As a marketer my ears perk up when I hear an expert or senior level executive claim they have found the secret sauce for convincing their entire company and customers to become advocates for their brand.

In a marketing role it can feel like the entire weight of your company’s brand is resting on your shoulders. But if you can leverage the power of your team and the influence of your customers you’ve found the golden ticket.

At SaaStr Annual 2017 I sat in on a session with an all star line up of some heavy hitters  in the SaaS industry like Nick Mehtta, CEO Gainsight; Catherine Blackmore, Global VP Customer Success Oracle; Maria Pergolino, SVP Marketing Aptus; Emilia D’anzica, VP Customer Engagement Walkme.

Speakers on the Super Mario-themed stage speaking on marketing advocacy at SaaStr 2017

These customer success gurus covered the ominous topic of Net Negative Churn through Customer Advocacy. The session stuck with me and I keep coming back to the same thought — are customer success and marketing not one in the same?

 

In today’s digital world there are virtually zero degrees of separation between our stakeholders, both internal and external.

Our entire community lives and breathes online — for better or worse.

I’ve distilled some of the key learns from the session and a few lessons I’ve picked up along the way to help all of us marketers navigate the unchartered territory of advocacy.

First things first.

As a marketing team, tackling that age old question of what are you trying to accomplish can feel like an insurmountable mountain to climb when you first set out to build a “strategy”. For me, questions begin to swirl around in my mind… what are the objectives, tactics, metrics and measurable results that we’re after?

Start with your promise to your customers.

Articulate the promise in a short sentence. Paint it on the walls. Remind your team of it at every possible opportunity. The promise is your true north. Every project and newly proposed initiative should tie back to the question will this help us to deliver on our promise to our customers?

Next, build a plan and a team that fuses marketing to customer success.

To do that you’ll need to ask yourself:

  • What are the elements of deep product expertise that need to be on the journey to help attract and onboard customers? Build the team with this in mind.
  • How will the team’s actions drive proactive outcomes for the customers? Not just reactive solutions to problems. Can you create an infobase of thought leadership content to enable customer education? Or perhaps put a series of nurture emails in place to catch low engagement before customers churn?
  • How will you gain adoption internally at a business level? The C-suite needs to be aligned and connected to your customer success and marketing teams. Make sure you have internal advocates lined up to push all the good stuff you’re about to unveil to current and future customers.

A true CMO today cares about the entire lifecycle of the customer.

Map out what the different points of engagement will be between the stages of awareness, consideration, decision, onboarding and advocacy. Excelling at the handoff from person to person will be critical to the success of your CS+M org.

With your team and plan in place your next step is to GO TO MARKET — nail biting, jaw clenching and all..

Go to market with customer advocacy by telling the customer’s story.

Deliver the message of your brand through the voice of your customer by doing these three things:

  • Help customers tell their success stories through testimonials, case studies, videos, thought leadership blogs and other traditional media. Use these assets as the crux of your marketing content.
  • But don’t stop there — leverage your customer as a distributor of your message. Incentivize them to share their good vibes about your brand through their networks via email, social media & more.
  • Help new or potential customers connect with other customers who have a story to tell. If a new lead or prospect is wavering — connect them to your best customers and let them do the bragging about just how wonderful you and your team are 😉

Finally — measure impact. In order to develop a dashboard you need to first look in the rear view mirror.

Reflect on what you want to repeat and what you want to reduce. Ask yourself are the things your teams are building being used by customers? Are they creating additional advocacy? Is this leading to expansion, renewal or new customer revenue?

So next time your exec team asks you to build out a quarterly or annual marketing plan, think about the role customer success and advocacy will play in this plan.