• Roundtables result in great conversations that provide tangible benefits to attendees and valuable insights to SiriusDecisions
  • Bob Peterson recently hosted a roundtable discussion in Boston on the topic of customer advocacy
  • Many companies note an apparent generation gap when it comes to customer advocacy support in B2B

Clients of SiriusDecisions interact with us (and each other) in a number of different settings – ranging from our annual Summit to regional client forums, client roundtables and individual inquiries.  While each of these offer unique value, I find the roundtable format to be particularly interesting because it allows a small group of like-minded individuals to focus on a defined topic. Roundtables consistently result in great conversations that provide tangible benefits to attendees and valuable insights to SiriusDecisions.

I recently had the opportunity to host a roundtable in Boston on the topic of customer advocacy. It was graciously hosted by David Coates, customer marketing manager at Iron Mountain (thanks, David!), and attended by marketers from EnerNOC, MathWorks, Rapid7, Dynatrace, Bullhorn, Dyn, and Intralinks, along with several folks from Iron Mountain. 

As roundtables often do, the conversation covered a broad spectrum; however, five advocacy themes rose to the top of the list:

1.    Internal advocacy is critical. 

Customer advocacy is clearly rising as a topic of interest in B2B; however, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require care and feeding internally.  The roundtable participants noted the important of securing (and maintaining) executive and organizational buy-in to the importance and contributions of advocacy.

2.    Advocate sourcing continues to be a challenge.

The roundtable participants universally indicated that identification of advocates is high on the list of challenges.  Most noted that this is particularly problematic in highly regulated industries, although anonymous advocate activities are still useful.  Securing sales involvement with sourcing advocates continues to plague many organizations – most participants indicated that no formal requirement for sales to help with advocate sourcing was in place.  An interesting geographical disparity in terms of advocate participation was noted by the group; most indicated more success with EMEA customers participating in advocacy activities relative to their North American client base.

3.    Advocacy rewards are varied. 

The roundtable participants reported a wide range of reward mechanisms in place for customer advocates. The spectrum ranged from discounts on products to increased access to company resources to facilitating influence on product direction. 

4.    Measurement of advocacy efforts is critical. 

The roundtable reported general challenges for measuring and reporting on customer advocacy activity and impact.  One of the participants showed compelling new efforts to embed advocacy dashboards within a CRM system, residing right alongside other key marketing measures such as demand and pipeline activity. The group agreed this type of effort is essential to proving the value of customer advocacy activities.

5.    Emerging technologies are improving advocacy productivity. 

Most roundtable participants were aware of the core advocacy technologies on the market, but few noted full implementation of these solutions.  Most attendees have an online customer community in place, for example, but few are using it to support advocacy development.  About half of the attendees had a customer reference platform in place, while just a handful utilized a customer advocate marketing platform.

One final discussion item from the group that I wanted to share: many companies noted an apparent generation gap when it comes to customer advocacy support in B2B.  Specifically, Millennials seem to be particularly savvy when it comes to tapping into and measuring the impact of customer advocacy.  It’s an interesting observation from the roundtable participants and one that may speak to the changing nature of this critical role.