Hi, I’m Gal Biran. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Crowdvocate, a holistic platform for both product and customer marketers. Today I’m going to share the insights and best practices I’ve learned from some of the best customer marketing and advocacy teams in the world.

We’ll cover what I have learned about…

  • Getting started with customer marketing
  • Strategy planning
  • Creating a culture of advocacy
  • Running a successful reference program
  • Getting maximum value from B2B reviews
  • Building successful B2B communities

Let's dive in.

Getting started with customer marketing

Before I pass on the wisdom I’ve gathered from the customer marketing pros I’ve partnered with, let’s look at a few fundamentals you need to consider before launching a new customer marketing program.

First, before you start building your customer marketing program or investing in technology to support it, you need to define your strategy and KPIs. What are your first-year goals? How can you contribute to achieving the company’s KPIs and align your program around the numbers?

It’s essential to collaborate with departments like sales, marketing, customer success, and product, and within each of those departments, you want to identify a champion. This is going to make it much easier for you to get executive buy-in.

It’s also vital to talk to your customers and see what they want out of your program and how they're willing to contribute to your efforts, then bring that voice to other departments so they understand your program’s value.

And, of course, you want to constantly measure and share what customers have done and how that impacted the business.

For example, if they gave you product feedback, that feedback became a feature, and that feature is now selling to the tune of $2 million, you want to be able to track that cycle. Similarly, if customers gave you feedback on something that wasn’t working, you fixed it, and your NPS score went up as a result, you want to be able to show that.

Strategy planning: Top tips from a CMO in the know

Anna Convery, the former CMO of Radware, shared this brilliant advice on getting executive buy-in for your customer marketing program:

  1. When you're approaching executives, you have to start by understanding the company’s strategic goals and how the program contributes to them, then just give your execs the headlines. Executives are short on time, so they need short messages establishing how your program will directly impact the numbers.
  2. Always have a financial slide in your deck when you're presenting the program. That way, when your execs are putting your program in the next year's budget, they’ll have a full picture of what it’s going to cost and this is what the company is going to get out of it.
  3. Show how you're going to measure the program’s impact. Execs care about the numbers. They have to show attribution and ROI, so you too have to demonstrate how you're going to quantify your attribution. This is where tools are going to come in especially handy.
  4. When you go live, track the program’s progress and achievements and communicate them within your company regularly. Don’t be afraid to blow your own horn. Blow your customers’ and collaborators’ horns too. You have to be your own marketer, not just your company’s.

Creating a culture of advocacy: Top tips from an advocacy ace

Creating a culture of advocacy will not only help you get internal buy-in; it will also empower other stakeholders to help drive your program forward. Kalina Bryant, the Head of Customer Advocacy at Asana, shared these pointers on how to make that happen:

  1. Start by mapping all your internal stakeholders; you have to be sure that you know who they are, their goals, and what your program can do for them.
  2. Once you’ve learned what their goals are, figure out how you can help them to succeed and make sure they understand that too. That's when they’ll become collaborators and customer marketing champions.
  3. Create internal playbooks that will make it easy for internal stakeholders to get involved in your programs. In your playbooks, you might want to outline how your program is being rolled out, the types of customers that should be nominated, and how to nominate them. Just like when you’re communicating externally, always keep your messages simple and actionable.

Juliana Roxa, Global Customer Marketing Director at SAP, also gave us some hot tips on creating a culture of advocacy:

  1. Identify your organization’s five main goals before starting to build your advocacy strategy. Maybe your company is looking to improve revenue or profitability. Maybe it's launching a new product and needs to build awareness around that. Tie those goals to your customers’ voices. You can contribute to a new product launch, for example, by gathering stories from early adopters who have successfully used the product.
  2. While strategizing, meet as many people as you can within the company and brainstorm how customer marketing and advocacy can tie into their programs and activities. Connect your program to their KPIs and agree on how you’ll work together and track your results. That way, they’ll be eager to collaborate.

Running a successful reference program

Now that we understand the importance of strategy, getting internal buy-in, and creating a culture of customer advocacy, let's talk about how to successfully run different types of programs, starting with reference programs.

Step one: Strategy

First of all, you want to streamline referenceability. Whether you’re dealing with customer stories, videos, speaking opportunities, or sales reference calls, start by defining the strategy for your program and your audience.

Next, you need to decide how you’re going to do member recruitment and who's going to own that process. Is it a self-serve program? For example, are we giving sales the ability to do things themselves, or does it have to be managed?

You also need to decide if your program is going to focus exclusively on content or if it will include sales references. Finally, think about how you’re going to recognize and reward customers who participate in your program.

