7 Ways Relationship Intelligence Can Boost Customer Advocacy & Sales

Steve Woods

Meagen Eisenberg, CMO at MongoDB, can smell covert sales tactics almost instantly. Instead of sending her funny GIFs or email forwards, she believes good sales people can get her the resources she needs to make a purchase decision – whether it’s an introduction to another CMO for a product use case, or providing technical support to her team.

A valuable and memorable customer experience is what matters most to Meagen. It’ll also inspire her to advocate for that company in the future. That’s crucial because a recent Demand Gen B2B Buyer Survey revealed that 84% of B2B buyers seek input from their peers.

When discovering new technologies to buy for her organization’s marketing technology stack, Meagen says she has “a great network of peer CMOs and heads of marketing, and within this network, we talk a lot about what’s out there and what works…the business world is becoming so much more transparent. It’s almost Yelp-like right now.”

How can sales and marketing teams methodically identify, build, and broaden the advocate relationships they need to generate new referrals and product reviews? The answer is relationship intelligence: the ability to measure the strength of your customer relationships across your accounts—so that you can prioritize and grow the ones that matter most.

To help you close more deals and boost customer advocacy, here are seven relationship intelligence tips shared by senior B2B decision makers.

1. Nurture advocacy with multiple account contacts

Customer advocacy relies on the emotional tie of a strong relationship; you need to actively invest in an account to build it up. At Nudge.ai, we consider accounts where organizations have only one strong relationship with a client company to be high-risk—both for retention and advocacy.

If that person gets fired or moves on to another company, that account is dead in the water. Likewise, limiting your engagement to only one or a few people at the account means minimizing your chances of discovering your next ardent advocate.

Use relationship intelligence to identify those accounts proactively, and understand who you need to deepen relationships with to nurture advocacy for your brand throughout the sales process – from executives who’ll make recommendations to peers, all the way down to the end users of the product who will advocate for you internally.

B2B buyer tip: “My front-line leaders have a significant influence over my decision. A tool is no use to me if I have no one to manage it, so I need to see the ownership or ongoing maintenance of a tool or program fitting into someone’s role or interest…I want to be using it to the level where I would happily advocate for them.”

Jocelyn Brown, VP Customer Success at Allocadia

2. Share advocacy best practices with CS team members

The next step is to begin tracking your customer service (CS) team emails, calendars, and social media interactions to understand who in your organization engages with which accounts, and how often. It will give you an eye into who is already doing a good job on nurturing advocate relationships.

This strategy also focuses the spotlight on those who are most impactful to each existing customer advocate you serve. Your internal CS culture will naturally gravitate towards rewarding those who are good at building deep relationships with customers to promote advocacy.

In addition, it’s an opportunity to share best practices among CS reps on how to provide value (more on that soon) and turn weaker account relationships into happy, loyal customer advocates.

B2B buyer tip: “One of the best experiences I had was when I dealt with a company and they let me run a free trial so I could see how their solution could help me. The differentiator for me was that they didn’t just “turn it on” and walk away. They worked with me to help give me time back in my day and make a process more efficient. They took feedback and were extremely consultative and gave me value where I wasn’t expecting it.”

Cheryl Kerrigan, VP of People at BlueCat

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3. Use a personalized & persistent communications platform

The account insights you gain through relationship intelligence can also help to uncover your customer’s communications preferences. Do they expect regular updates, via your advocate marketing platform, about new products and best practices? Are they interested in getting to know your CS, product or salespeople people personally?

Gather this info as soon as you begin a new relationship. Then, set up what we at Nudge.ai call intelligent persistence: a regular cadence of communication. Ideally, we recommend being in touch with your target accounts at least once a month, so advocate relationships grow organically.

Keep in mind that not each piece of communication needs to be product-related. To build customer advocacy, you need to make it fun, personal and consultative, such as a “get to know each other better” photo challenge, or sharing industry insights.

B2B buyer tip: “As an example, a t-shirt vendor sent a witty email with a picture of their CEO wearing a t-shirt with a SoapBox logo on it. That won points for creativity.”

