Every customer represents a valuable acquisition. Yet some customers are a virtual gold mine when they start sharing the benefits of doing business with your company. Their referrals are a great way to engage new buyers, drive passive sales, and generate new business. 84% of B2B decision makers start the purchase process with a referral. Peer word of mouth recommendations influence over 90% of all B2B buying decisions. It’s vital to identify and nurture those vocal customers who will boost public awareness of your brand. They are known as brand advocates. Chances are they are already all around you.
Who Are Brand Advocates in B2B?
Brand advocates are committed buyers who volunteeringly recommend your business to others based on their own authentic, positive customer experience. They publicly sing the praises to your brand and through their actions, help convert others to it. Testimonials, product reviews, posts about positive experiences, and even comments on community forums are just a few examples the ways brand advocates create content just because they love your products or service. Brand advocates in B2B are committed to your products. They don’t easily switch vendors and are less subject to churn. They want to build long-term relations with their suppliers. Identify and cultivate your most enthusiastic and loyal customers to grow a strong advocate community around your brand.
More Reasons to Cultivate Brand Advocacy
Don’t underestimate the power of brand advocacy. Brand advocates are up to 3 times more effective than regular, satisfied customers in inspiring others to purchase. According to Deloitte, customers referred by advocates have a 37% higher retention rate. A 12% increase in advocacy leads to a 200% increase in revenue growth. That’s just the beginning of the benefits. Here’s what brand advocates can do for your business:
- Refer new prospects and positively influence their first opinion about your brand.
- Diversify the audience potentially interested in your brand.
- Help build more trust in your company and improve customer credibility.
- Help both promote brand’s positive image and increase overall brand awareness.
- Provide valuable customer insights and voice new product ideas.
Brand advocacy is a powerful competitive differentiator for B2B businesses that makes expanding brand reach easier and promoting brand authenticity less expensive.
Identifying Prospective Brand Advocates in B2B
On average, up to 40% of a B2B company’s customer base are advocates. Do you know your brand advocates? If not, identify them as soon as possible. To segment your existing customer base, use your CRM and take a close look at these groups:
Highly satisfied buyers and repeat customers. These customers are happy with products or services and have already shared positive feedback directly with your customer service and sales teams.
NPS Promoters. First, run the net promoter score (NPS) survey to track customer satisfaction, then y identify promoters. Potential promoters are customers who gave you a 9 or 10 when asked about the probability of recommending your company or products on a scale of 0 to 10. If these customers are ready and willing to recommend your business, they are ready to advocate for your brand.
Referrers and content sharers. These customers refer prospective buyers to your products and share your content using social networks so they are already promoting your brand. Identify your passionate content sharers by tracking content link shares s on social and forwards of marketing emails.
Permanent brand content consumers. Some customers never miss a single piece of brand content you share, be it a blog post, email newsletter, or a new whitepaper. Track these customers and see whether they consistently read your materials. Also, pay attention to time they spend reading your content. These are highly prospective promoters, so make sure to nurture their brand advocacy potential along with other customer groups.
The first and foremost brand advocates are customers spreading a positive message about your company. However, there’s a squad of potential brand advocates outside of your customer base; don’t forget your staff.
Staff members. Leads generated by an employee through social networking convert 7 times more often than other leads. Encourage employees to advocate your brand and share your marketing efforts. Encourage employees to interact with prospects on social media to leverage their social reach.
Nurturing Brand Advocates in B2B
Providing high-quality products and delivering stellar user experience is the minimum requirement to meet customer expectations. To really stand out in the top of customer’s minds and nurture their loyalty, you have to exceed their expectations. Discover new ways to take the customer journey far beyond simply satisfied. For example, add an unexpected physical reward when you reach out to them (a gift card or brand swag). Because B2B is known for rational rather than emotional purchases, marketers may not even try to add an emotional touch to their efforts. But that is a mistake. Google’s recent research discovered that B2B brands have emotional connections with around 50% of their customers. The B2C number is far less at 10% to 40%. So, don’t be shy to add an emotional touch to your B2B customer interactions. It pays off.
