This week, I am in Miami, building out an alumni engagement platform for a client. They realize that alumni are often forgotten when mapping out a company’s ecosystem. There are several types of stakeholders in this group:
- Ex-Employees: When I develop influencer, advocacy and other stakeholder programs, almost nobody wants to discuss their ex-employees. This is because senior management struggles with high turnover rates, keeping their current employees engaged and happy and with their old ‘out of sight,out of mind’ mentality. Some of a company’s biggest advocates can be their ex-employees (make sure they leave on good terms). They are the ones who will be sneaking onto Glassdoor writing reviews, writing instant messages about why they left and explaining in each future job interview ‘what happened and why they left their previous job.’ All these ‘engagements’ are opportunities to reinforce your company brand, recruit future workers, and advocate for your products. I left Intuit eight years ago, but to paraphrase Tommy Lasorda (the ex-Dodgers baseball manager) – “I still bleed (Dodger) Intuit blue.” Even more important is that since your ex-employees probably enjoyed your using your products, so they now can be net promoters for you in their new companies. Since I left Marketo last November, I have convinced three companies to use Marketo as their Marketing Automation Platform of choice. If staying in touch with your all your ex-employees, however, seems overwhelming than you could either create a community for them to engage with each other — and you engage with them or 2) you could focus first on the ones who seem the most inclined to stay in touch — your top advocates.
- Ex-Customers: Again, there’s an out of sight (or maybe out of website), out of mind phenomenon happening here. I was always frustrated that I could not let an ex-Marketo customer (individual) use their community account after they left their company for another company that doesn’t use Marketo. If they did this, they would loose their Marketo instance. Why can’t that ex-Customer can be your number one advocate in their new company? Ex-customers can be future customers. So, don’t break up with them. Instead, maintain that relationship with them. One of my clients, Melnic, a Health Practitioner recruiting site, knows that even after they place someone in a new job, it’s important to maintain a relationship with them so that they are top-of-mind when that person applies for a new job. Why don’t technology companies do this? Why don’t others? If they were once a user or a loyal advocate of your product, they could potentially generate more revenue for you later on.
- Ex-Partners: This is similar to ex-customers. In the Partner Economy, word travels fast. Even if a company no longer uses your service, make sure to maintain a relationship whenever possible. This can be as simple as an email drip campaign, or as I do, set up dates on my calendar to call them and check in. (Yes, the old school phone tactic.)
Why is it that only academic institutions think about alumni? (OK, Sports teams also do a good job with their older times days). Every organization should have a formal outreach program for their alumni. They should not be ignored, especially as word-of-mouth and referrals drive more and more sales for companies. This is also true for LinkedIn and Glassdoor, who should have an ex-coworker locator. (There are some employee grassroots type of company alumni groups on LinkedIn, but most are inactive). With these services, it’s really easy to find current employees (and jobs) at a company, but it’s not always so easy to find a company’s ex-employees. If you do a search on Apple, LinkedIn highlights current employees and job openings. (See below) I get nada, niente, zippo in terms of finding an company’s ex-employees. It’s as if there’s something icky about people who leave a company.
Hey, not all ex-employees have negative things to say about your organization. And if they do, there’s a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Remember: Every employee who steps out the door can be a future customer. Every ex-user can lead to another company buying your services.
Have you talked to an alum today?