WEBINAR REPLAY

MAKING CUSTOMER ADVOCACY YOUR SECRET WEAPON FOR REVENUE GROWTH

Erika Childers

Hi everyone. Happy Wednesday. Welcome to today’s webinar with UserIQ, Making Customer Advocacy Your Secret Weapon for Revenue Growth. In today’s webinar we are going to try to avoid talking about some of the more basic things around customer advocacy and get a little bit more advanced. But first, I will cover just a few housekeeping items.

So the webinar is being recorded. We will send out the slides and the recording after the webinar. You’ll be able to keep an eye out for that tomorrow. So keep an eye out in your inbox for that. We will be having a Q&A with our panelists toward the end of the webinar. So if you have questions for them, please chat those into the organizer or in the chat box.

You can also let us know if you have any technical difficulties, if you’re not able to hear or if the videos aren’t working. You can chat those things into the organizer as well to let us know. So with that, let’s get started. So I’m your moderator today. My name is Erika Childers I’m the Content Marketing Manager here at UserIQ. UserIQ empowers SaaS companies to deliver what each of your users needs to be successful in every moment.

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As a result, you’ll be able to effectively scale onboarding, increase feature usage, accelerate time to value, and ultimately drive more revenue throughout the customer journey. But we have two really incredible panelists with us today. We have first Dan Graap who is the Senior Customer Advocate or a Senior Customer Advocate at Drift, the leading conversational marketing platform. I’m sure you’re all very familiar with Drift, we loved him here in UserIQ. Steady between customer success and the product team, Dan’s role really includes working with the frontline support teams and engineers to improve the product for the Drift customers.

 

He’s on a team of about 11 and is the longest tenured member of that team. He’s really scaled and built every aspect of the customer support team at Drift and that employee count has grown over 4x in the last 18 months, which is incredible growth. When he’s not at his desk, Dan likes to coach fencing at Boston College. He’s an eagle himself and he loves to go outside, he loves to go skiing, he loves cycling and tossing a frisbee. Dan, are you there?

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. Hey, Erika thanks for having me on.

 

Erika Childers

Of course. How’s it going?

 

Dan Graap

Doing well, how are you?

 

Erika Childers

Good. So I’m going to start off with asking Dan a question around how companies can really empower their users to become advocates for the brand and I’ll just kind of level set on Dan’s experience, and we’ll do the same thing with our other panelist, Jason. But Dan, to start us off, can you share a bit about how company can really empower users to become advocates?

 

Dan Graap

Yeah, so I think there’s kind of two sides to that. There’s the content that you’re arming them with to be advocates of your brand and then there’s also the logistical details around that. So to talk a little bit about the content, I think you need assets that aren’t focused on your company, but on your company message, right? Like it’s really easy to say, “Our company does X thing and that’s why you should buy from us.” Then try and get people to also repeat that to their friends and spread the word.

 

But what you really need to do is empower your users and others in the industry to become advocates for the message behind your company. This is of course part of a much larger discussion about like how we actually market and do product marketing, but it’s important to think about how their peers will view the content that they’re sharing out to their network.

 

The type of like hyper branded buy from landing pages won’t really work as well. Advocates who feel like they’re industry thought leaders will do way more than someone who just gets a discount for sharing something or referring a prospect, and so that’s the kind of content that you need to be giving them to share.

 

One thing that I know my team asks all the time is like, what value does this add? What are we giving people here? Because that’s why they’ll really end up caring about it. So that’s what you really have to think about. Then on the logistical side, just things like click to tweet links like writing the copy for them, like minimizing the work your advocates have to do to actually be advocates for your product.

 

Erika Childers

I love that. I love the messages that you have. They’re really around not just how do we get customers to be our advocates, but how do we advocate for the message behind, what value do we bring and how do we really get them to share the message if we can get them rallied around the message. I think that makes everybody’s job a little bit easier.

 

Dan Graap

 

Definitely.

 

Erika Childers

Awesome. Thanks Dan. Glad to have you. Our next panelist is Jason Noble. Jason is a Global Customer Success Executive. Hi Jason. How’s it going?

 

Jason Noble

I’m very good. Thank you.

 

Erika Childers

Good, good. So Jason is an established leader, advisor in Customer Success in SaaS. He has more than 20 years of experience globally working across areas like customer success, service delivery, account management, support and professional services.

 

So, he also worked in world technique technology startups and organizations and he’s really built successful global customer success programs and operations. Jason is also a runner, he likes to run long distances particularly marathons which is very exciting and I’m envious of someone who can do that. Jason, we’re really glad to have you.

 

Jason Noble

Great to be here and then with you and Dan, really, really fantastic to be on the panel here and discuss this such an exciting topic. I thought London was sunnier than it is today, so apologies for the slight darkness of where I am. London has been sunnier over the last few days over the Easter weekend, but really, really excited to be here.

 

Erika Childers

Great. Yeah, we’re glad to have you. No worry. So I’m going to kind of ask the similar question as I asked Dan for you, Jason, just to kind of level set. What are some of the ways that you’ve seen companies successfully empower their users to become advocates?

 

Jason Noble

I think following on from what Dan said, one of the key things for me is to make sure that we have the right content. What’s that right message? That we want to be telling the users and our customers about, but what’s the message we want them to resonate with other people that they’re speaking to? So that that content is super important.

