In a previous post, I talked about building momentum on positive feedback from customers, highlighting that a customer who gives a positive comment in a survey will need nurture before being ready to do a joint press release with your company. But in order to build up a base of advocates and fans who are willing to work with you in a mutually beneficial way, you first need to determine why you want a fan base.
If you are looking to build a brand, create a buzz, encourage a community to talk openly about their experience of your product and help them raise their profile in the process, then you are in the right place. If you are looking for a way to create noise and counter aggressive or underhand competitors, there’s a few more steps you might need to take before you set off, most notably understanding what the competitors are saying about you, and whether there’s any substance in it! If there is, fix it! If not, advocates and fans talking about you will have far more effect than your own marketing efforts, so get cracking on customer nurture!
So where to start? Obviously, you’ll need a fantastic product, excellent service and feedback from happy customers. You’ll have a decent understanding of who your customers are, where they are located, how they use your product and what is most valuable to them. This need not be to a profound level – customer nurture programme will considerably enrich your insight data. Accepting that there are levels of engagement in your customer nurture programme, as per my previous post is critical to define how you treat and nurture each group.
Ambitious projects often flounder due to lack of structure, with many ideas from many areas colliding together. It’s really important to define ownership of the customer nurture programme from the outset – I jointly own Workshare customer nurture programme with the CMO. Managing the many ideas into a structured plan, with phases that deliver against milestones will also help build the buzz internally, as well as allowing successful completion of inter-dependent tasks.
For example, to support the CMO is the production of Workshare advocate collateral, a database was set up within the CRM to specifically track feedback and interviews, removing the administrative burden of tracking contacts and content. The customer success & support functions can populate this database constantly with customer feedback, as marketing tag the feedback (e.g. ProServ, Product, Deployment, ITDirector), then search the database as they go on to create a press release or piece for social media. The first phase is proving that your approach is right and setting the foundations for scaling.
In the secondary stage, gaining traction on the processes to garner more feedback, establish events and set up an advocate community will invariably be projects in their own right. Setting, tracking and reporting on KPIs at this stage is really important to continue to prove the value of the programme (measuring the inbound content and advocate contacts as well as the marketing activity and collateral produced.) It’s at this point that you start to “drown out” aggressive or confrontational competitors. Human beings don’t naturally like squabbling, and will instead be drawn to the positive advocate activity.
The third stage is the hardest and often has the highest cost – but if you have completed the second stage well, the business case for accelerating the customer nurture programme should be straight forward. Public events, secondary interviews, recurring community activity and advocates introducing peers into the programme are clear indicators that you’ve built something valuable. Traditional marketing measures around brand equity and share of voice will now positively reflect the investment made. Time, resource and money will be required to continue the nurture programme, but the advocates and fans within will do a lot of the driving.
If you think about it from a fan perspective, it’s now you need to introduce the “money can’t buy” stuff to amplify the fan voices. If you’d like to know more on my thoughts on that aspect, drop me a line!