The customer is not only king these days. He’s also Paul Revere.
One vehicle helping the customer spread the word to every village about your business is the advocate marketing platform Influitive. Today, the Toronto-based company — led by the founding CEO of marketing automation platform Eloqua, now owned by Oracle — announced it has landed $30.5 million so it can help enlist more messengers.
Advocates are customers or employees who are passionate about a brand and who help proselytize its products. Influitive focuses on B2B marketing, with an emphasis on challenges and rewards. It claims to help maintain for its 250+ customers an active monthly roster of about 20,000 advocates.
Advocacy marketing, when it works, can be a terrific lever for a business. Research firm Gartner, for instance, has found that the top source for 60 percent of business buyers looking to understand a technology provider’s competitive differences is other people in similarly sized companies.
Influitive offers an online community with exclusive content such as more info about a brand’s products, plus the ability to network with other fans. “Challenges” are tailored to each community member, based on usage, age, geography, and other factors, and may include actions like writing a review or sharing a referral.
Successfully completed challenges generate points, which can be traded for swag, discounts, or other goodies.
CEO and founder Mark Organ told me via email that HP Software wanted to stay in regular communication with customers so they were up-to-date on the company’s latest products.
“Email wasn’t working,” he said, so HP’s advocate marketing program used the Influitive platform to keep more than a thousand customers involved in events, content marketing, and product feedback.
The business analytics software company InsightSquared, Organ said, wanted more of a presence on software review sites like G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, and GetApp. It hoped to get 10 reviews in three months, starting from zero, but “they blew past their initial goal and received 100-plus genuine customer reviews” via the platform in 90 days.
Some competitors in this space, like Addvocate-Trapit and SocialChorus, concentrate on leveraging their employees’ social media channels and company-generated content. Amplifinity offers an automated, white-labeled platform, while Zuberance has tools like publishing to third-party review sites. Extole and Boulder Logic provide automated customer referrals.
Organ distinguishes his company by its “more comprehensive,” self-service, rewards-driven community.
He said the idea came in 2005 when he was at Eloqua, from a suggestion by a venture capitalist to find out “why some sales processes closed in four days rather than four months.”
“In every case,” Organ told me, “these fastest buying processes were crawling with advocates.” Referral leads, he said, have a value ten times that of ordinary leads,”because of their speed of closing, low cost of sale and service, higher order size, and higher propensity to advocate themselves once they became paying customers.” But Organ said they couldn’t find a reliable tool to generate more advocacy from customers, and he filed the idea away for later.
This series B round, which brings the total raised for the 2010-founded company to $41.5 million, was led by Georgian Partners, with participation from OurCrowd, Atlas Venture, Docomo Capital, BDC Capital IT Venture Fund, and previous investors Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Illuminate Ventures, Resolute Ventures, Relay Ventures, and First Round Capital.
Organ said the new money will help scale the company to meet the current demand, and will “increase growth through product and global expansion.”