Customer Advocate PartnershipLast week, RO Innovation had the opportunity to sponsor at Influitive’s Advocamp, a marketing conference centered around the practice of customer advocacy. Advocamp is in its second year, boasting an impressive 400% growth in size with over 1,000 attendees from around the world and 20,000 people watching the live stream of the conference. It’s the only conference of its kind, complete with real pine trees on stage, camping tents and campfires in ballrooms, plentiful supplies for making s’mores all day long, and unforgettable mascots like Counselor Buck and life-size bears!

This three day conference is filled with advice from incredible speakers, amazing networking opportunities, and a ton of actionable ideas for anyone involved in a customer marketing program. Topics covered everything from finding and motivating happy customers, engaging them to drive business for you, customer referral tips & tricks and best practices on customer reference programs and content. Here’s what a few RO customers I talked to at the conference had to say:

David Coates - Advocamp Quote“I loved  the energy of the conference – last year was small and exploratory, this year felt very real with lots of bigger companies getting involved (I spoke to people from Oracle, Dell, HP, BMC, Staples, Visa, Microsoft to name a few). I also loved the level of collaboration and knowledge sharing – I personally felt like I’d found my tribe!”

-David Coates,Senior Manager Customer Marketing, Iron Mountain

Customer Reference Quote from Kristen Hofstede“Not only was the content of the Advocamp sessions relevant, the structure allowed attendees ample time to network with like-minded professionals. The attention to detail at the conference was evident from the registration process, the branding, to the session content and keynotes and attendees. It was well done!”

-Kristen Hofstede, Founding Partner, Next Level Customer Marketing

While our booth was often busy with people, I did get a chance to sneak away to a few of the keynotes and AMP talks. After reflecting on those, and chatting with customers and attendees at the show, here are ten lessons I took away from Advocamp:

1. The customer advocacy revolution is here

There was a definite energy in the room at Advocamp – and it wasn’t caused by a sugar high from the s’mores in the hallway! The people there were actively engaged and excited about learning what solutions were able to help them and discussing experiences, struggles and successes with their peers. Whether you were brand new to a customer marketing role, or a seasoned professional, the energy and excitement around the “customer revolution” was felt:

Cynthia Hester Customer Advocate

Advocamp 2016 provided a great forum to dig deeper into customer advocacy marketing. As a senior customer advocacy & marketing professional it’s great to see the customer reference discipline elevated into a strategic position in the form of customer advocacy. We had a diverse group of attendees ranging from thought leaders to professionals new to the customer advocacy space. I’ve been doing customer facing work for many years and this was a great experience. We had customer success, marketing, customer reference, community and customer advisor board professionals together in one setting. It was invigorating, inspiring and fun. I walked away with ideas and excitement about using what I learned at Advocamp.

– Cynthia Hester, Director of Customer Advocacy, Salesforce.

2.Your customers are your strongest asset

Customers advocate on our behalf because they love our products, our companies and genuinely believe in our missions. That makes them one of the most valuable assets any marketer or salesperson could have. Customer advocates are willing to work on our behalf, willing to praise our companies, and more than happy to recommend us to all their colleagues. That in turn helps the marketer’s job of driving new business a slam dunk when customer advocates are leveraged in the right ways at the right times.

Tony DeLollis on Advocamp 2016

It was so exciting sponsoring at Advocamp at a time when customer advocacy is coming to the forefront of modern marketing programs. The voice of the customer is an amazing catalyst to revenue success in the B2B sales and marketing lifecycle. Referrals from happy customers are jumpstarting deals. The right customer advocate content shared at the right time then moves those deals through the pipeline. Finally, the right customer reference seals the deal and drives new revenue across the finish line. It’s a really exciting time, and I’m thrilled RO Innovation is helping salespeople and marketers leverage their happy customers to make such a meaningful impact on the buyers journey.”

