Customer Advocacy Program Best Practices: Seven Tips from Six Award-Winning Companies

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Like many Customer Marketers, I have a passion for not only bringing the voice of the customer to life, but also creating opportunities for those voices to be elevated and recognized for their success. Over the past year and a half, I have had the honor of helping bring some exciting new types of customer-focused content to life here at RO Innovation. A couple of these customer advocacy programs were celebrated amongst our customers’ peers at the recent RO Elevate Customer Summit.

The Reference Elite

About 18 months ago, RO started a new customer recognition program called the RO Reference Management Elite. This program recognizes individuals in the customer marketing space that provide thought leadership, help shape best practices in this field and truly inspire this community with the insights and strategies they share to take the discipline of customer advocacy management to the next level.

RO Sherpa Awards

Another brand-new customer recognition program at RO this year is the RO Sherpa Awards. Given it was our first year, we were blown away by the participation and interest from our customers. Many said they’ll be adding similar programs to their own companies after seeing the results and excitement it drove. The RO Sherpa Awards recognize the leaders, the guides, the “Sherpas”, if you will, that are doing incredible things at their companies and leading the future of customer advocacy programs.

At RO Elevate, we recognized six B2B companies with best-in-class customer advocacy programs that are leading the way in the new B2B buying reality. Winners of these awards understand customer advocacy is the most influential asset companies have in their arsenal today. They demonstrate marketing excellence, business impact and strategic value via the execution of the customer advocacy and reference programs at their companies.

IBM: Demolish the Siloed Functionality of Customer References

The winner of this year’s Outstanding Executive Leadership award recognizes Matt Young, Program Director of Corporate Marketing at IBM. Matt has been instrumental in eliminating the siloed way references were used in the past and has truly transformed the client reference program into a true discipline and value driver at IBM. The metrics of IBM’s program are incredible, and while contractual obligations prevent me from writing about them publicly, they are truly jaw-dropping!

Apttus: Alignment is Everything

The Exceptional Customer Advocacy Alignment award recognizes the Customer Advocacy Team at Apttus for the way they prove the value and impact of using customer advocacy end-to-end in the customer lifecycle. Apptus has a customer-first mentality that runs throughout every department at the company. They believe every customer engagement their employees have impacts the story that their advocates will share. Their program’s strategy and strategic alignment with sales, marketing and customer success departments ensures their customer advocates create brand authenticity, customer loyalty and new business through the help of content, referrals and social validation. Read Apttus’s full story here.

Ceridian: Be Well-Loved by Customers AND Employees Alike

In sports, a most valuable player (MVP) award is an honor typically bestowed upon the best-performing player in an entire league. In the world of customer advocacy, The Most Valued Program award recognizes an organization with a program that is highly adopted, appreciated and well-loved by its internal stakeholders. The Customer Success program at Ceridian, aptly named Ceridian XOXO, is well-loved by both employees and customers alike AND has a huge impact at the organization. From sales to product management to marketing to customer success, the XOXO program is aligned with the activities and workflows of every department touching Ceridian’s current and future customers. Hundreds of organizations participate in this MVP reference program, yet most impressively, the top twenty reference customers alone have influenced over $189M in pipeline this year. Read the full Ceridian story here.

Microsoft: Have a Customer-Centric Strategy and the Right Technology Tools

The Most Improved Program award, recognizing Microsoft, celebrates an organization that has gone above and beyond in achieving the goals they’ve set for their program. Microsoft has made a huge transformation in their customer advocacy program in 2017. Previously, each business group had disparate reference programs and policies, which caused reference burnout, customer unhappiness and made measuring metrics nearly impossible. However, after implementing the One Microsoft customer-centric strategy, and utilizing the right technology tools, Microsoft has reached their goals to reduce costs, increase accuracy of reporting and influenced revenue by nearly $1B annually, and increase productivity by 5% man hours a week, and increase site traffic by 75%.

Symantec: Use What You’ve Got in New Ways

RO Innovation has been built on a legacy of innovation sparked by the ideas and creative use cases of our customers. The Innovative Feature Use award recognizes Symantec for their success in thinking outside the box and leveraging the Track Content module as an excellent tool for new reference recruitment. By partnering with the RO team to configure key process steps within the module, Lisa Matzdorff and her team were able to support the volume and multi-step process of recruitment at a granular level – all without skipping a beat to add a ton of new recruits to their program.

JDA Software: Don’t Underestimate the Power of 1-on-1 Engagement

This year’s Best Advocate Engagement Strategy award recognizes the customer marketing team at JDA Software for their outstanding strategy for engaging internal program users in more program-related activities. Earlier this year, when JDA migrated their platform from Boulder Logic to RO, the team saw an opportunity to improve the accuracy of their data and engage their internal sales, consulting and marketing teams to help them recruit 400 new references by the end of the year. Through their flawless execution of their strategy, they not only have already hit that number with a couple months to go here, but they’ve also seen a huge jump in the user adoption of their program – from 11% on the old system to 35% only a couple months after rolling out, with a goal of hitting 60% by the end of the year.

Ceridian: Use the ‘Four-Legged Stool’ Tech Stack

What kind of technology company would we be, if we didn’t address the successful ways our technology is being used with other platforms? This year, we recognized Ceridian for their Best Customer Program Technology Stack and its success in embedding customer advocacy throughout their organization. Ceridian’s XOXO technology stack is often referred to at their company as the four-legged stool. Ceridian has seamlessly integrated Gainsight, Influitive, RO Innovation, and to paint an accurate and up-to-date picture of their customers. Because of this integration, at a moment’s notice the team can locate sales references, activate advocates in social media discussions, and recruit references based on health scores. To give you a quick example of this successful integration flow, in 2016, 523 reference requests were entered in resulting in 746 reference conversations delivered through RO Innovation and Influitive.

Clearly there are some incredible customer advocacy tidbits and strategies we can learn from these best-in-class companies. If you’d like to talk with any of them 1:1 and pick their brains, connect with Lisa Hoesel, RO’s Director of Customer Conversation.

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