Top B2B brands know customer advocacy is the ultimate way to retain customers, win buyers’ hearts and minds and grow their businesses. Brands prioritize advocacy because it works.
It’s not unusual for businesses to have strong customer connections. Advocacy programs take these relationships a step further. They turn loyal customers into brand promoters. Advocates share the results they’ve achieved using a company’s products and services. Their firsthand experiences and insights are golden for brands and buyers.
How brands win
Businesses that have advocacy programs treat customer relationships as an investment. They engage and support advocates. Furthermore, they communicate with them often and seek their input. As a result, advocates tend to stay with brands for the long term. Increased retention contributes to sustained revenue.
Advocacy programs also help drive business growth. Advocates influence buyers’ purchase decisions with authentic feedback about brands’ products and services. Buyers tend to trust their peers’ opinions. This is especially the case when they face similar business challenges.
Finally, advocacy is an engine for customer-first content that resonates with buyers. Customer stories provide tangible evidence that brands deliver. Businesses can use these assets in their marketing and branding initiatives.
How advocates win
Customer advocates also benefit from being brand champions. First, they can network and connect with one another. Second, they can tap the group’s expertise and knowledge. Moreover, they can contribute to product development. As another benefit, advocates often gain increased visibility in their industries. As a result, they can become go-to resources for thought leadership.
For example, they may contribute valuable content for brands, participate in speaking engagements and share their experiences on social media. These and other advocacy activities enhance their professional reputations. They can also open the door to new networking and career opportunities.
In addition, advocates may qualify for incentives. Some companies gamify advocacy and reward customers for their support. But advocacy leaders agree that perks aren’t the main motivation for engagement. Instead, advocates are invested in brands’ long-term success.
4 top insights from advocacy experts
Experienced customer advocacy leaders shared key insights to help businesses succeed with their programs:
1. Get executive buy-in.
Customer-led growth initiatives, including advocacy programs, require consistent funding. As a result, the C-suite must recognize the importance of and support these efforts. Brands can connect advocacy to revenue growth with data on:
A customer-focused approach drives financial success and brand loyalty.
“Pre-advocacy, our revenue growth was about 25 percent month to month,” says Cynthia Asije, CEO of Craftmerce, a B2B platform that connects African brands with global retailers. “But after we started our program [a little more than a year ago], we’ve grown our revenue by 44 percent month to month.”
2. Be patient.
Building customer relationships that provide meaningful results takes time. Don’t expect instant results. That will only lead to disappointment and setbacks. Brands must spend time getting to know customers before asking them to become advocates.
“If you’re starting from scratch, it may take a year to make a significant impact,” says Jennifer Doyon, principal at Referential Inc., a customer marketing and advocacy agency. “You’ll see progress before that, but it takes time to nurture customers and build trust to the point where they’ll freely advocate for you.”
Andrew Sevillia, who’s led advocacy programs at multiple companies, recommends following the “give to get” approach before asking customers for anything. For example, schedule introductory calls with prospective advocates to get to know them better.
“Introduce yourself, introduce them to the community. Maybe introduce your program,” Sevillia says. “Give them the chance to learn more about your products without asking for anything in return.
“These are nurture opportunities,” he continues. “Monitor their journey through those opportunities, and once they’ve met a certain threshold, ask them if they’d like to become advocates. You could say something like, ‘We want to celebrate and document your successes [using our products and services].’ It’s important to warm them up to the idea of advocacy.”
3. Start small and build on successes.
Identify a few brand champions who are willing to help in a number of ways. Examples include:
- Providing testimonials
- Being interviewed for case studies
- Participating in webinars
- Speaking with prospective customers
- Joining customer advocacy boards
After locking in several customer advocacy wins, double down on those successes.
“The more you can support your customers and their success, the more you can build them up as experts in your product,” says Karilla Dyer, customer references manager at Wrike, a cloud project management software company. “The more successful they are [in using your product], the happier they’ll be.”
4. Invest in customer advocacy software.
Customer advocacy software is a must-have, Dyer and Doyon say. It helps businesses manage and track loyalty, including the activities advocates wish to engage in, how often they wish to participate and their past engagement. The software typically includes tools for collecting data, engaging customers, managing advocacy campaigns and tracking advocacy outcomes, such as influence on revenue.
