Reference Point
Top 7 imperatives in customer advocacy and engagement
October 2016                                                                   Gray

I'm really excited to share a heads up on our just completed, groundbreaking research on Advanced Practices in Customer Advocacy and Engagement. We uncovered seven critical imperatives that Advanced Practices (AP) firms like Misys, Adobe, LinkedIn, BMC, Citrix, IBM and others are establishing in this field. Following is a high-level summary of these trends.

To see a fuller article with more examples and graphics, please click here

To learn more about our Advanced Practices study and purchase it, please click here. 


1. Operationalize a new business purpose. 

In today's customer-empowered world, Advanced Practices (AP) firms are expanding on Peter Drucker's famous imperative--that the purpose of a business is to create (and keep) a customer. The expanded purpose, especially for businesses focused intently on customer retention and expansion (cross-sell and upsell), is: 
  • Create successful customers.
  • Capture their stories.
  • Communicate them to your market.
Many (if not most) firms move slowly in implementing this purpose, given the seeming complexity of doing so. But AP firms are showing how to operationalize this purpose in ways that are scalable and that don't roil or otherwise overly disrupt the organization. 

We're still in "Early Early" Registration for the 2017 Summit on Customer Engagement. Don't miss the best opportunity in this field to learn in-depth, actionable best practices, network in an intimate setting with the top practitioners and experts, go deep into the latest research and more...at the best discount we offer. To register, please click.

2. Leverage customer advocates throughout the entire customer journey. 

That is, leverage advocates not just during the later stages of the buying process in order to attract buyers, but throughout the buyer's journey--starting with awareness and continuing after purchase, during deployment and use, to improve customer experience and retention. BMC, for example, uses its advocates in important branding decisions. Citrix is getting systematic about proactively incorporating advocate content and interactions in its demand generation campaigns. After purchase and deployment, LinkedIn and Misys rely on advocates to help ensure the success of new customers or retained customers with expanded solutions. 

3. Move advocacy and engagement programs closer to the center of the firm's Total Customer Experience (TCE) operations. 

This is a natural progression from the previous trend, and leverages the fact that customers want to affiliate with their peers (other customers) throughout their journeys. Why not put the leaders most responsible for cultivating your best customer advocates and influencers at the center of your TCE operations--which include marketing, sales, engineering, professional services, and support services? 

AP firm Misys is, in fact, operationalizing this in a powerful way. CMO Martin Haering and his global customer programs manager, Chris Adlard, have deployed a program called Misys Connect, which selected customers are invited to join early on in their deployment of a Misys solution. Misys Connect is designed entirely around helping customers succeed. Of the 10 programs offered by Misys Connect, four are run by internal operations while six are powered by Misys customers, including its customer advocacy, advisory boards and customer community programs. That's why the firm's customer advocacy and engagement efforts are playing a central role--really, a leadership role--in its TCE operations. To date, no customer has declined the invitation to join and participate in at least one Misys Connect program. 

4. Revolutionize the customer value proposition. 

Many firms resort to incentives, gamification or other external inducements to create passionate advocacy. AP firms tap much deeper human motivational drivers to do so--such as helping advocates build their professional reputation or expand their peer affiliations. In the process, AP firms are revolutionizing the value proposition for their most valuable customer advocates like so: Products and solutions help them get a job done. But customer advocacy and engagement programs are building their careers. 

5. Cultivate marquee customers to power growth. 

About a decade ago, former McKinsey consultant David G. Thompson published research on firms that had grown rapidly to $1 billion in revenue. A key factor for "powering growth" is winning and building long-term relationships with marquee customers--like IBM was for Microsoft, or Solomon Brothers for Cisco. AP firms such as Rackspace and Adobe are responding to this upstream, all the way back to formation of the firm's business strategy. They ask, "Which prospective customers are most influential in our market, as well as innovative enough to pull us into our future?" Those are the marquee customers they go after and build their growth strategy around. 

6. Marquee customers are key to scaling customer advocacy programs. 

One of the most important traits of marquee customers is that it takes just a few of these to propel rapid growth and market leadership. AP firms take advantage of that to scale their overall advocacy efforts. High-touch and expensive personal relationship building is reserved for the few marquees. For second- and third-tier customer advocates, AP firms automate those relationships, as well as the content they produce, as much as possible. The field is wide open for new vendor solutions that can help this challenge, such as CustomerStories.net. 

7. Strengthen and elevate customer advocacy programs 

With their growing recognition of their value, advocacy managers at AP firms are no longer playing passive, order-taker roles for sales, marketing and senior management. For example, AP firms are demanding advocacy programs that align with and participate in the firm's business strategy, tightly integrate with the firm's Total Customer Experience operations, and develop measures of their programs that reflect their impact on key business goals, such as retention, market penetration, revenue growth and the like. 

Summary: Take the view that you have "100% market share" already. 

That statement best captures the direction that the AP firms are taking with their customer advocacy and engagement programs. They don't regard prospects--or mature customers who are due for renewal, upsell, or cross-sell--as sales targets. Rather, AP firms view them as customers already and measure themselves, in part, by how well they're meeting customers' perceived needs. In the process, they're finding that a growing portion of customer needs--throughout their journey--can best be met by interactions with and content from customer advocates and influencers. 
All the best,