Harness the power of customer advocacy to stand out from the competition.

Today’s B2B buyers rely less on vendor-created content and more on recommendations from their peers when they make purchasing decisions. With an advocate marketing program, you can get fans to spread the word on your behalf and influence their networks.

B2B buyers are more social than ever. According to IDG Connect, 86% of B2B technology buyers use social networks and content as part of their buying process – especially in the early stages of their research.

And what types of content are they looking for?

They want social proof that your products or services deliver results … particularly unbiased reviews from customers who have used your solutions.

“In two years, peer-generated content will have greater weight versus editorial and vendor content in making IT investment decisions.” – IDG Connect

However, many B2B companies are flooding their social networks with promotional content and causing their audiences to tune out. Today’s social-savvy buyers can smell a sales pitch from a mile away and simply don’t trust vendor-produced content.

The real power to influence your audience is shifting from marketing and sales towards your customers themselves. Social media has given buyers a strong and persuasive voice.

So, how do you stand out from your competition in the crowded social marketplace to generate social leads and referrals?

Company sources of information – such as sales reps and websites – are used less and less as B2B buyers differentiate between vendors. Instead, 60% of B2B technology buyers rely on their peers as their primary source of information. – Gartner

Use customer advocacy to win at social media

Chances are, many of your customers are already singing your praises on their social networks. Since they have the power to influence others, you can create massive interest in your brand if you use customer advocacy to get these influencers or advocates to spread the word on your behalf.

This means that after you’ve motivated your advocates to take action, they can do the rest of the work. Through customer advocacy, they can convince others to download your content, attend your events, sign up for product demos and more.

94% of marketers say the customer’s voice is their most effective content. – BrightTALK

How to get started with customer advocacy

Here are three ways to use customer advocacy to amplify your sales and marketing results:

1. Identify your first dozen advocates.

Chances are, you already have a number of customers, evangelists and fans who are passionate about your products or services. These could be your happiest customers or fans who leave positive comments on all your social media posts. Jumpstart your advocate marketing program results by engaging with these advocates and inviting them to join your program.

Your first dozen advocates can have a snowball effect. When your first advocates start to speak on your behalf, others will see their activity and take notice of your brand.

“Seven in 10 who read reviews share them with friends, family or colleagues, thus amplifying their impact.” – Deloitte

2. When you start an advocate marketing program, reach out to advocates personally.

You’ll have more success onboarding your first advocates if you reach out to them personally – or have their account managers contact them personally. That’s because new advocates will need a one-on-one conversation to understand the value of your program. During the conversation, you can tell them why you personally selected them for the program and highlight any benefits they will receive when they participate.

3. Ask not what your advocates can do for you, but what you can do for your advocates.

Customer advocacy isn’t just about getting advocates to do things for you – such as sharing your content and sending you referrals. To succeed with advocate marketing, you must provide your advocates with value. Instead of going into customer advocacy with the mindset that you’re going to ask advocates to do big things for you, start by thinking about what you can do for them. For example, gain their trust by sending them valuable content, helping them solve problems and providing them with a higher level of service.

Once you have earned your advocates’ trust, you can ask them to do small things – such as retweeting one of your blog posts or liking you on Facebook. The more they interact with you, the more likely they will be to take bigger steps – such as sending you referrals or writing a product review – in the future.