I think there are a lot of organizations that have spent a lot of time and resources on different kinds of lead generation marketing. This is more about customer marketing and it’s a very different message and different types of content. So that’s super important. I think the other key thing to look at is explaining to your users why you want them to be advocates and that’s really important.

 

For a lot of users, it can be completely alien to them. They don’t understand why it is, but if you explain what the benefits are to them as [inaudible 00:07:15]. It’s not just about discounts, it’s not just about financial incentives we can do for them and we can offer those. But there are other things we want them to be recognized for in the industry, and we want them to be thought leaders.

 

It’s really important very early on to start doing that. So in organizations, I’ve worked to build that into the sales process. You talked to your customers about what advocacy is, what it means to you and what the programs are you’ve done. So that’s really important. We’ve also talked about the opportunities for incentivizing advocacy. I wouldn’t do too much of that, but there are some customers that it really does play too well and you can offer discounts and some additional services rather than just the existing services.

 

So it becomes almost an upsell piece. I can give training away at a discount or consulting services. The final key thing I say is make sure you understand the strategy. What are we trying to do with advocacy rather than just custom success is go out and find advocates and a message. Make sure it aligns with what the organizational strategy is, what the marketing team strategy is and who are the users that we want to be successful. Just don’t look at anybody — let’s segment our users and our customer base there. So that’s some of the ways I’ve seen to empower users to be better advocates for us.

 

Erika Childers

I love it. Those are some great ideas really kind of echoing what Dan said earlier about making sure that we’re providing the right content and that content is easy to get to. But explaining to your users why them being an advocate is so important and kind of having that conversation, building that relationship, I think is really important to how we can gain more advocates and ultimately still build those long lasting relationships with customer success teams.

 

Jason Noble

Absolutely.

 

Erika Childers

Awesome. Love it. All right, so with these two panelists, I’m really excited to jump into our content today. It’s going to be really good discussion. So for our first question, we kind of wanted to understand what does customer feedback looks like. Customer feedback is such an important part of how we develop advocates, making sure that we’re doing the right things with the feedback that they’re giving us to empower them to become advocates. So what does the most effective flow of customer feedback look like throughout an organization? Jason, I’ll start with you on this one.

 

Jason Noble

Yeah, I think it’s such a great question really, really challenging how we do it. A lot of organizations struggle with this. I think there are organizations where feedback comes into silos where it becomes a black hole and nothing’s ever done with it and how do we avoid that? It takes a real proactive effort to do that. Some of the things that I’ve seen a lot of great success around are standardizing the questions that we’re looking for customers to come back and make sure it’s a consistent format that’s super important. So we can then categorize it, we can do the analytics on it.

 

Jason Noble

I think look at who you’re asking the questions too and personalize the content to the different segments of users, the different types of organizations and people you’re talking to. That personalization piece is so important. When I’m a customer and I receive surveys to complete and I’ve been asked for feedback, I want people to me to be able to know where my journey has been with the business rather than it just be a very generic one.

 

So that personalization, it’s a lot harder to do, but it makes such a big difference and people be very honest and transparent about the feedback, which is what you want. But you’ve got to look at the different mechanisms and channels where feedback comes into a business so you can get feedback through surveys. I’ve said already you can get feedback through conversations, you can get feedback through emails. You’ve got to again apply that consistency, so make sure that all of that data is coming in through the different channels, but you can look at it consistently is being stored somewhere safely so they can do the analytics piece and that’s so important.

 

I think that different customers, different user types have different preferences to the types of channels they want, so you’ve got to be open to more channel types, but you want the same consistency, the same experience, the same high level of customer experience across those channels.

 

I like talking about the idea of democratizing customer feedback and it iss something that I’ve seen great success within some of the recent organizations that I’ve been working with that I know some of the bigger organizations do out there. Some guys do it really, really well, but when the feedback comes in it’s making sure you’re sharing that feedback across the organization that it’s not sticking just with your customer success team, it’s not sticking just with your product team, or it’s not sticking just with the marketing team. Share it and share it so that you’ve got those different lenses on it.

 

I as a professional customer success leader, I’ve got certain lens that I look at the feedback with. I want my product team to put their lens on it, I want my marketing team, my onboarding team, you need those different views to it. So it’s super important to make sure it is shared. I want that customer feedback to be part of every meeting as well. Make sure that you bring the feedback into everyone’s meeting, into everyone’s part in the organization.

 

Some great examples that I’ve seen customer feedback in is where literally along like a Kanban, Woolworth when the developers were working on priorities in the business. But look at feedback, so you’ve got very good, very bad, very, very bad and good and bad. You can have really different grades of feedback, but you share it in the business and it’s there for everybody to see.

 

You can make a really nice thing about it, a public wall for you all to see, you can create feedback dashboards in the different CRM tools, customer success management platforms, but make it visible don’t hide it away. We all get negative feedback from customers as all being challenges, but you can share it. And how do we learn from it, improve it? I think that’s super, super important.

 

The other key thing with sharing the feedback is making sure that the product team have direct access to it. Again I’ve seen really good success where I can get my product team engaging directly with my customers and that really brings a whole different dynamic to the conversations rather than product being not just about technology. I want product to be thought leaders and talk to the customers about what we’re doing about some of the challenges, but hear it from the customers and that can really change the level that you’re playing at and really bring some really, really important insights there.

