Tucked right around the corner from South Station in the Leather District hides one tech company that flies a bit under the radar in the Boston tech community: Influitive. Carving out its own sector within marketing, this customer advocacy platform helps B2B businesses transform their clients into brand evangelists.
Think of it like the HubSpot of customer advocacy.
Founded by CEO Mark Organ—the same entrepreneur who started and led marketing automation platform Eloqua for more than seven years— the company was born out of pain points Organ felt in his last company.
CUSTOMER ADVOCACY’S CONCEPTION
The concept for Influitive was conceived while Organ was at Eloqua.
As anyone in B2B SaaS sales will tell you, the buying process can be excruciatingly long— we’re not talking weeks, but months if not years long. To address this challenge at Eloqua, Organ followed the advice of his Boston-based mentor David Skok to get out from behind his desk and spend one-on-one time with customers. Doing so gave Organ an inside look at their buying process, challenges, and how they used the software.
Through his conversations, Organ noticed a common thread: Across customers who bought quickly, there was “tons of advocacy.”
“They’d see case studies, talk to great references, and that meant they were able to buy without the fear,” Organ explained. That said, connecting customers with like-minded business leaders and scaling a referral program can be difficult for sales and marketing teams— Eloqua included.
At the company’s first client award ceremony, the lightbulb went off for Organ.
“We gave awards to marketers [Eloqua’s customers]. They felt great and there was an explosion of advocacy as a result,” he said. “That’s when I realized that … this needed to be my next company.”
A NEED DRIVEN BY MODERN MARKETING
While today we see more and more companies hiring for roles like customer and advocate marketing, community management and the like, this wasn’t the case when Influitive launched in 2010.
“The need for social media sharing became really important [in 2010],” explained Organ. “Companies needed advocates for so many things: Referrals, references, social media. The need became so great and the pool of advocates so limited.”
Influitive makes finding and tapping this pool simple by helping brands engage existing customers and evangelists through gamified actions that drive referrals, recommendations, reviews, and other actions.
With the support of Influitive’s platform and team, companies build their unique advocacy “hub.” They then invite their clients to the hub, where they’re greeted by a variety of challenges to complete, earn points, and ultimately redeem rewards.
For example, if you were looking for feedback on the latest iteration of your product, you could set up a challenge in your Influitive hub that invites your clients to share their thoughts. In return, those clients would receive points (you decide the value). Once they’ve completed enough challenges, they redeem those points for rewards you’ve opted to offer— like gift cards, experiences, access to industry events, or any number of things.
“The challenge that advocacy programs have is identifying, mobilizing, and recognizing your best or most engaged customers,” said Irwin Hipsman, director of customer advocacy at Crimson Hexagon. “It can be difficult, because if you’re just waiting for people to tell you they’re engaged, you’re missing those who already but don’t necessarily raise their hands.
“A big goal of our program is to find out who those hidden advocates are,” he added.
Hipsman was an Influitive customer for five years at his previous company, Brainshark. In March, he brought the program to Crimson Hexagon. While it’s too early to talk major metric-driven program milestones, he is proud of one process-focused achievement.
“Now, we have one place to identify who we think our most engaged customers are,” said Hipsman, explaining how previously, everyone was operating off various, disjointed spreadsheets to track customer engagement.
“We’ve created discipline in the organization to systematically think about who are our potential advocates,” he added.
TAPPING TOP TALENT IN BOSTON
Launched in 2010, Influitive is headquartered in Toronto. It has raised nearly $50M in funding from a variety of investors - including Boston's Converge Venture Partners and Atlas Venture. Influitive’s Boston office opened in 2012, and today is home base to more than 20 employees.
“There is a surplus of talent in sales, marketing, and product in Boston. If we’re in a war for talent, [it] is a great place to set up an office,” said Organ. “I recommend Boston to my peers who are struggling to hire in Silicon Valley or even here in Toronto.”