“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“No — no — I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence . . . it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“Oh come, now — lemme just try. Only just a little — I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

(From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens)

Last year’s B2B Marketing Forum introduced the B2B “Consumer” (subscription required) and why it is important for marketers and sellers to obsess over this new, empowered business buyer. Here’s a few important things to note about customer-obsessed marketers:

  1. While they may look similar to their customer-naive peers, they are quite different animals.
  2. They build customer relationships that don’t end with a purchase — they last a lifetime.
  3. Top B2B marketers respect their buyers’ preferences and needs and are determined to earn their buyers’ trust.
  4. They win that trust and make lasting connections by adopting an empathetic mindset and approach to their marketing.

You may be thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot to digest. Can there be much more to becoming a customer-obsessed marketer?” To which I would answer, “We’re just scratching the surface.”

Enter, stage right: B2B customer advocacy.

Customer-obsessed marketers embrace customer advocacy — they spend as much time and attention on turning customers into advocates as they do turning prospective leads into qualified opportunities. When approached strategically, programs aimed at marketing to and with your customers pay off in powerful secondary effects: These programs get your customers to do your selling for you.

Skeptical? If so, consider these questions:

  • Why is advocacy important?
  • Why should marketers measure the impact of customer marketing in terms of advocacy?
  • How do you make a case to stakeholders to invest in such a program?
  • How do you identify your ideal advocates, and how do you engage them?
  • How do you motivate customers to become advocates?
  • What does success look like?

I’ll answer all these questions and more in a planned report titled “Make Your Customers Your Celebrities In Post-Sale Marketing.” If you come to the Forum, you’ll hear more about it from me in person.

Now, you might be wondering why I started this post with Twain’s Tom Sawyer and how he convinces some unsuspecting boys that the drudgery of painting a fence is actually a rare skill and privilege. Mark Twain reflected on Tom’s cleverness, sharing that “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain . . . Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

Isn’t that just what most B2B marketers dream of — customers who participate willingly in tough assignments such as publishing case studies or speaking at events? Having a whole list of buyers who don’t feel obliged when you ask them for a reference or referral? Of course it is: 84% of customer marketers we surveyed said customer influence/advocacy programs are more important today because prospects want more authentic information, not branded messaging. To get that kind of great information (i.e., the painted fence), you need customers to help deliver it. Treating them like celebrities — and giving them access to something exclusive — is the surest way to turn feelings of obligation into heartfelt motivation, to turn their goodwill into the content and interaction gold that prospective buyers crave.

I hope you’ll join me on October 25–26 in Austin, Texas to learn how some top marketers are doing this today. It’s worth sticking around for the full second day to catch.