In May, I presented at Gainsights’s Pulse conference which drew 4,000+ Customer Success professionals to Oakland. They asked me to speak about the first two years of Customer Advocacy at Crimson Hexagon. As we started to work on the presentation, it became pretty clear that the theme would be program Reach vs. Relationship. Some programs reach a lot of users but do not foster relationships, and others develop relationships, but do not scale well and by their nature have to be limited. A healthy advocacy program will have programs in all quadrants, but it takes time to get there. At the presentation, I segmented programs into Year 1 (generally in the reach quadrants) and Year 2 (generally in the relationship quadrants).
From early on, we defined Advocacy’s mission to be creating programs that enhance a customer’s use of the platform while raising their internal and external profile. It may sound counter-intuitive, but raising someone’s internal profile may be even more valuable to a vendor than identifying those hard-to-find senior titles at name brands. Think about it! Your internal advocates have the inherent permission and credibility to advocate for your company within their organization, whereas they may not be allowed to advocate for you externally. This is particularly true for enterprise customers that are so critical to the long-term health of your company.
The first year is an opportunity to try things out and my recommendation is to focus on programs that promote Reach.
Help Center Renovation: There is an existing Help Center and in the customer survey distributed in the first month of the advocacy program, it received average ratings. We dug deeper and found that too much content was mis-categorized, redundant, or out of date. Over time, Help Centers can get unwieldy and even though you might say a Help Center is not Advocacy’s responsibility, someone had to fix it and we had fresh eyes
HexaLIVE Webinars: Again, there was a monthly product feature/use case webinar and with a fresh set of eyes, we were able to 2x registrations while leaving the content development to the coaching and support team. We wanted to expand to thought leadership webinars and rather than just add another monthly event, we named the series CoLab and 2x per year there are 9 webinars over 3 days, primarily delivered by customers. By compressing the schedule it was more efficient to develop the content and generate an audience.
User Groups: In Year 1, we chose cities with the most customers and invited people to lunch at a restaurant. Attendance was great and customers wanted a follow-up which focused on education. Year 2 saw a 3-hour User Group with a hands-on workshop.
HexaHUB: In addition to Marketo, SalesForce, and Gainsight, we use Influtive to identify, nurture and manage advocates. When it makes sense, programs are named HexaXX. Influitive was branded as HexaHUB in honor of Boston, the Hub of the Universe.
In addition, we launched an every 6 weeks or so HexaNEWS newsletter, a monthly utilization report sent to the main point of contact for each customer and a new user nurture campaign. One thing these reach programs have in common is scale. There is no more work if 2x as many people attend a webinar, are sent the newsletter, etc.
In Year 2, the focus begins to shift towards programs that generate relationships. These do not scale all that well but develop 1:1, personalized connections with customers.
To go back to enterprise customers, one of the reasons why they are so important is that they tend to have more people using your platform than mid-market or SMB customers. With that in mind, we started working with customers to develop bespoke programs. These include private user groups, customized newsletters, targeted in-app messaging and we are looking into a private version of the Influitive HexaHub.
Other programs we are working on include:
Monitor Success Review: Customers using the Crimson platform create monitors. Send us your monitor URL and we will give you some actionable feedback. If you have the type of product that users would benefit from getting feedback, a program like this has the potential of impacting utilization and developing advocates.
Customer Visits: If a customer is visiting Boston, they are welcome to stop by. Based on their needs we will bring together the right people and if they have enough time they can present to the entire staff. Not everybody in the office gets to hear directly from customers and this is a great way to get to know each other.
Alumni Program: In an up economy, people using your platform will move on to pursue new opportunities. The relationship does not have to end. Why not offer them some free platform access for a limited time which they can use for either their search or where they land at a new company?
User Health Score: I am super excited about this. Most SAAS companies have a customer health score. We are also interested in the individual users’ health score. However, health scores typically focus on the vendor (i.e. platform utilization, event registration, how often the user interacts with your company). It may be far more valuable to get a feel for their overall domain expertise or maturity in their field of work. We are calling it the Social Maturity Index. It’s being tested right now and more to come in a future post.
Advocacy programs have to be nimble. If you hear a need from customers multiple times, it is worth considering how to address it. We judge each program on a 1-5 scale and if the benefit to the customer is greater than the cost and effort we green light it.
Can’t wait to see what Year 3 looks like!