Step two: Alignment

The next step, as we discussed earlier, is to align with your internal collaborators. Lay out how you’re going to work together to achieve your shared goals, outline your nomination process, and decide who needs to approve a reference request. And again, always think about what's in it for them.

Step three: Implementation

Then it’s time to start building workflows. Automation is your friend here. You might want to automate your processes for customer stories or reference requests. In the implementation stage, you’ll need to build your recruitment channels, brand your program, set up CRM integrations, and carry out internal testing.

Step four: Launch

When launch day comes, make sure you communicate the launch internally and set up training sessions with all of your internal stakeholders. It’s also a great idea to incentivize other departments to collaborate on nominations. Finally, make sure you constantly test and iterate your program.

Top tips from three customer marketing mavens

To help you manage your customer references, Morgan Asher, Director of Customer Marketing at Okta, shared these content management tips:

  1. Break customer content into small, consumable pieces and serve those rather than full customer stories. That will give you many more pieces of content to utilize.
  2. Don’t make the customer the middleman. Often, customers in larger organizations need to ask their comms teams for approval to participate in reference activities. To make your advocates’ lives easier (and get a ‘yes’ quicker), build a relationship with the comms team so they know you have their best interests at heart.
  3. Make sure that the entire company knows about the need for references. While customer success and sales are the usual suspects when it comes to nominating references, your colleagues in support can also recommend referenceable customers. Event marketers and executives are full of hot tips too.

As well as emphasizing the need for a formal and trackable process for reference requests, Nitzan Sofrin, Reference Program Manager at Cornerstone, offered this pearl of wisdom for making the most of your customer references: ask customers joining the reference pool questions to get to know them better and understand how they can contribute to future activities.

For instance, you might want to ask them what other languages they speak or what their exact use cases are. That will help you match the right advocate to the right activity as you grow your program.

Meaghan Sullivan, Customer Marketing Manager at Google Cloud, was also generous enough to share her insights on reference management:

  1. It’s your job to help your customers be better storytellers. Whether you give them advice on how to structure a compelling story or simply edit their videos, helping them to be better at storytelling makes both of you look good.
  2. Build a two-way relationship with your customers. Make sure you understand their goals; that way, you can create a co-marketing program where you share their messaging through their customer stories and everybody wins.
  3. Track your references not only to show results but also to prevent customer fatigue. You need to protect your customers and ensure that they’re not overused.

Top tips to get maximum value from B2B reviews

Let's talk a little bit about reviews. Victoria LaPlante, Director of Customer Marketing at Numerated, shared these three hot tips on how to harness their power:

  1. Ask your sales teams where potential customers are looking for reviews. There are so many review sites – G2, Gartner, Capterra, Trustpilot, Trustradius, and so on – that you can’t possibly cover them all. Your sales teams can help you decide which sites to prioritize.
  2. Use two and three-star reviews to improve your product and product support. Investigate the cause of the review, fix the problem, then get back to the customer who wrote the review and show them the changes you’ve made. They might just become your most loyal customer and give you five-star reviews later on.
  3. Acknowledge and respond to all reviews – the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

Irwin Hipsman, Customer Success Marketing Manager at Nexthink, had these nuggets on B2B review platforms to share:

  1. Use a review platform with buyer intent data. That way, you not only generate traffic from the reviews on the site, but you also know who's looking at you versus competitors, and have more leads to give to the business.
  2. Read the small print on each review platform. Are you allowed to leverage the content of reviews for reports and marketing? That will help you choose the best review platform for you.

Building successful B2B communities

Scott Wilder, Head of Customer Engagement and Community at HubSpot, shared these hot tips on cultivating a successful advocacy community:

  1. When you're building a community, whether it's an advocacy community or a more general community, you have to have the customers as part of the team. When they’re involved in building it, you’ll know what they want the community to do for them, whether that’s providing support, networking opportunities, education, or something else entirely.
  2. Think of your community as a customer engagement platform and source of advocacy. Your community’s most active contributors are prime candidates for customer marketing and advocacy activities.
  3. Constantly listen to customers’ input on your community so you can iterate and keep it alive.

Finally, let’s look at some words of wisdom from Dani Weinstein, Senior Director of Customer Community and Growth at Kaltura, who offered these two tips to get the most out of your community:

  1. Use your community to drive value across the business. It’s an incredible source of advocacy materials for marketing. It can deflect support requests by providing answers to your users’ questions. It can support your customer success teams with content that quickly teaches your customers how to use your product, leading to increased adoption. Your community can even inspire new features among your engineering teams.
  2. A community with power uses can fuel your SEO, so make sure at least a part of your community is public.

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