My name is Alex Ruddock and I'm a Product Marketing Manager at Influitive, a company responsible for pioneering the concept and technology behind advocate communities 11 years ago.
An engaged advocate community allows you to rapidly recruit customers when you need them most. It’s a product marketer’s secret weapon!
In this article, I’ll talk about advocate communities, what it is, how a product or customer marketer would use an advocate community and I’ll share insights from my experience at Influitive.
Here are our main talking points:
- What’s an advocate community?
- How are customer marketing and product marketing natural collaborators?
- How does a customer marketer use an advocate community?
- How does a product marketer use an advocate community?
Let’s go ahead and dive in. 👇
What’s an advocate community?
How does it work?
The first thing you need to understand is incentives. Why does anybody take action? Is it that they're trying to climb a leaderboard? Are they trying to earn points so that they can get a reward? Do they care about certain badges signifying that they're an expert? Everybody has a reason that motivates them.
The next thing is activities. Customer engagement is all about taking action. Customers need stuff to do and that is all published inside of an advocate community.
You can chain these activities together into journeys and use these journeys to educate, onboard and teach customers, you can also run competitions or contests. You can really use it for whatever you want and that’s a very useful flexibility.
An advocate community combines technology and methodology and at the core of any community is engagement. Customer experience, customer success and customer marketing care about this engagement.
Tech is important to power this because you need the ability to target content and segment, to personalize the content and gamification to increase engagement with the content. To close the loop and keep people coming back, you need recognition and rewards. Any product needs to be habit-forming and an advocate community is no different.
At Influitive, we use our advocate community for a variety of things:
- Customer engagement
- To build community
- Customer experience efforts
- To increase loyalty
- To generate advocacy
Why is that important?
In the traditional marketing funnel, you have awareness and interest, consideration, and then eventually purchase, meaning you end up with a new customer. This new customer starts as a user, and then progresses to an enthusiast, eventually becoming a loyal customer and finally, an advocate.
Advocates are an amazing resource for your business because they help you grow more efficiently and help you retain customers better.
If we focus on the marketing funnel, customer advocates will use word of mouth to increase awareness, but they will also increase trust. This means you'll get more people in the funnel, moving through it faster and you'll get better conversion rates throughout customer advocacy. It’s a no brainer for businesses.
Inside our advocate community:
➡️ We drive customer engagement
➡️ We build customer community
➡️ We enhance our customers' experience
➡️ We deepen customer loyalty
➡️ We boost customer advocacy
Customer marketing and product marketing are natural collaborators
The roles are distinct, but they are mutually beneficial. As a product marketer, I focus a lot on messaging, positioning, and competitive intelligence, while my companion customer marketer (who I work very closely with) is more focused on generating references and customer advocacy.
Why does the partnership make sense? Customer marketers and product marketers care about the same things: product adoption, customers to be successful with your product, to retain as customers, to spend more to grow the share of wallet, and to enable them. Plus you’ll want to enable your sales team as well, so enablement works both ways.
Customer marketing and product marketing at Influitive collaborate on:
- Persona development
- Customer engagement
- Marketing campaigns
- Messaging and positioning
- Product launches
- Collecting customer feedback
- Generating third party reviews and testimonials
- Relaying the voice of the customer to key stakeholders
- Finding speakers for events … and much more!
At Influitive, this all happens in one place: an advocate community. We use it to engage with them every day.
How does a customer marketer use an advocate community?
To research their customer base
With an advocate community you can ascertain:
- Persona development
- Customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promotor scores (NPS)
- Customer experience (CX) surveys
You can also figure out where the customer is in their journey with you, how knowledgeable they are, if they understand the product and if they understand their use cases
We recruit for our customer advisory boards, for user groups, event speakers, webinar presenters, and we grow our reference pool with the advocate community.
Reviews and testimonials
We gather third party reviews for G2, TrustRadius and Gartner, but you can also gather them for Trustpilot and Amazon.
We get product and service testimonials we use throughout our marketing. Customers have great stories to tell and an advocate community is an excellent way to get those stories from customers.
We also get them to help us with case studies and with eBooks.
Reach on social media
Another thing you can do is improve your reach on social media. Everybody wants to increase their brand awareness and you can do this by boosting shares and retweets on desired content by bumping up the comments and likes on posts.
