Utilizing advocates that are excited to share their positive outlook on your product(s) is a low-cost marketing and sales strategy.
Within the B2B, advocacy can be directed down two different paths.
- Externally – Enhancing marketing strategies to create new sales.
- Internally - Expanding sales within a company you already have a product within.
Tactics and measures taken to share the stories of your advocates will function both externally and internally. Meaning that no matter how you use the voice of your customer, sharing their positive stories will benefit both expansion and new sales.
However, some methods are more suited to expansion and others more effective within marketing. So, while all advocacy measures work both externally and internally, the following is merely a guide of how use advocates for new sales through marketing differently from advocates for sales through expansion.
Within B2B if your customers are pleased with your product then more often than not, they want to spread the word about you. For the more successful they make you, the more benefits they will enjoy.
[caption id="attachment_14349" align="alignright" width="257"] Treat your customers as partners for a much more effective advocacy program[/caption]
So, what’s lacking? It’s that extra push by you! For although they want to talk about you, you need to be the one creating the capacity to do so.
To do this advocates need to be treated as more than just customers they should become partners. And while the term “partnership” is thrown around a lot, repositioning your most loving customers (if possible all your customers) as such, moves you from a self-interested relationship to one of mutual beneficence.
Creating partners for marketing
Online there is a wide array of methods for getting the voice of your advocates out there. Case studies, testimonials, user forums or social media platforms, webinars, guest blogging and video are just some of the ways companies can use the voice of their advocates.
Be collaborative and open to ideas. Give advocates a degree of freedom to tell their story in the way they want. If they have an idea, medium or strategy that you might not have considered - listen, discuss and find a solution together.
Allowing equal input creates a sense of ownership, and thus greater engagement on the part of the advocate.
Offline create user events and demonstration days whereby users can share ideas amongst each other and talk to potential clients. Success stories can be shared through large on-stage addresses or more intimate peer-to-peer groups.
[caption id="attachment_14367" align="alignright" width="284"] User events - a great way to give that more personal touch in your advocacy program[/caption]
Such measures have the strength of letting potential customers interact face to face with current customers. The message transmitted then comes from current users who can speak of the benefits. Such advocacy measures though are more suited to the bottom of a purchase funnel, where the interactivity with your current customers can really add weight to the decision-making process.
Furthermore, both online and offline advocacy helps keep the “community” of your customers together – improving retention. Continual stories and discussions from not just advocates but all customers, means customers facing problems with your product(s) do not feel completely alone in their struggles.
However, user events, demonstration days and forums are particularly apt at letting customers share ideas and learn from each other. Letting them find solutions to problems from users who have lived it themselves.
N.B. Both online and offline, advocacy should focus not just on the good times. Stories should convey obstacles or problems advocates faced, explanations of solutions that your partnership created and how this drove their business forward. Such measures will create an image of credibility not just amongst potential customers but also amongst the rest of your customer base.
Internal customer advocacy is all about Customer Success
Those customers that give positive feedback or score you highly, are also a great opportunity to expand further within a company. Maintain their success with your product, and they and the product will do the talking for you.
Creating partnerships for internal advocacy can be divided into three steps:
- Survey your customers - what is going well, what is not going well and what is simply redundant. Respond and discuss with customers their feedback. Create a dialogue of how to make the product more valuable for them.
- Discovering key improvements, don’t leave your customer out in the cold while you create the solution. Make them a part of problem solving and further product design. Don’t report on their behalf - make them a part of product development. Collaborate continually and find solutions together!
- After implementing new solutions, resurvey, discover the impact of changes made and repeat the process above.
AppDynamics is one such company that does just this. One tactic it employs to create a strong sense of partnership, is in making entire development teams sit down with customers instead of just a select few. The result such partnership focused methods is an NPS® score of 87.
Creating an open atmosphere whereby you work with customers rather than dictate to them, creates internal advocacy by making your customers successful with your product(s). Partnerships are vital to expansion strategies, as customers feel that you are not just looking to improve your product for the future but also for them in the here and now.
- The voice of your advocates, no matter how you utilize it, will help both your ability to expand sales within a company and create new sales.
- But, some measures will work better at creating new sales while others will help your expansion within a company.
- However, for strong committed advocacy, customers need to be considered as partners not resources.
- Marketing needs to create platforms and means to share the success stories of your advocates, such as case studies, webinars, user events and forums.
- This will not only create new leads in your pipeline but strengthen the loyalty of your existing customers.
- Advocating internally is highly dependent on Customer Success more than marketing. Users should find value in your product, meaning the success of your product and relationship does the advocating itself.