Use Customer Advocacy to Blow Out Your Demand Gen Targets and Blow Away Your Competition
Most B2B marketers know that customer advocacy is the fuel that powers effective marketing. Often referred to as “voice of the customer marketing,” it should be a goal for every marketing leader in a SaaS business to continually foster, recruit, and promote customer advocates. What follows is an important lesson for all marketers. It is drawn from what I consider to be one of the best examples I have ever witnessed of how a company harnessed customer advocacy to ignite its marketing and blow away much larger, established competitors in a mature software market. After sharing this history lesson with you, I will point you to a best-in-class framework for creating a highly effective customer advocacy program of your own.
How Marketing the Voice of the Customer Can Help Fuel Explosive Growth
One of my favorite voice of the customer marketing success stories is ServiceNow [NYSE: NOW]. ServiceNow ended its fiscal year in 2013 with revenues of $424.7 million, an increase of 74% compared to the prior year. But back in 2009, it was a fledgling SaaS startup competing against industry giants like BMC Software, HP and IBM in the mature, multi-billion dollar IT Service Management software market. At the time, the company was busy creating delighted customers while marketing on a shoestring budget.
ServiceNow provides a fascinating and highly informative case study of how voice of the customer marketing, when done right, can replace almost all other forms of brand and demand-gen marketing while delivering outsized results in terms of customer acquisition and top-line growth. These of course are common objectives for every SaaS business.
Below is an excerpt from an article written about the company’s uncanny marketing success at that time.
According to San Diego Business Journal on February 13, 2009: “Service-now.com, an information technology support company in Solana Beach, said it has generated $20 million in revenues in fiscal year 2009, which ends July 1, following a record first half.
Recommended for YouWebcast: The Art of Growth Hacking: Gaining Early Traction by Doing Things that Don't Scale
Here are some of ServiceNow.com’s marketing strategies:
- Let their raving fan customers speak for them. Customers regularly join the company’s webinars as guest speakers and participate on panels at trade shows. Word of mouth marketing doesn’t get any better than that. The company captures the testimonials for re-use.
- Event marketing. The company puts on 6-7 events per month. Webinars attract 300-500 attendees. They never miss the IT industry key trade events and leverage them for all they can. ServiceNow.com’s customer fans stand in their trade show booth, pull in passers-by and rave about the service.
- Regional Industry events: They are finding more success at Regional events with the tight economy and lower travel budgets (Have you looked for regional industry events to participate in and find new customers?)
- Leverage Partners’ databases. They use partners’ databases to promote webinars. Could be how attendance numbers are so enviable. (Think about your partners—can you create a cross-event-promotion partnership?)
- Social Media & Web 2.0. ServiceNow offers customers and prospects a number of ways to participate with the company, and each other online. Transparency is their mantra; they require user, web visitor registration in very few places. Many of ServiceNow.com employees are on Twitter. CEO-Founder Fred Luddy included. The company was nominated for a Groundswell Award from Forrester 2009).
- Wiki: all product documentation and info about software update is provided there.
- Community: 7,000 of Service-Now.com’s 36,000 users participate in their online community.”
An Advocacy Framework for Voice of the Customer Marketing
For those of you are considering a customer advocacy initiative of your own, I present this framework to help you get started. Importantly it will help focus you on the key goals, artifacts, synergies and critical success factors for such a program. As always, if you found this article to be useful, please pay it forward by sharing it and tweeting about it. And of course for more of the same as well as some great curated content, go ahead and subscribe to my SaaS Marketing Blog and weekly newsletter.