Customer advocates can help B2B marketers take advantage of the passion of their most loyal fans, and deliver business value.
“When customers get angry or upset today, they have a lot more power to disrupt your brand then they did in the past,” noted Laura Ramos, vice president/principal analyst, Forrester, speaking at Forrester’s Marketing 2016 event in New York this week. “We all know B2B buyer behavior has changed.
Forrester studies shows that three-quarters of B2B buyers do research online, and over half prefer online research rather than talking to a salesperson. But that doesn’t mean they’re not talking to anyone—they’re sharing their thoughts and experiences with peers on sites like LinkedIn, SpiceWorks, Glassdoor and CrunchBase.
Of course, it isn’t all bad. In the digital world, there’s also fanatical fans of your brand who love you “You will always have a subset who love what you do and will be advocates for your products and services ,” said Ramos. “Advocate marketing is about taking advantage of those fans.”
Advocate marketing uses strategy, budget and resources to encourage customers to act on behalf of your company, without necessarily expecting a specific benefit, and extends the reach of your marketing efforts.
Empowered customers are great advocates, she said. “If you extend your hand out first, wonderful things will happen as a result but you have to be willing to take that risk.”
When building an advocate marketing plan, think about the customer lifecycle, rather than the buyer’s funnel, said Ramos. Follow customers’ steps in the way they go through their journey with your brand.
There are several important elements to a customer advocate plan, including education and validation. Certain types of customers love to help other people, Ramos noted. They want to share and be seen as an expert. These “teachers” will be active in your community and social forums. Consider asking them to do reviews and offer tips and feedback.
People want to be seen as doing the right thing by peers within their company, she added. Again, potential advocates concerned about personal validation are prime candidates to offer references for your brand, online product reviews and case studies.
Of course, to be successful in creating customer advocates, you have to have happy customers. “If things are going wrong, don’t think advocate marketing will work for you,” she said. “Think of the customer first, don’t just think about what is in it for you.”