Here are the top seven opportunities (challenges too!) for those working in the field of customer advocacy and related customer engagement programs. Needless to say, there’s never been a better time to be in this career-if you’re ambitious and enjoy the occasional whirlwind.
1. Master the Customer Journey. I don’t mean “learn.” I mean “play a major role.” There is no stage of the Customer Journey that customer advocates can’t help improve. Wherever the problems or gaps in the CJ exist at your firm, you can almost certainly play an important role in addressing and fixing them. If your firm is having serious issues with some exotic portion of the CJ, and you have no idea how to help, contact me. I’ll point you to examples–in some cases, many examples–where your peers are making a major impact.
2. It’s time for the AX. The “Advocate Experience” deserves at least as much care and feeding as the Customer Experience. Firms that are upping their game for ordinary customers should be receptive to upping their game for their advocates. Your best advocates will often want to tell their story, provide input to C-Suite decision makers, and play a role in your customer community. That requires a seamless integration of the advocacy program with the advisory board and community programs, for the same reason conventional customer-facing programs must be integrated: If you don’t, the Advocate Experience stinks. You can play a central role in making this happen.
3. Lead. Your colleagues all the way to the C-Suite are hungry for answers on major issues: How can our marketing cut through the noise? How can we ramp up our innovation? How can we afford to support our customers? Simply by attending our Summit the last few years and perusing our research, you’d know that your peers have deployed customer advocates and influencers to substantially help solve all of these issues and more. So can your company–but your C-Suite and stakeholders won’t know unless you proactively tell them.
4. Customer Advocacy will increasingly drive Customer Success. You read that right. It’s true that CS drives CA. But the reverse is equally true. That’s why it’s in the interest of your customer success managers to get serious about nominating advocates–and to do so soon after they become customers. Getting them to tell their story will increase their commitment to your solutions and your firm. It will push such a customer to get meaningful ROI information–so he can back up his claims of success. It will introduce a new level of commitment–he’s stated publicly that your solutions are great. No way he wants to have to back off from that claim at some point in the future. Such advocating drives your customer toward further success and committment.
5. Get ready for a career boom. With customer advocacy and related engagement programs playing ever more important roles throughout the customer journey (that is, the CX) and in the business’s customer-impacting operations (such as marketing, innovation, services and support), the door to significant career growth–all the way to the C-Suite–will continue to open for those willing to reach high. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement on this in the next few weeks
6. Marquee Customers: We’re only scratching the surface. In my work and research, we’re finding a large number of firms who have some version of “marquee customers” (other terms include “champions,” “MVPs,” etc.). But most are not using their marquees to anywhere near their full potential–which is even greater in today’s subscription economy. A largely forgotten study by a former McKinsey consultant and his team found that marquees are a key differentiator between companies who grow to $1B in sales and those who don’t. But from what I’ve observed, many firms could tap into this resource much more extensively. (I’ll be writing and speaking about this over the next several months.)
7. [ADVANCED] Customer Advocacy programs may well have the most important information in your firm for growing the business. The biggest opportunity for growth may be an incredibly simple piece of information: the problems you solve for your customers. Or, to put it another way, the customers’ “Jobs to Be Done.” The opportunity is to simply reorient your marketing, branding and solutions around the customer problems you’re solving rather than the things you produce. In the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a video on one company that went down this path, starting with its website. The company spelled out which customer problems it was solving, so prospects visiting the site could see immediately whether or not the company could help them. Within 18 months of the change, the website’s monthly unique visitors went from 35,000 per month to 220,000 per month–a better than 6X increase. That became the foundation for launching the firm into hypergrowth. Stay tuned on this opportunity–because no one in your firm knows more about the problems you’re solving for customers than you do.