Customer Advocacy Provides a B2B Competitive Edge that Lasts a Lifetime

Apr 20, 2017

Your brand advocates are your secret marketing weapon.

Harnessing the people who use and love your products and services—and deliberately inserting them into your marketing and sales process—is the holy grail of business growth.

There are many advantages of making customer advocacy an enterprise-wide objective. Selling more to existing customers is easier and it’s more profitable than finding new ones to sell to. They bring more organic leads through referrals than any advertisement you can buy. Additionally, brand advocates are far more likely to share product information online using social media, email, and word of mouth.

Capitalizing on these most loyal customers builds awareness that drive sales, increases revenue, and can have a dramatic effect on the way you’re perceived. Basically, consumers who are highly connected can directly influence purchases.

In an era when an increasing percentage of customer journeys are taking place outside sales funnels, brands need to look at the bigger picture. The competitive advantage comes from knowing your buyers and using that knowledge to better serve and build emotional connections with them.

To keep the advocate pipeline filled with emotionally connected customers, should you give incentives such as rewards, points, or discounts? Many customers consider these type of advocacy programs out of context. Points have become pointless and rewards are driving the wrong behavior. Customers prefer companies who understand their needs and listen to them.

To fully benefit from a customer-centric approach requires customer advocate leaders, a formalized process, effective communication channels, and a healthy dose of technology.

Here are key elements to consider.

A Demand for Real Data and Insights

Customers create data for us everywhere they go. Brands need to make sure they’re listening to and understanding their customer’s problems. There are various new tracking, social listening, and monitoring tools enabling business to gather data-driven insight to understand how consumers and customers relate to businesses and brands. Businesses also need to build analytics into their advocacy programs and ensure they have resources dedicated to collecting and collating real-time statistics and data. Through data you can plan, run, measure, and improve the effectiveness of the program.

Advocate Sourcing and Engagement Opportunities

Begin by uncovering story opportunities and mobilize your most dynamic advocates. Be specific about the impact that your solutions had on your client’s business. Promote achievements through corporate storytelling that ties into customer and company goals. Partnering in order to share relatable evidence to their customers is mutually beneficial—a win-win-win for the client, their customers, and your company. Develop customer references, use customer evidence that can lead your sales and marketing campaigns, generate case studies, and deliver content that can be used across many marketing channels. Position your customer advocates to engage with their peers dealing with similar issues. Identify ways to promote their success stories and foster professional relationships—speaking at industry events, hosting webinars, and co-publishing white papers.

Tell Stories that Convert, Not Bore

Text, text, and more text = boring. If you’re looking to impact enterprise-level purchasers who are looking for solutions, you need to provide credible, relatable, and powerful evidence early in the buying cycle. Case studies and customer references served in engaging ways can accomplish this. There’s compelling value in the direct validation of how your product or services has benefited your customers’ business or life. And don’t be afraid to get emotional. Creating emotional moments greatly influences and, in many cases, even determines purchasing choices. In particular, video content allows you to bring out the personality of a customer and their business better than any other marketing deliverable.

Show Appreciation for Loyal Communities

Keep in mind that advocates are motivated in different ways and programs need to account for that. It can be a rigorous exercise to ensure you’re always focused on driving a fair exchange of value between the audience and the business. Understand the difference between recognition and reward. Advocates should not be made to feel like they’re being paid for their support. They are looking for genuine recognition.

Think creatively. Develop tools to keep the relationship with your advocate evergreen, personable, and interesting. Cultivate loyalty by delivering tools for them to create their own unique content pieces that reflect who they are. Give them a heads-up about new product launches, sneak peeks, and exclusives insights into what you’re working on. Reach out to thank them, show gratitude by sharing content they are creating about your brand, and provide recognition by featuring it on your website and social channels. 

Break Down Silos to Work Together

Marketing professionals are developing strategies and programs to engage buyers in every stage of their journey. However, customer advocacy isn’t just something the marketing department does—it affects everyone. If a company sincerely advocates for its customers, the choices it makes should align the whole business around the customer. Breaking down silos and starting communication that leads toward the same goal will move you one step closer to a culture of customer advocacy.

As B2B organizations embrace customer programs and cultivate advocacy, they’ll appreciate the benefits of building a long-lasting and influential advocate foundation. Nurturing successful, happy customers who promote your business is an important asset—and it can have a lifetime impact for your brand and empower your marketing initiatives.

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