Our Director of Customer Success, Aly Mahan, teamed up with Fraser Stark, VP of EMEA at Influitive, to talk about the importance of customer advocates, and how to go about finding them.
The talk originally took place at Gainsight’s Pulse Europe 2017 conference, but we have the audio and slides below for you to check it out.
If video/audio isn’t really your thing, then carry on reading and I’ll give you the main takeaways.
Part 1: An Introduction to Customer Advocates
This initial quote from Fraser really set the tone of the talk:
“Your prospects are talking to your customers whether you like it or not.”
Essentially, your prospects will be researching everything there is to know about your product. Part of that research will involve talking to your current customers and finding out about their experiences.
Sites such as Gartner’s Peer Insights, Quora, and even social media platforms, have become go-to places for people to seek out and provide recommendations for products like yours. You need to control the narrative.
Your audience are skeptical and empowered so they’re turning to their peers.
“They’re letting their peers and people they trust, help them make better purchase decisions.”
There are three main ways that customer advocates can help your business…
Firstly, they can provide social proof. Online reviews and user-generated content show prospects that your customers are benefitting from your product and so, by extension, they can benefit too.
Secondly, they can improve sales conversions. Referral leads and case studies help your sales team to close the deal, as they provide yet more proof that your product is worth the purchase.
Thirdly, they can help to reduce churn. As I’ll cover in Part 2, good customer advocates can be a great source of product feedback that enables you to vastly improve your product and keep your customers wanting more.
Fraser outlined various steps you should follow in order to create customer advocacy.
Deliver an amazing product or service
Ensure your customers are successful
Identify and invite your happiest customers
Build a great relationship with these advocates
Deploy these advocates on your biggest goals
You can employ the use of various psychological and social triggers such as status and reciprocity. For example, people enjoy the feeling of belonging to a group, and having inside knowledge. By letting your advocates in, you help foster that relationship.
In terms of practical approaches you can take, why not introduce current customers to new customers or even prospects? You could ask customers to stand at booths at conferences, or even speak on stage, on your behalf. These little actions make a whole lot of difference.
It’s all about building and fostering those relationships.
Part 2: How Feedback Helps you to Create Customer Advocates
Building on what we learned in Part 1, Aly focused in on product feedback, explaining how it offers a fantastic opportunity to develop customer advocacy.
The NPS Gap, as Aly called it, concerns the opportunities missed when customers provide feedback. A lot of the time they end up receiving generic responses that don’t tell them much at all.
This silence speaks volumes and suggests to your customers that you don’t really care. In fact, this lack of communication is doing the opposite of what Fraser spoke about in Part 1. You’re actively NOT developing these relationships with the customers who care the most about your product.
Aly pointed out that this problem can actually be solved by managing your feedback more effectively, and that you can essentially kill two birds with one stone.
To begin with, you need to establish a dedicated, separate channel for your product feedback. For startups and small companies, this can be a spreadsheet or Trello board. As you scale, however, you might consider a product like Receptive.
The benefits of having a separate feedback channel are:
It’s available 24/7, enabling your customers to provide feedback whenever they wish.
It allows you to capture little niggles that may have been missed otherwise.
It reduces support tickets and the strain on customer-facing teams.
The next step is to turn product feedback into a two-way street. This is what a lot of companies don’t do, and leads to the aforementioned NPS Gap.
Instead of simply receiving feedback in the form of feature requests, ask for more information.
What are they trying to achieve?
Do they currently have a workaround?
How often do they need it, and what impact does it have on them?
By turning feedback into a conversation, you’re left with more data for the product team to use. Not only that, but you’ll develop a stronger relationship with your customers, which will eventually blossom into advocacy.
Which brings us to the third and final step: Get real with your customers.
A large part of developing any relationship is trust and honesty. If you aren’t willing to be upfront with your customers, why do you think they’ll be upfront with you?
It’s easy to respond to any feedback with “We’ll think about it” or “We’re working on it” but if that’s not actually true then you shouldn’t be saying it.
Equally important - don’t simply stop responding because you have bad news. It might be hard to say no to customers but the ramifications of ignoring them altogether are far worse.
Be open and transparent about the decisions you make, and the reasons why you are/aren’t going to implement their ideas. This will help develop your relationships and nudge your customers that little bit closer to advocacy.
Prospects often rely on reviews and speaking with current customers to help them make a purchase decision.
Customer advocates are your most loyal customers who actively recommend you and your product to anyone who’ll listen.
Psychological triggers, such as status, belonging, and reciprocity, help to strengthen the relationship between you and your advocates.
Taking a proactive and transparent approach to product feedback helps develop customer relationships and advocacy.
Managing feedback effectively leads to better insights and data for your product team.
If you want to put this advice into action and start managing feedback effectively. Learn more