What is Advocacy Marketing?
Simply put, advocacy marketing is a form of marketing that encourages existing customers to talk about your company and its products or services. Data suggests reaching out to customers to help promote your brand is becoming more important. LinkedIn research found that 84% of B2B buyers now start the buying process with referrals; yet only 20% of brands use advocates in their marketing programs.
Although advocacy marketing is more commonly associated with B2C marketing, most B2B companies practise it in some form, either using client case studies or testimonials. Some companies also ask clients directly for referrals. We know the value of clients talking positively about services; we understand other customers are more likely to listen to a business in the same industry or pay attention to a person with a similar job title who is facing similar challenges. Often advocacy based campaigns are implemented ad hoc or with specific marketing objectives in mind, rather than an ongoing program to use many brands’ most valuable assets—their customers.
What can customers do for you?
Why would they do this for you?
How do you implement this kind of program?
What customers can do for you
Activities you can involve customers in vary from simply sharing your content within their network to staffing your booths at trade shows. Yes, there are companies that get customers to manage their booths at trade fairs and speak to other customers. Imagine that! Not junior sales people or temp staff handing out brochures to prospects, but actual customers telling their stories to prospects in similar industries with similar job titles. Between these extremes are many other worthwhile activities, such as providing testimonials, writing product or service reviews, writing blogs and articles, being interviewed about your services, and appearing or speaking at your events.
Where would you find these customers? You can see who is commenting positively on social media about your services or those who have been satisfied with your customer service and support. You can also conduct surveys with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) format and approach the higher-scoring clients. These surveys are valuable to you anyway, as a way of finding out what your customers like—and don’t like—about you.
Why customers would want to be your advocate
According to the Wharton School of Business, 83% of satisfied customers are willing to recommend products and services; however, only 29% do so—possibly because they are not approached the right way.
I do believe a basic human instinct is to help. People are willing to help, if they can, and if there is no big direct cost to them, be that financial or time. This applies too in a professional, or B2B, environment. If a client is approached in the right way—if there is no disadvantage to them or their company, and you are asking for an appropriate investment of time—I believe most would react favorably. That should be the initial mindset. Advocates could participate for several reasons. A company such as influitive.com, a technology advocacy provider, identifies four categories of incentive for B2B customers:
Gamification: Attract them through some basic incentive, such as small, branded corporate goody bag items, a points system, game or badges. All of these are generally associated with B2C programs but also work in business. As influitive.com point out, B2B buying is a stressful business; making your advocate program a little fun or competitive can attract clients as advocates.
Influence: Other clients may value being considered an influencer. They gain satisfaction from providing feedback on products and services, communicating and sharing views with other peers in an advocacy network, and establishing a positive reputation for themselves.
VIPs: Show appreciation to advocates who invest time in your program. Treat them as genuine VIPs by inviting them to exclusive events and introducing them to your top management at meet-the-CEO opportunities.
Thought leaders: This is a status everyone seems to have in their LinkedIn profile these days, but, really, it’s something that can only be conferred by others. Give your best advocates a platform to be considered leaders in their field by asking them to speak at your events and getting them involved in whitepapers, e-books and other valued content assets.
How to implement this kind of program
Now, it may not be wise to jump straight in and ask your clients to write an e-book immediately; however, you can have a road map for your potential advocates. You can start by asking for small contributions, such as testimonials and social shares and/or likes, and build from there. Not all customers will complete the whole journey to end up speaking at your events, but it makes sense to have appropriate options available to them at every stage.
While advocacy programs can be run on a spreadsheet, different members of a marketing team can be involved, and you can start small, see the benefits and build. There is an argument for starting on a bigger scale. Just as retail outlets need to look a little busy to attract customers, so advocates are more likely to be attracted to busy schemes where they can see others are actively involved. There must be some balance between treating your advocate as special—acknowledging a certain exclusiveness—and being part of an engaged peer-to-peer community where they can network and benefit from sharing ideas. This is where it might make sense to utilise a technology platform to provide a central place for advocates to share with each other, a central place to manage them and their rewards, and to scale and segment activities.
The sites below, in no particular order, have some interesting information on advocacy programs, should you want to look into it further: