"The end product of customer advocacy is you've got someone pleased with your brand and loves using your product or service. They are at the point where they are willing to write reviews on G2, Gartner Peer Insights, TrustRadius, any of those other review sites. They will write a review, rate, take that initiative on their own. That could be good or bad.
At the same time, they'll be willing to raise their hand and become a sales reference for you. They'll be happy to get on a call with a prospect and share their experience about why you should consider using a company's product or service.
There are lots of different ways that customers can advocate for you. That's part of a broader and more mature category in marketing, which is called customer marketing.
Too often, marketing was spending too little time on the post-sale after you acquired that customer. Marketing needs to spend more and more time in the post-sale journey and engage with customers, create relationships with them, and understand what motivates them to continue buying your product or service. That's what customer marketing is all about. It's engaging with your customers, building relationships, and hopefully getting them to the state of advocacy."
- Dan Cote, VP, Chief Marketing Officer, Influitive
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From Revenue Rhino, I'm Brad Hammond, and this is The Lifelong Customer Podcast. We're interviewing successful sales and marketing leaders in discussing ways in which they're building lifelong relationships with their customer.
Brad Hammond: 0:19
Welcome to The LifeLong Customer podcast. I'm your host, Brad Hammond. And today, I'm super excited to have Dan Cote from Influitive. He's the Chief Marketing Officer. Welcome, Dan.
Dan Cote: 0:30
Hey, Brad, great to be here with you today.
Brad Hammond: 0:32
Really excited. It's great to have you on. So can you please tell our audience a bit more about you? Who is Dan Cote?
Dan Cote: 0:40
Oh, boy. Well, I've been in marketing for 30 years. But I'm born, raised and still live in Massachusetts. That accent may come out, Brad, and you'll hear that on occasion. But, yeah, I've been doing marketing for a long, long time. Pre-internet world, I was probably what you would call a marketing communication specialists doing national and international marketing communication work with printed materials. And then I was at a company at a large manufacturing company. And that's when the internet was born. Then I was asked to be the first company webmaster. And from there, I just continued going forward with digital marketing, web strategy work, and advanced up the ladder into the ultimate broader marketing and head of marketing roles.
Brad Hammond: 1:18
Very cool. So before we get into the main topic of today, just want to throw in a bonus question for our audience. And that is, what is the craziest marketing initiative you've ever done?
Dan Cote: 1:28
Craziest? Well, I think in the early 2000s, after the internet started going beyond the dial-up modem, I don't know if you remember those days. But when broadband started becoming more popular, what I noticed was internet video work was being more and more prevalent. Websites are starting to share videos. And they were small, they were a little clunky. But nonetheless, I saw it as an opportunity. And as I said, I was a marketing communications guy. I never knew the first thing about video editing, video production. But I had the crazy idea of- I think this is going to be enough, a very popular thing. And I'm going to start my own business.
So I hung my own shingle and did internet video marketing services for a number of years. And I would say it's crazy, because I had two little kids and a wife that was not working at the time. I never sold a thing in my life. And I was all of a sudden going to be a salesperson, a video producer, and start selling my wares.
Brad Hammond: 2:23
Sounds like fun. Sounds like quite a journey. So can you give us an overview of Influitive? What is it that you guys do? And then what does the marketing space look like there?
Dan Cote: 2:33
Yeah, so Influitive is a customer advocacy community and engagement SaaS platform. We were founded back in 2010. And we really did pioneer the category of advocacy marketing.
And this is so important today, and I think COVID really put the spotlight on this and help businesses reprioritize where they should focus their time and effort. And that time and effort should be spent on customers, understanding what their needs, wants and desires are, and understand how to make that product or service better. All with the end result of creating happy, loyal customers that become raving fans of yours, and promote your business, your brand, on the internet, because the whole buying journey has completely flip-flopped. Buyers do their own research, and they don't trust marketing. They don't trust sales, and so they get a turn to your customers and get their authentic stories.
