We're going to be talking about measuring your advocacy program's success. And this by far is one of the most important topics when it comes to creating and managing your advocacy program.

Being able to successfully measure your programs is what’s going to help you unlock more headcount, resources, and budget and be seen as a trusted partner and resource across your organization.

In this article, I’ll be covering:

  • The importance of measuring advocacy
  • Marketing budgets
  • The five-part process to identify your success
  • Advocacy measurements

The importance of measuring advocacy success

In this article we're going to talk about how to measure your programs from A to Z. Now I want to reiterate that this whole journey in terms of measurement and reporting is a process. It's a journey that's going to take time, effort, consistency, and really deep collaboration with internal teams and resources to help you get to that finish line.

This is also a process that I’ve explored deeply for the past several years because frankly, what you can’t measure doesn’t get attention from leadership.

And if you're looking to get promoted and made a huge impact within your company, this is where it starts and ends. These are also the conversations we need to have holistically as an industry. This is the one area by far where customer marketing and advocacy professionals struggle the most.

We are great about building relationships with customers, and building highly engaging programs but when it comes to measuring and quantifying that, other teams, like demand gen, are typically far ahead of anything that we've been able to accomplish.

Marketing budgets

This is also why it comes as no surprise that many of these demand teams typically will get sometimes three to four times the budget and resources in comparison to customer retention and advocacy teams because they're able to show direct pipeline correlation into business outcomes that are going to drive sales and even retention in some cases.

This is especially true if you’re in SAAS organizations - the typical SAAS revenue model looks like this - 75% of all revenue comes from existing customers whereas a mere 25% comes from new logo acquisition.

This is something that our CMO, and executive teams care about - and it's finally time that we as an industry prove our worth, and why I’m so excited to be covering this topic with you now.

The 5-part process

So it boils down to answering this question - how do we prove our worth? It begins with a 5 step process of asking yourself the right set of questions.

It's creating shared goals with leadership. It's being clear about what you want to measure. It's taking inventory of the programs that serve you. And also thinking about things that no longer serve you. And then also being able to start small, and then iterate as you go.

Asking the right questions

So let's go ahead and dive into the first series of questions that you need to ask yourself, your team, and other stakeholders. Things like:

  • What can we measure today that is easy to do?
  • What are some things that are going to take a little more time based on additional conversations around data, integrations, etc.?
  • What's going to deliver the greatest impact if we had to think about our results over the next 6 to 12 months from now - What do we want to say we accomplished as a team?
  • What does our leadership care about?
  • Where does the data live?
  • What teams can we partner with closely?
  • What's going to help move the needle and move us in the direction of accomplishing our goal?
  • How do we want to visualize that data to tell our story to leadership?

The second part is engaging internal stakeholders across the organization and finding out what they care about from a measurement standpoint.

Here are a few examples:

  • Your CMO cares about pipeline influence, brand awareness, and retention.
  • Your sales team cares about closing new deals, customer expansion, and more customer use cases and evidence.
  • Your customer success team cares about value realization and customer retention.
  • Your product team cares about time to value, customer feedback, and overall business impact.
  • And then your support team cares about support resolution, case deflection, and value realization.

Team charter

Your team charter and strategic pillars play a big role in your measurement journey and process - you can determine what your ‘north star’ goals are across adoption, community, and advocacy - this also helps you tell your story and how you can align your goals with your cross-functional stakeholders.

Across your programs, each one should be aligned to the customer journey, where together they create an overall advocacy score or metric for how your programs influence customer experience and retention.

By measuring your program ecosystem holistically, it makes it easier for your executive stakeholders to quantify your direct impact on the organization.

But I’m also going to dissect how you can measure each program shortly. But for now, let’s dive into each of the north star goals.

North star

When you think of the word ‘score’ - essentially it’s similar to how lead scoring works for demand gen - instead of driving lead gen, you are influencing customer behavior.

The first score is the customer adoption score which measures the influence on feature and behavior usage and overall product maturity.

The community engagement score is measuring community membership and engagement influence based on community participation in your online forums or communities - looking at things like activity and posting frequency, etc.

And then the last one, which is the advocate score, measures your customer programs against how it's driving impact and business revenue for the company.

Community measurement

Now before we get into more details on the advocate score, I want to spend a little more time talking about community engagement and a number of ways that you can measure community across the spectrum of your programs.

The first one typically is focused on membership growth. So looking at monthly, quarterly, and yearly engagement, and how those customers are coming back to your community over time.

It's also looking at community posts, answering questions, and how quickly that's helping customers get time to value using your products. It also could be looking at how support cases are being deflected from helpful posts that your users are posting replies and answers to.

