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Creating an Advocacy Program from Scratch: A Q&A with Higher Logic’s Marketing and Community Teams

Written by Julie Dietz on October 19, 2017 at 8:30 AM

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Advocates are five times more valuable than average customers because they spend more on products and increase product purchases, according to Advocate Marketing.

That’s one of many reasons why organizations in all industries are focusing more on advocates. Higher Logic is no different. We’ve had active advocates in our customer base from the very beginning, but we haven’t had a formal advocacy program until now.

Senior Community Manager Heather Arkwright and Marketing Specialist Jenny Pan worked with departments throughout Higher Logic to put together our first formal customer advocacy program. Their experience and the process they followed can help other organizations build their own advocacy program from the ground up, so we sat down with them for a Q&A session on developing the program and its benefits.

What is Higher Logic’s New Champion Program?

HA: The Champion Program is a way to formally recognize, reward, and appreciate our advocates. We have clients who really love Higher Logic and were already doing advocacy activities on a more informal level who wanted to get more involved. So we created opportunities for them to be guest bloggers, do case studies with us, and write product reviews.

We also really want to thank our clients for being great advocates and helping us be good at what we do, so the program has a built-in rewards system with points, badging, and rewards.

Why Did You Decide to Start the Champion Program?

JP: Our clients have been advocating for us for a long time and now that we passed the 1,000-client mark, it’s a good time to put a more formal program in place. We’ll not only be able to better recognize the advocacy that people are already doing for us, we’ll also be able to get more people involved. Clients who aren’t currently advocates can benefit from getting involved and get rewarded for their actions.

HA: Setting up this program allows us to track advocacy activities and better reward our active customers. We also want to set ourselves up to be better resources for our customers. By developing this program we’re learning through experience, coming up with best practices on how to build an advocacy program from start to finish. We’ll use that knowledge to help our clients do the same thing.

How Did You Put Together the Framework for the Champion Program?

HA: Since an advocacy program is really built to benefit an entire organization, we started by identifying pain points in different departments. What does community management need? How about marketing? We wanted to help meet everyone’s needs.

Marketing, for example, was looking for more case studies and blog posts. Our community management team was interested in finding people to participate in mentoring. We used those needs to develop the program’s advocacy opportunities so we could meet needs with advocates and volunteers.

JP: We also made sure to identify a range of opportunities. Participating in a case study or mentoring program are big commitments, so we have smaller opportunities available, like volunteering to respond to unanswered questions or submit an example in the client example library in HUG, our Higher Logic User Group community.

What Advocacy Opportunities Are You Most Excited About?

HA: Our clients are doing some really cool things with our product. We know about some of them, but there’s so much going on that we don’t know about. The opportunities in this program provide an avenue for our clients to talk about those things and highlight their own innovative use of Higher Logic’s tools. We’re really excited to see those new ideas now that we have a way to showcase them.

How Did You Validate Your Ideas with Customers?

HA: We’re very lucky that our customers love our product enough to do some advocacy naturally, so we combined what they were already doing with needs from our departments. Then, before doing a soft launch, we held a focus group.

The focus group was really to make sure that all our advocacy opportunities were on track, providing activities that people were interested in, and hitting the mark with our clients. We used a survey to ask people for their opinions, tested rewards, marketing collateral, and got in-depth feedback on the program.

How Do Advocates Benefit from the Program?

HA: It depends on the opportunity, but this is a great way for customers to get there name out there in front of industry peers. They have the chance to present in front of people, develop themselves as a thought leader, network with other advocates, and help us iterate on our product.

One of the opportunities is to participate on our product advisory council, which will really help shape how the product is in the future. Depending on their level in the program, advocates can also receive advance access to new products and functionality to help us beta test them.

How Did You Market the Champion Program?

JP: Before formally releasing the program, we promoted it to a select group to engage and get feedback from our beta testers and advocates. Coming up, we have additional promotions planned, including some that will focus on the entire program, while others will target specific opportunities. We’re using email, automation rules, banner advertisements in our community, and cross-promotion with educational events to continue to promote the program.

HA: The formal launch for the program was during our customer conference, Super Forum, which helped with getting the word out. We did a session on building and revamping advocacy programs, using ours as the example. We also had buttons for all our champions and the option for clients to opt into our Champion Program during Super Forum.

How Will You Measure the Program’s Success?

HA: We’re looking at metrics like how many people are applying for opportunities versus how many are completing them. Advocacy Manager tracks hours of advocacy and how much money that converts to, which translates to dollars saved or gained by using volunteer advocates instead of staff.

We’re also tracking which people are involved. We want to keep our current advocates engaged as well as bring in new and different people.

JP: We’ll adapt our metrics as time goes on. Since the program just launched, we’re watching how opportunity submissions come in to help create our benchmarks. To encourage more engagement, we’ll add new opportunities each quarter and will update our metrics and goals as we establish a baseline and improve from there.

What’s the Most Important Thing You Learned While Developing this Program that You Want to Pass On?

HA: Going into this, I had all these great ideas, but I couldn’t possibly implement them on my own. I needed help from a lot of different people.

Getting buy-in from different departments within the organization is really important. An advocacy program can only benefit the entire company if other people share the load and recognize that it’s going to be helpful to them.

Any Other Advice for Organizations Starting Their First Advocacy Program?

HA: Adapt the process to fit your situation. We thought of advocacy opportunities first, then validated them with a focus group later because we already had an idea of what our advocates wanted to do. For organizations that don’t have organic advocacy, I recommend doing the focus group earlier. Why do all the work coming up with opportunities if they’re not going to hit the mark with clients?

Interview your clients early in the process. Ask them what they would be interested in and start from the ground up.

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Topics: Community Platforms & Updates, Customer Advocacy

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