Brad Hammond: 3:24
I love that. And I think we talked about customer advocacy. And it's one of those, I think, new terms and all this. Could you break it down for us? What exactly is it and how would you define it?
Dan Cote: 3:37
Well, I think customer advocacy is- the end products of that is you've got someone that's very happy with your brand, loves using your product or service to the point where they are willing to write reviews on G2, Gartner peer to peer insights, TrustRadius, any of those other review sites. They will write a review, rate, take that initiative on their own. And that could be good or bad. At the same time, they'll be willing to raise their hand and become a sales reference for you. Happy to get on a call with a prospect and share their experience about why you should consider using a company's product or service.
Those video testimonials that they do, and you can have those on websites or write case studies or authentic customer stories or video interviews. There's lots of different ways that customers can advocate for you. And that's part of a broader and more mature category in marketing, which is called customer marketing. And you think about the many, many times in- marketing is broken down and spending a lot of that time on demand gen and the top of the funnel and trying to get net new logos.
And too often, marketing was spending too little time on the post-sale after you acquired that customer what you've passed that on to the customer success team and the customer support team and your business development and account managers. But marketing needs to spend more and more time in the post-sale journey and engaging with customers and creating relationships with them and understanding what motivates them to want to continue buying your product or service. And that's what customer marketing is all about. It's engaging with your customers, building relationships, and hopefully getting them to the state of advocacy.
Brad Hammond: 5:19
I love that. And how is it that customer advocacy allows for those relationships to be built? And especially I imagine a lot of companies have a lot of customers. You got to do this at scale. How does all that work?
Dan Cote: 5:31
Right. Prior to using or not using a platform like Influitive, that's what it's all about. And many times, you think that you can create- one-to-one relationships are not scalable. And it really is hard to do without a platform like Influitive or other vendors out there. But what our solution allows you to do is create a community. You build a hub, a destination point, where you invite all customers in. And you'll take them through what we call experiences, where you put challenges and activities in front of them and create these personalized guided journeys.
And those journeys could be just an identification of why are you using our product or service? How do you want to get the maximum value out of that product or service? What do you like? What do you want to do? What do you aspire to do? What are your pains? And the more you know about them, the more you can create these very personalized journeys.
And with our platform, and having a community of customers, we create points and rewards and incentives to have customers take action. And that leads to other actions and activities and elevates them to more opportunities for them personally and professionally.
Brad Hammond: 6:38
Totally. So what are some common myths when it comes to customer advocacy? What are some things you hear that just aren't true?
Dan Cote: 6:44
I think the biggest myth is that advocates don't grow on trees. And so you think that you've got a prospect that is raving about you, and once they sign on the dotted line, they are going to be an advocate and an advocate for life. And this goes right back to your podcast. What is the LifeLong Customer? How do you create a LifeLong Customer? Unless you have a spectacular product that is always invaluable, then it's going to be very hard to always have advocates. There are going to be trials and tribulations. It's a journey.
And what we're seeing in this world of customer experience and the consumerization of IT is that customers could have one bad experience, and they were very happy customer, you could say that they're a raving fan. They have one bad experience and they’re no longer an advocate. So what do you do about that? So it requires constant relationship building. And I think that's the biggest myth is I don't have enough advocates, so I don't need an advocate program. I think that's nonsense. You need to engage all your customers. Identify who your advocates are, and then reward and recognize them. But those that are not yet advocates, you need to nurture them and grow them into advocates. That is the ultimate destination for your customer base.
Brad Hammond: 7:55
So if I'm a marketer out there, and I'm like, hey, customer advocacy, that sounds great. I'd love to do it. But where do I get started? And how do I start all this? How do I find those advocates? How do I nurture our other customers to be advocates?
Dan Cote: 8:11
You know, if you don't have a formal program, the easiest place to look for there is just on your own review sites, who's actually taken the step in the initiative to write a positive review about you. Those are obviously your existing advocates. If you have a reference program with your sales team, those that are already giving references are advocates. But then as you work with your CS team and understand as you go through customers that are going through an onboarding program, they will be able to identify who are the people that are most enthused about your brand. And those are candidates for advocates.