It could also be looking at the overall membership ARR or annual recurring revenue across your top contributors and your influencers within the community. It could also be taking into consideration product feedback from customers that are influencing new innovations, product ideas, and ideation for your product management team.

And then overall engagement across posted topics, answering questions as well as the frequency of new user-generated content being created and how that influences customer retention.

And then from a community engagement and events standpoint, looking at how members are signing up to participate in things like coffee chats, or other types of events that drive membership and overall community vibrancy.

Advocacy measurement

Next, we’re going to be diving into advocacy metrics and how you can measure each individual program which ultimately moves into the advocate score.

For this particular example, we are going to be looking at the subsets of programs across the community, user groups, customer references, peer reviews, brand ambassadors, influencer programs, customer awards, CABs, customer stories, and community to show you how you can drill down and measure each one more specifically.

And then from there, we’ll review how you can put it all together into a centralized dashboard to share with your executive stakeholders.

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What can you measure today?

As a reminder, you want to begin by starting with areas across advocacy that are easy to measure today. The first one being advocate growth. This is looking at the net new number of advocates joining your program YOY across your program ecosystem - so this could be across user groups, community, joining your reference program, etc.

For customer references, this could be looking at everything from deal acceleration and pipeline influence from each individual reference that you’ve completed to the volume of references that your team is managing and completing over a given quarter or year and then the average deal size for those references.

From a user group standpoint, this could be looking at things like membership growth, chapter growth, growth in overall attendance, and how your program is growing across each territory or region.

And then from a peer review standpoint, you can take your review presence across sites like Gartner, G2, and TrustRadius and compare the contract dollar amount and divide that by the number of reviews you’ve gathered during a quarter or annually to get your actual cost per review - and you can see how this number decreases or increased based on the number of review campaigns you run - e.g. driving reviews via email or gathering reviews at your user conference or promoting it during user group meetings.

Example: So as an example, let's say you're spending about $75,000 on trustradius, and you've gathered 500 reviews over the calendar year. Well, that would give you a $150 per review cost.

Now the other way you can measure the influence of reviews is the impact review collateral, in the form of quotes or use cases, are having towards deal progression as well as quotes that are featured on your website and how that is influencing form fills and lead generation.

Next, you can measure your brand ambassadors by looking at the membership influence to annual recurring revenue or ARR and how you’re leveraging those 30-50 customers in demand as well as retention programs - from speaking engagements, content creation, consulting, product feedback, etc.

And then from a customer storytelling standpoint, looking at everything from viewership, lead gen form fills, contents indication, and your actual hard costs for developing the asset and how it’s being leveraged in your demand and digital campaigns across social, email, advertisements, in active deal cycles, customer evidence, and more.

With customer awards, it's looking at your overall year-over-year submission growth. It's looking at the ARR influence across your finalists and winners to see how much you're influencing in terms of net retention.

Example: So as an example if you have 15 award categories x 3 finalists per category - that’s 75 finalists and winners. If each finalist spends $100k with you - that’s influencing around $7.5M in protected ARR not including potential expansion opportunities which your MOPS and SOPS team can help you measure.

You can also look at your pipeline of net new customer stories and advocates that are generated from the awards program.

And then from a direct mail campaign standpoint, you can actually see the cost per swag across your welcome gifts and VIP mixers - most of your swag vendors will also be able to help you calculate this number automatically when you do the sends.

Now from an adoption standpoint, we went in-depth in terms of all adoption programs, but from a measurement standpoint, it's ultimately looking at protected revenue and how your programs are driving an increase in product feature usage and behavior.

And then lastly - this is the most important - it’s being able to measure your programs and how it’s positively decreasing churn across your customer accounts. Essentially looking at how accounts with advocates are more likely to stay as a customer vs. accounts where you have no relationship at all.

Advocate score

Now, there is going to be a spectrum in terms of how you measure your programs from easy all way up to difficult based on the level of complexity and integrations required to measure your programs holistically.

Easy things to measure include:

  • Advocate growth
  • Customer references
  • User Group membership and attendance
  • Influencer VIP programs
  • And direct mail

Areas that require integration and validation include:

  • Your online community
  • Peer reviews
  • Customer stories
  • Customer awards programs
  • Your advocate nurture
  • And advocacy type events

And what’s the most difficult to measure is your overall program impact to churn. What I wanted to reiterate is this again is a process - start small and begin with what you can measure easily and work your way up to more advanced areas that may require leveraging the expertise of other teams and resources at your disposal.

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