Advocate Marketing Confidential: Finding your perfect match

Wanted: An eager, happy customer who is ready, willing and able to go on a mutually beneficial journey with one of their favourite companies.

I will listen, learn and provide opportunities for professional growth and personal joy; You will share with others why you like my company and how I help you be all that you can be. From time to time, we may cross paths in person. When we do, it will be like seeing an old friend. We may even hug. I will always respect your time and point of view, while you will quietly understand that I have targets to meet. If interested, please make yourself enthusiastically apparent on social media, or at an industry event, or through a friend of a friend. Sincerely, Advocate Marketing xoxo

AM Seeks A: Advocate Marketer Seeks Advocates

Key to any successful advocacy program is the ability to find, engage and nurture relationships with customers who are willing to actively participate in a variety of opportunities. Without advocates, there simply is no advocate marketing. One of the first questions many of my clients ask me is how many customers should they invite into their new programs, and where these advocates can be found. My answer depends on the strategy and goals of the individual program. In some cases, an invite-them-all approach is appropriate; Other times, a selective, phased launch is more fitting. It all starts with knowing who your potential advocates are in the first place. This can certainly be a pain point, especially with nine out of ten clients telling me they don't fully trust their dirty data. So, how do you know who and how many to invite?

Finding Your Friendlies

Most organizations already have some form of customer marketing program. More often than not, there are many customer programs in flight, although in a loosely associated kind of way. Whether it's a customer support portal, a learning management system, a community board, or a social media account, customer touch points are typically already well established and plentiful. It's within these existing programs you will find your first wave of advocates: The Friendlies.

These known advocates are the ones you should pull into the conversation early and often. Ask them what they would want to see in a new advocacy program in terms of member benefits and opportunities. Take the time to interview a small number of them; Take the time to understand their experience to date and build a plan that aims to enhance that experience. Understand through the Friendlies what you will need to do to nurture the everyday average customer along to full-fledged, card-carrying Advocate.

Engaging your Friendlies first is a tried and true approach. It's a way of connecting those legacy customer programs to the brave new world of advocacy. It's a way to recognize the valuable contributions of those already-actively-engaged customers as you prepare to extend your reach beyond them. Asking your known advocates to help shape the first iteration of your program is not only a great way to build affinity, it's an excellent strategy to build an advocate-first program. Failing to include your Friendlies in the conversation as soon as possible may even have an adverse affect. Those customers who have been with you since waybackwhen may feel cold-shouldered should you miss the mark with them as you build your program to launch.

Pro Tip: This known advocate group is also a fertile ground for finding net-new advocates - those customers who aren't anywhere on your radar, but who are eager to get on board with your new program via word of mouth. Advocates of a feather flock together, and all that...

Once you've got your Friendlies engaged, it's time to look farther afield: Into the data abyss we go!

Deep Data Fishing

The total number of potential advocates you invite into a program is correlated to how much advocacy you intend to drive. That is, if you have massive targets to hit, you'll require a certain volume of active advocates. Working with more modest targets? Then, scale the membership accordingly. In either case, to get a close approximation of how many customers will join your program, you will need to work backwards using your own email marketing data in a flow that looks something like this:

  1. Find an email marketing asset that has a close link in terms of potential advocate audience. Typical assets of this type include: Invitations to customer events, customer newsletters, NPS or CSat mailers. You are looking for an emailed asset from which you can derive the typical Open and Click Thru Rate for your intended audience. You'll need these two data points in a moment. Feeling eager? Pull the Open and CTR for a few assets and get your averages in hand.
  2. Using your actual Open and CTR, begin playing with potential invitation numbers:

Eg. 1,000 invites x Your Open Rate x Your CTR = Total number of potential joins

You will need to take this equation one step further by adding a multiplier that reasons not all who land on your application or sign up page will actually join and/or engage. A rough estimate here is 60%, or a multiplier of .6, to that total number of potential program joins figure.

Eg. 1,000 invites x Your Open Rate x Your CTR x .6 = Total number of joins

Once you have the total number of invites/joins roughly estimated, it's time to go fishing in the murky depths of your CRM. If you are lucky enough to have hundreds of thousands of customers, you may need to narrow the field; if you are a smaller shop, you may consider a come-one-come-all approach. If you do need to narrow the field, base your selection criteria on your program goals and objectives. Select those customers who have the attributes that will help you drive against those goals, whether that is based on location or title or product use tenure. At the very least, you could aim for customers who have provided a favourable NPS or CSat score in the past 12 months.

If yours, like many organizations, has questionable Open and Click Thru rates, you may need to consider (a) inviting many thousands of customers and hoping for the best, or (b) enhancing the invitation process beyond the invitation email. This could include any number of add-ons including: A phone call (Yes, the phone call still works!), a mail-out of a small, yet unique gift ahead of launch, a video invitation, a post card or "handwritten" invitation, or launch at an event. Whatever it is, make the invitation spectacular and memorable.

Strategic Recruitment

More important than asking how many people to invite, is to align your recruitment and promotion strategy to your program goals. The Who and the How Many should tie directly into the results you are looking achieve. You may even find through this exercise that your program goals are not realistic given your total customer base or your ability to reach them. Setting your organization's expectations and developing your recruitment scheme accordingly from the outset will help you to knock it out of the ballpark.

January 19, 2017
Deena Zenyk