This is part II of the CMO 2017  Trends post, which correlates recent predictions from Sirius Decisions and Association of Data-Driven Marketing & Advertising to the customer advocate world. When a trend or movement has reached critical momentum, people sometimes use the analogy of a train: powerful, gaining speed, and hard to stop. Automation of essential marketing programs in 2017 is such a train. Customer advocate programs sit at point of convergence between marketing, sales, and customer success. It is a linchpin and that’s why 20th century manual, spreadsheet-centric models just won’t do any longer.

ROI and KPIs

Showing direct contribution to corporate goals is essential for the survival of any marketing program. Gone are the days when case studies produced or reference request fulfilled alone were sufficient measures of a program’s worth. Customer reference applications embedded into a company’s CRM system provide a closed loop system that makes tracking opportunity revenue influenced by customer advocate activity and content automatic. Dashboards visualize real-time program performance and make sharing program metrics with executives effortless.

Programs Up, Staffing Down (or at least No Change)

Technology spending in marketing is on the rise. Gartner’s budget survey shows that CMOs’ technology budget may exceed that of the CIOs’ in 2017. There is no question that operationalizing customer advocate management is the right thing to do, and CMOs are seeking ways to gain efficiency through technology. The do more with less mentality is already pressuring manual and staff-intensive approaches. Now is the time to invest in purpose-built technology and replace spreadsheets and half-hearted attempts to use technologies never intended to manage advocate programs.

Customer Experience is a Marketing Job

Customer success and customer experience are top corporate initiatives, and no department is exempt from participating. Customer advocates programs can and should play a pivotal role. A customer’s willingness to advocate publicly is a key indicator of their overall satisfaction and loyalty. If you aren’t able to leverage customer advocate information, content, and metrics you are missing huge opportunities to improve sales and the lifetime value of your customers.

In addition, customer marketing managers and their leadership are in a prime position to influence a culture of referenceability that is central to customer loyalty and long-term customer success. Applications and methodology today enable data from sales, support and success programs to be shared to improve decisions in all critical areas. These systems also facilitate internal promotion and reward to increase awareness, adoption, and use, which in turn drive a customer-centric corporate view.

More Collaborative

The lines between where marketing ends and sales begin have blurred, thus the term Smarketing. This is clearly evident when it comes to customer advocates. Marketing manages the information, develops the customer stories in a variety of formats, and monitors the usage. Sales is the primary consumer, leveraging these resources to open doors and close deals. Collaboration and communication between these organizations, and relationship owners such as the Customer Success function, ensure the quality and reliability of customer advocate information.

The synergy of your customer reference application with the CRM system used by Sales enables monitoring reference use and attributing revenue influenced to the Program. Keeping reference contact data current and developing the best customer-sourced content demands interaction. Incorporating Net Promoter scores and post-sale service information compels cooperation with service, support and success teams as well. The better the collaboration and the tools used to facilitate it, the better the customer advocate program. In case it isn’t clear, Marketing users must have CRM licenses to play in this ecosystem effectively.


Not only can customer advocate technology make finding and using reference customers and materials efficient, but it can also incorporate data from Net Promoter scores or the customer health score of a given customer at any given time. Automation of routine tasks and consolidation of customer data is the obvious step for companies who haven’t already done so. Why? Because an automated customer reference application within your CRM system delivers:

  • Streamlined and easy-to-use processes
  • Real-time data presented in easy-to-understand dashboard for ROI and KPI
  • Common basis for collaboration with other departments
  • Potentialto scale programs without additional staff
  • Method for tracking and reporting key metrics

The Take Away

The most successful managers of any program are those who align their goals with those of the C-Suite. In an ideal world all departments’ efforts contribute, with focus and purpose, toward the company’s success. The CMO trends forecast for 2017 paint a picture of Marketing executives as driving decisions based on data and fearless in their adoption of technology. There may not be a better time to propose the formalization of your company’s customer advocate practices. Domain expertise is mature. The technology is mature. And the importance of harnessing advocate sentiment and integrating it into all Marketing campaigns and Sales stage plays is supported by a wide variety of analyst studies.

The CMO’s training is leaving the station and 2017 is the year to get your customer advocate program onboard!

We recommend the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals (ICCAP) for training and certification.
Make your skills and customer marketing expertise official!