How to Build a Community of Brand Advocates-thumbnail

B2B marketers can learn a thing or two about mobilizing advocates from our B2C cousins.

Think about the products that you use every day. For me, it’s my iPhone, Sennheiser headphones and Altra running shoes.

I didn’t go straight to a store or the vendor’s website to buy these products. Instead, I decided to purchase them thanks to a combination of word-of-mouth marketing, trustworthy recommendations and online reviews.

And since I love these products, I spread the word without any incentive.

Just like in the consumer world, B2B buyers are increasingly basing their buying decisions on peer recommendations. According to Google research, 60 percent of business technology customers search for peer testimonials during the decision-making process.

That’s why it’s important for B2B marketers to include brand advocates in every aspect of their business. Your advocates hold amazing power. If you can guide their passion, you’ll get more high-quality referrals and drive sales.

How to motivate customers to advocate for you

Creating an advocate marketing program that motivates your happiest customers to promote your brand doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply follow these three steps:

  1. Pull a list of customers from your CRM, prioritizing those who’ve expressed positive feelings for your brand in the past.
  2. Email them and ask them to complete an act of advocacy, such as providing a referral or leaving an online review.
  3. Recognize them for their efforts. For example, you can send them a sincere thank-you note,  a gift card or some cool swag.

However, you can’t email the same people all the time, continually asking them to do things for you. This will create “advocate fatigue” and they’ll become less willing to help you out.

So, how can you keep your top advocates engaged between your requests? How can you motivate them to advocate for you in the long run?

The Advocate Marketing Playbook
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Here are the five keys to building a thriving advocate community:

1. Set goals for your community

Without goals, you’ll be walking around in the dark, blindly trying to engage your advocates. Before you get started, it’s important to know what you want to achieve from your advocate marketing program.

Choose advocacy goals that align with your overall business objectives. For example, if one of your top business goals is to increase your sales, one of your top advocacy goals can be to get more high-quality referrals. If you want to get more brand awareness, one of your goals could be getting your advocates to share more content on social media.

(Learn how to track the ROI of an advocate marketing program with this guide.)

2. Get to know your customers

The Brand Advocate Persona
Most modern marketers have developed buyer personas to address the needs of key people in the buying process, but what happens when…
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Your advocates won’t take action unless you engage them. To capture their attention, you need to understand what makes them tick. Are your customers busy, talkative sales pros? Or are they focused, calm IT experts? This can impact the type of advocacy activities they’re likely to complete.

It’s also important to learn as much as you can about their needs, goals and challenges. What is a typical day like for them at work? What are their personal interests? Do they prefer Star Wars or Star Trek? Bacon or kale?

3. Make it fun

Your advocates will lose interest if you only ask them to share your content and send you referrals. It’s important to make things fun so they’ll look forward to your emails.

For example, you can send them links to fun quizzes and games. Think about what would give your advocates a laugh and break up their workday. The better you engage them with interesting activities, the more likely they are to perform some serious acts of advocacy when you ask.

4. Involve your entire team

Your advocate marketing efforts can benefit all aspects of your business, so it’s vital to get buy-in from other teams.

Think of all the people who interact with your customers, such as:

  • Customer marketing
  • Customer success
  • Support
  • Sales
  • Product development

What needs do they have that your advocates can help with? For example, can your product development team use new beta testers? Can your sales team use advocates to get more referral leads and customer references?

Educate these teams about the benefits of advocate marketing so you can get quick buy-in and bring results to your entire business.

5. Give your advocates a place to hang out

Advocacy isn’t just between you and a customer. You’ll multiply your results if you build a community where your advocates can hang out, trade ideas and learn from each other. You can also offer them VIP training, so they can learn how to get the most value from your product.

Many advocates are motivated by competition. Make advocating for you a game, in which you give them points when they complete a task for you. For example, they can get 10 points for tweeting your latest blog post and 500 points for sending you a referral—the bigger the ask, the higher the point value.

To motivate them even more, put their points on a leaderboard to show them how they stack up against their peers. Using gamification to turn advocacy into a contest will inspire them to do more for you.

Building an advocate community puts the power in your advocates’ hands. Since they choose how and when they want to advocate for you, you don’t have to worry about them getting “advocate fatigue”—and you might even discover advocates you didn’t even know you had.

More helpful advocate marketing resources

This blog was originally published August 10th, 2015 and was updated March 10th, 2017.