Customers: A new sales and marketing channel

More and more companies are starting to implement strategies and systems to leverage customers, customers and 3rd party influencers to become sales and marketing channels.  And they are doing it with great success.

Why customers make a good sales and marketing channel

There are many reasons why customers have the potential to be a powerful sales and marketing channel for your brand.  First, in today’s connected world, customers can reach their social networks on the brands behalf, easily and often.  They have a strong voice.  In addition, customers are typically very knowledgeable about your products and services and a good percentage of them are passionate about the company.  Lastly, their friends listen to them and they can drive your brands message.  More than ever before, buyers look to a trusted source before making a purchase decision.  Customers can and will reach out to their social networks and spread a brand’s message, especially if they are encouraged and enabled to do so.

What customers can do to drive sales and marketing productivity

Customers do many things that are very important to the brand.  They can:

  • Introduce their friends to your product or services
  • Recruit new hires and great talent
  • Amplify marketing messages
  • Forward content about new products and promotions
  • Write testimonials

Even better? They can do these things at scale.

The benefits of recruiting customers to become brand advocates

The benefits are impressive.  Attracting new and retaining current customers is crucial for a successful business. Enabling and encouraging customers to refer their friends, brands can:

  • Build brand awareness and build a highly positive reputation
  • Generate the highest quality leads – leads that drive new customer acquisition
  • Create higher levels of customer enthusiasm and loyalty to your company
  • Save money and lower risk when compared to traditional advertising and marketing initiatives

Why now?

Although customer advocacy isn’t a new concept, in the past it has been an operational nightmare to create and manage these programs. But today’s technology has made it easy for administrators to set up, support and manage advocacy programs.  Technology makes it easy to:

  • Enroll customers into the program
  • Provide customers the tools to easily reach out to their networks
  • Track and manage all the workflows and controls so brands can measure results all the way through to a sale.
  • Automate the process of brands thanking and nurturing customers for their contributions so they continue to advocate on behalf of the brand

This is not a future pipedream.  We have seen some very compelling case studies.  I have seen accounts has over 1.2 M customers registered to take part in a program, and these customers made over 1.0 M referrals, which generated over 400,000 new acquisitions last year alone.

Mobilizing customers, employees and 3rd party influencers to leverage their trusted relationships is happening everywhere because it is smart business: they are the sales and marketing channels of the future.

Questions? Email me at RBeedon@amplifinity.com

What is brand advocacy?

Dreamforce 2015 – it was all about Personalization

Sitting here on the plane going home from Dreamforce, it is the first opportunity I’ve had to really think about the conference. More specifically, what message I can take back for my organization and for where the market is going. Despite my extreme lack of sleep, it is clear to me that everything boils down to one word: Personalization.

As Mark Benihoff said in his keynote, “We are all here to fill the gap between our companies and our customers.” And personalization is the way to do it.

As a marketer, I get that the more custom and personalized I can get with communications, the better they do. But Dreamforce made me think about how personalization touches every aspect of business. (And of course, Salesforce has solutions for each one.) I can almost hear you ask, “But how can I personalize my marketing even more than I already am?”

Personalized Marketing – There are lots of phenomenal capabilities available today for companies to take in the incredible amounts of data available on prospective customers and serve up information that is specific to what they want. Mathew Sweezey, Author, Marketing Futurist and Salesforce Evangelist, commented that “The average number of pages a visitor to your website sees is 1.5. Don’t you think you should make those 1.5 pages count?” But personalization in the marketing realm goes way beyond web and email.  The way you acquire leads in the digital age needs to be personal as well. It’s clear that many companies are looking toward advocacy and referral marketing to help fill that gap.

Personalized Analytics – After years of complaints, Salesforce is releasing its new UI/UX called Lightning. It looks great and has great functionality, but the key is that they heard their customers say they want to customize views. Don’t limit me to 2 columns, I might need 14 columns! And they are delivering. I think all companies need to think about what level of customization they can deliver to their customers. It really does make people happier with the experience. We all want what we want, the more flexible you can make your product, the better.