“You need the right tools for your advocacy program to excel,” Doyon says. “Customer advocacy software saves you time and money in managing your most valuable asset – your customers.”
Create compelling content that B2B buyers trust
B2B marketers have their work cut out for them in building credibility and trust with prospective buyers. Societal and technological changes, obtrusive sales pitches and competing marketing messages have left buyers wondering who – and what – to believe.
Brands can restore buyers’ trust by sharing advocates’ positive stories and experiences. Customer advocates don’t have C-suite mandates, sales quotas or hidden agendas. Therefore, prospective customers perceive their feedback as authentic. Advocates can speak to pain points, use cases, benefits, common questions and solutions.
“Our advocacy program has been instrumental in helping us generate organic content for our marketing initiatives,” Asije says. “Furthermore, the content resonates deeply with our target audience.”
Advocacy content can include:
- Written and video testimonials
- Blog posts on common customer pain points and solutions
- Articles about customers challenges, solutions and experiences
- Customer success stories and profiles
- Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Social media posts
- Product how-to guides based on customer feedback and usage
- Product video tutorials
- Exclusive content for advocates
4 pro advocacy content tips
Be sure to follow the four expert tips below when creating advocacy-based content for long-term success.
1. Stick to an established content strategy.
Before creating content from advocates’ feedback, brands should refer to their content strategies. The topics they cover and the content they produce should align with these strategies. In other words, brands should drive the conversation rather than advocates.
“We know the kinds of content we want, and we try to find advocates who can support that narrative,” Dyer says. “I want to put advocates’ stories in the right place. And I want those stories to complement what we’re already working on as a team.”
Craftmerce has a content strategy but also seeks advocate input for topic suggestions.
“If we create content they want, we know they’ll read it and share it with their peers,” Asije says.
2. Let customers tell their stories.
If possible, be flexible and let customers’ voices come through in their stories, Doyon says. The content will be more authentic than if marketers try to put their own spin on it.
“We all talk about making the customer the hero,” she says. “But do we allow their voice to lead the story or do we change it to sound like a marketing pitch? Buyers will see right through that.”
3. Repurpose content.
Avoid advocate burnout by repurposing content for multiple channels. For example, interview a customer advocate for a case study. From that content, create a testimonial and a couple of social media posts.
“I would rather ask a customer to do a webinar and repurpose it into five blog articles than ask them to do five blog articles,” Dyer says.
How should brands decide what content to start with?
“It depends on where you can make the biggest impact,” Doyon says. “For example, if a customer will participate in a video interview, you can slice and dice that in so many ways.”
4. Budget wisely.
Prioritize creating quality content, but don’t get hung up on everything being perfect.
“We recently recorded video of customers giving testimonials over Zoom,” Dyer says. “Our [graphic] designer was able to put them together quite nicely. That’s something anyone can do for a fairly low cost.
“Content should be valuable, but it doesn’t have to be this big, beautiful video every time.”
How to use advocacy content to stand out
It’s no secret that the sales cycle for B2B businesses is a long and challenging road. Buyers don’t want to hear from brands until they’ve completed their research and are close to making purchase decisions. Meanwhile, many brands have similar products and services and compete for the same pool of customers. In short, traditional marketing may not be enough to win them over.
On the other hand, customer advocacy content can elevate brands and make them stand out. Satisfied customers’ authentic stories and outcomes are powerful proof points that inspire confidence in brands’ solutions. Through advocacy content, prospective customers can envision how they’ll benefit, too. Their firsthand accounts are much more convincing than generic marketing messages. Brands can publish advocacy content in many places, including their websites, email newsletters, blogs, social channels, podcasts and sales materials.
Advocacy creates a ripple effect
When enthusiastic customers become brand promoters, they amplify positive word-of-mouth, attract buyers and influence purchasing decisions. They create a ripple effect for brands by helping them drive new business development, reduce acquisition costs and contribute to revenue growth. Advocacy programs are an investment in brands’ long-term success.