So I think there's some very low-hanging fruit that's easy to start off on a program like that. You can identify who they are. The challenge is, how do you identify the ones that aren’t? And how do you nurture them? And I think that's where our platform comes in.
Brad Hammond: 8:58
Totally. And even backing up a step, what are some indicators that I need in this program? What are some of the things that- maybe symptoms that our company might see that would indicate, hey, we need to set this up?
Dan Cote: 9:11
Oh, I think that it's an imperative to have an advocacy program in place today. Just by the way, like I said, the buying experience has changed. No longer is your prospective buyers paying attention to your traditional marketing materials. They’re not picking up the phone talking to salespeople. They're doing their own research online. And so what content is going to resonate with it? They want to understand the true authentic stories of your customers that have experience with your product or service, and understand what's good and what's bad, what are the warning signs, and should I take this plunge.
And they're finding that information on their own and on the web. And so if you don't engage with your customers and create advocates that essentially create that content to put back on the web, then you're not creating that cycle. And it's going to be harder and more costly for you to acquire new customers. The overall customer acquisition cost has been going through the roof. And it's just because there's so many channels and ways to engage with prospects. And there are so many solutions out there. It's dizzying for any buyer to figure out what product should I buy.
Brad Hammond: 10:13
Totally. So I'm sure I'm not the only marketer that had this challenge of you're trying to get your customers to advocate for your product and services, and maybe come up with a customer story, or get them to write a review or a testimonial. But everyone's busy, and they might be- yes, I'll do it. And then it never happened. So how do you create those customer stories? How do you encourage our customers to really speak from the mountaintops about your product and maybe give a testimonial or story?
Dan Cote: 10:44
You know, there's a phrase, givers get. And so when you think about marketing and engaging with customers, if your mindset from an advocacy perspective is, how do I extract out of customers these customer stories, these testimonials, writing case studies? That is a one way street that'll dry up really quickly.
So what you have to do is give to your customers, give them what they want. And those wants could be as simple as swag. It could be as simple as a thank you for your business and for doing things. It could be other things like what motivates a customer? They might be on a path saying, I want to become a VP one day. I want to have speaking engagements. I want to create my own personal brand.
Well, as a company, you can facilitate that by saying I have a speaking opportunity. Would you like to be in this user group? We have a conference, would you like to speak here? And giving them opportunity to promote their personal brand, you're accelerating their growth path and their career path. And once you do that, once you give them those opportunities, they are more than willing to give you back things that you want. So it's got to be a tit for tat.
Brad Hammond: 11:51
I like that, It seems very important to highlight thinking about what can you give first before what can you get.
Dan Cote: 11:58
Brad Hammond: 11:59
Love that. Well, as we're wrapping up here, what advice do you have for other marketers out there when it comes to customer advocacy?
Dan Cote: 12:06
I think you need to look at it holistically and understand how advocacy can feed every part of the marketing function. If you think about all of that, the demand gen programs that you're putting out there is you're trying to get content in front of your prospects. Well, the best content that resonates with prospects is your customer stories. So create a formal customer advocacy program, generate that authentic content, and feed it into your demand gen. The same goes with social media, with an advocacy program and a bunch of advocates out there, you have an army of social media enthusiasts that are resharing the content that you want them to share. So that's the beauty of that. Your best marketing arm is your happiest customers. And if you can have them all out there sharing on social media, generating content for demand gen, those are great things.
Additionally, how do you improve your product and service? That's where product marketing and product management come into play. And I think with product marketing, you need to understand where- what new products and features do you need and then how do you go about that. And that's where you can engage with your customers, put in front of them beta products, beta ideas, and get that feedback. And that'll accelerate the product roadmap development process.
Brad Hammond: 13:24
I love that. Well, thanks so much for joining the podcast today and sharing all your wisdom and insights. Really appreciate it.
Dan Cote: 13:30
Thanks for having me, Brad. Have a great day.