Part three in a three-part series on engaging passionate marquee customer advocacy
Here’s how to repair perhaps the most challenging advocacy issue: rehabbing a marquee customer advocate who’s burned out or on the verge. Many firms will drop advocacy or other related engagement requests completely at that point, afraid to rock the boat further and damage the relationship. That’s actually the wrong thing to do.
To paraphrase one marquee CIO customer, don’t back off. Go big!Don’t just ﬂy in and out with a #reference request or a media request. Click To Tweet
“Offer me the full range of opportunities to engage with you. Give me the chance to improve your service to me, measure the value you’re delivering, develop best practices together, partner with you, engage in marketing with you, and interact with my peers.
“And then make referencing a part of the ongoing discussion between the account manager and the person they’re selling to at the senior level. That’s what a strategic reference program does. You’ll probably get a lot more traction at the senior level.”
Notice how the CIO puts these in terms of value to her and her organization. That’s what she’s passionate about—not being a reference or a member of your advisory board or community.
To see how to reclaim a tottering advocate, we’ll use a compilation of C-level marquee customers who’ve been turned off by the wrong approach to taking reference calls. We’ll call her “Joan.”
The advocacy manager—who has an ongoing personal relationship with Joan—simply chats with her casually about the problem. It turns out that Joan is bored by most of the reference calls she’s been given. With further discussion, the manager learns that Joan felt she lacked anything in common with them.
Instead of backing off, the advocacy manager asks if there are other ways she might be interested in engaging. He puts these in terms of value to the CIO, based on his knowledge of her. He knows, for instance, that when it comes to recognition, she’s not motivated by high-profile speaking gigs and large audiences. Rather, she wants to be known as someone in her company and industry who gets results. She frequently expresses interest in continuing to expand her peer affiliations—provided they are peers truly at her level (similar company size and seniority level). She’s also someone who loves to learn and improve (mastery) and have a say in her vendors’ strategy and product roadmaps (autonomy).
With that knowledge, the manager’s conversation with her goes something like this:
Advocacy Manager (AM): You know, we’re seeing some traction from our installation— we’ve solved the most serious implementation issues and are starting to get the results you’d hoped for. Should we give a heads-up to relevant business units at your firm so they can learn from this?
Marquee Customer (MC): That’s a good idea. Also, I’d like our senior management to see how the investment in this solution is doing.
AM: Perhaps a joint ROI case study?
AM: I’m also wondering how we might build on the success you’re having. Our customer advisory board deals regularly with the issue you’re facing here—and they have some really interesting executives participating. [The AM identifies a few members that he knows the MC respects.] Any interest in that?
MC: Yeah, it would be nice to work with [names one or two of the CAB members] on these issues. And I’ve been thinking about some expansions of what you’ve been doing for us that might be interesting. The advisory board might be a good place to do that.
AM: OK. Let me see what the membership status is for the CAB. Are you happy with your team’s progress in implementing and operating the solution?
MC: It’s not bad, but I think they can move faster. [She names a couple of areas where they need improvement.]
AM: We can get them into some training for those. Also, our customer community has a lot of customers who are further down the road than your team and are usually happy to help. They may also have a couple of affinity groups relevant to your team’s issues. Let me check on that for you.
MC: Yes, both sound good.
Note how the AM continues to broach each engagement opportunity in terms of what the MC values. Also, the AM can use a similar approach to do some repair work on Joan’s reference problem:
AM: By the way, I’m really sorry you’re getting all these reference requests for people who aren’t relevant to you. We’re going to stop with such reference requests entirely. But there may be some buyers whom you might like to meet. [Names a few.] Would you have any interest in talking to folks like them? We could also specify a limit on how many of them we send your way each month.
MC: That might work. I know [names name] and am familiar with [names another name]. I’d be fine with sharing my experiences with executives at that level.
Instead of abandoning a burned-out marquee customer, learn more about what their needs are and use that information to allow them to engage with your firm in a way that they enjoy.
Want more in-depth insights from the top customer engagement and advocacy firms? Check out our groundbreaking research on Advanced Practices in Customer Advocacy and Engagement.