Congratulations! You’ve done it!

You’ve officially kicked off a Customer Advocacy Program. You’ve done your homework. You’ve shaken the hands of all the necessary stakeholders. You’ve dotted all the i’s, crossed your t’s, and built a stellar advocacy database…ready at a moment’s notice for that first reference request to come through.

But in the spirit of Field of Dreams, now that you’ve built it, will your sales people to come and use it?   How can you make certain that your program does not end up being an empty cornfield?

Remember some of the principles and messages upon which you built your business case:

  1. User Efficiency
  2. Stakeholder Buy-In
  3. Concession Stand Ideas – Market your own program and give them what they want

User Efficiency

A Sales Rep’s job is to close deals. From their perspective, a Reference Manager’s role in that job is to help accelerate the process. A key to the adoption of any Customer Advocacy Program by sales users is to make it EASY for them to review and use the most relevant customer references available from whatever platform that salesperson is using, which most of the time, is the sales CRM.

“For sales reps, time and efficiency are critical.  To me, one of the most compelling features of the RO Solution is that in just three steps, a rep can gather information most pertinent to their prospect, personalize an invitation and send out a Spotlight (microsite) to their prospect in three easy steps. They then get sales intelligence sent to them on buyer consumption, down to the individual asset level.”  –Ian Levine, CSO, RO Innovation

Whether or not your program integrates with your CRM, it is important for you to consider:

  1. How many clicks it takes a sales rep to get from their opportunity to relevant reference material, request, or overview
  2. Ways to “serve-up” relevant references and collateral (case studies, demos, white papers, etc.) based upon Opportunity type
  3. Automated sales coaching and other internal materials based upon the sales stage or other aspects of the cycle
  4. A simple, easy to use user interface with a similar look and feel to other sales tools. P.S. also make sure it’s mobile friendly and responsive.

Stakeholder and User Buy-in

If you built your case using a best practice Customer Advocacy Framework, you’ve already got executive champions and sales/marketing power users in your bleachers. Now it’s your job to prove that their continued investment and support is worth it.

Research tells us that the majority of B2B buyers engage a salesperson after they’ve already compiled massive info about your solutions, competition, weak points. The problem is, 77% of them do not have faith in the credibility of your sales representative. Again, this is an opportunity for you to help make this better.

The Customer Advocacy Program can provide nuggets of reference content along that critical portion of the buyer’s journey prior to them even picking up the phone with your sales rep. Peer success stories, peer-to-peer calls, testimonials and more can give further validity and credibility to the message of the sales rep.

Some things to consider on an ongoing basis to invigorate user and stakeholder enthusiasm:

  1. Be seen as a helpful resource to reps with Sales Wins: capture immediate feedback at the point of WIN (or Close or No Decision for that matter), that will help you provide intelligence to the sales field, with collateral, about what other reps did in the same vertical, product line, etc. to satisfy the buyer. Serve that information up easily to a rep seeking success in the same area through your reference program search capabilities or links.
  2. Capture intelligence on buyer interest via collateral they consume along their journey: Do buyers provide feedback and/or ask questions about the marketing materials they review? What if you could get that insight directly to the sales rep?
  3. Keep a thumb on the pulse of sales user engagement: watch for spikes and major dips with system login frequency, and key feature usage. For example, if you create an internal microsite or a new case study that suddenly becomes more popular than a new puppy selfie overnight, duplicate that success with future content.
  4. Toot your own horn: use reporting in the backend of your Customer Advocacy Platform to help shine the spotlight on the successes of your program. Be sure to first establish benchmarks against which you can measure the impact references and content you provide has on revenue Demonstrate the correlation between customer success, advocacy, and renewals. Monitor  ‘Program Adoption’ and other user metrics reports. If your reference solution provides reporting flexibility, configure periodic reports for your stakeholders. Research shows regular updates with key executive stakeholders leads to increased program funding.

Expanding the ‘Concession Stand’ Menu

What other things can you do to continue to build upon YOUR Reference Program ‘Field of Dreams’?   Just like peanuts and park dogs, consider adding a couple ‘Concession Stand’ ideas to further enhance a user’s experience with your program:

  1. Sales reps are competitive. Use that to your advantage. Run contests (give rewards if you want), share reference nomination leaderboards, boast about the success of a specific top performing rep who tends to use customer references ‘X times’ more than the rest of his or her region.-Sales reps always want to see their name in lights at the top. Make it happen, and they’ll show your program the love back.
  2. Use subscription RSS Feeds to announce and push new content.-
  3. Think outside the box. Let your mind wander. Brainstorm new possibilities. Partner with your advocacy technology provider and bring those dreams to life!

Regardless of the size or maturity of a Customer Advocacy Program, increasing user adoption is always a hot topic on manager’s plates.   At RO, we are delighted to consult with you at any point about how we might help you activate features that can continue to delight your users and stakeholders.

Lisa Hoesel
Lisa Hoesel is the Director of Customer Conversation at RO Innovation. As one of RO’s original employees, and with decades of experience in the customer marketing space, Hoesel has honed her skills and expertise as a customer advocate practitioner in a variety of different verticals. She is a thought leader in all aspects of customer conversations and diligently strives to instill the best face-to-face customer interactions in a digital dialogue.