A Cheat Sheet for B2B Marketers
The B2B buying cycle is long, competition is stiff and the stakes are high. So we as marketers often focus on lead generation and customer acquisition. We leverage automation, public relations, social media and the development of sales materials to bring prospects into our funnel and then nurture them until they are ready to buy. And then once they do buy, we politely thank them and then immediately go back to our churning and burning to convert the next prospect. There is a constant panic to fill the pipeline.
What’s wrong with that picture? We worked hard to convert a prospect into a customer. We overcame barriers, maybe even changed a purchasing mindset. We spent countless hours working with sales to determine what our prospects wanted to know or needed to know, then we spent even more time developing and delivering it on a silver platter. So when the sale is finally made, should our efforts with that new customer immediately sever to make room for the next prospect? How effective is that approach when considering the potential return on investment of our time and resources?
Advocate marketing isn’t necessarily a new concept, but one that is growing in popularity in the B2B space as digital and social sharing expands, catapulting the value of word of mouth (reviews, social shares, etc.) beyond even the most forward-thinking marketers’ wildest dreams. In fact, research from Forrester states 87% of B2B buyers are influenced by their colleagues when it comes to making large investments. Advocate marketing focuses on capitalizing on this power through a dedicated focus on a company’s customers who are willing to publicly support, endorse or recommend that company, its products, or its services.
If you’re considering the development of an advocate marketing program for your organization, here’s a quick cheat sheet on how to get started:
- Identify your advocates that exist today. Who is already eager to do a case study with you? Who actively shares and networks on social media? These are the types of customers to focus on first as you begin to build your program.
- Make the ask. Many customers who have had a positive experience with your product or service are willing to share their experiences. You just need to ask.
- Show them how to contribute. Your customers also want to be influencers within their fields, so giving them a forum to position themselves as such among peers is often appreciated. Companies like Influitive, Amplifinity (and many others) have developed referral software designed to capture referral and recommendation content from advocates. These platforms are also starting to link into CRMs and other business systems to help marketers quantify business results and the cost per customer acquired. But even if you don’t have access to those platforms you can still start small by asking people to share your content via social media, join you for a webinar co-presentation, work to partner on a case study or even provide a simple testimonial to illustrate the value your organization has delivered.
- Communicate regularly. Engage with your advocates frequently so they feel part of your organization.
- Reward the best. Advocate marketing is a great way to reward your best customers so consider what might be viewed as a perk to them. Don’t worry about financial incentives as much as offering them a sneak preview of a new product, or an opportunity to give feedback before something is launched. Private meetings with CEOs or other executive leaders may also be of interest. Gamefication is yet another way to motivate customers to share their personal experiences with a wider audience.
- Start small. There is no need to immediately engage with every customer who has ever had a positive experience. Identify a specific persona who represents your ideal target and then limit yourself to a small sample group. Even with a limited number of participants, if done correctly, you’re likely to see big gains. According to The Advocate Marketing Playbook, referral leads generated by B2B advocates are four to 10 times more valuable, shortening the sales cycle and producing larger order amounts.
If you’re already started to engage in a form of advocate marketing, what are some of the important observations you’ve made? Have you started to see measurable results related to your efforts?
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