 

I mentioned earlier, but it’s all about bringing customer feedback into every meeting. I think that’s so important and I’d almost start all meetings off with feedback from customers that’s relevant to that particular meeting, that particular group. For me it brings real customers to life, this isn’t just somebody talking about it. We can talk about who the customer is, what their challenges were, what they’ve done, what the journey is.

 

The other thing I’ve seen, which is slightly more difficult to kind of do practically is bring customers into your meetings. I mean you can’t bring them into every meeting, but look at your all-hands meetings, your weekly team meetings, bring a customer, do a fireside chat. A conversation like this that really brings to life for the whole business what we’re doing, the value it’s adding to our customers, the differences it’s making. That I think bringing that advocacy to life is a really, really important thing to do. It’s all about bringing that relationship to life.

 

Erika Childers

Love it. You hit on so many great points there Jason. I think that’s awesome. Really understanding like not necessarily maybe how, but what does the flow look like, but what are we doing? What are we actually doing with this feedback? We do so much to encourage our customers to give us feedback, to share their thoughts and experiences with us so that we can improve. But how are we actually doing that and how are we closing the loop and making sure that our customers know that that’s happening? How are we sharing that feedback with other departments throughout our organizations? You’ve hit on so many really great points and I think that’s awesome.

 

One thing that we had chatted about when we kind of went over some of these topics, previously we talked about this notion of the empty chair, where it’s supposed to be like this empty chair that you have in every meeting that represents your customers. But I love that you’re talking specifically about like bring a customer in and maybe that’s not scalable, maybe that’s not exactly practical, but even using your customer success or customer support or whatever, those teams who have those relationships with users, bring them in to be that voice of the customer. I love that.

 

Jason Noble

It is that the empty chair thing is so I think a lot of people see that as representing the customer, but absolutely go a step further. A lot more difficult to do practically, but it adds the realism to it and it starts building those relationships which is so critical.

 

Erika Childers

Yeah. Agreed totally. Dan, anything that you would add on maybe what this effective flow looks like for Drift?

 

Dan Graap

Yeah, definitely. Jason, a lot of great points there. We do a ton of the same things. We even had at our annual kickoff last year, we had a couple of key customers come in to talk about their experience with the product and it’s just like such an awesome perspective to get, especially when the whole company is there and they can hear those viewpoints and sympathize with whatever pain they’re having. It’s awesome.

 

We have the customer top three which is the top three requests from the customer success team, we display on TVs around the office just like keep that top of mind, keeping the engineers and the product managers looking at. Also a great way to do it and we have our frontline team members participating in the biweekly, things for our product teams and also the goal setting that they do every quarter.

 

So giving that customer perspective on like, what should our top line goals be? Like, how are we going to achieve those goals? What’s the best thing for the customer there? Really bring those viewpoints to life so that they can all kind of embrace that perspective and keep working in a customer centric way.

 

I think in terms of the actual feedback flow, it’s pretty easy to fall into a trap of saying that like any feedback that comes to us from a customer has to follow this particular set of steps to make its way to the principle of product owner or the tech lead, something like that and kind of forcing it through that feedback pipeline is enticing from a data perspective. But in terms of actually helping your customers get what they need and actually hearing their feedback, I don’t think it’s the way to go.

 

That said though, like we all know that customer feedback is a bit of a fire hose, right? We’ve been on that receiving end of a million different things whether it be tweets or emails or something about how they feel about a new product or a new process in the organization. So it’s important that you have a process in place that will float these important pieces of feedback up to the actual product decision makers.

 

But at the same time also giving people on your front lines whether it be the front line support team, customer success managers, implementation people, any of those giving them an avenue to actually give that feedback directly to product managers or developers when they feel it’s necessary.

 

Some things you just hear and you’re like, “Oh, that’s definitely broken about the product or this experience isn’t what we’re shooting for.” So they need to have the ability to just kind of pull the ripcord on it for a second and actually escalate that feedback right up, so that you can have those different levels and you don’t force it through a week or two weeks of going through all these different processes just so the people that are making the decisions can actually hear.

 

Erika Childers

Love it. That’s a great ad. I think especially your point around, we don’t have to force every piece of customer feedback through the same type of pipeline. Not every piece is going to be relevant for every step of whatever process we think we have, sometimes it does need to go a little faster or maybe it’s something that’s already on the roadmap, so it doesn’t need to be jammed into a pipeline.

 

I love your comment about the ripcord because we had done a webinar last year with Julie Hogan from your team and she talked all about the ripcord and what that means. That’s a real thing at Drift, right? That’s like an actual cord that you guys pull on when you need to right?

 

Dan Graap

Yeah, that’s the idea. Love the ripcord!

 

If there’s something going wrong in the actual manufacturing process to kind of stop all the machines working with just one worker pulling the cord. So it’s a similar thing that we have going on here. If anyone sees a really big issue, they can hit the SOS button and then the right people are alerted so that the response team gets set up and everyone can get going to act as quickly as possible. Definitely a real concept.

 

Erika Childers

I love it. If you guys, everyone who’s listening if you haven’t checked out that webinar definitely check it out. We did a webinar with Julie Hogan of Drift and a leader at MailChimp and it was all about customer engagement and she talked all about the ripcord. It’s such an interesting thing that I would have never thought about. So check that one out if you haven’t.