Personalized Sales – It’s clear that Salesforce sees the lines between Marketing and Sales as blurry at best. The Engage functionality coming out of Pardot clearly sees Marketing investing in tools to help sales prospect in a more personal way. Do generic marketing blasts even work anymore? It’s all about getting an email from an individual with a message as catered to them as possible. Doing that at scale is of course where Pardot and Salesforce comes in. It is clear that the faster that sales and marketing leaders get over their differences and begin practicing the art of smarketing, the more successful they will be.

Personalized Community – The Community keynote at Dreamforce was awesome. What Salesforce has done with this product is incredible and I’m sure it is the fastest growth area of their business. It looks so easy to spin up communities for customers, employees and partners with incredible functionality.  And of course, communities are the embodiment of personalization. You can provide a way to allow your customers to hear from other customers on your products/services and even make purchases from within the community. I predict this will be a powerful add on for companies to seriously pursue and I’m sure much more functionality will be added over the coming year.

Personalized Service – Lots of sessions were focused on Customer Success and the idea that they own the customer journey. This means that they need to understand it and find ways to influence it and make it consistent across silos of engagement. Salesforce has always been a great tool for this as it integrates across departments. The real innovation comes with some of the AppExchange partners doing advocacy and referral marketing with a sales referral program. With those as add-ons you can get an actual ROI from your customer journey while making customers feel more engaged with your brand. It’s no wonder that companies are aligning around this function and are hungry for improvement.  Who doesn’t want happy customers and revenue growth to boot?

In the age of digital, it is clear that companies need to be looking in every area of the business for ways to enable 1 to 1 interactions and provide an experience that makes each person feel that your brand understands them. Each engagement is an opportunity. An opportunity for delight. An opportunity to generate a high quality lead. An opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive. Make each engagement count with personalization! Now time to get some much-needed sleep!

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7 characteristics of engineers that great marketers should have

Originally published in CMO.com

I often get double-takes when I reveal to other CMOs that I was a biomedical engineer in my previous life. After almost a decade as an engineer, I grew restless. I went back to school to earn my MBA and discovered there was a lot more to marketing than what influencers had told me.  I reinvented my career and worked my way through almost every part of marketing: product management, product marketing, campaign management, social strategy, branding and communications and now am a CMO at a growing SaaS company.

It’s been a long time since I was a practicing engineer so they get over the shock quickly. But I surprise them even more when I let them know that I am still an engineer in many ways.

Ten years ago my two careers may not have meshed as well as they do today. What’s changed? Back then, marketing was more an art.  Today, it is predominantly science. The experts who make the biggest impact for their organizations are the ones who may not be formally trained as an engineer like me, but who possess and use key skills that are needed by both engineers and marketers.

Here are the 7 characteristics of engineers that make for amazing marketers

1. Engineers love to problem solve!

That’s why we became engineers!  We wanted to solve problems!  Build products that do amazing things!  We are passionate about that and it is the #1 skill set I look for when hiring a marketer.  There are no cut and dry job descriptions anymore in marketing.  Marketers need to be able to find a problem or area for improvement and go find a way to make it better.

2. Engineers have been taught the right approach to problem solving.

Engineering education is about learning an approach to solving a problem and the tools needed.  In actual practice, you then go back to the process, the guiding materials and come up with a solution to the problem. We’re not taught memorization, but rather method.  That is because there isn’t always a “right” answer in engineering. This is exactly how marketing needs to approach problems.  There is no one right way to do things.  There are infinite possibilities so it takes a person who can approach a new problem with a method to work through it and have the confidence to see where it takes you without knowing your final destination.

3. Engineers love data!

As an engineer I once worked on a data set in Excel for 3 weeks.  I was relentless in my pursuit of finding answers.  This skill has served me well in what is now likely the most data-driven career path available.  Data scientists work in marketing, how crazy is that? If you are good at math, statistics and are a killer “Googler” because you understand Boolean logic, then marketing is definitely for you.

4. Engineers are bi-lingual.

This one is for all of the companies out there with complex products.  You have high-tech talent in your product and sales organizations. Engineers turned marketer speak the language of business and tech.  Your engineering degree will not only get you instant respect with product and sales, it will allow you to turn marketing into terms they understand – making you a key player in marketing alignment with product and sales.

