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Using Technology to Drive Customer Advocacy

May 01, 2015

The SiriusDecisions Customer Advocacy Technology Framework helps marketers align advocacy goals with technology solutions.

As b-to-b organizations increasingly recognize the contributions of customer advocacy in supporting the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle, the technologies available to help have also evolved. Advocacy and reference teams must find new ways to leverage technology to increase the productivity of activities that allow customers to share their experiences with the company brand. Technology solutions also can help advocacy marketers improve the level of customer participation, develop effective measurement and communicate the results of their efforts throughout the organization. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we present a framework that b-to-b marketers can use match customer advocacy goals with available technologies.

Benefits of Customer Advocacy

Organizations have begun to invest in advocacy technology due to the increased sophistication and complexity of advocacy activities (e.g. references, case studies, customer videos, communities, social media, events) and the need to support a larger number of participants and assets. However, some companies have yet to realize the capabilities of advocacy technology for providing the following benefits:

  • Higher volume of advocacy participants and assets. Few b-to-b organizations are satisfied with their existing volume of advocates and advocacy assets, and technology can be used to increase the advocacy pool by streamlining sourcing efforts. Technology-empowered marketers can identify and approach a larger list of potential advocacy targets and improve the asset production process.
  • Management of advocacy assets and interactions. As advocacy programs develop, they generate an expanding portfolio of assets and potential interactions that must be managed. For example, marketers must ensure customer references are not overused, and they must monitor the ways in which advocacy assets are consumed. Technology solutions can help streamline this process by creating a repository to store assets. Technology also be used to quickly identify and source advocacy assets, significantly improving the effectiveness of advocacy throughout the buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle by ensuring the most appropriate assets are delivered at the right time.
  • Increased engagement within the advocate community. Once identified, customer advocates need to be activated and encouraged to maintain their level of involvement. Advocacy solutions can help marketers drive engagement and encourage a sense of community among advocates.
  • Identification of advocacy impact. Advocacy can take many forms, and the effectiveness of a tactic depends on how and when it is used. For example, a customer reference might play a key role late in a sales cycle, whereas a case study might be more impactful earlier. Or, if a new offering is being launched, marketers are often asked for advocacy support to help sales prove the offering’s value. Technology can help marketers track the influence and impact of specific advocacy assets during each stage of the buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle.

Advocacy technology categories

Once goals for advocacy have been identified, marketers can look for possible solutions. Advocacy technology solutions deliver a range of capabilities, including productivity enhancements across several technology categories. While each category offers distinct functionality, b-t0-b marketers must determine which category (or combination of categories) is most likely to match their goals:

  • Customer reference management platforms. These solutions streamline the reference nomination process. They also improve sales and marketing teams’ communication and visibility into advocacy options. Customer reference management platforms help marketers track reference activities, monitor usage parameters and identify gaps in available reference assets.
  • Customer evidence platforms. Solutions in this category use a survey mechanism to generate customer evidence content that can be either named or anonymous, enabling marketers to create a wide range of evidence that can be used in a variety of ways. A key benefit of customer evidence platforms is the ability to quickly gather customer advocacy assets.
  • Advocate marketing platforms. Allowing customers to interact, whether in person (e.g. user groups, annual customer events) or virtually (e.g. advocacy platforms) builds mutually reinforcing relationships between customers and sets the tone for future advocacy activities. Advocate marketing platforms facilitates customer interactions with capabilities including referral management and advocate engagement. Solutions in this category also can streamline the process by which advocates are recognized and provide visibility into which customers are contributing the most.
  • Hosted reference production solutions. Many b-to-b organizations prefer to address customer advocacy challenges through outsourcing – using an external provider’s technology to source and produce customer advocacy assets. The vendor acts as an extension to the marketing team, managing the advocacy asset production process.

Aligning Advocacy Goals to Technology Investments

The SiriusDecisions Customer Advocacy Technology Framework offers guidance on how to align technology solutions with advocacy goals, following a logical progression as internal capabilities and requirements expand. The framework also serves as a planning tool to help plot a roadmap for customer advocacy evolution within a b-to-b organization. The framework includes the following components:

  • Advocacy requirements/activities. A clear understanding of the desired outcome of advocacy efforts provides insight into the technology required. Advocacy requirements can include identifying more advocates, greater engagement within advocate communities, production of new types of assets, and/or an enhanced ability to measure the impact of advocacy activities.
  • Advocacy technology options. This section lists the categories of technology available to support advocacy requirements and activities. Identify the budget needed for potential technology investments to help identify which solutions should be considered.
  • Integration considerations. As customer advocacy gains prominence, b-to-b companies must ensure that advocacy platforms are integrated into other company systems, and the impact of an advocacy technologies on other internal systems and technologies should be considered. Integrating advocacy technology with other systems allows a more holistic view into the customer ecosystem and benefits the customer by ensuring more logical, respectful communications.

The Sirius Decision

Few b-to-b customer advocacy teams are fortunate enough to have all the resources they need to reach their goals. Technology can help bridge resource gaps, allowing a greater degree of scalability for critical advocacy deliverables. Advocacy marketers must be their own internal advocates by socializing the impact of technology throughout the organization, especially within executive ranks. Justify the value of technology investments by mapping how advocacy assets and interactions, aided by technology, can impact the sales cycle. Use reporting functionality not only to demonstrate the value of advocacy but also to provide a foundation for communicating advocacy activities.