By Afraim Karim
Customers define the success of an organization and will remain to be the most vital element for all organizations. As industries grow more, they become more customer centric. In that regard, what does actually intrigue a customer to become an advocate of the brand or the company? What is the best form or technique to make your customer take an advocative action? Carl Pieri conducted an elaborated study with his team to understand how this customer advocacy will look like in the upcoming 3 years with changing requirements. Pieri is a Leadership Rotational Program candidate at HubSpot, which originally published the study. Following is a summary of the study.
CUSTOMER-FOCUSED CUSTOMER ADVOCACY
Although it remains obvious that customer advocacy is meant to be customer focused; a significant proportion of the companies take up a fairly misguided approach on this. Despite the necessity of one to one interaction and relationship building, some companies invest and harvest on generosity of these customers, that results in limited success rates. The participation of a customer in an advocacy program should be in alignment with the prospect of why the customer would choose to purchase the product or service of the company. Unless the customers feel like they receive far more than they have to input and invest, incentivizing them to stick to the company fails. It is about ensuring the customers that their output will be far more valuable than their inputs.
However, companies often struggle in finding out how to ensure that. How should the company drive value for their advocates? The primary step involves looking for success beyond the valuation of their products or the quantity of advocacy actions taken by the company; however, it should be determined based on their customer behavior and responses. The companies should focus on how intrinsically motivated the customers are, to return to their service or products. Intrinsic valuation of the company’s service or product makes them irreplaceable and the optimum path to tap into such intrinsic motivations is through customer personalization.
Customer personalization in itself can be a major challenge for the companies. The limitation to accessibility to customer data makes it difficult for the companies to scale such personalized advocacy. This challenge gets addressed by Carl Pieri’s study, using limited data and scaling the personalized advocacy by using four major advocacy personalities.
THE FOUR ADVOCATE PERSONALITIES
- Educators – sharing the tips and helping other customers
- Validators – known to be credible
- Status Seekers – ambitious with extensive network base
- Collaborators – influential and help the long term strategy develop
These are the four personalities for the advocates who come forward for a company’s branding, developed by Forrester analyst Laura Ramos. It is essential to seek out either of the four personalities when implementing a customer-focused advocacy program and Carl analyses why looking out for such personality is vital.
Carl highlights two major reasons in this case. The personalities of your advocates help the companies in knowing about their opportunities further and the content they must provide each advocate with. The personalities of the advocates secondly facilitate the companies’ understanding of their customers in terms of making requests.
Therefore, it is important to look out for either of the four basic personalities in the advocates and utilize the tool for a company’s utmost benefit. However, in case the advocates fail in terms of predicting customer behavior, their purpose fails; which makes it essential to test the personalities of these advocates first.
TESTING THE PERSONALITIES OF YOUR ADVOCATES
Carl wanted to find out how difficult it could get to determine the personality and if it is possible to determine that with 5 short questions. Thus, there were 5 questions developed for a survey, with 731 participants. The questions were designed in a manner to predict a given advocacy personality. Asking the respondents to choose one of the mentioned fields for their participation was one of the questions, resulting in a response in the second image.
PERSONALITIES PREDICTING BEHAVIOR
Along with knowing the personality of the advocates, the ability to predict their behavior also helps the companies further. The knowledge of what is appreciated by the advocates and the form of recognition appreciated by them, help these companies to utilize their advocates efficiently and optimally. Another question that was posed to the respondents through Carl’s survey was, followed by the results as such:
If a brand were to express their gratitude for your participation in their advocacy community, which of the following would you appreciate the most?
- A heartfelt, personal thank you letter
- A small cash or gift incentive
- More helpful content for your career or personal goals
- Exclusive access to new products
However, the best result is obtained when these responses are broken down to each personality type understanding their advocators better and ensuring their satisfaction further.
Personalizing the form of reward with the minimal data ensures that the companies get to serve their customers better and keep them satisfied and content; and this is called actionable personalization. However, leveraging information leads to better prediction and scaling the methods accordingly.
