Understanding the Customer Advocate Ecosystem in a Customer Success World Image

Understanding the Customer Advocate Ecosystem in a Customer Success World

Post contributed by David Sroka, CEO of Point of Reference

The PULSE 2016 event provided a real epiphany for me. I hadn’t realized just how far this function had come, although the reason it has makes perfect sense. As a newly minted technology partner, I came to learn how Customer Success professionals thought about customer advocacy.

I found that there were a variety of Customer Success team flavors. The most evolved, which Gainsight evangelizes, is a team with sophisticated relationship managers, authority to remove obstacles to customer satisfaction, and a strong service orientation. I’ll refer to that version of a CS team as a Gainsight CS team.

Since 2003 my company has supported customer advocate/reference programs with technology and services. These programs have largely been marketing’s responsibility. If we break down a program into its most basic parts you’ll find: 1) advocate identification and recruiting, 2) data entry and maintenance, and 3) advocate access management.

In the absence of a robust, strategic Gainsight CS team, these 3 responsibilities are shared between Sales and Marketing. It isn’t a perfect situation, but it can work with extra effort and the right leadership. Let’s look closer at the reasons:


Rightfully so, Sales is focused on closing opportunities and making quota. Every other responsibility added to their plate is secondary. When they are also playing the part of success manager they do manage access to their accounts very effectively.


As it applies to customer advocates, Marketing is generally all about content. The goal is to capture stories and share them broadly in social media, press, events, webinars, etc. They tend not to spend as much effort on enabling Sales.

Customer Success, as I learned, is not only tasked with monitoring and tending to customer satisfaction, but is measured on outcomes such as renewals and customer advocacy (referenceability). When we put this information in a familiar scorecard format the inclusion of Customer Success in the customer advocate ecosystem become crystal clear:


Customer Advocate Programs

This truly is a cross-functional program if ever there was one, and it must have a leader. While these individuals have traditionally resided in Marketing for the most part, their home is less important than what they do. In an environment that includes a Gainsight CS team, the customer advocate manager is a:

  • Customer advocate consultant
    Regularly meeting with stakeholders across the organization to identify needs proactively.
  • Systems manager
    Responsible for the technology that contains advocate information, and automates core processes.
  • Continuous improvement fanatic
    Analyzing program information including “volumetrics” and quantifiable outcomes (revenue influenced) to identify opportunities for even better use of customer stories and perspectives.

The emergence of the Gainsight CS team is a game-changer for our field. We’ve already begun spreading the word with our clients and prospects, and look forward to fostering a very happy partnership with Customer Success organizations wherever we can.

Read more about any of the following topics by following the links.
Why a formalized customer advocate program is vital
Our view of a customer advocate program in 2016
An overview of our technology, ReferenceEdge

About Point of Reference

Since 2003, Point of Reference has been helping companies leverage customer advocates to fuel business growth and fortify brands. With complete perspective and proven execution, we integrate scalable technology, ReferenceEdge for Salesforce®, content, supplemental staffing and program consulting solutions that organize and optimize authentic customer voices. By combining decades of industry expertise along with business-to-business customer reference management solutions, Point of Reference helps its clients orchestrate coordinated customer advocate activities, inject relevant customer advocates and related content at the critical time in a sales cycle. For more information, visit www.point-of-reference.com.