for everyone that followed her.

BAM! She had the attention of everyone in that room and then proceeded to show examples of how modern advocate marketers such as Colt Technologies, Citrix, DocuSign and Progress Software were leveraging their advocates to help with marketing and sales efforts. We were off to a great start.

Megan had a number of significant points for attendees: make it easy for customers to tell their stories and not to focus on yours, align your company around advocacy to maximize its benefits, and ensure that you can measure the impact of advocacy on core business objectives (see more here).

At the end of her talk she mentioned something else that seemed obvious but wasn't:
Not only was it interesting what Megan was saying, it was also what she wasn't saying. She didn't emphasize references and hardly mentioned it at all. She looked at advocacy from a much broader sense. She focused on the theme of the conference which was to get to the other 90% by providing examples and a clear path to get there. She even went beyond customer advocates and briefly outlined how Progress Software empowers its partners as advocates - another trend that I'm seeing with marketers I work with.

Think of Advocacy in Terms of the Majority of Your Customers

As the conference continued, Wendy S. Lea, the Executive Chair at GetSatisfaction had additional points to add on customer advocacy:
Many organizations are only focusing on a small segment of their top customers when it comes to advocacy as it's perceived that is something that should be controlled. Why should you only focus on such a small number of customers? There were a number of examples from Citrix, Apptio and Box that were making this transformation to leverage the technology that exists.

A great example was from Carlos Gonzales from Ceridian who presented at the conference. He quickly demonstrated that Ceridan was "all in" when it came to advocacy and their Ceridian XOXO program is the result. As Carlos was presenting, someone in the audience put their hand up asking for clarification on a number that Carlos just mentioned: "It's 750 advocates who have done some sort of advocacy activity for us in the last year" explained Carlos. That had heads turning. Carlos and the team at Ceridian had built a program that was specifically focused on getting to that other 90% and was leveraging technology to get there (more details here).

Reference Management is Not Advocacy in Itself

What is the issue here? Why is this transformation so slow? I believe that the traditional focus on references alone is partially responsible for this. Reference management is still important in the sales process but it's not as relevant as it once was. References and the reference content that sales uses is mostly used lower down in the sales funnel. Customer advocacy can be used for all aspects of the sales funnel and can even extend to post purchase phase (but that's another post).

Here are a few of my observations from the conference:
  • in Megan Heuer's post on the SiriusDecisions blog she defined customer advocacy as a strategic advantage and something that goes well beyond a reference program. She included social sharing as a key aspect of advocacy. However, what struck me at the Summit was how little social sharing was happening amongst the attendees with the exception of a few. This was in sharp contrast to the many other B2B marketing conferences I've attended. To take advantage of social media, those that run advocate marketing programs need to understand its importance and capabilities.
  • The metrics for those marketers that attended the conference were still mostly centered around references. Because advocate marketing can be involved much more broadly in organizations, it can also assist with social reach, lead generation (referrals) and overall customer satisfaction. Advocacy programs need to incorporate these areas and much more.
In addition, a recent Forrester report indicates that advocacy must be part of your company's strategy. It states that "spending on reference programs is too much, too late." That's because buyers are interacting with you well before they come to your website - their asking their peers via social media and they're visiting online review sites.

I witnessed a similar transformation from my former trailblazing days at Eloqua. Marketers slowly moved from email marketing to a more comprehensive marketing automation mindset. It wasn't pretty and many companies went kicking and screaming but modern marketing prevailed. The companies that innovated the fastest beat out their competitors. The same will happen in advocate marketing as organizations strive to maximize their marketing budgets and shift their focus on retaining and growing their customers. You will need to decide if you want to get ahead of the curve or be left behind.

Chad H.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Customer Nurturing: It's Not Lead Nurturing so Stop Calling it That

You know, I really want to do X with your product. Can you get on a call to chat?
This is a typical message that customer success managers or any customer facing person hears from their customers almost on a daily basis. In many of these situations there is in fact a solution. The problem is that the customer wasn’t aware of it. This can happen for many reasons. The trick is to try and get in front of the items that come up over and over again so you improve the customer experience and lower your support costs. You will of course always have these types conversations and you want them but if you can decrease the frequency, this is a win-win situation for your company and your customers. Unfortunately, marketers have focused too much on launching lead nurturing programs and discount how automation can be used for customers. A recent study that Matt Senatore from SiriusDecisions proved this.
Lead Nurturing in not Customer Nurturing
Only 8% of companies that were part of a SiriusDecisions survey were using marketing automation for customer marketing.

What is Customer Lead Nurturing?

Customer nurturing is specific to customers that are in some sort of a contractual agreement with you. It
involves communicating regularly to help deepen the relationship that you have with your customers. It’s mostly about education but it can also serve to provide important notifications. For example, it can be used to educate customers on tips and tricks as well as notify them of an upcoming contract renewal.

Lead nurturing on the other hand concentrates on your prospects and is more focused on the top of the funnel. Elizabeth Usovicz summarizes this well. She sees lead nurturing as away of communicating to a profile that marketing is targeting. Customer nurturing on the other hand involves communicating to a real person. In addition, a customer is much more valuable. If you have provided an amazing customer experience, that one customer can refer you 10 new customers which will lead to additional revenue. You need to treat them much differently.