 

So some of the things we’ve talked about really flow in very well to our next question because we talked about like what does the flow look like? And we talked a little bit about some of the parties, the different parties within an organization that play a role in how we drive customer advocacy and one of the ones that we kept going back to is the product team.

 

So the question is what role does the product team really play in driving customer advocacy, maybe it’s not just receiving feedback but how they act on it? Dan, I will start with you on this one.

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. I think that a product’s biggest customer advocates are really true believers in the product. Like they’re bought in a 100% and it’s the product team’s job in part to one, I think keep these people happy. They need to keep raving about the product. I think just as importantly that the real people behind it too, you definitely don’t want to lose them.

 

The product team has these people kind of just waving their hand saying, I love what you make and I’d love if it were better and they definitely need to keep these people that way. So in part there is also, closing the loop with them. I think Jason talked about it a little bit earlier of when customers are giving you feedback, actually letting them know that, that had an effect on what your business’ plan is or what’s being built inside the walls of the company. ‘Cause that makes people feel awesome, feel like a million bucks if your changes were implemented or something like that.

 

So I think they also need to really take advantage of the opportunity they have when people are customer advocates. These are the perfect people to do design feedback with, data testing, like user focus groups and there’s really no better audience for any of these than kind of your brand super fans. They’ll be happy to do it and there’ll be more bought in after they actually do it.

 

We do this all the time where we have our usability testing folks kind of bring in names that the entire company recognizes on Twitter. All these kinds of super fans that we all know and love in there, they’re always like stoked to actually come in and test some new stuff out. I think the product teams don’t often take advantage of these opportunities as much as they should.

 

We’ve done things like, slowly Beta testing, like pretty sizable releases with a couple of customers getting like deep feedback from them and we actually legitimately had the CMO of one of our top customer companies get on Twitter and he was saying like, “I just sat with the co-founders of Drift and got an early look at one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen from them, but I can’t tell anyone or something like that.” It’s like, you think about the audience that this is going out to, this guy’s network and also the excitement that, that drums up from people and it’s just like, you definitely can’t buy that kind of promotion. So there’s the products team role in really like making those people successful and also like furthering their advocacy.

 

Erika Childers

I love it. I love that part about going on Twitter and kind of doing that. I’m sure your marketing team was thrilled. Bause it’s like, it feels very exclusive, but it’s very like, you’re right, you definitely can’t buy that kind of publicity. That’s awesome. Very cool.

 

So I want to kind of do a followup question on this one and Jason, I’ll direct this one at you. What do you think are some of the challenges to working with product teams on driving customer advocacy? We know that they play a really big role and to Dan’s point it’s pretty crucial to their jobs getting customer feedback and having these customer advocates help them improve their products. But as Dan also mentioned, there can definitely be some challenges. Jason, what would you say are some of those challenges that you’ve run into?

 

Jason Noble

I think your point down there about that excitement is super important as well that creates a buzz about the products. You just asked what the product team wants. I think I’ve seen in a number of technology organizations that the product team quite often can be more internally facing and thinking more about the tech and not necessarily the customer experience, but at the same time that’s changing.

 

There’s more organizations where product teams are engaging with customers. So I think you’ve got to get product teams to look more outwardly facing and get them involved in customer meetings. We talked about the kinds of customer huddles before get product talking to the customers. I’ve seen great success in a few organizations where I’ve worked. We’ve got the customers in, so they’re all hands on at the end of the week and then product managers are going to speak to the customer after that have one on one conversations. Really informal, but it starts building those relationships.

 

Something else I’ve seen that’s really, really done very well is if it’s done in place. Our offices had QBR’s as we like to call them which provide customer value in your meetings, whether they’ve run by customer success or not. But it’s not just customer success there.

 

We bring in marketing, we bring in development, we bring in engineering, we bring in the product management team and that having your product team come in and get excited about the road map, shows the customer what’s coming, and we’re listening to the feedback. That really, really helps build those relationships and I’ve seen it work to such a great extent that the product team can develop their own relationships with customers and are indirectly responsible without anyone else being a part of them. They can actually focus on advocacy themselves and that makes such a huge difference.

 

The other really key thing that you see with different businesses, we talk a lot about the idea about being more customer centric and the journey to being customer centric. But it’s a big challenge. I think a lot of organizations internal departments don’t always have customer facing or customer centric goals or objectives. I think it’s super important to make sure that they are organization wide.

 

So I like the idea of every team in an organization having a customer focused objective that ultimately feeds up into the businesses own KPIs or OKRs is really important. So it’s not just about one team who’s responsible for customer centricity or customer feedback, it’s across the business and it goes to that feedback being democratized as well.

 

I think organizations can miss that customer focus on objectives. Some of the metrics, some objectives can lead to fighting and they’re quickly working against each other. You can have operations teams that are focused quite rightly on operational efficiency, reducing costs, but at the same time if you’re wanting to push more conversations with customers, more feedback, there’s an element of high levels of engagement there and sometimes they can run into each other.

So you’ve got to be very open and transparent with the different teams. Share your goals, share your challenges. I think one of the true arts of kind of a good customer success team is they are the ultimate facilitators across the business to break down those silos and work with the rest of the business to understand the challenges and goals. So it is really about putting that focus about customization, make sure everybody’s putting the customer at the forefront of what we’re doing.