THE 5 ESSENTIAL STEPS TOWARDS VIBRANT, ENGAGED AND CUSTOMER-FOCUSED ADVOCACY PROGRAM
Moving Away from Using Monetary Rewards as The Main Motivation
Monetary rewards have its own perks, however, using them as the sole purpose of motivating an advocate usually results in unsatisfactory output. Monetary compensation or reward results in unidimensional compliant attitude rather than a self-direction actualized behavior. Through the development of a self-directed behavior, companies can start driving values. As Carl finds out that most advocacy communities have low redemption rates of approximately 9-24% and point based advocacy communities usually result in lower success.
Lean into A Lightweight, Hyper-Personalized Experience for Your Advocates
It should not be forgotten that money acts as the biggest incentive for a majority of the proportion of working advocates involved. Leaning away from utilizing monetary compensation as the primary motivator for all the advocates of the company might result in the loss of advocates sticking to the companies based on their monetary evaluation only. Carl claims that the loss of such advocates is not really a loss at all.
However, it is worth consideration, as how to redeem all the advocates when the company chooses to not use the most conventional tool for attracting their advocates. This is when personalization should be taken up as the problem solver and create a distinct and unique experience for each of the individual candidate.
In order to ensure that such personalized rewards are given out, the companies can take up such short tests to understand the personality and field of expertise of each of their advocates. Allocating them with the right responsibilities can result in an overall satisfaction and enhancement.
Even if the community of these advocates remains small, the companies can collect further data on these advocates by running and implementing small scale experiments to facilitate better engagement of the companies with their advocates in the longer run. The companies, as a result of such small scale experiments, can also cater to different kind of personality fit.
Bring Process and Structure to Your Advocacy Program
The resources available for advocacy programs are usually minimal. Although these programs are specifically designed to assist individuals involved with marketing or sales people, it usually ends up in disappointment. Companies incur higher costs when trying to generate a form of social proof such as references in ad hoc fashion compared to a single team running these centrally.
The primary reason behind allocating such minimum resources includes the difficulties with tracking and evaluating. Advocacy programs are usually not well documented and relies more on personal interactions than professional record keeping. Therefore, it is necessary for the companies to establish discipline and proper goals to ensure their campaigns become the driving success they intend it to be.
Such goal-setting can come in two forms:
- Business Goals: Knowing the goals of an organization is not only necessary for success but for the existence of the company itself. Similarly, it is important to evaluate what the company is trying to achieve through these advocacy campaigns in terms of successes.
- Advocacy Goals: The satisfaction of the advocates in terms of achieving their personal goals should be given equal importance; because when the advocates can see their own goals being fulfilled, that is when they become the drivers of company successes.
Advocacy goals should always remain as the top most priority than the company goal itself. Keeping company goals is as important as advocacy goals, however, it is also necessary to understand developing connection with the company’s advocates and ensure gaining full satisfaction from customers to have their loyalty forever.
Centralize and Standardize Your Advocacy Efforts
All the companies have their own needs and requirements and they train their advocates accordingly. On the contrary, a form of communication present for differing organizations to put together all the different efforts and findings, is also important. Companies can end up misunderstanding their advocates without an overview from previous employers; and once they obtain an overview, making their advocates result in high profit and success becomes significantly easier and smoother.
Layer on Technology to Better Scale
Technology has its own limitations, so it is important for companies to find out first what their advocate requirement is and then scale their existent effort using such technologies. The companies must understand personal preference before relying on any other organization’s need and formulating their own programs. For every company, being unique requires a unique kind of program to exist.
CUSTOMER ADVOCACY 3 YEARS DOWN THE LINE
Customer advocacy will be community of customers who are pro-active and solely driven by their intrinsic motivations to take actions and enhance their growth further. While the customers grow for such advocacy, the companies grow along with them and better.
CUSTOMER ADVOCACY IS NOT –
A group of people engaging in transactional behavior
- Rather than mindless drones looking for Amazon gift cards, people should be engaged because they want to grow themselves, their company, or their career.
A community of engagements that primarily benefit your business
- It’s important to actively put value out, if the companies expect to receive value in return.
“Nice to have”
- If treated well, advocates represent tremendous value for the brand in concern and they deserve to be treated as such – advocates should be viewed as no less than a corporate asset.
Restricted by software
- The companies should avoid software that can become restrictive in terms of running the company’s advocacy programs and monitor it throughout.