Nerd Journey 036: Customer Advocacy Programs

Welcome to episode 36 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two VMware Solution Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss the pros and cons of customer advocacy programs.

Original Recording Date: 04-23-2019

Topics – Customer Advocacy Programs

2:43 What are customer advocacy programs and their benefits?

  • What are they, exactly?
    • The idea is a vendor has created a program that incentivizes customer to be highly engaged advocates of the solution.
    • This is not to be confused with customer advocate roles within a vendor.
    • This is part of the arm of a vendor’s marketing organization.
    • John never thought of customer advocacy programs as advocacy programs.
  • What is the benefit to the vendor?
    • Customers become advocates for the product / solution.
    • The vendor is promoting and gets valuable thought leadership.
      • People are way more influenced by their peers than by any other avenue.
    • Social media widens the reach of the vendor.
      • Advocates can re-broadcast company content.
    • Vendors can get qualified feedback on things not working well as it relates to the product.
  • What are the benefits to the participant?
    • The participant’s employer gets free marketing exposure out of it (speaking at conferences, etc.).
    • The employer has industry thought leadership because the participant is on staff.
    • Free software is often a benefit.
    • Access to technical vendor resources is more intimate to allow feedback / a greater influence on product features.
    • Special briefing programs / advanced information / beta program
      • Nick tells the story of beta testing Arctic Wolf and later becoming an early adopter.

14:33 Downsides to Participation

  • Being a member of a vendor’s customer advocacy program may be perceived as being biased by the vendor’s technology vision.
  • Isn’t making a recommendation to someone else about a product the same as being an advocate?
  • There may be a perceived pressure to contribute in the program.
    • Is feedback on products or a certain time commitment expected?
    • Lack of participation in some form will likely lead to not being part of the program in the future.
  • It’s free sales and marketing for the vendor, and people may want to shy away from that.
    • John weighs in on IT professionals and popular opinions on interacting with sales and marketing organizations.
    • Are we (John and Nick) biased toward advocacy programs because we work for a vendor?

19:34 Qualification Process and Popular Programs

  • Normally people have to apply to be a part of the program and show evidence of technical prowess and participation in the proper areas.
    • Blogging, podcasting, and community participation (speaking engagement, online forums) are seen as helpful evidences.
  • The designation of being part of the program is for a specific period of time and will require re-applying at a later time.
    • As your career changes, it may make sense to no longer participate in a specific advocacy program.
  • Popular Programs

27:38 Career Benefits of Advocacy Programs

  • Use the program as you like. The choice is yours.
  • There is a tight network of people in these advocacy programs, and this can be leveraged to broaden your network of peers.
  • Definitely put customer advocacy programs on your resume!
    • Designation as a technical expert from a vendor gives a different way for future employers to evaluate you (that can be verified).
  • Tinkering with free software for home use can help you learn skills to get to the next level (learning a new technology, moving into an adjacency, etc.).
  • The qualifications for advocacy programs act as a roadmap for furthering your career.
    • Even without the designation, the participation in community is key to advancement.
  • Are advocacy programs just for customers?
    • Vendor employees can take part in these programs depending on the vendor.
      • There may be separate advocacy programs just for employees separate and apart from the customer advocacy program.
      • Taking part in these programs as an insider can bring a fresh perspective to the organization.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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