Give Advocates the Floor: Authenticity Matters for Customer Engagement
- B2B buyers and customers are digitally savvy and rely on peer insight for decision-making
- Successful organizations must encourage customers to share their knowledge freely
- The customer advocacy ecosystem that enables knowledge sharing includes a range of online and offline platforms
Editor’s note: This is one of a three-part series exploring the future of customer engagement.
Customer advocates can be a powerful force throughout the buying cycle and customer lifecycle. B2B organizations should think of the advocacy experience as more of a game of Chutes and Ladders than Candyland. The latter board game has a clear start and finish, where everyone takes the same path, little to no strategy is required, and payoff occurs at the end. In Chutes and Ladders, however, opportunities for action (and potential consequences) abound at every juncture.
B2B buyers demand information from – and access to – existing customers and consider the resulting insight one of the most reliable drivers for decision-making. Our future vision for customer engagement identifies authenticity as one of several undeniable trends that will affect this discipline in the next three to five years. Companies win when they enable advocates to engage throughout the buying cycle and customer lifecycle rather than limit advocacy to support specific sales opportunities as a reference.
Here’s how to build a customer advocacy ecosystem that has a lasting and demonstrable impact:
- Motivate your advocates. Individuals have different reasons for their interest in advocacy, and those reasons may differ by persona, industry and region. Building a customer advocacy program for the long haul starts with knowing enough about customers to understand why they might participate. Do they seek professional validation, the pride of being an expert sought for their opinion? Do they desire opportunities to network? Access to executives or other exclusive benefits? Creating an advocate persona and understanding what motivates advocates is one of the first steps in our Customer Advocacy Framework.
- It’s quantity and quality. To some extent, creating a powerful customer advocacy program is a numbers game. Data from the SiriusDecisions Command Center® shows correlation between the volume of advocates and an organization’s ability to show an impact on more than 50% of new and cross-sell or upsell revenue. More advocates means more options and variety, whether it’s a specific reference request or participation in an intriguing success story. But quality also matters. Fledging advocacy programs in growth mode may find that they have more advocate volume, but many of the stories are similar: The majority of the advocates use the same product or are in the same region or industry. The solution is deploying a strategy that considers the business needs, rather than pursuing only advocates who are “more of the same.”
- Consider all the places where advocates can inform. A reference program in which customers are asked to visit with a potential buyer during a sales cycle is often the first step in customer advocacy. But there are so many other places advocates can support both buyers and customers. Start with an understanding of the buying cycle and the customer lifecycle – SiriusDecisions has flagship models for both – to determine where a customer might be a great fit and get satisfaction at that point. Advocates can help educate their peers, inspire them, demonstrate value to buyers and existing customers, and allow others to learn from their mistakes and triumphs.