– Tony DeLollis, CTO, RO Innovation

3. Customer advocacy is a strategic part of modern business success

On Tuesday night, Influitive honored several outstanding customer marketing professionals during the BAMMIE (Best Advocate Marketing) awards for their amazing work such as:

  • Michael Beahm, Blackbaud, Advocate Marketer of the Year
  • Marketo, Best Product Review Campaign
  • OKTA, Best Use of Advocacy at an Event

Hearing the stories from the teams that won was incredible! It also was clear that when customer marketing programs become elevated in organizations, the results that come from it is incredible! It’s true though that these BAMMIE winning successful customer advocacy marketing programs would not have achieved the success they did without the support, coordination and collaboration of executives and teams outside their individual departments to make these campaigns and programs take off. This sentiment was echoed in a conversation I had with another up-and-coming customer marketer:

Johanna Larson Advocamp 2016 Quote

“Advocamp was such an incredible meeting of the minds – the biggest takeaway for me was the trend toward collaboration across departments within organizations to support a greater culture of advocacy and customer care. A “referral culture” is on the rise, and the sessions at Advocamp provided many of the tools to implement this kind of change. I look forward to putting them to use and to attending Advocamp next year!”

–Johanna Larson, Customer Marketing Specialist, JDA Software

4. Marketing customer stories is not a one-time event

Marie Ross, Founder of Next Level Customer Marketing, gave an AMP talk on Wednesday called “You Created Some Content, Now What?” In it she shared tips and real examples of customer content campaigns she’s directed. The big takeaway (for me) from this session was that when you have an advocate who is willing to let you feature them in a case study, video testimonial, quote…whatever it is…you need to find multiple ways to use it through different mediums and enlist the cooperation of cross-functional teams to use it over a longer period of time to get the most mileage from it. Marie’s session obviously resonated with lots of folks…it is the most viewed presentation post-Advocamp! Get a copy of her slides here.

5. “Short and Sweet” can still be hugely helpful

Another thing that was great about Advocamp was the way breakout tracks were structured. They consisted of a series of short 15 minute AMP talks, instead of long presentations with boring bulleted slides on screen. Think TED-style talks. They were fast, energetic, story-based and provided you with actionable takeaways quickly. It was great! BAMMIE winner for Advocate Marketer of the Year, Michael Beahm of Blackbaud, who also gave his own AMP talk said those were actually his favorite part of the conference:

Advocate Marketer of the Year “What I loved most about Advocamp were the dynamic 18-minute ‘Amp Talks’ from innovative Marketers and noteworthy companies in which I picked-up practical strategies on customer engagement and advocate marketing which I plan to put in to practice at Blackbaud. It was also extremely humbling to win the ‘Advocate Marketer of the Year’ BAMMIE.”

– Michael Beahm, Sr. Marketing Manager at Blackbaud

6. Buyers are allergic to salespeople

Jill Rowley gave a talk at Advocamp about the shift in buying behavior and how as marketers we can cater to it with customer advocacy and sales enablement. Buyers don’t want a sales pitch – they want to hear from your customers how they faced the same problems your buyer is facing and came out on the other end better because they used what you are selling. Thus, in order for your salespeople to become magnets for your buyers, they need to become experts with the content and the help they’re providing buyers, and become extremely empathetic and trustworthy by leveraging those customer advocates at the right time in the sales cycle.

b2b buyers

7. Customer marketers authentically want to help each other get better at what we do

The networking opportunities at Advocamp were AH. MAZE. ING. So many people were authentically interested in discussing what their peers were doing and hearing about the trials, successes and solutions they leveraged successfully in their programs. More than that, they were authentically offering advice and help where they could.

Scott Stranskey Advocamp 2016

Advocamp was an amazing experience that completely exceeded my expectations. The keynote speakers were fantastic and the breakout sessions were actually useful (unlike those at so many other events). But what really stood out to me is the quality of people in the advocate marketing community. They’re truly engaged, dedicated to being of service, and sitting at the forefront of the next evolution of marketing.”

– Scott Stransky,Customer Programs Manager, Riverbed Technology

Peter Appl Advocamp

The most impactful element of Advocamp was the ability to network with Advocacy peers and informally exchange ideas on advocacy execution.

-Pete Appl, FICO

Rachel Shannon 150

What blew me away about Advocamp was the fact that every single person that attended is part of the customer advocacy revolution. Each journey is new, each business is different, but throughout the conference there was a constant feeling of comfort in knowing we are all in this together.

