As sales prospects rely more on word of mouth, they’re quickly shifting the way business buying decisions are made. And smart B2B marketers are leveraging this customer influence to the max to drive and nurture leads.
How are they doing this?
With advocate marketing.
If you’ve heard about it but aren’t sure how it works, read on.
What is advocate marketing?
Simply put, advocate marketing is the mobilization of customers, employees, partners, investors and other fans to provide support throughout a prospect’s buying process (including before your marketing and sales teams are ever engaged).
Marketers engage fans in fun activities and challenges around surveys, reviews, referrals or social campaigns. As their engagement deepens, they’re rewarded and recognized with points, recognition and awards.
As this army of advocates grows, their influence reaches prospects which turn into more leads, sales and ultimately, profit. It’s a big, powerful tribe-gathering movement!
Why advocate marketing works:
- Buyers trust their peers: When it comes to buying decisions, a recommendation from a friend or an online review is more trusted than branded company website information, email newsletters or editorial content, according to Nielsen. If your customers love you, chances are their peers will love you too!
- Happy customers are naturally inclined to help: They believe in your solution and have seen it impact their own success on the job. Advocate programs make it crystal clear how they can help, offer shortcuts to make it easier to do, and provide just enough recognition and rewards to motivate action.
- It deepens customer engagement: Customers are more likely to share feedback when they feel directly involved in a company’s success, so the benefits go beyond sales and can spill into product design, content marketing or positioning. In some cases, advocates even help plan product roadmaps and marketing calendars.
Once they’re mobilized and engaged, happy customers can become a brand’s most powerful influence. And marketers who tap into this passion are reaping benefits many times over.
Why marketers love it
Today’s buying environment is so transparent, which is why happy customers and fans are a B2B company’s biggest asset. Advocate-generated referrals have been shown to be 4-10 times as valuable as an average lead. That’s because continuous engagement attracts more leads, and then helps nurture them and close the deal. And that’s why tapping into their excitement makes so much sense.
The strongest advocates are those whose value extends beyond the buying cycle. They help acquire and retain customers, and then contribute to your business in other ways too. Here’s what it looks like:
- Awareness: Plant the seeds with referrals, through social media, and by sharing content and comments on blog posts.
- Consideration: Nurture leads with product reviews and case studies.
- Purchase: Help close the deal with customer testimonials and reference calls.
- Feedback: Improve your product, processes, marketing and more by sharing feedback or participating in user groups.
If advocates can boost sales and marketing efforts from end to end, how do you hook them and keep them coming back? Stay tuned for a future post on how to create valuable experiences to keep your advocates engaged.
Want to learn more? Download Influitive’s Advocate Marketing Playbook and discover how to turbocharge your next marketing campaign.
Chris Newton is VP of Business Development at Influitive. He started the first product-centric customer advisory board at Siebel, and created one of the earliest advocate marketing programs using Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform at Xactly before joining Influitive. In his life before software marketing, he was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and earned an MBA at Harvard.