Ah yes, the obligatory customer logo slide. As an analyst you get to see a lot of these. (Too many, perhaps.) Any more, these slides mean less and less.

What matters in the digital world — what Forrester calls the "Age of the Customer" — is not how many companies or organizations you serve, but how much they appreciate working with you — and whether or not they are willing to tell others that they do. 

In B2B marketing, sharing customer logos is one small way of validating that you are an effective supplier of products and services. References are another. So are referred business and a host of other marketing programs aimed at turning customer goodwill into testimonial gold. In this digital age, where information accessibility and service-oriented business models favor buyers, it is essential to market with and through your advocates because:

  • Social opens up a new world of advocacy opportunities. Most B2B marketers and technology suppliers point to social sharing as the primary driver in making advocate marketing more important and effective today.
  • A subscription-centered economy makes retention essential. B2B firms must continue to demonstrate value to customers long after the ink dries on the contract to retain their business. Keeping the relationship fresh and top of mind is a key way to do that.
  • Operationalizing advocate marketing scales outcomes. B2B marketers are investing in advocacy to expand reference programs and encompass other aspects of the customer relationship beyond sales support. For little investment, many are seeing bigger returns.

The most successful companies today focus their strategy, execution, and budget on the technologies, systems, and processes that win, serve, and retain customers across their lifetime.  If the customer journey is now a cycle, then advocacy is the drive chain that keeps the flywheel of the customer relationship spinning. B2B marketers who understand this also enjoy:

  • A direct link between advocacy and revenue. Authentic recommendations and transparent sharing give prospects real insight into what it's like to work with you. We hear from many marketing communications folks — who are used to measuring their accomplishments in lines of ink, clicks, and shares — now start to generate leads and have a direct impact on sales from advocacy programs.  And they are thrilled to make those connections.
  • More personal and engaged customer relationships. I know you don't like to hear this, but most B2B marketers really don't know who their customers are or why they buy. Advocacy marketing closes that gap and helps marketing create personal relationships with customers at scale as they help spread the word about your company and offerings.
  • Higher brand reach at lower costs. Buyers trust peers; they want to hear how they made it work.  They want the inside skinny. So amplifying customer voices through a considered mix of media and channels will not only extend your reach, but do it in an authentic/trustworthy way.  Keep in mind: the best programs, however, start with "what's in it for" the customers who participate.  You have to give value first to get value back.

Globally we spend about $500 million on marketing and $9 billion on customer service (courtesy of @jaybaer who posted this little gem during the #advocamp tweet jam this past Monday, February 8.) What if we spent more of that $500 million on better experiences that made customer lives better? Wouldn't that approach take a big chunk out of the $9 billion that ends up as pure cost to our firms?

If you can't tell by now, I've grown passionate about advocate marketing and plan to do more writing and sharing on this topic during 2016.  To join me, you can:

1) Hear me speak on this topic at the Content2Conversion conference NEXT WEEK in Scottsdale, Arizona. (I'm on Tuesday afternoon at 4:20 pm)

2) Read my research on the topic:  Advocate Marketing Creates B2B Customer Relationships That Last A Lifetime,  Establish Your B2B Advocate Marketing Goals Before Choosing Tech Suppliers    (Subscription required)

3) Listen to my webinar on March 2.  1 pm ET/ 10 am PT.

4) Find me at Influitive's Advocamp on Tuesday, March 8. I'll be speaking on this topic at the only event dedicated to advocacy.

5) Take in my track session at the Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders:  April 26 in New York and May 23 in London.

Would love to learn how you are engaging your customers to build value and lasting relationships — so find/join me in any of these ways!  And join in!