Rachel Shannon, Customer Marketing Specialist, D+H

8. Ultimately, you must prove the value of customer marketing

Identifying and engaging happy customers is great. There is a ton of cool software and tools on the market that can help with activities that drive customer advocacy. But the reality is, if you can’t prove your customer advocates and customer references activities are actually impacting new revenue, there’s really no point. Of course, revenue is not the only important metric to be tracking. Valerie Hamilton from Klipfolio created a great list of advocacy marketing metrics to track and share the success of your program Danielle Camara, Senior Manager of Customer Marketing at Marketo, also knows there’s more than one level of metrics that are important to bring to the executive team to prove the value and impact of customer marketing:

Danielle Camara Customer Reference Quote“I forget who said it, may have been the slack CMO but the below really resonated with me…‘throw out the crappy metrics… create short term and longer term metrics’…it’s the idea around we all have our old school customer marketing metrics (short term) and we need to evangelize the longer term engagement metrics that we should really be showcasing to our executives to change the game!”

9. Advocacy extends beyond points, badges and prizes

Daniel Pink slide photo cred mslizpedroDaniel Pink wrapped up Advocamp with a very insightful and energetic closing keynote presentation. In it, he discussed that gamification around advocacy (awarding points, badges and prizes) is great for short-term defined activities, like generating a lot of customer referrals in a month. However, for more complex, challenging tasks, like asking a customer to participate as a customer reference in the sales process and commit to longer-term advocacy, “if-then” rewards do not work. In fact, we know from years of experience in working with customer references at companies of all sizes, customer references are often turned off – and some get actually offended – by extrinsic rewards. Thus, if you want to create long-term, happy, motivated customer references, you must motivate them by sharing the impact they have on your business. Customer advocates greatest satisfaction comes from the success of the work they do for you – that is their true reward!

“It’s not about creating a transactional relationship with your customers or advocates (even if points, badges and rewards and offers are redeemed), it’s really about understanding who your customers are on a personal level and building a tribe that they feel a sense of ownership and belonging. Authenticity is absolutely key for making this work.”

– David Coates, Senior Manager Customer Marketing, Iron Mountain

10. Customer engagement matters

Advocamp was like a living, breathing example of why engagement is so important for creating advocates. Visually, the theme they brought to life always left one with something to look at and remind you of how creative this event actually was – whether it was a tree stump to sit on in the expo hall, real pine branches wrapped around the top of a column to cleverly disguise it as a tree, or a s’more on a stick for that afternoon pick-me-up – it got you talking about how you didn’t feel like you weren’t sitting in a hotel ballroom. People around you authentically wanted to get to know you and hear about your marketing programs, and thus you naturally started to network and engage with those around you more. AMP talks were structured so you got a lot of takeaways in a short period of time and wouldn’t get bored. I mean, the list goes on and on…and what was the purpose? To make us advocates of Advocamp and tell people why they should go next year.

Marie Ross Quote on Customer Marketing“So let’s be clear, I hate to camp but I thought the theme, design and creative all around the conference was exceptional (that is the Marketer in me). The networking with like-minded professionals was fantastic and the session content truly elevated thinking around customer advocacy and customer marketing.”

– Marie Ross,Founding Partner, Next Level Customer Marketing

The same concept needs to be applied in our own marketing programs. We must engage our customers to get to know them on a personal level. We must build relationships with them before we can go about making customer advocacy “asks” of them. As marketers we must create an outstanding experience that draws them in to our company “tribe” and then motivates them to tell others about it.

As marketers, we all must bring a little Advocamp into our own marketing everyday.

Advocamp was a great show, both for our company as a sponsor, and for me as a marketing professional. I for one learned a lot, and can’t wait to be back next year! If you didn’t get a chance to hear how RO Innovation can help take your customer advocate content and customer reference efforts to the next level, contact us today. We’d be happy to sit around a virtual campfire and tell you all about it!

Nichole Auston
Customer Marketing Director at RO Innovation
Nichole Auston is the Customer Marketing Director at RO Innovation. With a background in digital marketing and nearly a decade of experience managing marketing programs for a variety of SaaS companies, she’s passionate about sharing insights, best practices and stories about sales enablement and customer reference management, and the people and technology that power it.