Food for thought: Driving customer advocacy

In our latest series on leading issues for CMOs, we ask marketing experts from a range of industries to tell us what customer advocacy means to them

Customer advocacy is being increasingly listed as a CMO’s highest strategic priority. In our latest Food for Thought series we asked leading marketers: What does customer advocacy mean to you and your team?

 Chris Connell
Senior director of marketing Asia-Pacific, Marketo

There was a time when the brand spoke and customers listened. Brands would pay for space, send out their message via print, TV or radio, and that was it. Communication was passive and one way. When a customer experienced your brand, good or bad, they had a small network of immediate friends and family to share that experience with. And that was pretty much it.

Those days are gone forever.

Today the environment has fundamentally changed. Now the customers are speaking, and the brand needs to listen. With the exponential growth of media channels and connectedness, the voice of the customer is now far more powerful than the voice of the brand. Brands can no longer ‘outspend’ the voice of the customer. And that’s why customer advocacy has never been more important to the survival of the brand.

Leave a good impression, and your customer can share this with thousands of people instantaneously. And of course, when the opposite happens, companies are now left devastated on a global stage – just look at the recent example with United Airlines.

This means as marketers we need to change. We need to evolve. We need to understand that this new world requires a fundamentally different approach to customer engagement.

At Marketo, customer advocacy is all about getting out of ‘send mode,’ and getting in to ‘receive mode.’ Customers are demanding that brands stop ‘marketing’ to them, and start ‘engaging’ with them. They want a dialogue, not a monologue. They want you to listen to them, and prove that you care about them as an individual. They want your brand to be personal and authentic – to stand for something other than just profit. They want marketers to cut out the ‘marketing speak,’ and bring them through the customer journey in a meaningful way. That’s how you turn customers into advocates.

A successful customer advocacy program doesn’t start with your customers, but with your employees. You need to start with the inside, and work out. Employees are your more critical stakeholders – train them, enable them, incentivise them, live your values internally – and they will underpin your success externally.

The next step is deep customer insight. According to research by Wunderman, 80 per cent of customers will only consider a brand that demonstrates it cares about ‘me’ as an individual.  So your data strategy and insights stand head and shoulders above other components of the marketing strategy to achieve a more personalised and engaging approach to customer advocacy.

Luke Targett
CMO, Prospa

Customer advocacy for us is about new ways we can create genuine enthusiasm in our customers, really understanding their problems, and solving them. As an Australian online lender for small business, everything we do ties back to solving problems for our customers: We celebrate our customers’ success stories because their passion to grow their business is what fuels our own success.

We think customer advocacy starts with our own people, and we are trying to embed a customer–first approach into every interaction. The whole team understands how to use design thinking to solve customer problems. We’re also putting an emphasis on changing how we view customer value, from short term to long term. This has resulted in our Net Promoter Score being considered to be equal to revenue as a KPI at Prospa.  

Internally, we’ve tried hard to get the basics right from the beginning: for example, making sure calls are answered within 20 seconds and customers are connected to their personal account manager through every step of the process. Going forward, we’re boosting investment in next level analytics to create a ‘segment of one’ approach, which means our customer success managers will be able to have highly personalised one-to-one conversations – creating value for customers and for Prospa. We’re also looking at new ways to build useful products and resources that will give our customers even more opportunities to succeed.

Charlotte Rijkenberg

Head of marketing, foodora Australia 

Customer advocacy and the power of word of mouth is very important to us at foodora. We get a lot of new customers via recommendations from friends and family – and people still trust friends and family more than any other information channel out there.

We see customer advocacy as a long-term strategy and commitment. In order to get loyal customers, we are focused on getting the basics right. This means creating a memorable customer experience, with a consistent service - great delivery times, good quality restaurants and outstanding customer service.

We also want to make sure that we are there for our customers when they need/want us, and ensuring our service brings them the food where they want it, whenever they want it.

Internally, customer advocacy is an absolute priority for our business and a focus for all departments, not just marketing and operations. For example, our sales department is focused on partnering with as many popular restaurants as possible, and is constantly looking for the latest most sought after food joints to join forces with, so that our customers can get the good food they desire.

From a marketing perspective, we have introduced several initiatives to encourage customer advocacy - from refer-a-friend programs, to special reward programs to surprise and delight our loyal customers. Having a loyal group of brand advocates is the holy grail and our ultimate goal, and we are committed to a long-term strategy with many more initiatives to follow in the future.