 

Erika Childers

I love it and we’ll talk a little bit more. We hopefully we’re able to get to this a little bit later, but like not just talking about the product team, but how does everyone play a role in driving customer advocacy from the marketing and sales teams, to product teams and development to customer success and support. I mean it’s really, especially as we noticed that this industry is moving so much to that user centricity and that kind of philosophy.

 

I think it’s so important that every department be like that, not just customer success or not just product. They’re not just those two teams together, but the whole organization is working together towards that same goal. That’s great.

 

Awesome. So we’re going to move into question three and this one it really kind of is the meat of why we’re here today, right? So, how does focus on enabling customer advocacy actually help a company grow it’s bottom line? Which I think is a very fair question for this topic. So Jason, I’m going to start with you on this one. You kind of talked to me previously about this being a really fundamental tool in some of the processes that we have set in our organizations. But I’d love if you expand on that.

 

Jason Noble

Yeah, I think for me advocacy is a really critical part of kind of our sales funnel, our lead generation, the opportunities there. It really is that tool that is part of your sales process. I want advocacy down so that my sales team can get access to everything that they want around advocacy. They don’t have to go through a number of processes. That feedback, case studies,and testimonials is there for them when they need it.

 

Something I’ve seen that can really drive great benefits here is when you bring your customer success resources into the sales processes before the accounts are closed, before the prospect’s closed and bring real customer advocacy, real customer stories to light. I think that improves close rates on deals we’re trying to win. So it’s I’ve got my customer success team there, actually talking about real conversations they have. It’s going from sales, perhaps talking through a case study that they know about, to customer success, who have been involved with that customer and know exactly where it’s been.

 

So it brings to life the advocacy, which I think adds such a big difference and I think if you share these stories around how customers have benefited from new opportunities around cross sale, around upsell, around more value that they’re getting from your product, that really drives it for our sales team. They want to know what our customers have done with the product, how the customers have achieved their outcomes what experience they’ve had — and it brings it all to light.

 

I think ultimately if I can have advocacy driving my sales funnel better, I’m going to get more leads coming through, my close rates are going to be better, I’m going to get increases in revenue in terms of the profitability as well and there’s going to be efficiencies along the way as well.

 

The other side of that your existing customers advocacies still applies to them. I want to share with my existing customers what other customers are doing and I want to increase the opportunity and value for those customers as well.

 

Erika Childers

I think that’s such a great point. I mean advocacy being, fundamental to your sales and marketing process. Like how can we bring those advocates directly into those conversations? How can we bring our customer success teams into those conversations and really be able to expand on those? Your point that definitely sales, they know the case studies, they know the stories, but to have customer success or even customers themselves in and talking about the more emotional side or the more maybe even anecdotal side of what it took to get a customer there and how your product kind of played a role in that is such a great way to get buy in, in the early stages of your sales process.

 

Jason Noble

Definitely.

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. I love that you mentioned both prospective customers and also existing customers, because it’s totally right. It’s important to keep your existing customers engaged, especially if you’re driving a big upgrade motion in the company, definitely can’t downplay that.

 

But yeah, talking about getting people into the sales funnel piece, I think the customer advocacy is so important in building trust in a brand. I think that’s probably the number one benefit from legitimate customer advocacy in a product. We talk about this all the time where right now, a customers options are pretty much limitless especially buying software on the Internet, right? Like you can be in a space with 6,000 other competitors and a customer has so many different options.

 

So, what are you going to be doing to actually differentiate that and actually get people interested in the product? You get them to buy the product in competitive deals and it’s always going to be this kind of social proof experience with other people that are also buying the product and our customers are advocating for it. Just like genuinely excited about the product because that’s what people are going to be looking towards to actually take cues on what they should be buying. What are people in my industry buying that I respect or that I think are also doing a great job at their companies? Like how can I keep up with them?

 

So it’s super important to have people be saying like, “Yes, I trust this brand and they’re not paying me or anything like that,” so that other prospects can come and say, “Okay, that I can take that as a sign of them being a great company, good people.” Then also get into the sales process there.

 

Erika Childers

Absolutely. Such a good point. Building brand trust — our advocates are the ways that happens, right? I mean we can’t encourage other people to trust us with their day-to-day needs, whatever it is that our product does. We can’t request that people just trust us without having that social proof and our advocates are so key to that.

 

I think that all of this kind of goes back to how we’re growing that bottom line. Customer advocates are those people who are helping almost refill the top of our funnel, right? They’re the people who are out sharing the stories, they’re helping build the trust there, they’re the ones that are sharing data, hopefully sharing sneak peeks and things like that, and really encouraging them to do that and working with them on that. Making it easier for them to do that kind of helps spread the word and get other people just as interested.

 

So you’re refilling that sales funnel constantly by just having these advocates who really believe in what you do. I think that kind of brings it all full circle for me.

 

Awesome. So I wanted to move into our next question which is around kind of the key metrics. So just for transparency, as a team of the panelists, we all kind of chatted through this question previously and we struggled a little bit to come up with some of these key metrics.

 

So we’ve gone and come up with some that we think are so important and the ones that we’ve seen work in our organizations, but customer advocacy, can be a little bit of a nebulous sort of thing to nail down and track metrics with. So what are some of the key metrics, Jason (I’ll start with you on this one) that you’ve seen companies use to help measure the success? How do you know if you’re going to put so much work into developing this customer advocacy program? ‘Cause it’s not easy. It does take effort. How do you measure? How do you know that it’s working or not working?

