by Allison Banko
You know your company has some die-hard fans when they dress up as your brand for Halloween. Despite having customers willing to don a big orange Bomgar box, this remote solutions company needed an efficient way to tap these fans for items including:
- Case studies
At the time, the Bomgar team was relying on Sales to keep up with its customers to source for such projects.
"We had our mental list of 10 to 20 people that we know could go to — our go-to customers and fans," said Liz Richardson, Social and Advocate Marketing Manager, Bomgar. "We had our top percentage, but we didn't know who else we could reach out to."
Richardson added that this was a very "manual and mental" process.
Individually, she handled social media and customer-generated content.
Keeping an ear to conversations going on about Bomgar on social media, she would chime in with brand-neutral commentary when appropriate.
However, she said this was not only a very manual practice, but an ineffective and time-consuming one, too. The team knew that messaging and emailing individuals and twiddling their thumbs while waiting for a response wasn't the best way to find brand advocates.
The team needed a way to see who was using the solution in an interesting way, who was pleased with Bomgar, and the team needed an easy way to identify these people.
"Surely there's a better way where I can reach out to many instead of just one at a time through email," she explained. "Then, I can have them just tell me if they're interested, instead of being unsure whether they want these opportunities or not."
The team also did not want those customers who perhaps weren't big on social media to slip through the cracks, either.
"We knew we had some big fans," Richardson added. "We wanted to find out, 'Who else? Who are we missing?'"
Bomgar had heard of a customer advocate program that its partner, Dell KACE, was using, involving a gamification effort with challenges and rewards.
"We actually called up our partners at Dell KACE and got a glowing recommendation from them," Richardson said. "They have the exact same kind of target audience [of IT professionals], so we thought, 'Well if it's working for Dell KACE, then maybe it would work for us.'"
How it works
Hosted through an online portal, customers can participate in challenges to earn points that can be redeemed for rewards. Every challenge comes with a point and spans into different segments including:
- Reference generators
- Case studies
- Being a reference
- Speaking opportunities
- Media engagements
- Lead generation (give Bomgar a referral)
- Webinar volunteers
These challenges are key to creating customer content, asking customers for feedback on things such as new products, features or upgrades.
When customers complete a challenge, they earn points they can redeem for rewards and perks such as:
- Third-party gifts (gift cards, tech products)
- Bomgar online education classes
- Industry certification courses and trade shows
- Free lunches
Richardson decided to take a demo of the program at Dell KACE to see if it had the potential to work for Bomgar — and she was impressed.
"We really, really thought that would be a great way to identify other users and to generate customer content, which, of course, is a much better reference than anything we could say."
The program was dubbed the Bomgar Insider
Step #1. Gain leadership approval
Bomgar's head of Sales is also the company's head of Marketing — something that was a conscious decision on the part of Bomgar, Richardson explained.
"Like every company, there tends to be some disconnect sometimes between Sales and Marketing," she said.
Richardson added that the EVP of Sales and Marketing has worked hard to bridge the two departments. While Marketing is a smaller team, responsible for PR, social media and content generation, she said he's been extremely open to their efforts.
Marketing presented the idea for the customer advocacy program to him and he wanted to see the program in action. Richardson's team got the software provider of the program to hop on a call and walk through it.
"If you can get the concept, it's like, 'Why not?'" Richardson asked. "It's more like, 'What does it take?'"
The platform isn't expensive, but it does take a lot of resources to work well. These resources encompass people within the company to run and support the program. However, the EVP of Sales and Marketing's biggest concern for launching this program rested in the minds of Bomgar's customers.
He wondered what would happen if Bomgar opened a program like this to its customers and decided to shut it down in a couple months. If Bomgar was to take this program away, would customers participating in the program turn into unhappy customers?
"To address that, we said would start small, and test first to make sure that we knew what we were doing and that the customers are actually interested," Richardson explained.