Of course, you need to measure the amplification and engagement and so we do all this with our advocate community. Our advocates share content all the time for us and they also engage with content we want other people to see.
Our customer marketer also manages our entire reference program from the advocate community. They manage the reference pool and get requests from our reps and salesforce.
These requests automatically populate a gamified recruitment activity in the community and we can further target those activities with vertical use case, product, location, and more.
This allows us to personalize the ask and recruit the best reference for that opportunity.
We generate new leads to build our sales pipeline, but we also find new members for the community with pure referrals.
At Influitive, we have a separate community just for employees and we use referrals in this community to find new hires.
Finally, you can also get referrals for partners you should work with.
How does a product marketer use an advocate community?
Game mechanics propel engagement
How do I, as a product marketer, impact the product cycle?
The first thing I need is game mechanics. This helps me propel engagement with what I want customers to engage with. We have levels which are set into a progression and as customers progress through different levels, they unlock access to new content and new opportunities to engage with our brand.
We also use badges as a symbol of achievement. Anytime a customer achieves a milestone in the community, they get a badge to signify that.
We have a leaderboard, as you earn points, you climb the leaderboard.
Finally, almost every activity taken in the community earns you points. Those points can be used to redeem rewards.
Customer engagement is required throughout the product life cycle
Ideation is an important part of exploring the problem space as a product team. We get customers to submit ideas, we post a gamified activity and the community/customers get points for submitting product ideas, getting points for every idea they submit. This allows us to generate more ideas, quicker.
We also get customers to vote on their favorite ideas. This helps our team prioritize what to build and every time somebody votes, they can earn points for that too.
Once our team has taken the voting to prioritize a feature to work on, we'll usually put out a survey to gather further requirements to figure out what must be included in an MVP of this product.
We want to explore the problem space and we can direct people to surveys, and reward points for engaging with them.
A big part of design is getting first hand feedback so we have customers book an interview with our design team. If you book an interview, you can earn points for doing that as well.
Next up, we’ll have a prototype and we’ll direct customers to the prototype in the community. If customers test the prototype, they'll earn points for doing so.
Finally, we can take all of the people who we've engaged with, up to this point, and put them all into a group which we target to our beta. The beta will contain opportunities to get feedback on the product and those opportunities will be awarded points as well. They’ll have their own private forum where they can discuss with members of our product team and with each other what they think of the beta.
We'll post every new release in our community and direct people to the release with a gamified request. If people comment on the release or give feedback on the release, they'll earn points for doing so and we can even have them share marketing materials.
For example, we have a press release coming out with the launch, we can get people to share the release, and every time they share it, they will earn points for doing so.
When we release a robust feature, we like to have a scheduled webinar where we can dive in and answer people's questions in real-time. We’ll host the webinar in the community itself and we'll get signups for the webinar and gamify those signups and attendance.
There are a lot of incentives to engage with this adoption phase, as customers are helping our product team and they earn points which is great for them because those points can be used for rewards like gift cards.
Members have different motivations
- Educators: They're there to help others learn.
- Validators: They're there to check out your roadmap and tell you what makes sense and what doesn't make sense.
- Status seekers: They're there to improve their own reach, their own personal brand and show off network.
- Collaborators: They’re strategic thinkers who want to see you succeed and are willing to sit down for hours to discuss how that success might work.
When it comes to rewards, there is something of value for every type of member. Some members want gift cards, others would like to donate to charity and still others might want to attend industry events while for some learning and development is the most important thing so helping them grow professionally with rewards is a great opportunity.
To wrap up
First thing is, as a product marketer, we work very closely with our customer marketer and all the work we do is in this one platform: our advocate community.
We use the community for a variety of things, but we drive customer engagement. We build community, enhance customer experience, deepen customer loyalty, and boost advocacy.
We perform valuable research, recruit customers efficiently when we need them, generate reviews and testimonials, boost our reach on social media, and get the right references for the right opportunity.
We receive referrals not only to grow our business but also to grow our team. We also get a tonne of value out of our advocate community as a product team.
We captured more feedback and ideas, we designed better products by talking to customers, we got more volunteers for testing, we strengthened our launches with rich content and social shares and we continuously drive adoption.
It really is a secret weapon and I don't know that I would be able to do my job as well as I do without it.
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