7 Tips: How to Budget for a Customer Advocate Program

As we head toward the end of the calendar year, the budget season is upon us. If you’re lobbying for a customer advocate program, or already have a preliminary green light to start building one, now is the time to ensure you have the funds you need to launch and sustain a high-impact program. We offer these 7 tips to ensure you’re successful at securing the right budget, not just a budget.

Tip #1

Frame the proposal with the correct perspective. Customer Advocate Programs grow sales—when executed effectively. Similar to 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.  The key is that those advocates have to be easily found and leveraged. Read more on program measurement.

One of the most important things you can do to persuade the budget guardians to fund your program is correlating the program’s capabilities to top company goals. The relevant goals are related to growth. Is your company launching a new offering, expanding geographically, adding new partnerships, acquiring companies, or initiating 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. Read this eBook: Capturing & Keeping CxO Engagement.

Tip #2

Tip #3

Include enough salary in the 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 broad spectrum of customer advocate programs out there. Some just churn out case studies. Others only provide help desk support for sales references (calls, RFPs). Those are functions, not programs. If you 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 media, events, lead gen, product marketing, and customer success–all the consumers and relationship managers of customer advocates. Meet with department heads and discuss how an organized customer advocate program would further their team goals, and incorporate those findings. 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. Internal promotion activity should include getting in front of users at company events like sales kick-offs, but also visiting offices in different geographies. It is a great way to cultivate relationships, solicit feedback, and see how your internal customers use the program. Build in enough money to cover these travel expenses.

Include money for fun! Related to sustainability is engagement. Most programs use incentives to a) build the customer advocate database, and b) reinforce program use (including customer advocate technology). Rewards and games create momentum and yield a more enthusiastic 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 your budget request for an application designed to enable EXACTLY what a customer advocate program needs to do: centralize information, automate processes, and measure performance. Your budget should include both 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!

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