Today’s leading B2B technology companies have one thing in common: they’re successfully engaging their customer advocates to build their brands and drive revenue (on both the retention and acquisition fronts).
According to a new report from Forrester’s Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos, formal advocate marketing programs “have a measurable, positive effect on your business, and fostering advocates is essential to becoming customer-obsessed.”
The report—Establish Your B2B Advocate Marketing Goals Before Choosing Tech Suppliers—describes how new advocate marketing technologies can help B2B marketers better serve and retain customers by enhancing the customer experience. (You can download it free here.)
Forrester interviewed 26 advocate marketing users and vendors and discovered that:
- Advocate marketing technology can unite fragmented customer engagement programs—like customer reference, referral, loyalty, success management and voice-of-the-customer initiatives—to create a cohesive strategy that spans the customer lifecycle.
- New advocate marketing technologies help to scale customer relationship-building while maintaining a personalized touch.
- Creating the best experience for advocates will encourage more activity and improve program results (such as increased pipeline and shorter sales cycles).
How to select B2B advocate marketing software
The Forrester report offers B2B marketers tips on how to choose the right advocate marketing software and build an effective program. According to Forrester, brands should look for a platform that:
1. Makes it easy for customers to advocate for you
B2B advocates spend most of their day in their email and CRM. Forrester states that it’s unrealistic to expect them to adopt another platform.
The report recommends fitting your program into your advocates’ daily workflow. For example, your technology should be capable of emailing new activities to advocates, so they can quickly take action. Your advocate marketing software should also support mobile, social sharing and content curation.
“The biggest benefit to our advocacy program is immediacy,” says Chris Peltz, Customer Success Operations Manager at HP Software. “You send out an activity…and customers jump on it; you don’t have to persuade them…Customers want to participate because they get value from the program.”
2. Boosts word-of-mouth
Today’s B2B customers don’t trust ads and avoid speaking with sales reps. According to Forrester, 74% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct their own research online, and many seek peer recommendations for new products and services.
Advocate marketing programs help B2B marketers connect with today’s skeptical buyers by turning your happiest customers into your top sales reps. Forrester recommends that you pick advocacy solutions “that use customer testimonial, goodwill and advocacy activity to demonstrate that you do what you say.” Through your program, customers should be offered opportunities to write reviews, submit referrals and serve as references.
“Advocacy creates a virtual cycle by influencing new people through social media and reviews; it initiates demand without spending,” explains Merissa Hamilton, former Manager of Customer Advocacy at Marketo.
3. Deepens advocate relationships
The more value customers get from your advocate marketing program, the more likely it is that they will become loyal ambassadors for your brand.
Look for advocate marketing software that helps you deepen relationships at scale. Forrester recommends finding a platform with data management and analytics. This will show you if you’re attracting advocates and engaging them for the long term—even when they move onto a new role at a different company.
“Traditional reference programs are about getting case studies or sales references from customers,” says Joan Jenkins, Senior Director of Marketing, Oracle. “Successful advocacy programs deepen those relationships by having conversations, understanding needs and giving buyers a platform to build their own and their company’s brand.”