The most powerful tool B2B marketers have in today’s hyper-connected world is genuine word of mouth from their customers—such as reviews, social media shares and recommendations.

And brands that use advocate marketing programs to inspire and encourage their customers to create social proof for their products will be the ones that thrive.

forrester reportThat’s what Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos has found in a new report, Advocate Marketing Creates B2B Customer Relationships That Last A Lifetime.

In the report, Laura discusses why advocate marketing is critical to the success of B2B companies. Brands that focus on developing personal relationships with customers and driving engagement across their lifetime are better able to win, serve and retain customers.

Based on interviews with 26 advocate marketing software users and vendors, the report centers around two key concepts:

(1) How the rise of digital has made customer goodwill more important than ever

(2) How advocate marketing harnesses this goodwill to create real business value

Advocate marketing creates value for B2B brands

The most important benefits of advocate marketing programs, as listed in the report, are:

__BRAND-REACH1. Higher brand reach at lower cost

The rise of social sharing has made leveraging word of mouth and social proof a must for B2B companies.

Advocate marketing helps brands reach more people than traditional promotional methods (like paid advertising) and generates valuable word of mouth that is more authentic than messaging that comes directly from marketing. “Social proof can’t come from the company, it must come from customers,” Howard Tarnoff, senior vice president (SVP) of customer success at Ceridian says in the report.

__STRONGER-RELATIONS2. Stronger personal relationships

Because more businesses are based on subscription services, they must continually prove their worth in order to retain customers and reduce churn.

“As we move some of our solutions to the cloud and the new subscription model links our success even more closely with our customers, it’s even more important to keep customers engaged in the long run,” says Amy Bills, marketing director at Blackbaud. “Advocate marketing, along with stronger customer success programs, ensures we can do that.”

Customers who participate in advocate marketing programs have an emotional connection to the brand, making these relationships stronger over time, even if that customer changes companies.

“We want to keep the relationship with the individual to help them grow their careers—and consider bringing us with them to their next job,” says Merissa Hamilton, Manager of Customer Advocacy at Marketo.

__HAPPY-EMPLOYEES3. Happier, more satisfied employees

Advocate marketing programs can help employees enjoy their jobs more, and in turn, provide better service to customers.

Liz Pedro, director of customer content and advocacy at Mitel, says her company’s advocate marketing program—which includes both employee and customer advocates—drives value in multiple ways:

“Advocate marketing not only scales your voice in the market—we have 1,400 advocates tweeting 400 to 500 times a week—but delivers top line value. During one three-week challenge, we generated more than 800 reviews from customers and partners.”

__REVENUE-ADVOCACY4. A direct link between advocacy and revenue

Investments in scaling and operationalizing advocate marketing programs are paying off. Most of the B2B marketers interviewed for the report could tie revenue directly to advocate participation.

When asked what impact advocacy programs had on revenue, marketers cited higher conversation rates, more qualified leads and increased sales efficiency.

Stronger relationships with customers were also tied to increased cross-sell and upsell sales, and increased retention/decreased churn.

Advocate marketing implementation & recommendations

Companies can benefit from ad-hoc acts of customer advocacy. However, to scale those efforts, brands need to operationalize advocacy through a formal advocate marketing strategy.

The report offers helpful recommendations for creating an engaging advocate marketing program:

  1. Pick specific advocate personality types when starting a program. Focus on advocates who already share, network and engage with your company and your other customers and deserve the exposure and benefits you’ll offer.
  1. Match business goals with advocate benefits. Tie the business outcomes—like increased social media advocacy or better relationships with executives—to experiences advocates will enjoy doing.
  1. Commit to regular, ongoing communication with advocates—don’t set it and forget it. This means marketing should collaborate with others departments, like the customer success management team, to identify advocates and provide an array of activities that deliver value
  1. Understand your advocates and what motivates them in order to make it worth their time to participate. Exclusive access to content, events and executives will get their attention.
  1. Downplay monetary rewards. Celebrate advocate achievements and show heartfelt gratitude instead.

Download the Forrester report to learn more about advocate marketing’s growing role in creating customer relationships that deliver long-term value.

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