Leadership’s Role in Customer Advocacy Success

Executive support: it’s essential, critical. We’ve all heard it and said it.  But here’s the central question: Do you know what support looks like? Do the executives know what you need and what support looks like? We often hear from program managers that executives are “totally onboard,” or in “full support” of the customer advocacy program, but what we see in terms of program results tells a different story. The most glaring examples of executive support in name only is a lack of change. A customer advocacy program requires quite a bit of change. People that needed advocates went about keeping track of, requesting and using these customers with a lot less process. A customer advocacy program, properly designed and implemented, adds structure, accountability and tracking.

People in an organization facing change want to hear why they should change and what that will look like from 1) the top company executive and 2) their direct manager. Those are the leaders who must convey the right message and demonstrate their support.

Components of Leadership Support

It’s essential that the CEO and executives overseeing sales, marketing, and customer success communicate the need for the program, why it’s important to company success, and how each part of the organization contributes to customer marketing success. Here’s a breakdown of specific executive activities that enable the establishment of a robust customer reference program:

  • Clear Vision & Strategy
    Leadership should articulate a clear vision and strategy for the customer advocacy program to the company. This includes conveying what success looks like, the goals of the program, and how it aligns with the company’s overall business objectives. If the program isn’t viewed as a priority, the program is set up for failure, or best case, mediocrity (i.e., low impact).
  • Communication
    This is a big one! Consistent and transparent communication from leadership is vital. Leaders should communicate the purpose, progress, and, later, successes of the program to the entire organization to build support and maintain momentum.

    • Kick off company messaging with executive emails announcing the customer advocacy program’s launch (or re-launch). The CxO’s message goes first to a broad audience of stakeholders to prepare employees for messages to follow from various department heads.
    • Department executives send emails to their respective team members explaining how each department relates to the program and what’s expected of them. Reinforcement messaging occur regularly at Sales Kick-Offs, team meetings, “all-hands” meetings, etc. Literally, every meeting opportunity with a relevant audience should include a mention of the customer advocacy program and related deadlines for 30-60 days. This is especially important if the program is waiting for information from stakeholders teams (e.g., nominations) in order to launch.
    • The program manager provides executives with customer advocate success stories as the program begins to produce results. These “references for the advocacy program” should be shared with stakeholder teams by their respective executives on a regular cadence (weekly, monthly, etc.). Stories might include important deals that closed because of compelling customer advocates, high performing campaigns featuring customers, and content profiling successful customers being downloaded in high volumes.
  • Resource Allocation
    Leaders must ensure that adequate resources are allocated to the program. This includes budget for the software, personnel to manage and execute the program, and time for training and onboarding.
  • Active Engagement
    Leadership should be visibly engaged in the advocacy program. This can mean participating in key meetings, endorsing the program in communications, and even engaging directly with customer advocates.
  • Change Management Support
    Implementing a new program and software requires effective change management. Leaders should support change management efforts by communicating the importance of the program, addressing concerns, and championing the adoption of new processes and tools.
  • Performance Monitoring
    Leaders should be involved in setting up metrics and KPIs to measure the success of the program. They need to regularly review these metrics and adjust strategies as necessary to ensure the program meets its objectives.
  • Empowering Teams
    Leadership should empower teams by providing the authority and autonomy needed to execute the program. This includes trusting the advocacy team to make decisions and providing them with the tools and support necessary to succeed.
  • Recognition and Incentives
    Recognizing and rewarding both customers and employees who contribute to the advocacy program is crucial. Leadership should develop and support a system that acknowledges the efforts of these key stakeholders.
  • Feedback Loops
    Leaders should establish and participate in feedback loops to continuously improve the program. This involves gathering feedback from customers, employees, and other stakeholders to refine and enhance the program.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration
    Customer advocacy programs often require collaboration across various departments such as marketing, sales, customer service, and product development. Leaders should facilitate and encourage cross-functional collaboration to ensure the program’s success.

Summary

Fostering a robust customer advocacy program is not merely about declaring support—it’s about demonstrating it through clear vision, consistent communication, and tangible actions. Executives play a pivotal role in articulating the program’s significance, aligning it with overarching business objectives, and ensuring it receives the necessary resources and visibility. Effective leadership support goes beyond mere budget approval; it involves active engagement, resource allocation, and a commitment to managing change adeptly. By empowering teams, recognizing efforts, and maintaining open lines of communication, leaders can truly galvanize their organizations towards the successful implementation and growth of the customer advocacy program. Ultimately, the measure of true executive backing is reflected in the program’s results—transforming passive endorsement into active, impactful leadership.