Jess Weisz, COO at SoapBox HQ

4. Monitor the ongoing health of advocate relationships

You must continually gauge your overall account health and risk of losing advocate relationships within an organization. Relationship intelligence can help you monitor each account tier and ensure that a minimum advocate contact threshold is met.

For example, enterprise accounts might require at least five strong advocate relationships to be maintained at all times, while mid-market accounts are okay with three or more advocates per organization.

By continuously nurturing a base of relationships at each account, you’ll build a strong group of advocates – to help you sell both internally and to their external network of peers.

B2B buyer tip: “Your [internal] champions are your greatest assets, equip them with the tools to talk to Finance. I have no doubt in my mind that when a champion wants to buy a product, it’s going to help them do their job better. My question is how much better? Help your champions speak my language and answer my questions before I ask them.”

Danielle Cerisano, VP of Finance at League Inc.

5. Provide value to build advocacy

A customer’s motivation to sing your praises to their peers comes from knowing you care about their business and professional success. That’s why you must provide value beyond day-to-day sales support, which includes:

  • Providing exclusive access to internal product gurus, or new product betas.
  • Hosting webinars to provide technical or product education.
  • Rewarding them for their customer advocacy via a networking lunch with your CEO.
  • Inviting them to speak on a panel at your next industry event.

Customer advocacy comes from seeing that CS and salespeople are going the extra mile.

B2B buyer tip: “The danger for salespeople today is that they get relegated to contract jockeys. But reps can still add value by investing the time in understanding what we are trying to achieve with the product, suggesting use cases, and aiding in the business plan by sharing how successful customers have measured impact.”

Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at InsightSquared

6. Do your research to delight your customers

To understand each of your customer advocates’ needs and motivations, gather relationship intelligence by:

  • Finding people that you know in common and mention them.
  • Monitoring their social media activity, engagement with your marketing, and product usage for every account with which you wish to build a relationship.
  • Setting up news alerts to make your one-on-one conversations more meaningful.

Noticing a recent award or commenting on a new executive hire can open up new conversations that go beyond product implementation and are the best path to deep relationships that lead to advocacy.

Finally, the relationship intelligence you gather can help you to create moments that matter – little personal touches that delight your customer advocates.

B2B buyer tip: “I once received a beautiful box from Godiva, with a card that called out my chocolate addiction (it’s in my Twitter profile). That showed me the BDR had done her homework and taken time to learn about me.”

Ruth Zive, CMO at Blueprint

7. Streamline the peer referrals process

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Once you’ve established a strong advocate relationship, it’s finally time to ask for peer referrals. Using relationship intelligence, you must determine what a customer advocate’s quality or strength of a relationship is with a prospect, which leads to more qualified referrals.

It’s important to cherry pick the most important referral requests, with the strongest relationships in their network, for a higher hit rate. It also makes it easier for the advocate because they don’t have to do any guesswork about who to refer.

Likewise, personal relationships are a powerful path to advocacy at new accounts. Discovering that your CMO plays hockey with the VP of Sales at a new prospect company can lead to an easy initial conversation.

Even job changes, where a former customer advocate appears at a new company, are a unique opportunity. By tracking the customer’s change in identity (e.g., a new email address, LinkedIn or Twitter profile), you’ll quickly discover that the account your sales team is attempting to access is just one quick phone call away.

B2B buyer tip: “I have access to a wide community of HR professionals in similar environments where we are constantly sharing our experiences with vendors and solutions. I wouldn’t make a decision without asking them first.”

Cheryl Kerrigan, VP of People at BlueCat

Make meaningful advocate relationships a priority

While a customer must get value out of your product to advocate for it, they also need to like you and know you care. It’s easy to ditch software, but it’s a lot harder to walk away from a meaningful relationship.

Identifying opportunities to build broader and deeper relationships opens up more chances for finding new advocates. Building relationships across an organization brings the power of advocacy to everyone’s fingertips.

Finally, ensuring that your team does not lose touch with important customer advocates enables relationships to thrive long-term, and opens you up to new accounts in the future.

Together, advocate marketing platforms like Influitive and relationship intelligence platforms like Nudge.ai enable teams to build, identify, and leverage the advocate relationships that can bring a new level of success to your organization.

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