Advocacy 2.0: The right opportunity for the right customer at the right time

June 26, 2024

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In the following article, Liz Richardson and Deena Zenyk discuss a new approach to customer advocacy and present three steps to foster more meaningful customer engagement.

It’s been a long time coming, this evolution in customer advocacy practice. Messaged on promises of access, status, and power, the pursuit of activating customer ‘advocates’ in the good ol’ days, circa 2005-2015, truly thrived on the notion that customers interacting with businesses beyond the sale was still novel and exciting. Since then, the practice has matured.

We accept that most programs weren’t really exclusive, and those fairly effective lures of status and power were more of a bait and switch than real, meaty hooks. Today, integrated data flows have the power to map, track and sometimes even predict a customer’s entire lifecycle with a vendor. This expanded, infinitely more complex view of the customer journey impacts long-held beliefs on what customer advocacy is, how it works and what it means to the business and their customers.

Driving this next chapter of customer advocacy practice is the realization that single-pronged, often-oversold approaches to customer engagement and activation are no longer effective. Customers are much savvier with their time and attention in a growth and retention-based market. They know their power and how to wield it to their advantage.

Whether your company has an advocacy program in place, or is wrangling with how to coordinate a growing number of disconnected customer programs and touch points, the fundamentals of an Advocacy 2.0 approach will be helpful. As defined by Captivate Collective, contemporary customer advocacy practice is more nuanced, more collaborative and more value driven than its predecessor. Ready to jump in? Here are three ways.


Krane working on a building during dawn


1. Build a foundation of understanding.

Your customers are more than their NPS score. They are more than their title or the logo they represent. There are many excellent voice of customer, sentiment acquisition, and analysis tools in the market these days. If you have them, use them. Look at the customer journey and explore the data that is very likely available to you. What are the moments of truth? What are the points of friction? What can you do in those moments to further your advocacy strategy?

Even if you have no tools, no data or are limited in your data analysis abilities (no shame – it’s not a calling for all!), you are not up the creek. Interview customers, survey them, survey and interview your customer-facing colleagues. Learn whatever you can to fill in a more complete picture of who your customers really are and when and where they interact with your organization. Until you do, it will be a challenge to make your engagements truly relevant.

2. Design a customer engagement program portfolio.

Based on your business priorities, what combination of programs/moments/opportunities do you need to meet your goals? Marketo Engage does this really well. Start small, if it means you can make some progress.

Do you have a leverage point for customers at each stage? You don’t need full blown programs. Start small. Do you have any journey engagement flows mapped? That means identifying opportune moments in the customer journey to nurture relationships or utilize customer good will. Need to amp-up your review game? Take a look at your customer journey to understand the milestones, then establish what needs to happen before that moment to increase your chances with a review ask.

3. Develop and document a single, unifying customer engagement strategy.

You won’t do this in isolation. Strategy is a collaboration with other customer relationship holders, other program managers, other stakeholders in other departments. The goal here is to share common KPIs; to work towards common goals via a shared mission for your company and your customer’s experience. Silos, program ownership, process constraints and other internal goings-on are not your customer’s problem.

A unified strategy hands your customer the keys to the kingdom, breaks down your silos, and aligns your customer’s experience to a master-planned, well-orchestrated, collaboratively-executed engagement journey. Get started by identifying colleagues who have or desire to have meaningful customer interactions. Establish a monthly working group. Share your plans, collaborate on new ideas, coordinate efforts.


Table from above, people working on different papers


The message here is do something. Plans don’t always have to be grand strategy overhauls and rebrands. The shift to Advocacy 2.0 starts with a shift in your mindset about what customer advocacy is, how it works and what it means to your business and your customers. Answer those three questions and you’ll be on your way to more meaningful customer engagement and activation plays.

About the authors

Liz Richardson: Liz is an award-winning customer marketer and advocacy executive well-known for her innovative work in customer engagement methodology. Her passion is generating best practices and education in the advocacy and engagement field, and is the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Captivate Collective, a leading customer advocacy and engagement agency.

Deena Zenyk: Deena is a true pioneer in her field with nearly 20 years of hands-on experience in advocate marketing and customer engagement. She co-authored the foundational customer advocacy best-seller The Messenger is the Message, and continues to define, test and refine industry best practices as co-founder and Chief Customer Officer at Captivate Collective.

Deena Zenyk & Liz Richardson

Deena Zenyk & Liz Richardson

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