There are many definitions out there, so chances are that you will never receive the same answer when asking this question. However, one could argue that the best advocacy program is whatever fits within your organization, and it’s not ‘one-size-fits-all’.
For us, an advocacy program is a sales and marketing strategy that leverages the positive voice of the customer to influence buying decisions.
It needs to be done systematically and intentionally with measurable results. You need to see how the investment you are making in creating a network of advocates is returning to your company – usually in the form of revenue. An advocacy program usually drives a buying decision – that’s its power.
It’s also important to define the difference between customer advocacy practices and a customer advocacy program.
If today you are buying a bottle of wine to reward a customer, that’s a customer advocacy practice. Maybe you create customer ambassadors through loyalty programs, or you have customer advisory boards that your product teams run or some voice-of-the-customer activities. These are all practices.
When you start a full advocacy program, it will encapsulate these practices. But once you apply a standardized process, and you start measuring impact through operational health metrics and other strategic methods, then that is a program.
You can start small – perhaps through a simple pilot (that doesn’t need to be complicated and cost millions) that looks at your B2B and enterprise customers.
A common point of departure is the classic Customer-to-Customer (C2C) call, where you get one customer on a call to recommend a product to another customer. You look at events as well. Marketing and PR teams need quotes, feature articles, use cases, and speakers… you can start with that.
Then you start selecting potential advocates, work with them and launch the program. You don’t have to start the program with the technology already in place. You can begin without the software and start with a simple pilot program. And when you’ve got to the point you are ready, look at ways to bring automation into play.