Customer advocates: Finding your customers’ BFFs

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One of the most powerful sales tools is often something that you can’t foresee or control. Even though customers read papers, visit websites and talk with a salesperson, another factor can make all the difference – a referral from a friend or coworker.

Think about the way that sites like Google, Yelp and others have changed the way consumers make everyday decisions, such asadvocacy choosing restaurants. You can go to the restaurant nearest you or one you’ve visited before. Or, you can try something new by looking at your smartphone to see which dining spot has the highest ratings or the best reviews. Why? People show a preference for the personal experience of those in their networks.

For business-to-business software companies like SAS, the impact of customer advocacy is critical. These influencers can set the tone and provide a consistent positive influence throughout the customer journey. Unfortunately, this type of advocacy is tough to measure and hard to predict.

The challenge: Acquisition and retention

Although a customer may be a single record in your database, she doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Each contact has a connection to others within her business or the industry. Understanding and fostering good relationships can have a huge effect on your retention and loyalty efforts.

During our effort to map a modern customer journey, the SAS marketing team focused on different phases of this cycle. The customer journey contained these phases:

  • Acquisition – which includes need, research, decide and buy.
  • Retention – which includes adopt, use and recommend.

On the retention side, the team knew from anecdotal evidence that some SAS customers were advocates of the technology and for the company overall. In fact, several SAS regional offices and divisions had data confirming the idea that finding and rewarding high-value customers led to big returns. What was lacking was an overarching program for getting customers to advocate for SAS technology.

For a larger effort, the team assessed the customer behavior data, examining those who attended events, provided feedback on surveys, sent ideas to R&D, and generally stayed engaged with the company. From a revenue standpoint, those people were often the ones advocating for the use of new SAS technologies or the expansion of existing deployments.

What was less understood was the reach of these influencers and how their activities affected others. With that information, SAS could identify more advocates and nurture that behavior.

The approach: Identify advocates by scoring BFF behaviors

The SAS marketing team members started by digging into the data that they had on customers. They first identified a segment of the top accounts that contained more than 20,000 individual contacts and the team began to examine the behaviors exhibited by that group including:

  • Live event attendance.
  • Website traffic.
  • Technical support queries.
  • Customer satisfaction survey data.
  • Customer reference activity.
  • Webinar attendance.
  • White paper downloads.

This information provided a better understanding of the range of activities that customers undertake. However, simply cataloging the behaviors wasn’t enough. The team applied a scoring model for different types of interactions. This allowed the team to weight certain activities, helping to further identify which customers were the best advocates—“BFFs” (best friends forever) as the marketing team began to call them.

The results: Advocacy campaigns that matter

SAS marketing used the information to create a model that is the foundation for customer-focused data exploration. The initial effort helped shed light on how influential advocates can shape retention and additional sales. As a result, sales and marketing worked together to highlight BFFs within key accounts in an ongoing effort to foster better relationships with those key individuals.

Initiatives to locate and encourage advocates used the model to identify the likely candidates within customer organizations. The team then designed campaigns and outreach efforts to give these advocates the tools to foster and expand their influence.

The marketing team now focuses on advocacy campaigns that target potential BFFs. The goal is to build more SAS advocacy during the recommend phase of the customer journey.

How SAS can help

We've created a practical ebook to modernizing a marketing organization with marketing analytics: Your guide to modernizing the marketing organization.

Acquisition and retention campaigns begin by doing advanced segmentation in SAS Marketing Automation. Campaign workflows are created that are backed by analytics, ensuring that communications to customers are appropriate and relevant. Through the collection of both contact and response history data, attribution can be performed in SAS Visual Analytics that allows marketers to see correlations and cross-promotion opportunities.

Interested in learning how to leverage SAS Marketing Automation techniques for advanced segmentation? Explore our SAS Marketing Automation: Designing and Executing Outbound Marketing Campaigns and Customer Segmentation Using SAS Enterprise Miner course offerings.

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Editor’s note: This post is part of a series excerpted from Adele Sweetwood’s book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization. Each post is a real-world case study of how to improve your customers’ experience and optimize your marketing campaigns.

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About Author

Adele Sweetwood

Senior Vice President of Global Marketing & Shared Services

Adele Sweetwood guides marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for SAS. Her responsibilities span field and digital marketing, demand generation and marketing sciences, as well as retention and event marketing. She oversees digital investments in advertising, content, search and social media. Her 30 years of marketing leadership feed her passion for connecting with customers on their own terms. Most recently, she led the transformation of SAS’ marketing organization to meet the opportunities of a globalized market. The author of The Analytical Marketer, Adele empowers her organization of 400 marketers with data and analytics to grow revenues and optimize customer interactions.

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