Keep customer advocates engaged between requests

As you know, keeping customers engaged with your programs between requests can be difficult, especially once you consider that it’s easy to over ask customers for participation in campaigns.
 
Engagement is a topic that comes up fairly often in the Customer Engagement Weekly calls I host. Usually, the topic comes up because of CABs, but it’s a relevant topic for most Customer Marketing programs because it’s really easy for customers to lose interest, get busy, or forget about your program.
 
I like to think of working with advocates as working with a community because they are a group of people, and I’ve found that building relationships with and among them help to solidify their commitment and interest in working together.
 
You should be able to keep a good 20-40% more advocates active in your program by working on engagement.
 
I want to share what I do to keep advocates engaged, whether you are building a CAB, User Group, or another type of program. The following are the principles behind keeping members engaged. Later, I’ll share actual programs you can use to fulfill these requirements.
 
Stay in touch & be human: You need to get in front of your members multiple times to remind them to:
1) visit your program and interact
2) show your interest in having them as members
3) be able to make multiple requests

Don’t Always Automate & Use Templated Responses

One obstacle here is that we (as marketers) often like to automate this process and turn it into a boring repetitive task, for example newsletters, or automated messages in onboarding, etc.
 
Once members realize they are being automated, it’s no longer personal, the implied social component is no longer there, and they are less inclined to contribute/participate.
 
You want to ensure you are showing up, your messages sound/look personal, and are not (all) automated based on their actions (ie: sending a welcome template email immediately after they join).
 
Offer a lot of value: Advocates are giving you a chance to show that their investment of time with you is worth it. You have to prove you are offering value & that you care about them as people.
 
Some rules that help:
1) Don’t send an email just for consistency. (Only send a newsletter if it’s got a lot of value for them.)
 
2) Keep track of your advocates’ ideas/shares/preferences. You are managing hundreds of people; you can note preferences in your CRM and segment your messaging based on these.
 
3) Curate value.
We live in a content-focused world; there’s little need to come up with everything yourself. Share what’s happening in your industry, the insights you get from participating in places they can’t (webinars, etc), and share recordings you’ve found. Be a content concierge.
 
Make it rewarding: advocates should find value in our interactions AND feel celebrated/rewarded. Generally this will look like giving your advocates the spotlight among people whom they respect.
  • Thank them for their time.
  • Make an introduction.
  • Share an opportunity you’ve found (speaking or writing opp).
  • Post about them on social media.
  • Give them a shoutout on a call with others.
Remember: this takes mere moments of your time, does great things for their self-esteem, and increases the bond with your member/advocate. (I would never suggest doing this for any reason beyond genuinely wanting to encourage them, so please don’t fake it.)

Advocate Engagement Tactics You Can Use

Connect on LinkedIn: Liking, commenting, and outreach here can’t be automated, and each of their posts allows you to say hi and encourage them.
 
Add to calendar: Add new advocates to your calendar and reach out to them for 1:1 chats in the first two weeks (earlier if possible), then once a month to say hello.
 
Copy & Paste: when it’s time to reach out to several members at once, it’s ok to write a message and copy & paste it to several people, one at a time, and changing their names. Ex: “Hi Sara, I’ve been thinking about my favorite advocates and wanted to check in, how are you?” When they respond, have a conversation.
 
Follow up on progress: this is a great time to reach out, say thank you, tell them how their content piece or webinar is doing with attendees and recordings, share how their reviews helped, (where allowable), share feedback you’ve gotten on their reference call, etc.
 
Help them connect: Make connections between members, make useful introductions. Get to know your members well enough to help them succeed in their roles and careers.
 
Regularly ask for feedback: Doing a new website? Need feedback on marketing language? Have user feature mockups you can share? These little things are perfect reasons to reach out, build that relationship and make your advocate feel like they are part of the inner group.
 
ADVOCATE PROGRAMS
Make it easy for advocates to plan their participation by offering programs that cater to their needs. 
 
Weekly/Topic calls: Just like the Customer Engagement Weekly call, I offer a call that interests the members. You’ll hear advocates mention the topics they enjoy, their preferences for coming together, and what they are likely to participate in. My calls are informal, and laidback, and there is a lot of sharing.
Weekly calls allow members to provide each other value and make connections without leaving all of that work on your shoulders.
 
Advocate-only education: Hold monthly sessions where your advocates get special access to SMEs in your org or influencers that love your company. Go beyond just working with your company/topic; think about what your advocate needs to be successful in their career.
 
Monthly match program: Connect advocates with different customers every month.
 
Expert columns: Have an advocate share their use case or story in a bi-weekly email.
 
Networking e-vents: Host a monthly networking event where every advocate shares something they have been working on, or an upcoming goal. Make sure to provide opportunities to connect members.
 
BUILD COMMUNITY
One of my favorite ways to keep any community (yes, advocates are a community to me) engaged is to give them a program where they’ll get value without giving all of that value myself (or from my team).
 
As much work as it is to start a community, it’s worth the investment because once the snowball is rolling, the community provides a place for members to find value, repeatedly see your program, and get rewarded for participation without putting all of that on your shoulders.
 
Soon, I’ll be writing a post on how to start your community without overwhelming yourself and your advocates, so connect with me on LinkedIn or join the community (CMAslack.com) so that you’ll see it when it’s ready.
 
Finally!
 
Remember, your advocates are people just like you. Chances are you know them really well and have a great perspective on giving them value without overstepping. Treat them like an old friend, help where you can, and be encouraging and approachable.