 

Jason Noble

There is no easy way to do it, but I think some of the things I looked at and one thing I’d always say is go back to the why. Why are we doing this? Are we looking for advocacy to drive revenue, then revenue becomse revenue, incremental increases become the measurement for us? You talked about brand awareness, brand trust and that again is another success criteria. How do you measure that? Again, we’ve got to kind of look at different ideas there. That’s really important. So you’ve got to go back to their “why are we doing it?” What does advocacy mean to our business? What are we trying to drive? So always go back and ask those questions.

 

When you’ve got those questions, look at what drives that success. Capture those as an outcome and make sure they’re shared there. So things that you can do are look at revenue. We’ve said, you can look at the sales cycle lens. And I talked about customer success coming in, bringing advocacy there to bring to life those real case studie. That will reduce the sales cycle and it could change your deal size is another thing you can do.

 

Also how quickly deals go through the timeline is really important. I think it’s super important. The other thing to talk about is to keep advocacy going. This cannot just be a one off exercise, you’ve got to keep a funnel of advocacy program and advocacy material coming out, so it’s super important to keep going on there.

 

You’ve got to also look at the idea of referrals. I think referrals are one of the more simple measures but not just about new leads. It’s also opportunities around selling new value, delivering new value, new outcomes and cross sell and upsell to customers. Look at what the content is that works well, what content drives the best results here and what doesn’t work well there.

 

Look at the different sizes of different types of advocacy and the different impacts it’s having on the revenue there. But as we said, it’s just a topic that we spend a long time looking at it and there’s lots of different ideas here. But I think you’ve got to go back to that. Why are we doing this, what are we trying to measure and then put in place the outcomes of that and measure those.

 

Erika Childers

That’s a great one. Dan, you had talked about referral programs when we went through this question as well. Do you want to expand on that one?

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. I think the sales cycle is a pretty important one just to go back to that for a sec. Because I think that’s the one that I’ve seen some of the most success with, is just kind of people coming in that are already convinced this is what they want to buy or they have a great idea about what the product does from talking to someone so that’s huge.

 

The referral programs are definitely important to kind of get a distinct look at the numbers that are coming in. If you don’t have a referral program, it’s a little bit harder to be tracking if this prospect actually has an advocate touch point somewhere in their buy in cycle. And so then you run into a lot of muddy waters — something like, “Well, how did that affect their sales cycle length or like our win rate, was it a competitive deal?”

 

Then they talk to someone that’s a de facto advocate for the product and then that was the thing that swayed them over a competitor. So then if you have a referral program, then you can get a little bit more into like, “Okay, are these deals moving a lot quicker,” and then follow them after the fact as well after they buy it to say, “What is the average lifetime value of these people versus people just coming in through our marketing qualified leads. Are they overall happier?” Those are all things to take a look at.

 

Erika Childers

I love that. Thinking about following that trajectory throughout their customer’s entire lifecycle is such a good way to think about advocacy. ‘Cause it’s not just going to be something like upfront metric that you just, “Oh, that one spikes so we know it’s working.”

 

It’s kind of looking at that entire lifecycle and how did that customer advocate, maybe they helped shorten the sales cycle length in the beginning, but maybe we talked about existing customers previously, how having those customer advocates continuing to be your existing customer base and influencing that throughout their life cycle with you. I think that’s a really interesting way to think about that.

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. People are buying are week quicker after they talked to someone that was a fan of the product, but then they churn like three months earlier.

 

Erika Childers

Yeah.

 

Dan Graap

You might want to keep a tab on that one.

 

Erika Childers

Yeah. You might want to reevaluate who your advocates are.

 

Dan Graap

Exactly.

 

Jason Noble

It’s making sure you can measure it, ’cause that can and has happened — and it’s making sure that you’re aware of it and what the impact is and how it’s happened. But you need to go through the process, track the right numbers and have a look at the impact on it.

 

Erika Childers

I love it. It’s awesome stuff. So as a reminder for our audience, we are going to do a Q&A with our two panelists in just a minute. But I actually noticed some of the questions that have come in and one of the questions that has already come in is going to be covered right now. So the question that came in was around, what are some of the common mistakes that people run into when they’re creating their advocacy programs? I think Jason and Dan both have some really interesting thoughts around this one. Dan, I’ll start with you on this one. What are some of the common mistakes that you’ve run into even personally? Like what are the things that you wish you had maybe learned and want to share with our audience?

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. I’ve mentioned, closing the loop on feedback that you get from customers and that’s one of the things that it’s like, if you don’t have the exact right system set up, it’s going to take a lot of time. You might question the value of it, multiple times as you’re letting people know, like, “Oh yeah, we actually made this change or like we built this thing,” but it’s so, so important to keep people giving feedback, especially if you’re not giving like either discounts or rewards or something like that, which you shouldn’t if you can’t.

 

So these kind of pieces of feedback and then saying like, “Oh yes, we actually put that into the product and how we work as a company now.” Difficult but huge to get people to continue doing it and feel a reward for putting that effort in for you.

 

Another mistake that I saw early on that we corrected and became a huge part of how the team here does marketing was having these strict schedules on when we’ll be releasing a new product or releasing content. Because then you can one, get people on a little bit of a schedule to expect something from you, which is great, especially if your customer advocates were saying like, “Oh, I’m super excited for the thing that’s going to come out this month,” or liking new episodes of the podcast or new features this day of the month or something like that. Huge to enable them to actually advocate for you.

