Top 5 Reasons Why Identifying Promoters Is Harder Than You Think


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An email floated into my inbox the other day from a company with a request for votes to win an award in their industry. Why they thought I would be a good candidate for this, I am not entirely sure; as of late, our interactions have been limited and not exactly positive. It got me thinking how asking your customers to do you a favor can really backfire and feed disloyalty.

So how do you know which customers to ask when you need a referral, testimonial, or other favor, like soliciting votes for an award?

Test: With the help of our friends at Influitive, the advocate marketing experts, we conducted a quick poll to find out how their customers, who are primarily B2B marketers, currently identify brand advocates. In VIP, Influitive’s own advocate marketing program, marketers were asked to choose from the following options: Net Promoter System (NPS), Customer Loyalty Index (CLI), Other, or any combination of these. If they selected “Other”, they had to specify how exactly they identify advocates.

Results: The majority of responders use “Other” methods to identify customers they feel will be the most valuable in obtaining positive word-of-mouth. While NPS is still popular (and sometimes coupled with “other” methods), the Customer Loyalty Index (CLI) is also being used. “Other” is the clear winner here, however.

So what does “Other” mean exactly? We collected verbatims for each answer and received a mix of the following (in order of frequency):

Hand-selected by Staff, Sales, Customer Success teams
1. Positive social media posts
2. Attendance at tradeshows, events
3. Activity in online forums
4. Recommendations from other advocates
5. Invite all primary contacts

While most of these responses indicate that forethought went into deciding who “made the list” or not, there is still great room for error when enlisting advocates if there is no formal system in place.

Top 5 reasons why companies should use an established method for choosing advocates:

1. How do you know you’re not missing important Promoters? Stop thinking and start knowing who your biggest advocates are by properly discussing their account sentiment via conversations or surveys that ask the right questions.

2. You could invite all your customers, but what if you accidentally invite Detractors? Just like my opening example, no one likes to be asked to do a favor by someone they don’t like. This could actually make someone more happy and fuel their fire to go badmouth you at their next event or social outing.

3. If you’re only focusing on engaging Promoters, what happens to the rest of your customers? If you invite all your customers and land a percentage as advocates, that doesn’t mean the rest are Detractors. Some non-responders will be too lazy to join or speak up, Passives will be on the fence and give you no information, and Detractors could burn you. We’ve seen in our research that A) Detractors can do more damage than Promoters and B) for every positive referral you earn, that revenue could be cancelled out by a negative referral. (See our Behavior Economics graph below).

4. Just like the expression, “Don’t wear out your welcome,” you don’t want to over-use your advocates. If you work in a small company or have just begun trying to promote positive referrals with happy customers, you could easily become a nuisance. Software like Influitive’s AdvocateHub circumvents this by allowing advocates to raise their hands and complete your asks voluntarily. If you don’t already have a formal advocate marketing strategy and software like AdvocateHub in place, you could be overworking your best customers.

5. Contacts come and go. In six months, you could have a whole new team of customers and having a formal system in place will give you timelines and operations in place for proper satisfaction survey timing. The last thing you want to do is send someone an email for feedback only 1 week after implementation. Automated emails with no purpose create frustration and get lost in the Inbox Ocean (read: low response rates!).

Using advocate marketing is a great step towards achieving customer success and I applaud Influitive and their customers for their proactive approach! But it is interesting to see how so many companies choose to self-select customers to be their Promoters. While your staff and Success Team could have a good handle on your customer relationships, I would still urge B2B companies to think about how they could act more strategically when approaching customers.

View the original and other customer success posts on our blog.

Sabrina Bozek
Sabrina is the Director of Marketing for Waypoint Group, a Bay Area-based B2B customer experience consulting firm. She earned an MBA at University of San Francisco in Marketing and Analytics, and is focused on helping clients better understand their own customers using feedback and account-based reporting with TopBox.


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