When Mark Organ, CEO and founder of Influitive, launched an advocacy platform that enabled companies to put their customers at the heart of their marketing programs, promoting it to businesses that relied heavily on indirect sales teams was a not a priority. But since the company was launched in 2010, a growing number of channel-focused businesses have been knocking on Influitive’s door.
As he explained during a conversation with CMR earlier this year, Influitive was originally focused on direct sales organizations. With Influitive’s AdvocateHub, companies could develop long-term relationships with customer advocates eager to give testimonials, product feedback, and referrals.
“But then we started getting calls from companies that sell through channels saying, ‘We see some potential with what you’re doing for getting more engagement with our partners.’”
According to Organ, vendors are now using Influitive’s AdvocateHub to build stronger relationships with partners and invite them to engage in a wide variety of activities.
Via the AdvocateHub, vendors have successfully encouraged partners to provide guest blog posts and company news. Better yet, partners are helping vendors reduce their costs by translating product descriptions in local languages or building product demos that are shared with other partners.
Organ explained that partners are willing to accept the challenges posted in the AdvocateHub to win the favor of the vendor, especially if the partners don’t have the opportunity to generate a distinguishing level of revenue.
“For some partners, they really want to be a top partner of the vendor, but it’s unclear for them how best to do that other than sales,” explained Organ. Partners will accept the challenges posted in the AdvocateHub “to give them a chance to be in the top tier of most engaged partners,” to earn the extra benefits a vendor might offer.
In one instance, said Organ, a vendor offered “500 points if you can translate our product into German, Spanish, or Portuguese. This was an actual challenge that I saw one of our customers do, and the local channel partner actually did that.”
The AdvocateHub also provides the vendor an opportunity to recognize the unique contributions partners make to their business. Paraphrasing his clients, Organ said, “Sales are really valuable for us. We love it when channel partners sell our product. But what we love even more is when they provide amazing customer service.”
“How do you recognize partners for great customer service? How do you recognize partners for helping build the brand? A lot of manufacturers and developers want to encourage that behavior, but have had no way to do that effectively,” said Organ. “With an advocate program or a partner advocate program, they have a way to do that by challenging their partners to showcase how amazing their service is or capture a video from their end customer on why they love those guys and the vendor so much.”
Organ explained that many vendors first promote their advocate hub as a community. “Generally, it starts with the brand creating this community and going to their partners saying, ‘We want to invite you into this community where we’re going to share some information you’re not going to get anywhere else and we’re going to show you how you can best help us. We want your feedback on how we can do better.’”
That’s often a big draw for the partners, explained Organ. Vendors tell partners, “We want your feedback. We want to be a better company. We want to be a better provider for you, and this community is a way to do that,” he continued.
There are a couple of keys to building successful advocacy hubs, said Organ. “Reducing the friction — making it easier to participate — is absolutely important. But just as important is making it fun and rewarding.”
Organ said his company learned a lot from digital games. “The amazing thing about games is that there’s literally no instructions. They’ve built it so well that you’re just able to pick it up on your own. Games have to be that way because nobody has any tolerance for reading anything. If it’s not super-intuitive, then people aren’t going to play.
“The other thing is that games give you all this feedback and this sense of accomplishment that we don’t get enough of in our everyday lives,” he added. “So when you put those two things together, where you make it easier and you reduce the friction and then make it fun and rewarding and relevant to your life, it is a very potent combination. You get enormously more participation in the community.”
“I think this is where channel marketing is going, is having a really deep relationship that goes all the way from brand to channel partner to end customer, where everyone’s all aligned,” said Organ.
Many vendors seem to agree. Influitive’s sales to channel organizations are “actually the fastest growing part of our business today,” he said.