Step #2. Educate internally
With the EVP of Sales and Marketing's approval, Richardson and her team next needed to present the customer advocate program to the marketing and sales teams.
When they went to Marketing, they gathered input into how they could successfully use the program, asking, "What do you all need that we can glean from our customers in this way?"
For Sales, the team held a "lunch and learn" — something Bomgar holds regularly.
"Pretty much anytime someone wants to present something to Sales, they feed them," Richardson joked.
Richardson's team noticed something unusual during their presentation: Everyone on the sales team was engaged and paying attention.
"There was a little buzz afterward and I think that they were really excited about it," Richardson recalled.
However, there were some concerns before diving into the program. One salesperson argued that they didn't want this program to burn out their customers by asking them for a lot of things through these challenges.
"That's actually kind of the beauty of the program," Richardson explained. "They don’t feel pressured to do anything. We just send the challenges out there and then they can raise their hand about what they want to do. So they control the level of engagement and they don’t feel burnt out."
She also added that through the Bomgar Insider, the company would be creating a mutual relationship with Bomgar customers. Though the company is asking them to complete challenges, customers are receiving something in return.
"Whether you give rewards or you just do points, you’re also giving them the ability to feel like they're getting some sort of value out of it," Richardson said. "Hopefully we're sharing some valuable content with them. We're making them feel heard."
Step #3. Test the program on known brand advocates
The team tested the Bomgar Insider by reaching out to an initial list of about 75 people. These were individuals who had previously interacted with Bomgar or were enthusiastic about the brand on social media.
"It was people we knew who already loved us, so they weren't going to be too nitpicky if something wasn't quite ironed out," Richardson said.
The team presented the Bomgar Insider to this set in such a way that made them feel special. Participating would give these people first dibs on the program. About 40 of those 75 came onboard to participate.
"In the beginning, we were actually very, very encouraged," Richardson shared. "We were really surprised by how much they liked it and the feedback [we received]."
She said that the team learned quickly that no matter what the challenge they asked of Bomgar customers, there were fans that would complete every single challenge.
Bomgar's customer base is comprised of IT and technology professionals — individuals typically fond of gaming. The fact the Bomgar Insider embraces gamification has certainly helped with its positive response among its participants.
Richardson said that some customers tell Bomgar they are competing against coworkers, trying to beat one another on the leaderboard
"For them, it's about internal status — it's not even about ours," Richardson explained. "But what's interesting is at first, for them, it was really purely a game, they really like our product — but they were really competing against each other."
Richardson recalled a particular member who was competing against one of his employees. Though he was driven by competition, he turned into a valuable resource for Bomgar, volunteering for case studies and webinars.
"That company wasn't even on our radar, so we were able to identify that and to pull them in with the gaming aspect," she said.
Step #4. Extend the program
After testing out the Bomgar Insider among that first test group, the team then invited Bomgar community members to join in by highlighting the program in the community digest.
For the official launch, Bomgar sent out a dedicated email invitation to the Bomgar Insider.
"With that dedicated email, especially, it just exploded," Richardson said.
"I would say that when we launched December 5, for the rest of the month, it's almost all that I had time to do — I could barely keep up."
Step #5. Develop resources to support the program
The biggest "price tag" of the customer advocacy program, according to Richardson, was company resources. In Bomgar's case, this meant Richardson dedicating her job to running the Bomgar Insider.
These types of programs are dependent on the interactions of your company’s fans. Richardson admitted that the team realized they had more fans than they were expecting, so naturally, it ended up taking a lot more time than Bomgar had initially planned.
"You kind of control the level of interaction there," she said. "If you want it to be a part-time position where you spend a couple of hours a day in a program, it can be. It just depends on what kind of level of interaction you want with your advocates, or how many advocates you actually want to be engaging."
For Bomgar, justifying the time to invest in the program went back into the Bomgar Insider's initial selling point of saving time sourcing in the long run. While before it may have taken two weeks to find someone to feature for a webinar, thanks to the Insider, the team can complete this in a day or two and clearly identify who is interested.