For better engagement, consider providing exclusive benefits to potential brand advocates. For example:
- Early access to new products and offers
- Dedicated support representative or account manager, exclusive training opportunities
- Access to higher levels of company decision makers, participation in a new product or new feature surveys, ability to influence the brand’s direction
- Invitations to exclusive networking events, free publicity or speaking opportunities at company-hosted events
- Credibility marks. Give out badges, certificates, or any other trust marks that would add trustworthiness and credibility to your brand advocates.
Brand advocates spread the word about you, now it’s your turn to talk about them. Acknowledge and showcase their successes and congratulate them on their business accomplishments through your social media. Give your advocates exposure through your brand content in the corporate blog, newsletters, or other company-created content.
Brand Advocacy Examples
Here are a few examples of how B2B companies run successful brand advocacy campaigns.
Cisco wanted to encourage their Champions (brand advocates) to spread the word about their brand on professional networks and social channels. The company featured Champions across different channels used by the advocate community, such as Cisco’s blogs, video series, and weekly podcast. As a reward, Cisco invited their advocates to attend exclusive events, provided access to product sneak peeks, recognized advocating customers in their content, and made it possible to directly contact some of Cisco’s top engineers. Being able to connect with peers and showcase technical skills, the advocates generated a large quantity of authentic, relevant, and engaging content that garnered even more trust within the IT community for Cisco. The Champions created 55,000 tweets about the company, wrote over 200 posts on their own sites, and 100 posts on Cisco’s blogs. This resulted in over 44,000 hits and 8,000 social mentions.
Blackbaud had a customer referral program, but they wanted their advocates to get more active in providing referrals, sharing content on social media, and talking about the company’s upcoming annual conference. Blackbaud launched a formal yet ‘human’ advocacy program that allowed them to engage customers across multiple channels and motivate them to perform different advocacy ‘tasks’. The Blackbaud Champions program encouraged customers to provide feedback, participate in case studies, share content, and participate in other community-focused activities in exchange for reward points. These points could be then exchanged for exclusive benefits such as discounts, complimentary passes to events, physical gifts, and gift cards only available to program members. The program turned to be even more successful than management had hoped. It generated a year’s worth of referrals in just three months, engaged 150 advocates, received 77 high-value customer referrals and 1,500 social shares, and brought in an extra $213,000 in revenue.
Marketo decided to drive 50 genuine reviews each quarter for AppExchange, G2 Crowd, Software Advice, and TrustRadius, the third-party websites that fed their pipeline. To incentivize customers to submit reviews, the company engaged and rewarded their advocates across physical and online channels. For example, to create buzz around the Marketo Summit, brand advocates were offered an exclusive branded piece of clothing in exchange for a review submitted before the event. The promotion was so successful, Marketo repeated the initiative across all seven roadshows. In addition, Marketo collected reviews by offering advocates points and prizes for reviews, referrals, and community activities. This mix of online and real-life advocacy allowed Marketo to generate 538 net-new customer reviews and secure top positions within the Enterprise segment on G2 Crowd and TrustRadius.
ReadyTalk encouraged their brand advocates to take part in a content program where they acted as subject matter experts. The advocates were asked to answer three questions about webinar best practices. ReadyTalk collated the responses and published them as the eBook ‘6 Reasons Why Other Companies’ Webinars Are Better Than Yours’. The program generated 760 net new leads, closed three deals and generated $60,000.
For B2B companies, nurturing brand advocates is more than a marketing technique. Then you will be able to earn and keep brand activists and successfully implement brand advocacy initiatives. It starts with having a truly customer-centric corporate culture in place. The more committed you are to customers and focused on their needs, the more committed they will be to your brand. With a customer-focused company culture as a foundation, you can create and foster a brand advocate community, where every feedback counts, the contribution is acknowledged, and members are rewarded. It’s a win-win for everyone but your competition.