5 Examples of Customer Nurturing

Let’s go through some examples of customer nurturing that you can use today. The typical channel for these items would be email but you can also include print mail, social media and of course phone calls. These examples are focused on automated customer nurturing.
  •  New customer program. It’s recommended to create a simple automated campaign that helps onboard new customers in the first 30-90 days of your relationship with them. This program can include a welcome email, an email that outlines the different ways that they will be supported as well an email that asks them to provide feedback on their early experience working with your company.  You can also use this opportunity to invite new customers to an advocacy program that you may have in place. It’s never too early to have your customers start advocating for you.

  • New user program. Once has a customer has completed the onboarding process, you may see different people within the client organization start to use your product. This can disrupt the flow that had been established and can even lead to a customer churning if a new user isn’t brought on board properly. Typically, most of the training and configuration decisions are made during the implementation, which leaves new users out in the cold. By highlighting key training and support resources, a customer nurturing program can help new users get up to speed quickly without having to exhaust the customer success resources.

  • Post-onboarding programs. Once a customer has onboarded, there can be a period where a customer begins to stagnate. The customer may not know what to do next as they may have been used to the handholding approach during the implementation. This is a great opportunity to use a customer nurturing program to send timely tips and best practices to maintain the momentum established during onboarding.

  • New advocate program. You’ve done it! You’ve spent a great deal of time identifying an advocate and recruiting them to your advocate program. This advocate will refer new business to you, act as a reference and/or provide you with testimonials. The best way to bring on a new advocate is to send them 2-3 emails that explain what it means to be part of your advocate marketing program. You can include the following in your communication: How often should they expect to hear from you? What are some initial tasks that they should do? Who will be reaching out to them and for what? Set the right expectations up front and maximize your advocates' potential.

  • Renewal program. This can be as simple as reminding customers that their renewal is coming up. You can take this further. As part of your customer nurturing programs, it’s best to keep obtaining feedback. There is no better time to gauge company’s satisfaction then when they are close to their renewal. Consider sending a feedback survey or NPS survey ninety days prior to renewal. Reminding customers of the value that they are getting is another good approach – especially if it’s personalized based on the activities the customer is performing. You should also consider an upsell/cross sell campaign.

Whichever program you decide to start with, remember to start small and prioritize an approach that fills a gap in the customer lifecycle. As you start to see positive results and appreciation from your customers, build from that momentum and expand to other areas.

What type of customer nurturing program have you found to be successful?

Chad H.

PS - For more ideas, check out Brian Hansford's post: How Marketing Automation Supports Onboarding Customers

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Modern Marketer's Field Guide: Have You Read it? You Should

When it comes to B2B marketing, there are not a lot of great books out there. For the most part, the books that do exist focus on the novice marketer or focus on high level approaches. Matt Heinz has brought us probably the most practical book out there for the more advanced B2B marketer - the modern marketer. The Modern Marketer's Field Guide is a must read for any marketer that is looking to get to that next level. Matt has assembled a number of experienced marketers such as Brian Hansford,  Maria Geokezas, Jackie Jordahl and Bailie Losleben to provide the advice and guidance that many B2B marketers desperately need.

The book is broken down into the following sections:
  • Content Strategy
  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Management and Nurturing
  • Social Media
  • Events & Tradeshows
  • Sales Operations
  • Customer Loyalty & Retention
In just 137 pages, this book is jammed packed with tips and practical advice that you can start using today. For example, I used a tip from the chapter on blogging on how to improve the way I promote blog posts. I now post tweets that include the Twitter handle of anyone that I've quoted or mentioned in my blog posts. I'll try and incorporate more prominent people and then ask them to promote my post via Twitter. I've also challenged people via Twitter that I mentioned in my posts which has proven to be effective in getting a response. Not only does this help you promote your blog, it can also help you expand your social network, it helps you grow your social currency. I've also been inspired to think of other ways to improve my social presence such as starting a Twitter chat on an area that I have expertise.

The Modern Marketing Field Guide is Groundbreaking

In this book Matt covers new ground where most marketing books fall short. As an example, he focuses on B2B marketing past the end of the sale. For many marketers, the sales-marketing funnel ends with the purchase of a product. Matt takes this further. In his chapter on content marketing advice, he suggests that marketers need to develop content to help transform customers into advocates and to help keep them at this level. Matt is also a proponent of an advocate centric organization that listens to its customers, communicates regularly, provides practical advice and thought leadership, and owns up to its mistakes. This is sound advice that all B2B marketers and executives should heed to and I applaud Matt for focusing on this. Listen, the book isn't revolutionary as all of this content can be found on different blogs but I've found few sources that pull of these areas together into one book - that makes it unique.

Because the book is a compilation of mostly blog posts, it's a bit of a mishmash of content that can be jarring at times. Matt may have been in a rush to get this content out to the public and before long, the content may be obsolete. It's easy to see past this as the content provided by true industry experts who have been there and done that is just too good. If you are a B2B marketer, you will walk away with at least five ideas you can incorporate into your current marketing plans today.

I could keep going here but I want to encourage you to experience this for yourself. There are too many nuggets in this book from getting the most of webinars and marketing automation to advanced marketing metrics that you should be tracking. I highly recommend that you get a copy of this book today or download the free version.

Chad H.

Please Note: I did receive a complimentary copy of this book but I have no financial incentive to write a positive or negative review. From someone that has worked with many of the best marketers around the world for over 10 years I do feel I'm qualified to provide a through review.




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