 

It’ll also help drum up excitement and let you not build from scratch every single time you’re either putting out a new feature or new piece of marketing material because that’s a pain in the butt to then say like, “Oh, we’re going to have this new thing,” and do the whole process over again as opposed to getting it on a schedule and having that discipline.

 

Erika Childers

That’s such a good idea … I love that. I think that’s such an interesting way to think about it. Like how do we prep our customer advocates? Big thing can be — you mentioned this earlier on in the webinar — giving them the content that they need and making sure they know why it’s valuable. You talked about customers who are like tweeting out stuff that’s not even available yet and drumming up excitement.

 

I think that’s such a critical way to avoid that pitfall of having to start over again and get people reengaged to the program again, but just having this kind of schedule that they know they can depend on will ultimately help them build brand trust as well. They know that they can rely on you to send them the stuff that they need to enable themselves to be better advocates for your brand, which they obviously they love.

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. It’s interesting. It’s almost the same problem that you start thinking about when you’re saying like, how do I prepare my front line teams for new things that the content team is making or products making teams are putting out. It’s almost kind of the same troubles of how do we prepare them, how do people know what to expect and then how do we also get them excited about something.

 

Erika Childers

Absolutely. Absolutely. Jason, anything that you would add here, any mistakes that you’ve seen companies make or that you’ve made yourself?

 

Jason Noble

Yeah, I think one of the key things is closing loop. It’s so important and there are so many organizations that start and advocacy program and just don’t do it. We all know that the number of feedback requests that we get as consumers and as business users is just great. So there’s a real problem, the idea of kind of survey fatigue and if you’re not closing the loop, making it relevant, it just gets worse and people just don’t see the value for it.

 

Well, I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is where, it looks too big a challenge to do and people are most in fear of doing an advocacy program so they just don’t start it, or they score when they start and overthink too much. But I’d really just say start something, start small, iterate, make changes, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, but start and really keep it going. That’s super important.

I think you’ve got to look at where the ownership sits, it’s got to be across the business, you mentioned it early on Erika, it shouldn’t just sit and with marketing, it shouldn’t just sit with customer success, but you’ve got to look at joined responsibility, who’s going to send out the request, who’s going to own and kind of manage the structure of any questions that you send out. But I want my product team involved. I want them to understand what the journey is that the customer is on. Sales gets their input as well.

What a customer is saying where they want advocacy, when in the sales process the customers ask for examples, case studies, documents. So it’s all about starting, start with something but involve really the wider team and make it an organization wide program. But once you start it keep it going. I think the risk is that you try something, if you don’t get the results you want and you stop, you then stall and just don’t know what to do but keep something going.

Once you’ve got materials coming, resources coming through your advocacy program, you can see returns really quickly, but you’ve got to keep them coming.

 

Erika Childers

I love that point. It’s really encouraging I think to say like, just keep going — advocacy is hard. It’s not easy to know everything that you need to know about how your program is going to work up front and we even just talked about when we were talking about measuring success.

We talked about how sometimes it takes time to come up with the right metrics that work for you to be able to follow how the advocacy impacted a particular sale, a particular customer. It takes time to measure those things and if you don’t keep working at it, you’re kind of selling yourself short — you’re not giving it a chance to be able to work.

 

Jason Noble

That iteration is super critical. I think you really got to learn from it. What are the numbers, what’s the impact we want and what works, what doesn’t work and keep trying, and don’t forget your product’s changing, your customers are changing, your advocacy program has to evolve and grow as well.

 

Erika Childers

Absolutely. That’s awesome. All right, so we’re going to move into our Q&A. We’ve had just a couple of questions come in. We’ve already answered one around what are the common mistakes the company sometimes make with their advocacy programs, but we’ve had some other questions come in and one of them is around, what are some other roles that help in an organization that help support customer advocacy?

I think we’ve gone over this pretty well. We’ve talked about product, we’ve talked about support lines and our support teams on the front lines, we’ve talked about marketing and sales, but really maybe we can talk about ownership a little bit, like how should ownership kind of be split up between teams? Should it be split up between teams? Is there just one department that owns it and what other roles? How does the organization as a whole kind of support customer advocacy? I’ll leave this open to the panel, so either Dan or Jason, whoever would like to jump in first.

 

Jason Noble

I’ll jump in. I think you’ve got to look at resourcing and the structure of your team and where have you got the capacity to do it. If there’s already with marketing a plan in place. The ownership, I’m not too worried about as long as the plan is there and different teams agree to what we’re trying to do and understand the strategy behind it, but it depends on resourcing. If I got lack of resources in different teams then I’m not going to give it to them as an additional objective or additional plan to do, but I think for me it’s either marketing or customer success.

Marketing may have more responsibility for driving the materials that you want, they may have some objectives around a certain number of videos, a certain number of case studies. You might find that customer success have a certain number of targets. So they’ve got around getting some of these from their customers about driving more value. So for me, those are the two teams that I’d see looking to have ownership of it. I’m not a big fan of the word of ownership when it comes to things like that.

 

Erika Childers

I love it. I think it’s a great perspective. Oh, go ahead. Go ahead, Dan.

 

Dan Graap

Yeah, I was just going to add on the combination of marketing, even product marketing. You can have it split out with customer success as the touch points for having the customer contacts, and then marketing. That has been the main two owners in the programs that I’ve seen work well.

