7 Tips: How to Budget for a Customer Advocate Program

As we head toward the 4th quarter, companies prioritize their investments for the coming year—known as the budget season— it seemed like a good time to provide 7 tips to ensure you’re successful at getting a budget for a Customer Advocate Program in 2018. We see a significant uptick in sales activity starting just after Labor Day through December 31st so now is the time to prepare your plans.

Tip #1

Frame the proposal with the correct perspective. Customer Advocate Programs grow sales—when execute effectively. Just like a well-run lead generation program the resulting sales far exceed the necessary investment. You would be hard pressed to find an executive that doesn’t, by now, acknowledge the fact that customer advocates help sell your products, if they can be easily found and leveraged. Read more on program measurement.

One of the most important things you can do to persuade the guardians of the budget is correlate the program’s capabilities to top company goals. The goals of relevance are related to growth. Is your company launching a new offering, expanding geographically, adding new partnerships, acquiring companies, launching a new partner program? Your proposal should explain how your customer advocate program, through ready-to-use customer advocates and customer content, supports specific growth initiatives.

Tip #2
Tip #3

Include enough budget for genuine program leadership. Programs do not run themselves. Nor are they often successful with a junior resource at the helm (please don’t even utter the word intern!). There is a wide spectrum of customer advocate programs out there. Some simply churn out case studies. Some only provide help desk support for sales references (calls, RFPs). Those are functions, not programs. Fund a full-time leader with exceptional relationship skills and 10 years in a variety of marketing, sales enablement or customer success roles and expect great things. Read more on our vision for this leader.

Gather support from the stakeholder groups that stand to benefit the most from a program. This list would include not only Sales, but PR, IR, AR, Social, Events, lead gen, product marketing, customer success—all the consumers and relationship managers of customer advocates. Meet with department heads and discuss how an organized program would further their team goals. Read more on how to build a business case for a customer advocate program.

Tip #4
Tip #5

Don’t forget to budget money for program sustainability. After the initial launch of the program it must be promoted. This should include getting in front of users at company events like sales kick-offs, but also visiting offices in different geos. What a great way to cultivate relationships, solicit feedback and see how your internal customers use the program. Build in some travel expenses.

Budget money for fun! Related to sustainability is engagement. Most programs use incentives to a) build the customer advocate database, and b) reinforce use of the program (include customer advocate technology). Rewards and games definitely create momentum and yield a more willing response than mandates and policies alone. So budget money for spiffs whether that’s cash, prizes, stock options or something else people value.

Tip #6
Tip #7

We are a smidge biased on this one. You can only keep so many balls in the air managing a program by spreadsheet. Put a line item in for an application designed to enable EXACTLY what a program needs to do: centralize information, automate processes, and measure performance. Your budget will include one-time start up costs and ongoing license costs. If you use Salesforce CRM we have a recommendation 🙂

More and more marketing departments have a dedicated content marketing function and budget, so that wasn’t addressed here. But if your company doesn’t have that function, nor a budget that’s another line item for your customer advocate program budget request. There are many variables here. If you’d like our help with ballpark content costs or any other areas discussed above just call or email us.

Good luck with budgeting season!