Deeps De Silva
Head of Marketing APAC and Japan, Dropbox

At Dropbox, we believe customer advocacy starts with creating a product which is simple to use, that people love. If you do that, then word will travel fast. 

One of the most pivotal moments in Dropbox’s growth was the introduction of our customer referral program, where Dropbox users get extra space if they enroll a new user. Dropbox went from 100,000 registered users to four million in just four months, attributing 35 per cent of daily signups to the referral program. Now legendary, the program worked so well because it created an avenue for those who loved Dropbox to share the product with their friends and family, and get rewarded in the process.

It provided a strong incentive for our customers to get the word out about Dropbox and created social proof for new customers. From that point onwards, it has been about customer-centric innovation - ensuring customers are front and centre of every innovation process, whether that be product development, service delivery and so on.

Culturally, we make sure we operate and behave in a way that resonates with our customers. Our business is all about collaboration, openness and sharing, so it’s important our values reflect that. One of the quirkier yet most upheld values at Dropbox is we aspire to give our people and our customers ‘cupcake’ experiences, because they are surprising and delightful. 

We also listen and communicate with our customers on a constant basis to help them maximise the impact of the product and how they use it. And we always value feedback and use it to constantly improve the service that we are providing. 

Our customers are the heroes, so 90 per cent of the narrative in our marketing efforts are around our customers. In order to celebrate our champion customers, we host our own series of events on an annual basis called Dropbox Connect, and encourage them to tell the story of their business and how they’ve grown through the use of collaboration.

For example, at our most recent event in Sydney, we had speakers from our customer ecosystem including Atlassian, Airtasker, and Built - all giving individual keynotes. 

Tom Dusseldorp

CMO, Freedom Foods

Consumer advocacy is what drives any real brand these days and without it people will switch and change on you in a heartbeat. Consumers also now have a clear expectation that their concerns, feedback, love, support and any other comment is acknowledged by a brand.

For Freedom Foods Group, our first step is to make sure we respond to all our customers through any of our digital channels. We acknowledge our consumers have taken the time to communicate, and show we care about what they have to say. We say on our packs “We take your feedback seriously” - that means timely replies and actions off the back of customers communications.

A tangible project that involved customer feedback was the recent renovation of our core staples. We needed to raise the bar and did so across our core range, increasing fibre and improving texture so that we again reset the bar of health in ready to eat cereal. If we are not adding value to people’s lives, then why bother. It just becomes noise.

William Sean Ford
CMO, LogMein

In the tech world, customer advocacy, and a willingness of customers to speak positively on your behalf to attract other potential customers, is typically referred to as a 'user-get-user' go to market dynamic. In SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) segments specifically, it is also a measure (or assessment) of the virality of a product with a broad set of either individual users or within organisaitons, teams and departments.

Advocacy and virality fundamentally change the equation of lifetime value of a customer, and drive disproportionate sustained growth beyond what specific marketing program budgets can ever achieve on their own.  LogMeIn has pioneered this land-and-expand strategy in SaaS and the validation of this model can be seen in other high growth SaaS companies around the world.

Given the importance of digital media, especially in advocacy, marketing is increasingly taking a personalised and buyer “persona” based approach to in-product/in-app messaging by suggesting additional products or services that enhance the users experience, and onboarding techniques that increase overall product adoption.

When it comes to investing in customer advocacy, the three biggest areas for us at LogMeIn are data, in-product messaging and paid and earned influencer programs. 

Put in practice, if our target buyer is a sales professional or team, we build a calculated mix of traditional marketing and in-product approaches informed by usage, persona and behavioural data. This is meant to make it easier for them to experience the product and to share what they learn with their professional network (external), as well as their current colleagues.

Linda Chen
CMO, Cyara

In an era where switching to a competitor has never been easier, a customer-centric approach is vital to building lifetime value and business growth. And optimising the quality of the customer experience is an essential part of building customer advocacy and brand trust.

Measuring operational customer experience will go a long way in retaining satisfied customers and in turn creating brand advocates. As a CX measurement platform, everything we do is about teaching companies how to increase customer advocacy. Our platform allows for real-time CX monitoring to ensure the customer journey is seamless from end-to-end, so that all customer service strategies are centred around the customer.

Operational customer experience (OCX) testing provides the organisation with the ability to view a customer’s journey across digital channels with an outside-in perspective in an objective and repeatable way. Doing so allows flawless customer experiences by detecting and eliminating operational failures that lead to customer dissatisfaction before they even happen.

An organisation’s OCX needs to be precise, flawless and at a lower cost, otherwise they risk losing market share.  

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