Customer Advocacy - Fuel to SaaS Success

By Utkrash Awasthi

What is customer advocacy?

The last time you purchased something, or were planning a date night and choosing which restaurant to go to, or were even choosing where to drop off your dry cleaning what was one of the first things you did? Check reviews on google? Ask a friend for recommendations? Ask Facebook for recommendations?

If you did, you’re like the rest of us in today’s day and age. We all want to have opinions and recommendations from actual users and customers of the product we are going to buy, or which restaurant we are going to entrust with providing the perfect first-date atmosphere.

Those friends, or users, that let you know about a product they love to use, those positive reviews on the internet those are all advocates for companies and products they believe in. And these are opinions that we weigh when deciding to put money on the table.

Customer Advocacy is the new strategy for businesses in today’s subscription economy. And with our new recommendation based purchasing methodology it is important to make sure that your customers feel like and are willing to be your advocates.

If you look it up, Customer advocacy is defined as: a specialized form of customer service in which companies focus on what is deemed to be best for the customer.

If done well, it increases your chances of getting you, what you want & exactly when you want it. More sales, and loyal customers.

Customer Advocacy fuels SaaS.

Having your customers promoting for you is a low or no cost technique that helps fuel new leads & helps sales increase month to month riding on the success stories about positive experiences from existing customers.

You have new customers buying your product because other businesses or friends now showcase that they have been successful using it. Your product/service has worked for them & so there’s it will probably work for you too! Well that's the rationale :).

Customer Advocacy drives SaaS, and so does Customer Success.

Why it is important for Customer Success teams to focus on this?

The customer success team have worked hard to create the long-term relationship - so they are in the best position to identify and reach out to customers they feel have adopted the product well and are seeing the most value out of it. The CS team is also responsible for monitoring the customer experience for everything post-sales, so they are nurturing the customers to help them get to the point of being a customer advocate.

Your customer success team can and should be the drivers of this program. In some circumstances, depending on your resources and how your customer success division is currently structured, you can have a section of your CS team be dedicated to driving the customer advocacy program.

Tips for helping identify Customer Advocates

  1. High adoption & usage - if the customer is using your product they are probably finding a lot of value in it. This can be one of the first signs that a customer could be or become an advocate
  2. High Net Promoter Score - this is a nice and clear measurement of how a customer feels about your product
  3. Social sharing - are the interacting with your marketing content? Are they sharing it?
  4. During your review meetings - in your meetings with customers, whether that is during your Executive Business Reviews or your Quarterly Business Reviews, ask them their thoughts to get a feel for how they are feeling about your product and if they would be willing to speak on your behalf. Sometimes, they might even bring it up and offer it on their own!

What is really cool, is that if sales can track referrals from your customer advocacy program, you can add this to your CS team’s success metrics and show how valuable your teams efforts have been. Recurring sales and helping with new sales...the customer success team is crushing it!

But let’s get into some ways that you can help drive customer advocacy, and begin to develop a strategy or program.

What Drives Customer Advocacy?

Mostly, it is the result of winning in several/all areas in the business cycle. Some key factors are mentioned below:

  1. Selling it right
  2. Amazing implementation
  3. Brilliant and easy onboarding process
  4. Awesome Support
  5. Proactive Customer Success
  6. Going the extra mile | feelgood factor
  7. Human voice - Listening and responding
  8. Giving the personal touch

These are just some of the areas in the customer lifecycle (or journey) that you can work to optimize to help create advocates.

But even though you have optimized your customer lifecycle and touchpoints to create the loyal customers, how do you help your customers speak up for you? Because maybe some of your best customers aren’t going to know the best, most effective way to help you. So you need to help them! Let’s discuss a few ways you can.

Case Studies

Reach out to your best customers and ask to interview them for a case study.

These come with ‘0’ external cost & are super helpful in lead generation. It enables your prospects/existing customers to realise the value of the product in the form of a detailed, picturesque story that can cover everything from your awesome integrations, to go-live, best support, leading to a fulfilling customer experience by focusing on the challenge & being solution centric.

The point here is not to sell the product or talk about it, it's about how other customers have used, liked & recommended the product. Plus it also certifies that the product solves a real business problem/use case!

It also compliments your branding since your clients logo comes on your website. It's a good way to show-off! If you have great brands on your website, talking about how wonderful their journey has been...nothing like it. (Its a social proof)

Case studies don't burn a hole in your pocket, & it takes on an average 10-25 working hours to put it out in various forms; it can be a pdf, blog post, a video or even an infographic.

