How Staples Business Advantage Engages 4 Different Customer Types In Their Advocate Marketing Program Thumbnail

The key to turning your buyers into long-term, loyal advocates for your brand is to get to know them so well you know exactly what they want and need—possibly before they do.

But what if your company caters to a lot of different buyers? How can customer marketers create targeted communications and relevant campaigns when they have a variety of potential advocate types?

Mary-Leslie Davis, Director of Field Marketing & Customer Engagement at Staples Business Advantage knew this could be an obstacle to engaging her customers. Staples Business Advantage, the B2B division of Staples, Inc., has eight buyer personas they cater to.

So, when they wanted to launch an advocate marketing program that would turn their buyers into vocal evangelists, they worked with marketing consultancy Demand Spring (who recently helped them update their buyer personas) to refine their strategy.

Their goal: launch an advocate experience that could be tailored to specific advocate personas by using their buyer personas as a starting point.

To learn how Staples Business Advantage is connecting with each of its advocate types, watch our ‘Deepening Customer Engagement with Advocate Personas’ webinar, or keep reading. (If you’d like to learn how you can engage your brand’s advocate persona, download this eBook.)

The value of advocate personas

When Mary-Leslie launched Staples Business Advantage’ advocate marketing program, she knew that she couldn’t treat all her advocates exactly the same.

Marie_Leslie_Davis“If our advocate marketing program didn’t work, we wouldn’t know if it was due to the technology or because we started with the wrong persona,” said Mary-Leslie.

To start, Mary-Leslie selected four personas (out of a potential eight) based on which ones they thought would be likely network with their peers and engage in this type of program.

Mary-Leslie says Demand Spring’s advocate persona work has helped her engage these four unique groups of advocates.They based the personas on the roles, company sizes, verticals and products purchased by their customers. “We even assign names and photos to each persona, so we have a real picture in our heads of who they are,” said Mary-Leslie.

Mary-Leslie says that doing this upfront work made engaging their customer advocates easy when they launched the program. (Demand Spring also manages Staples Business Advantage’s advocate marketing programs.)

“Engaging with advocates is like going to a cocktail party,” said Mary-Leslie. “If the host doesn’t tell you anything about the other guests in advance, you won’t know what to say and might talk about yourself too much. However, if the host tells you about everyone’s ‘persona’ in advance, you can come up with great conversation starters.”

How to create challenges for multiple advocate personas

Since Mary-Leslie saw that many of Staples Business Advantage’s customers care about the same things, she gives 80% of her advocacy activities, challenges and requests to all of the personas. She then customizes the other 20% of Staples Business Advantage’s challenges to each advocate persona and—occasionally—to individual advocates.

Mary stresses that there is a difference between personalizing content for an individual versus customizing it for a buyer persona.

The image below shows a challenge that is personalized based on what email platform an advocate uses. Other examples of personalizing based on a data point include using an advocate’s name or inviting users to a local meet up based on geographic data.


Customizing content for a persona is about thinking about the advocate group as a whole and asking if a specific topic would be of interest to them. For example, you can ask executives how your product impacts their bottom line, while you might ask IT professionals what they think of your user experience.

Mary-Leslie also customizes advocate rewards based on each persona. As an example, each of the four advocate personas attend different events, so the rewards include tickets to industry-specific trade shows.

The Brand Advocate Persona
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7 things all advocate personas should include


According to Donna Danis, Senior Director of Strategy Consulting at Demand Spring, your advocate personas should contain the following information:

1. Demographics and psychographics —This will help uncover who your advocates are and how they think. Knowing this enables you to connect with advocates both rationally and emotionally. These may include age, gender, education level and interests.

2. Firmographics — Group your advocate’s organizations into segments such as B2B, B2C, small business or enterprise. Segmentation is key to defining your messaging and strategy.

3. Job responsibilities — The more you know about a person’s role, challenges and motivators, the more you can target your messaging and requests.

4.Thinking, feeling and doing — These actions help you understand where your advocates seek information and whom they like to interact with pre and post-sale. Thinking includes industry and operational pressures, along with the questions they might ask. Doing includes the digital and physical touchpoints they rely on to gather knowledge. Feeling uncovers how a persona views their role in administering and using your product to its fullest capabilities.

5. Content and channels — In each stage of the customer lifecycle, it is important to understand the types of content each persona prefers, and what sources they turn to for trusted information.

6. Unmet needs — When you understand which of a persona’s needs are not being met, you can craft powerful messaging, education or solutions to earn their loyalty.

7. Advocacy characteristics — Ask what it will take for you to keep them “bought in” for the long term. Knowing your advocates’ original buying criteria, along with their evolving needs, will help you continuously deliver value.

Donna says building personas isn’t just an academic exercise. It’s something you should apply to your business on a daily basis.

Donna_Davis“We get so many insights every day that add color to our picture of a persona,” said Mary-Leslie. “If we are unsure of something, we can ask our advocates and have an answer within hours. We are constantly getting to know our personas even better.”

As a result of their advocate persona work, Staples Business Advantage’s community and overall engagement levels are in the top 20% of all advocate marketing programs that are run on Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform.