The Definition of Customer Advocacy

//The Definition of Customer Advocacy

The Definition of Customer Advocacy

By | 2019-07-29T10:28:03-04:00 June 29th, 2018|Customer Advocacy|0 Comments

Customer experiences are king especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry. We have long known this to be true for B2C companies like airlines, hotels, banks, consumer goods etc that earn the loyalty of their customers based upon positive experiences. Our VP of Customer Advocacy, John Warne, believes this is true for B2B companies as well. Today, every B2B customer has choices to make and there are many viable competitors to choose from. There’s not just one pervasive CRM or project management software – there are many, individualized for size of team, industry etc.

In B2B SaaS, a loyal customer is earned by having an excellent product AND creating predictably excellent experiences or services. If companies can do this, it generally creates customers so happy that they become a free, external selling source and functional customer advocates. Customer Advocacy goes both ways – in a vendor/customer relationship both parties advocate for the other. The following blog will outline why Customer Advocacy is so important, what it is in today’s B2B SaaS space, who supports it and where it starts, and how to support advocacy on a day-to-day basis, as well as tips on starting an effective customer advocacy program.



Why is Customer Advocacy Important?

Perhaps the most important reason for any company to pursue Customer Advocacy is to create customers so loyal that they become vocal advocates for your company and become high-quality revenue sources. When your customer becomes your advocate, they open up a line of communication that can (and should) be mutually beneficial. Communication helps CSM’s keep up to date with the status of the customer and learn how they’re doing. This includes what they want from your product/service, what they currently need and what they might need in the future based on growth plans or team predictions. Additionally, customer advocates won’t have a reason to leave your company – you can ensure that you’ll keep a customer for life. They’ll also become partners instead of sticking to a traditional customer/vendor relationships. Customer Advocates will be willing to partner with you for webinars, case studies, conferences and the like. The benefits are limitless but Customer Advocates are the pinnacle of a customer – they surpass a loyal customer and have the opportunity to produce the most revenue and value over the relationship’s lifetime.



What is Customer Advocacy

According to ICMI, “Customer advocacy consists of the actions we take to focus the organization on doing what is best for customers, which, in turn, rewards us with loyal customers who advocate for our products and brand.” Above loyalty, Customer Advocacy is a mutual support and promotion between a company and their customer. Putting the customer first, focusing on their needs, going above their expectations and even singing their praises when the opportunity arises creates customers so happy with your company that they become natural promoters. For a definitive timeline of Customer Advocacy,  make sure to see our post, Everything you Need to Know About Customer Advocacy. Below find some signs of Customer Advocates:

  • Customers provide natural and unsolicited referrals to their network of peers.
  • Customers are willing to make formal referrals upon request.
  • Customers are willing to and desire to partner outside of a traditional vendor/customer relationship.

Customer Advocacy is not a one-off project like some of the steps towards loyalty or goals might be. Advocacy needs to be worked towards from the beginning of a prospecting stage and continued throughout the lifetime of the customer. It should be an end goal of all business units including R&D, Marketing, Sales and Customer Success.

It’s a Partnership NOT a Transaction

When instituting Customer Advocacy within a company or a team, a distinction should be made: Focus on Mutual Advocacy – Customer Advocacy implies that you’re the customer’s advocate as well. A culture of advocacy means a company earns loyalty through excellence. This includes performing above and beyond customer expectation, but also by advocating for your customers and inviting them into your “culture of advocacy” as an example of what you hope to gain from them. It’s necessary to start the relationship with an approach of intentionality. To achieve advocacy you can’t approach a customer relationship with the singular mission of increasing their revenue value over their lifetime – instead, focus on only recommending upsell and cross-sell opportunities that benefit or help the customer reach their goals.



Who Supports Customer Advocacy? Where Does Customer Advocacy Start? The Classic Contenders

A company who is truly committed to Customer Advocacy will have a goal for each group in how they support the initiative. Here we will specifically focus on classic roles that regularly work with customers in traditional B2B SaaS companies: Marketing, Sales and Customer Success.