5. Engineers love trying out new technology!

Did you know there are almost 1,900 marketing technology vendors who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what marketing can do? Scott Brinker’s Chief Marketing Technologist Blog shows all of these vendors in a marketing technology landscape chart that is positively overwhelming! Marketing has the daunting (but fun) task of vetting these technologies and how they will work for our organization.  There is no end in sight to marketing being exposed to new tech!

6. Engineers are pragmatic.

This isn’t the Mad Men era of marketing.  The sexiest, coolest idea is not always the best.  Engineers are fundamentally pragmatic about decision making.  We look at things from all angles.  We make pros/cons lists, we mitigate our risks, we create exit plans.  These are all phenomenal skills for today’s marketer to have.  Because there are still CEOs out there that get swept away by a “cool idea”, we need marketers who can take those cool ideas, break them down and make them high performing!

7. Engineers like building things.

So much of marketing’s digital transformation is about building new processes and integrating technology to build a model that works for your organization. There is a never-ending project list for great marketers to make amazing things happen with technology.  I’ve seen ridiculous amounts of innovation in my career and can’t wait to see what new technology or process will come about next!

I’m not saying every engineer should make the transition to marketing.  Do what you are passionate about. But here are key takeaways for readers:

  • For marketers today, think about these skills and if you don’t have them, think about ways to develop them. If your company has online training, take a course in problem solving or decision making.  I guarantee it will help your career.
  • For marketing leaders looking at job candidates, make sure you consider these skills and characteristics in hiring. Someone with these skills can demonstrably help drive change and growth.
  • And certainly, if you are an engineer and are thinking about a career change, I definitely recommend taking a look at marketing!

Amplifinity announces automated referral solution for enterprise software companies

SaaS companies use referral automation to be disruptive and drive high growth.

Ann Arbor, Mich. August 12, 2015  —  Amplifinity today announced it is dramatically changing how software enterprises drive demand generation. Amplifinity’s platform is an enterprise SaaS referral automation engine that powers advocacy programs for some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing software companies, including ADP, RingCentral and many others.

Amplifinity’s solution for software companies was developed in response to the unique challenges software companies face in trying  to influence buying decisions. In today’s marketplace, software customers have access to unparalleled volumes of information making it difficult for marketers to reach buyers directly with their message. Amplifinity’s platform provides software enterprises a powerful capability to engage its existing customers, partners and even employees and allow them to become advocates. Advocates can act as an extension of an organization’s sales force, referring business based on their positive affinity towards the brand. In fact, referrals have become a proven way for disruptive SaaS companies to leverage word of mouth and accelerate company growth.

“We’ve run a homegrown, successful referral program over the past couple years. We knew we wanted to,bring it to the next level and needed a proven referral partner who could help us scale the program,” said Mark Brier, Director of Referral and Upsell Marketing at RingCentral. “Amplifinity is our solution to get higher production, greater value, and more efficiency, without the operational headaches.”

Amplifinity turns these advocates into an “always on” channel for leads and new acquisition. Research has proven that referrals are incredibly valuable: these channels deliver leads that close at double the industry average rate, close faster and, once closed, will churn 18% less and have a 16% higher lifetime value.

Amplifinity has developed a referral solution for software providers that includes:

  • Touchpoint Recognition: Software and SaaS enterprises can execute advocacy programs across all the places they engage with customers, employees, and partners (including online techniques like email, social and web, but also offline channels like call centers). Amplifinity tracks advocacy success across all of these channels permitting software enterprises to tailor their marketing strategies to maximize the effectiveness of their program efforts.
  • White Label Experience: Software brands can now leverage their digital investments to create 100% authentic advocate user experience across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Keeping users in their same, familiar and branded environment increasing advocate activity and successful referrals.
  • Control Room: Amplifinity gives control of advocacy programs to marketers without the need to engage IT. Software marketers can enhance and adjust programs in areas such as campaign creative, reward structures and workflow to optimize program performance.
  • Enterprise Integration Layer: A rich set of file-based integrations and connectors to key internal systems in the lead management value chain now makes the entire process scale efficiently and effectively. This includes leading Marketing Automation Platforms, Sales CRM’s and Preference Management Systems.
  • Business Intelligence Engine: Amplifinity tracks all advocate actions providing a rich data set for brands to learn how their best customers are engaging with their networks. This data allows digital marketers to re-market to their advocates in a targeted manner.

