In customer advocacy, program success hinges on executive support. Without it, we’ve seen programs struggle to build internal teams, lose traction with stakeholders, and be unable to engage the quality and volume of advocates needed.
Over the years, I’ve seen many of the successes and pitfalls programs can encounter. Below are some of those issues. These aren’t in a particular order ― they’re all important, with each area impacting the others.
In the end, lack of C-suite support can make or break an advocacy program of any size.
Even established advocacy programs can be challenged to move beyond tactical execution of everyday requests. Sales, events, PR, AR, and other groups all have valid needs. Yet, if your program and team are in a constant reactive state, they will fall further behind in their ability to drive strategic customer advocacy initiatives.
To elevate your program and gain ongoing executive support, you need to closely evaluate what you’re doing and how you’re measuring and reporting on your team’s success. Programs that don’t move beyond simply counting the number of new advocates recruited, requests fulfilled, and stories produced, which — while important at a basic level — don’t convey the results that executives care most about.
Programs need to align to support sales and integrate deeper into marketing campaigns. Consider these points:
By capturing and promoting the role of your program in these efforts, you’ll find that more people at higher levels of your organization will take notice.
There will always be urgent requests that require your advocacy team to drop everything. That’s the nature of this work. But it doesn’t have to be unending. Greater support at the executive level increases your program’s strategic importance. This, in turn, empowers your program and your advocacy managers to have an active role in early planning conversations with marketing and sales stakeholders looking to engage customer advocates.
Having a seat at the table early on enables your team to know what’s coming ― and more importantly, set realistic expectations for what’s needed to secure the right advocates for each opportunity. Executive-level support opens doors to ongoing inclusion in meetings with directors, VPs, and above, so you can work more closely with stakeholders and align with the most strategic goals.
Like many marketing programs, Customer Advocacy Programs have to fight for funding. Proving your program’s value to executives is a first step in winning the battle for more resources. That, along with following the steps above, can go a long way toward putting you in a stronger position to win more program resources.
But knowing how and when to say “no” is as important as saying “yes” at the right times. In fact, not managing stakeholder expectations can bring down even the best programs. Demands for advocates can be endless. By gaining closer stakeholder alignment, you’re better informed about priorities and how they relate to overall business goals.
With these insights, you can make more informed decisions about what to do and not do. Before your team acts on a request, ask yourself:
There are a lot of “nice to haves” in the world of advocacy but that doesn’t mean they’re business critical. It’s okay to say “no” when it’s in the best interest of your program’s overall success.
These words can seem at odds with demands customer advocacy managers face daily. Every request often has its own unique requirements. Yet, standardizing processes where possible will go a long way in helping executives and others understand what you do and why.
Several areas can benefit from standardizing advocate request management:
Earlier planning for these programs can help you align resources before things become a fire drill for your team. That same planning is also important when it comes to setting expectations and communicating your program’s success. In companies where change is often the only constant, standardizing processes whenever possible is invaluable.
As programs mature, there is a natural evolution to owning more touchpoints in how your customers engage with your company. Early on, there’s understandably an emphasis on building a strong pool of active advocates with compelling stories to share. But this really is just the beginning of what’s possible.
With executive support, a Customer Advocacy Program can expand to drive Customer Advisory Boards (CABs), User Groups, Communities, Peer Reviews Programs, and Executive Sponsorship Programs (ESPs). It can sound daunting — and it is without the proper resources — but with the right support, this shift can transform a program’s success and strategic value within an organization.
A Customer Advocacy Program, along with CABs, User Groups, Communities, Peer Reviews, and ESPs, all feed into each other, strengthening your team’s ability to identify, recruit, and retain strong advocates.
As discussed above, gaining and maintaining executive support presents challenges but the rewards far outweigh the efforts.
If you’d like more ideas about how to evolve your Customer Advocacy Program for success, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.