  1. Marketing: It’s up to the marketing team to understand what customer problems are and explain how the product/services solve them. While a prospect is doing their research, they’ll look to marketing materials to begin their understanding of the company and determine if they fit into the target customer profile. Included in mutual advocacy is the support of the customer with information and tools they need. The marketing team also provides value to the customers throughout their relationship with content that is relevant and important to them along the stages of the life cycle.  
  2. Sales: Before a prospect becomes a customer, it’s sales job to understand the true business problems the prospect is seeking to solve, and then to sell a solution that directly addresses the problems. Giving examples of how the company has partnered with other customers, or showing examples of customer advocacy can help set the stage for a successful sale and relationship. Honesty is also important while prospecting – the best way to provide value and meet the needs of a customer is to make sure they’re a good fit. Chances are, the wrong customer won’t easily (if ever) become a customer advocate.
  3. Customer Success: After the sales handoff, it’s up to Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to provide value to the customer. Expectation setting is always important and so is exceeding those expectations on a regular basis. CSM’s are focused on understanding and solving the ongoing business problems of the customer, learning how to help and advocate for them, and creating a strong and honest relationship. It’s up to the individual company to decide who they put in front of the customer to ask for partnership in events, referrals, reviews and the like. We would generally recommend that it be someone who has built substantial rapport with the person being asked.



How to Create Customer Advocates (an Abridged Version)

The Harvard Business Review has an amazing article by Bill Lee, Founder of the Center for Customer Engagement, outlining many comprehensive ways to nurture customer advocates. It’s worth a read regardless of your industry or company stage. We’ve chosen some of the most important points to outline below.

  • Be Truthful: Follow-through with promises to customers and resolve any problems that arise (whether it’s your fault or not)
    • A company can’t create customer advocates without having an overwhelmingly positive track record in a relationship
  • Understand Customers’ Problems
    • Understanding business problems isn’t just for prospects during the selling process – a company should embark on the customer relationship with a mission to continue solving and improving their business problems
  • Create Connections: Connect similar customers together who deal with the same business problems
    • Any customer will cherish valuable relationships
    • Create positive associations by helping customers exchange ideas and learnings
      • Ideas for where to connect customers: webinars, conferences, feedback roundtables, coffee meetings (if the companies are locally-based)
  • Be their Advocate too – Promote your customers: Market and Sell Them
    • Advocate for your customers through white papers/case studies, to other customers or through presentation partnerships
      • The best-case scenario is that your promotion of your customers will help them gain more customers
How to Create a Customer Advocacy Program

After committing to Customer Advocacy as a company, some may want to try creating a Customer Advocacy Program. Customer advocacy programs are a formal way to gather information about your customers to better serve them as a whole, while also providing more personalized work and services throughout the relationship. Darryl Glade, CEO of a real-estate photography company, wrote about steps to create a Customer Advocacy program that is also applicable to B2B SaaS. He notes, “Having this insight into our customers gives us the information we need to meet, and exceed, their expectations, leading to customer satisfaction, customer retention and referrals.” This information can also help identify and fix customer or product problems more quickly through the following steps:

  1. Feedback: Use a platform or create a repository for categorized customer feedback and respond to most, if not all, customer communication.
  2. Social: Follow and engage with your customers on social media. Highlight them on your own pages when it’s appropriate.
  3. Promote: Be an advocate for your own customers.
  4. Incentives: Decide if you’re going to incentivize your customers for their advocacy. Remember that true advocates won’t need incentives to sing your praises.
  5. Feedback Loop: Ensure that you’re regularly communicating with the customer and never allowing yourself to lose sight of their goals, needs and wants.

Make sure you check our other Definition Of… blogs here: The Definition of Customer Success and The Definition of Customer Loyalty Part 1 and Part 2.