Will the Customer Advocacy King Still Have Advocates?

This is a very strange time indeed for customer advocacy. If nothing else, the current events are a reminder that advocates hold the keys the kingdom. The question now is: Will they stay or will they go?

Being an advocate is quite an odd thing, really. There is something deeply intimate about believing in a company so much that you are willing to attach your personal (professional? Is there a difference these days?) brand to your favourite software, service, widget or whathaveyou. 

But, like with most forms of intimacy, there are certain rules. Unspoken, but they are there. Safe words, but for SaaS. Because with intimacy comes vulnerability. For advocates, that is usually centered on trust. Trust that the company you advocate for will do right by you. Trust that the horse you have hitched your cart to will win, or at least look strong, elegant and purposeful whilst trying. 

So, what happens when the intimacy of an advocate<>corporate relationship is broken? 

Well, we’re seeing that now. Emotion. A lot of it. Confusion. In equal measure. And, a healthy dose of disbelief. How did this happen? Why is it happening? What are my options? Will Captivate survive?!? More on that last one later... 

These questions, said one way or another, have been coming our way since the announcement that Influitive had been acquired back in December. Even as a shareholder privy to confidential information weeks ahead of the acquisition, details were scant. And, still now, they remain so. Sorry, folks. No hot gossip today! We’ll leave that to the Slack communities. What we will share here for our Influitive-using friends, followers and clients is some practical advice for consideration in this strange moment in CMA history, along with some useful assets and suggestions for interim services.  

In Times of Adversity Lies Great Opportunity

The tectonic plates of the customer advocacy and marketing space have been shifting for a few years now. Pressure has been building. At the CMA Summit in London in November, Captivate’s co-founders underlined this in their keynote with a single bold statement: Goodbye to the reign of advocacy programming. Welcome to the era of Advocacy Everywhere. 

So, while the Influitive shake-up has many people contemplating their next moves, wisely, many are opting for a thoughtful evaluation of their current state and desired future state of customer advocacy before reaching final decisions. As part of that Influitive evaluation process, there are several critical factors to consider along the way:

> Impact on Service:

The impact on service is evident by the apparent release of the services and CSM teams. If easy access to expertise and hands-on services are crucial factors for your program’s success, you’ll want to pivot your services resourcing or consider a tool that is less reliant on human help. 

Influitive has said there will be paid CSM offerings and continued access to hub management services. However, at this current time, it is unclear who will be delivering those services and their cost.

> Impact on Platform:

While not immediately clear, the official word is the platform is here to stay. This should be a reassurance to customers of its stability with no imminent functional changes. The new leadership team is focused on AI, and one might reasonably expect AI to feature more heavily if the platform evolves. 

> Impact on Long-Term Vision:

The long-term vision is currently unclear, and, understandably there's a sense of urgency amongst customers to understand what the future looks like for the platform and company. No crystal ball here, but as a customer you should feel entitled to probe on vision to ensure your anticipated future needs and the platform capabilities will be aligned before signing your next contract. 

This should entail not just understanding Influitive’s roadmap but understanding Customer Marketing and Advocacy challenges and innovation at large. What is the future of customer engagement and are you ready for imminent changes? 

> Brand Values Alignment:

This is perhaps the trickiest one. For some, the new business model, recent actions and strategy just might not align with their own brand values. Or said another way, advocates are evaluating whether or not they want to continue as such, prompting a careful evaluation of their association with and investment in the firm. There’s an irony in there, somewhere. 

Evaluating Your Long-Term Influitive Relationship 

In our conversations with many folks, the initial steps we recommend involve a thorough assessment to understand the program's current value and determine if Influitive still aligns with primary goals, audience, and risk tolerance.

If you find yourself in the midst of evaluating a move, it's crucial to maintain an unbiased and open-minded approach. Conduct a thorough assessment on the impact to your organization, your role, and your customers. Consider the implications of staying with changes to ownership, service levels, and any undisclosed product strategy. Even a simple pros and cons list can serve as a valuable tool for gaining clarity. The back of a napkin will do. 

It is worth acknowledging here that despite well-intentioned claims, no single platform in the Customer Marketing and Advocacy (CMA) space can do everything. The current trend, albeit not the easiest path forward, is piecing together multiple tools that each excel in specific functions. We expect progress and disruption in the platform landscape to continue, and remain optimistic that the maturation of the customer marketing and advocacy practice, supported by the evolution of robust tools, is a good thing. A really, really good thing. After all, we need these tools to propel us forward in this ever-evolving landscape. 

Captivate has multiple handy resources for you to get a grip on the CMA AdvoStack. 

  • For starters, assess the functionality you truly need to delivery your advocacy program strategy with  our handy Vendor Evaluation Scorecard
  • Then you can check out the Advocacy Vendor Lookbook to see which tool or tools best support your use cases and strategic priorities. 
  • Or use our Vendor Showcase page to watch 10-minute demos from over 20 CMA vendors so you get the gist of what each one offers before getting stuck on a dozen prospect lists. Great info, zero pressure. 

Even without the added pressure of a poorly-communicated acquisition, it's always wise to periodically assess the health of your program. Evaluate if it's genuinely driving business and customer impact, and determine if your current platform enables you to execute your advocacy strategy effectively, rather than molding your strategy to fit within platform confines. (If you’re looking for a no BS, unbiased evaluation of your AdvoHub, check out our popular Review and Recommend service

Will Captivate Survive?!?!?

Ah yes, this little nugget. We’ve had some wonderful folks reach out to make sure we’re doing okay with the fallout from the Influitive acquisition. We appreciate you. Truly. The short answer: Absofuckinlutely!. We are doing fantastic because from day one of Captivate, we set out to broaden our scope and break out of the single-software-centric box. Straight out of the gate we said Strategy Before Software, and we still hold this as a core truth for the work that we do. 

While Influitive-related services has only ever been a small piece of the breadth of customer engagement services Captivate offers, we do offer a robust selection of Influitive services and our team has the deepest collective Influitive expertise out there. If you need help - executional or strategic - especially in this time of change, we’re here and happy to help. 

Whether you want program management services from professionals you can trust have deep Influitive experience, are looking for a new, strategy-focused guide on the side to take the place of your former Influitive CSM or have decided to move on and need help with the transition, we strive for an unbiased perspective, leveraging our knowledge and connections across platforms to evaluate the risks, rewards, and viability of making significant changes to your Influitive-based program.

Final Thought

We get there is a lot for current customers to contemplate. Do you stay? Do you go? Do you trust? We say it’s essential to recognize that what's right for one Influitive customer may be entirely wrong for another. Some are eager to make the switch, while others are steadfast in their decision to stay. Neither one is right nor wrong. Every strategy and audience is unique. That’s part of the allure of customer marketing and advocacy. Take a step back from the back-channels and public chatter and do what’s best for your customers and your business. 

February 8, 2024
Deena Zenyk