The most time is spent on approving and setting up challenges. For example, if a challenge is to comment on a blog post, Richardson will check and confirm these comments in order to award points. She'll also comment on what the Insiders are doing — providing them with feedback on their comment.
"If someone gives you a really great testimonial or if someone has a really insightful thought about your product, that's the harder thing," she explained. "It's keeping up with all the content and taking the time to make everyone feel really heard and special, to keep that engagement going. That's what has built a lot of relationships."
Build and foster relationships
Though the Bomgar Insider strives to garner customer advocacy, the team works to make the program a mutually beneficial relationship.
"I really try to focus on, how do we promote them at that same time that they're promoting us?" Richardson explained. "So I have some rewards in there like lunch for you and 10 of your colleagues, because that makes them the office hero."
In addition to the rewards, the program has helped Bomgar build valuable relationships with its customers outside of the realm of the Insider. For example, Richardson has started following some customers on Twitter and they've started following her, too.
"It becomes more, 'This is a relationship between Liz and Charlie' instead of just, 'This is a relationship between Bomgar and a customer at X company,'" she explained. "It goes beyond that now — especially with the ones who are really active."
However, not every Insider has to be completely active for the program to flourish. There are some participants that simply just pop in every once in a while to do challenges. Thus, you must ensure that there are always a lot of diverse challenges suitable for different Insiders.
The overriding goal is simply to keep people engaged, and some challenges are simply out there just with this goal in mind.
"You have to take the time to make it about a relationship," Richardson said. "It's not enough to just throw challenges at them and ask them to do things."
For example, on Valentine's Day, the team had Insiders answer a fun question: What’s the best way that an end-user has ever thanked you or shown appreciation for you? (i.e., shown you some love).
With these results, the team made a pie chart titled "Poll: Best Way to Show Appreciation for Your Support Pro
" to share on Facebook that fans could then "like" to boost social reach.
"You can give your social networks a little boost, so it just comes around full circle," Richardson said.
The first four months of the Bomgar Insider reaped:
- 700% increase in customer referrals
- 50% increase in case studies
- 45% increase in the number of Twitter users talking about Bomgar
- 66% increase in mentions
- 12% increase in social media followers
- 138 customers volunteering to be a reference
- 179 customer testimonials
- 35 video submissions
Looking toward the future of the program, Richardson said Bomgar hopes to do much more. She mentioned that the team would like to provide a challenge where customers can be a part of the Bomgar booth at trade shows.
"Where I really hope to take it is, 'Hey, be part of our booth team,' and when customers or prospects come to visit our booth I don't want them to just talk to Bomgar people, I want them to talk to a customer instead," she explained.
To further add value for the Insiders, she hopes to elevate the program to offer special opportunities for Bomgar's top advocates, such as networking in person, receiving rewards and recognition.
But again, with this type of program, customers differ in their levels of engagement. While some people are very active because they value the opportunity, others are simply just interested in the prizes.
You have to keep both ends of the spectrum in mind to make a customer advocacy program successful, Richardson explained.
"It's finding a happy medium and it's different for every industry," she said.
However, everything boils down to building that relationship with customers. That relationship is what really gives you your most loyal fans, the ones who will fight for your brand, the ones who defend your solution and who really are invested in it.
Build that personal relationship and then make it about giving your customer something valuable, Richardson said.
"If you can focus on what really speaks to them and how they really feel rewarded in a positive way — especially through recognition and helping them build their own personal brand," Richardson said, "I believe that is the best possible way you can build a long-lasting, lifetime advocate."
- Bomgar Insider homepage
- Bomgar Insider leaderboard
- Pie chart
Liz Richardson, Social Media and Customer Advocacy Manager
Sophie Brown, Customer Marketing Manager
Liz Shulof, Vice President of Marketing CommunicationsInfluitive
— software company providing the advocate marketing platform
Sydney Strader, Customer Success Manager
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