The B2B Customer Engagement Leadership Series brought local marketers and entrepreneurs together in New York City on July 28 to discuss the new ways companies are improving the customer experience to inspire valuable acts of customer advocacy—and drive growth in the process.
The speakers, which included Megan Heuer, VP and Group Director at SiriusDecisions, Chris Fralic, Partner at First Round Capital, Mitch Rose, SVP of Marketing at Billtrust, Michael Beahm, Customer Advocate Marketing Manager at Blackbaud, and Joseph Jaffe, Founder & CEO of Evol8tion, provided strategies for leveraging vocal customer advocates to increase sales.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing their insights on how brands can create raving fans by making deeper connections with their customers.
In the meantime, we’re sharing four common customer engagement mistakes that prevent companies from realizing the potential of one of their greatest growth opportunities: their advocates.
1. Ignoring the ‘Trough of Death’
There’s a time period after your customer purchases your product—but before your marketing team feels the need to touch base to encourage repurchasing—in which there’s very little interaction with your client. Megan at SiriusDecisions dubs this time period “The Trough of Death” (stage four in the graphic below).
By ignoring customers during this time, brands lose out on creating a word-of-mouth referral engine. “Investment there could be the best growth strategy you have,” says Megan.
Companies already know this. According to a recent survey of customers by SiriusDecisions, 83% say references are critical to the sales cycle. However, only 10% of marketing dollars go towards encouraging, enticing, and developing these references.
This disconnect is understandable. Marketing is often focused on generating new business. But companies need to encourage their teams to spend more time (and money) engaging the customers they already have. “Customers are an asset,” said Joseph. Invest in turning current customers into brand advocates, and they’ll be happy to renew their contracts and recommend your product or service to their peers. It’s the next era of marketing.
2. Giving all customers the same rewards
To build a referral program that won’t annoy or exploit their customers, B2B brands must be able to offer something truly valuable to their advocates.
The types of rewards customers really want depends on who they are, and their level on the org chart. “Having a variety of rewards that meets the needs of our advocates is extremely important,” said Beahm. For some, a gift card or branded swag can suffice. Others may want professional benefits, like speaking opportunities at conference or access to the C-suite. A referral from someone higher up the chain will likely require something more enticing. No matter the situation, personalized rewards will help encourage more customer advocacy and engagement.
3. Forgetting to connect customers with each other
One of a company’s strongest assets is their professional network. Creating ways for customers to connect with one another is an inexpensive way to give them a more valuable experience.
Chris says First Round Capital view the companies in their investment portfolio as customers. One way they ensure that CEOs get what they need from the venture group is through an exchange that connects all of their CEOs with each other. When problems arise, the leaders can ask other leaders how to handle it, or if they know anyone that can help.
“Instead of calling us, they email our network,” says Chris. “They discuss anything from very serious topics, like the need to get rid of a cofounder, to lightweight automation hidden gems. We basically built our own private label of Quora.”
As a result, First Round Capital found that referrals from customers lead to 50% of future investments.
4. One person runs all customer engagement efforts
No man is an island, and no advocate marketing campaign can work without the help of your entire company. First, getting key stakeholders invested in the planning stages will ensure internal buy-in. One person from every customer touch point team should also be involved to make the customer experience richer.
The Billtrust team launched a campaign several months ago called The Billing Rockstar, where customers reached different levels based on the points they gathered for completing tasks like giving product feedback, reading industry articles and celebrating certain Billtrust milestones. But it wouldn’t have worked without giving members of Billtrust’s product, client services and management teams a seat at the table.
“I couldn’t believe how ready [different parts of the organization] were to give us someone on their team to sit on the steering committee and help,” said Mitch. “They realized the happier [customers] are, the more mulligans you get.”
Employee advocates have an important role to play in your customer engagement efforts. They are, as Joseph says, “your most credible spokespeople.” Use them to enrich the customer experience at every available opportunity.