Key Components/ Questions be to asked to frame an effective case study:

1. Ask about their previous tool experience & how/why did they choose your product over other offerings - This will highlight the difference between you & your competitors (highlighting the issues/challenges),making you emerge as a winner.

2. Cover implementation experience & features they like - This will be super helpful for other leads as they are the ones who will use it & go through it.

3. Talk about the improvements in their numbers or some metric that quantifies the positive change in the results. Data driven case studies are extremely popular as they add numbers to words making it more realistic & precise.

4. Celebrate their success & talk about the future. If they reveal that they are willing to expand continually or other departments/locations have appreciated the product, nothing like it.

5. Make sure the, imagery, page placement & tone is done right.

Online Reviews:

Remember in the beginning when we mentioned the online reviews? Yep, you know them, you’ve used them, and they can be a huge help in generating revenue. . The reviews can come from different industries or geographies , but more people liking or recommending a product shapes one’s buying decision. If you can make your presence felt on online review platforms, it seems you have made it.

Who Benefits?

1. Well clearly everyone. Agencies, online tools, apps, SaaS products or a new kid on the block, everyone gets the share of the pie.

2. B2B or B2C, even B2B2C, you name it - everyone can have a social presence with competing players.

Why is it so important?

1. You can now perform comparisons on Industry, Size, Vertical, Category on the fly with user curated data. In my opinion, its free consulting coming right from people who have paid for it & using it.

2. Great platform to outperform - whether its or competition or similar offerings, it is a very easy & reliable way for your product to stand out from the competition and also improving your social media footprint.

3. You get to know first hand insights on likes, dislikes, recommendations & benefits.

4. Instant & easy comparisons.

Customer References & Testimonials:

This is another major source for sales & marketing teams to generate new business & lead development for a SaaS company. It’s also free, in fact all it costs is brilliant support & customer experience.

In my limited experience of close to 5 years working in Customer Success, SaaS businesses have greatly benefited from references & testimonials. It really makes your use case strong & selling easy.

If prospects get to talk (phone/email) with the current paying customers (advocates), the conversion rate increases dramatically.

Also, if you can put relevant customer or influence quotes (company website, twitter, Linkedin) it's a win big. People, in general, like to follow influencers & go by their recommendations. If possible, make sure that we have the real name, photo & company mention so that it increases the authenticity & value of the quotes.

I would also recommend creating a customer reference library so that your sales/pre-sales/marketing team can directly use them. You can add columns to it:

  1. Geography
  2. Industry
  3. Employee Size
  4. Mrr/Arr

It's good to have a library of referenceable customers who are your go-to team when you are in need, which brings me to the next important piece, Customer Advisory Board (CAB).

Customer Advisory Board:

This is a part of customer advocacy that is most talked about these days. Now, here’s the thing, imagine having a group of trusted advisors/customers who are your go to team for:

  1. Beta trials
  2. Product roadmap consultation
  3. Recommendations Speakers at events
  4. Influencers

They are helping you grow in more ways than one, and they appreciate being in the loop (feeling special) when it comes to a product they are invested in.

It is important is to have a right mix of customers on your board. Not necessarily all happy customers will be willing to be a part of CAB or would contribute the way you want. Also, some of your most valuable feedback can come from your least satisfied customers. And by including them on your CAB will not only help you to understand their issues better, it will also (probably) help to strengthen the relationship.

Your CAB should be a good mix of:

  1. Moderate users
  2. Influencers
  3. New & Old customers
  4. Feature specific/Plan specific
  5. Low & High Mrr/Arr
  6. Customers with low usage / low NPS

he CAB can consist of 10-20 customers or even more depending on your business case & need. I would also recommend a personal touch to all CAB meetings/communications which can be organised every quarter or half-yearly.

What Does it Mean for Growth in a Subscription Economy?

It means that customer advocacy is a new growth source for SaaS companies that cannot be ignored. Creating a strategy for it, or investing resources in a program to nurture your advocates early on could help you stand-out and win.

It is a small investment to make that could yield high revenue and growth. But what is required is a knowledge of the customer and a strong and/or trusting relationship- so take it seriously, and get your customer success team involved.

Customer Advocacy is what you make out of it. After all, it's your team, their efforts, it's your product, support & experience that drives it. If you do the basics right, CA will follow!

About the Author

Utkarsh has over 4 years of experience working as a Global CSM for startups like Unbxd & and currently Freshworks. As a CSM, Utkarsh looks after the North American business. Utkarsh lives & breathes Customer Success, making customers successful and happy is his biggest kick.

Find him on LinkedIn & Twitter

More from Utkarsh:

Customer Success - The 'Art' of Delight!

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