It’s been five years since Influitive published the Advocate Marketing Playbook.
Since then, it’s been downloaded over 5,700 times. Hundreds of companies followed those proven plays to achieve success in developing powerful advocate programs.
But another interesting evolution happened. We witnessed amazing creativity and innovation as individuals at these companies took the principles of advocate marketing and applied them across other teams in their organizations—including Customer Success, Sales, and Product.
They have also used the principles of advocacy to unlock greater value from not only their customers, but also from their developers, partners, and employees.
They have moved beyond the scope of strictly VIP advocate programs towards driving engagement throughout the customer lifecycle. It became clear that it was time for a new playbook.
In this blog, we’ll introduce some key concepts that you will need to start building your own customer-powered enterprise. (For the deep dive, make sure to download the full Customer-Powered Enterprise Playbook—a prescriptive guide to harnessing the power of your customers across your organization.)
Introducing the Customer-Powered Enterprise
The true leaders in today’s crowded marketplace are those who harness the power of their customers not just to inform their businesses, but to actually fuel their businesses. What does this mean? Customers should not only be at the centre of your business strategy, but they should also be the ones helping you execute.
The boat with customers paddling alongside employees goes further, faster
Many companies are going further because their customers are in the boat paddling with them. Customers are experts in their own needs. And although they’re not necessarily software, sales, or marketing experts, they can provide a higher quality and quantity of work to help your business go further, faster.
“Customers are often the solution to many departmental business objectives. Engineering depends on customers for new version user acceptance testing and product advisory boards. Product management engages customers for visionary executive councils.”
— Carlos Gonzalez, former VP of Customer Success Operations, Ceridian
Incorporate Your Customers into Every Stage of the Value Chain
To understand the full potential of building a Customer-Powered Enterprise where customers are powering your business, you need to examine each aspect of your company’s value chain.
A value chain is simply “the process or activities by which a company adds value to an article, including production, marketing, and the provision of after-sales service.”
In traditional value chains, employees convert one form of value, like raw materials, into a higher form—the finished product—at a profit.
What’s different about the CPE value chain is that customer involvement is a key input at every stage of the value-addition process. The more diverse and embedded your customers are across the business, the higher the return on investment for both the company and the customer.
You can break down a value chain into two parts:
Value Chain = Supply Chain + Demand Chain
The supply chain is made up of all the elements that keep your company operating and producing the products and services your customers need. This half of the equation is where customer feedback can improve your offerings and delivery, as well as inform future developments.
The demand chain includes everything needed to get those products and services into the hands of your customers, to make them successful, and keep them coming back. This half is where customers can increase the efficiency of your sales, marketing, and customer support, which includes the development and distribution of user-generated content.
Opening the dialogue between customers and employees helps deliver more value to customers. It leads to more meaningful conversations that can fuel innovation, create better customer experiences, and provide your company with an unthinkable level of insight on your product or service.
The key is to ask yourself, for each function of your business or element of the value chain: “How can our customers help us do this better, faster, or cheaper?”
Below are some very general ideas, but most organizations will uncover more specific opportunities to make an impact on their business. (You can also read detailed guides for each departments in the Playbook.)
- Marketing: Spreading the word and creating interest
- Sales: Converting your prospects and providing proof
- Customer Success: Retaining customers and growing your business
- Product/Engineering/Design: Designing and delivering valuable products and services
- Operations/HR/Finance/IT: Efficiently supporting the business
Why Advocates Are Essential in Today’s Customer Journey
Before the digital age, converting new customers was fairly straightforward. Since buyers had access to limited sources of information, sellers controlled the entire process.
Fast forward to today’s buyer experience, and you get a very different picture. Buyers are now at the helm of their own journeys, and they’re using your current customers’ testimonials to steer them.
Consider these stats:
- 84% of B2B buyers start the purchase process with a referral (Heinz Marketing and Influitive)
- 38% of B2B buyers sought input from peers or existing users in the community in the first three months of the buying journey (Klaudia Tirico)
- 65% of B2B buyers say they rely more on peer recommendations and review sites when evaluating a purchase. (Klaudia Tirico)
When prospects conduct online research to find the right product or service, they are met with a complex and tangled web of content on the internet, some of which belongs to you, some of which that belongs to your competitors, and some that is completely unrelated. And even though customers are steering their journey, they don’t always know which direction to go to find the information they need. They’re looking at:
- Social media
- Online product reviews
- Third-party blogs
- Product websites
- Data sheets
- Case studies
- Company blogs
The Hyperfunnel: Creating the Ideal Buyer Experience
Today’s buyer journey is complex and non-linear, but you can systematically influence
it if you understand your buyers’ objectives. By enlisting your customer advocates at every stage of the demand chain, you will accelerate demand-chain conversions at an unprecedented rate. The result? Your traditional sales and marketing funnel transforms into what we call a “hyperfunnel.”
The hyperfunnel has wider reach & fewer yet more effective touchpoints.
A hyperfunnel differs from a typical funnel for two primary reasons:
- It is expanded because customer advocates extend your reach to their professional networks.
- It moves faster because customer advocates add trust, which straightens and accelerates the buyer’s journey.
Customer-powered enterprises use their existing customers to deliver the hyperfunnel for buyers, helping them understand how great their experience as a customer would be. This authentic buying experience is far superior to the status quo.
Buyers are looking for trust and validation from successful customers like themselves. Making these trust-building touchpoints in the demand chain easily accessible to your customers reduces time, confusion, and frustration that are too often a core aspect of technology purchase experiences today.
From an outsider’s perspective, the buyer’s journey appears as a series of hyperlinks teleporting the buyer all over the social Web as they move through a typical buying sequence of awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase. But from the buyer’s perspective, it is an efficient, straightforward, and enjoyable journey, infused with trust and transparency. A journey that makes it more likely for the buyer to become an advocate themselves.
Touchpoints involving the real testimonials of your successful customers build trust. Some of the best touchpoints where you can include customers are:
- Product reviews from customers that are detailed and unbiased.
- Reference calls with successful customers.
- Social media posts from successful customers.
- Blog posts written by or featuring customers.
- Case studies with customer quotes.
- Conversations with customers at live events, like user groups and conferences.
- Webinars hosted by customers.
- Community forum discussions led by customers and prospects.
It’s your job as a vendor to readily offer all of these touchpoints to customers without making them work too hard to find them. This way, you’ll be giving them an easy and enjoyable experience that leads them towards your product.
Time to start building your own Customer-Powered Enterprise
Now that you understand the value of building a Customer-Powered Enterprise, it’s time to put these ideas into practice and apply them to your own organization.
Reimagining your different departments to incorporate customers in as many areas as possible is at the heart of becoming a customer-powered enterprise.
By harnessing the power of your customers across your business, you can accelerate sales, reduce costs, and increase customer lifetime value.
Wondering where to start? Download the Customer-Powered Enterprise Playbook to get a full guide about how to implement these strategies in departments across your organization.