“We are a high-growth software company ourselves, so we understand the unique challenges software marketers face, and we have a referral solution that meets those needs. Our platform has proven it can drive material increases in demand generation and customer acquisition,” said Larry Angeli, Amplifinity CEO. “It works and it works at scale to help disruptive software enterprises have an effective way to generate high-quality leads in order to drive growth.”

About Amplifinity

Amplifinity’s referral amplification software turns customer, employee and partner advocacy into revenue. Our platform provides complete referral tracking and management with 100% accuracy so none are missed. Enterprises like ADP and DirecTV trust Amplifinity to enable high-quality acquisition while providing an engaging, fully-branded experience for their advocates.

Leverage your Net Promoter Score

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Satmetrix Customer Passion Summit, an event that brings together professionals focused on improving customer experience to grow their businesses. Much of the content of the conference focused on the power of measuring customer experience using the Net Promoter Score. Net Promoter Score is a method used by many companies for measuring customer experience by asking one simple question, “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” In the NPS eco-system, customers that respond to this question with a 9 or 10 (0-10 scale) are labeled Promoters. Enter referral marketing. Referral marketing at its core is the practice of turning Promoters into Advocates, customers or clients who actively promote your product or service, by turning “likelihood to recommend” into the action of referring.

Here are three ways to drive growth in your business with the help of your greatest asset, your Advocates

1. Find Moments of Truth and Leverage them

Recently, I received an email from my credit card company informing me of the need to activate my newly issued Chip Card technology complete replacement card.

Problem was, I never received this card.

Problem solver mode activated. I log into my account and decide to try and solve the problem via live chat. What a magnificent customer experience! I was asked some well-crafted initial questions, I was quickly connected to an agent who was ready, willing, and properly trained to easily resolve my issue, and within five minutes a new card was on the way. (Insert mental image of me clapping the dust off my hands here.)

And then a question appears on my screen.

“How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”

9!

And then nothing…silence.

What if what came next was an invitation to enter the company’s referral program? What if that invitation would have led me to share my great experience and my currently heightened love of the brand with my Dad who had just the night before been asking me about my credit card rewards as he contemplating a switch?

Finding these moments of truth, where your company consistently wins with your customer and providing your newly created promoter with an opportunity, is a phenomenal way to turn willingness to recommend into referral action

 

2. Make the Ask

The popular statistic attributed to Dale Carnegie states that 91% of customers say would happily provide referrals yet only 11% of sales people will ask for them. Customers love to talk about the products they love. In the B2B world especially, PEOPLE are very quick to share the ways the tools and systems they have adopted are driving improvements in their business. If these people are already spreading their enthusiasm for your product why not ask them to increase the reach of their good news by joining your referral program.

Amplifinity’s CFO recently wrote how hard the B2B buying process used to be, 20 years ago, before referrals were even “a thing”.  He remembers how he had to make his best guess, and inevitably always bought the wrong thing! He is happy that it is so much easier today to get recommendations for products and services.  Think about it, referrals have become a way of life, a key part of every purchase process. We have become so dependent on our network for so many things in our personal life ­- just yesterday a Facebook friend of mine was looking for restaurant suggestion for a business trip he was taking, and within minutes received a dozen referrals from people who were more than happy to share the name of their favorite place and even suggest what to order. With results like this, why not apply it to your professional life?

 

3. Make It Simple to Refer

The final way to drive growth through referrals is to make the action of referring simple. Creating a simple way to drive referrals means two things, making the advocate’s path to action simple, but also making your company’s referral management process easy to execute.

Imagine this scenario. You have provided your customer with a product or experience that has exceeded every one of their expectations and you have turned that every day customer into a brand advocate. You have discovered a moment of truth and are ready to ask your new brand advocate to take action and share their love, the last thing you want to do is risk decreasing that love by providing a referral experience that is difficult. Make it simple to share the love. Offer the advocate the ability to invite people to your brand using the methods of their choosing (i.e.-email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and make it easy to track their referral progress.