But then also like we mentioned earlier, keeping the lines of communication open at least

so they can be talking with the support team and the product team to keep giving feedback is also important. So yeah, i kind of not really a huge fan of that the owner concept there as well.

I think it’s important that if you have dedicated advocates as customers, they have a single contact that they can get in touch with if they need to talk about their case study or something like that. Like that’s obviously  that’ll usually be marketing or product’s marketing or customer success if they’re like a huge customer, but they should definitely have a couple of different channels to go through throughout the company so that they actually feel like they’re contributing to the company because they are.

 

Erika Childers

Great. Those are good perspectives. We have another question here. This one’s from Tyler and he asks, when is the right time to start an advocacy program? That’s a pretty good question. How do we know that we’re ready to start an advocacy program? And again, I’ll leave this open for either of you guys who want to answer.

 

Dan Graap

Jason, I feel like you have a strong opinion on this one.

 

Jason Noble

I think you start right now. If you’re not doing one, start right now. You spend a lot of time planning it, but if you say you’re going to start a program, start off small. If it’s simple feedback questionnaires, an NPS survey, something along those lines, you can evolve it to be a lot more than that. But absolutely start it now.

I think the sooner you start it the better, there’s so much. There’s some great points that we’ve talked about here. Some of the points that Dan talked about the trust, the brand awareness, that there’s never, never too late to start that. So it’s really super important. Particularly as you’re growing, you’re getting more customers coming on board, you’ve got your big brand customer champions from day one. Use those guys. They really want to be there and want to be talking about you. That example about the CMO. Brilliant. I’d love an example like that, find your champion at the right level, who’s got people that he’s going to talk to.

 

Erika Childers

Awesome. I think that’s a perfect response if you’re not doing it. If you have customers, you have advocates at the ready. Let’s go. Let’s do it.

 

Dan Graap

Yeah. Jason, you’ve mentioned from day one too like, if you think about if you were the founder of a company and you look at the first like 15 customers, those are all people that pretty heavily believe in your product and are probably going to be advocates and then you don’t need a well thought out, specific program for them. You just got to get them the tools they need to be spreading the word and there’s your customer advocacy program.

 

Jason Noble

I think those customers have gone on a certain journey with you as well. So there was a really emotional connection, which really is an even more powerful version of advocacy really brings it to light in a whole different manner. You’ve seen their businesses go through changes — they’ve seen you develop and grow as a business as well.

 

Erika Childers

Awesome. All right. I think we’ve got time for one more question and this one comes from James. James asks, who should be advocates? So maybe kind of thinking about how do we identify the customers in our companies that should be advocates? I don’t know if there’s one type of customer profile, but, Jason, Dan, do you guys have any thoughts on how to identify your advocates?

 

Dan Graap

I think you have to be very purposeful about who you’re identifying as advocates. If customers organically developed into advocates that’s one thing and it’s great, you got to love that. But then you’ll also be picking people to celebrate as a brand. These customers ; you should be like celebrating these advocates and you get to pick those people.

 

I think you have to be very careful about the kinds of the roles they’re in, the companies they’re representing because that will define a lot of their network reach, who will empathize with them if they see that this person is promoting this product if that’s not your ideal use case, then you might want to reconsider that because then that might just be proof points going the other way which you wouldn’t want.

So I think you can be very strategic about who you’re actually identifying as customer advocates and then you can even do that looking forward. So if you want to start moving to a different market as a business, if you’re moving up market or are you going to introduce a new product soon then you can start identifying other people that will resonate with that audience as well.

 

Erika Childers

Awesome. Jason, anything to add on that one?

 

Jason Noble

I think you’ve made a great point there Dan. I think it is you again, have got to look at what this piece of advocacy about? Who are we trying to target? What the message behind it? I could have advocates as kind of low level admin users, power users, the senior stakeholders in the business so you could have such cross-business range of advocates. You’ve really got to be very targeted as to what we’re doing and spending time looking at it. Is it there to drive sales, is it the senior C level person that’s going to do the sign off? I need that kind of person as an advocate — trying to position new training materials and new features.

You’ve really got to be very, very targeted. So why are we doing it? What are we looking for? That helps drive the content. It helps me target the right users. Then what I should know through my support organization, my customer success organization. I should know who the right people are. But I think as a base answer, any one of your users and a customer depending on what it is you’re looking for.

I think we talked already about your initial customers when they come on with an organization, they absolutely can be advocates. They’ve got very different, very powerful message versus one who come further down the line two, three years down the line. So I think basically every customer, every type of user in their organization could be an advocate. You’ve got to make it very, very targeted and personal to what you’re trying to do.

 

Erika Childers

Awesome. Great answers guys. That concludes our webinar for the day, just to keep the conversation going, we do run a User Adoption Community on LinkedIn. It’s an open community and is welcome to people who care about customer success and care about customer advocates and want to touch base with other peers in their community.

I appreciate everyone jumping on today. Dan, Jason, you guys were fantastic. We had some really great content. I enjoyed today and I hope you all have some good takeaways. Again, keep an eye out for that recording that’ll come in your inbox tomorrow and we hope we see you on our next webinar. Thanks everybody. Have a good one.

 

Jason Noble

Thank you guys. Bye, bye.

 

Erika Childers

Bye.

 

Dan Graap

Bye.