The importance of simplicity does not end with the customer facing portion of your referral program. One of the quickest ways to destroy any program within your business is to create a process that depends heavily on manual tasks. When providing programs that rely on time consuming manual tasks success often leads to failure. Meaning, the more effective the program becomes the more work that is created and the more time intensive and manual the program becomes the greater the chance of mistakes and failure. The lack of simplicity in this area leads to the same outcome with the new brand advocate, a loss of love. When program failure leads to missed rewards or inaccurate referral tracking you risk losing the love of your best customer or in NPS speak turning promoters into passives if not worse.

Your promoters are one of your greatest assets. Turn their willingness to recommend into referral action.

Want to continue the discussion? Email me at JSwenson@amplifinity.com

What is brand advocacy?

 

Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

The new responsibilities of customer marketing

Customer Marketers are no longer just librarians for reference management systems or event planners for user groups. They are being asked to expand into a much broader responsibility set in order to have a strategic impact on the customer journey. This evolution may not be a fit for existing Customer Marketers, but those with ambition will grow into highly strategic (and highly valued) position.

Here are the key areas that Customer Marketing is beginning to get involved in:

Engagement

Who engages with your customers throughout their journey?  Is the message consistent? Are we getting them what they need? Are both sides getting value out of every interaction? Customer Marketers will need to work to understand this and strategically craft those engagements so that customers are feeling 100% happy with your people and your product/service.

Cross Sell and Up Sell

Very few companies are doing well at this and strategic CEOs are realizing that Customer Marketing could play an important role. All of the engagements in the customer journey need to be architected so that opportunities for cross sell/up sell are raised or purposefully asked for during the journey. Customer Marketing will have a holistic view of this project and will therefore be able to bring to sales and client success the right process and technology to address this.

Referrals

Savvy Customer Marketers are realizing that their customers are more than willing to provide referrals if asked and appropriately recognized for their efforts. And because referrals directly impact the bottom line, this is often a great place for Customer Marketers to start.  Prove impact here and you’ll get resources to impact engagement more holistically. Lots of innovation has come around referral automation platforms that run referral programs at scale. Teaming up with Demand Generation and Sales will be a common occurrence as Customer Marketers see the direct impact on revenue. And a bonus, the high-end referral platforms can also be used for cross sell!

Advocacy

Customer Marketing has always played a role in references, but now technology is allowing for much more to be gained from customers. When specifically asked, they will review you on 3rd party sites, create content for you and yes, still provide sales references. But, instead of managing as a database, you manage as a community of advocates that you need to get the right content, right ask and right incentive at the right time. While not as high-impact as referrals, this will be an important area for

Recognition

Your customers go through a hell of a lot of work to buy your product.  They have to get dragged through a sales process (some can take over a year!). They have to then work through implementation and then are abruptly pushed out of the nest to see if they will fall or fly.  They deserve some recognition for this monumental accomplishment!  Customer Marketers are starting to get more purposeful about how to say thank you to customers in meaningful, yet inexpensive ways.  Some are sending gifts or hand written cards to new customers.  Others are recognizing advocacy or referrals with rewards and recognition.  Special achievements with product use are being awarded at user groups.  This is all a part of showing that you value your customers and is incredibly important.

Community

If you don’t yet have a user community, I guarantee that Customer Marketing will be looking to create one.  As they approach referrals and advocacy, they will naturally be developing communities of advocates (customers willing to do stuff in support of your brand).  This is going to be a big source of power for Customer Marketers as they will hold the keys to fulfilling the needs of Product Marketing, Sales and Demand Generation – all avenues for customer success.  For those who already have a user community, Customer Marketing will be looking to integrate and influence the community with increased engagement during the customer journey.  It is an excellent medium for giving value back to your customers while harvesting value from them in return.

 

There is much for Customer Marketing to tackle, but as you can see there is also a big impact to be made.  If you are a Customer Marketer working on any of these new areas or working on things I didn’t list, I’d love to hear your story!  Ping me on Twitter @TrishaWinter to continue the conversation.

 

What is brand advocacy?