Note: The following post comes courtesy of Bo Bandy, Marketing Communications Manager at ReadyTalk.

When you’re a privately-funded, bootstrapped company, it can be tough to stand out in the market. This is especially true when you’re competing against well-heeled, high-visibility brands on one end and startups with big cash influxes from venture capital funds on the other end.

That’s the situation for ReadyTalk. And that’s why we value customer-driven marketing, namely advocacy, so much.

Since our founding in 2001, we’ve signed on nearly 10,000 customers and over 80,000 end users. We deliver billions of conferencing minutes per day. Along the way, advocate marketing has played a huge role in helping us achieve such tremendous success in a crowded market space.

Overlooking the power of customer advocacy

As a customer-centric company that prides itself on customer satisfaction, we’ve always gone the extra mile for our customers. And it has paid off in a huge base of happy, loyal customers.

Customer service is a key component of our business model and our culture. We do well here – our customers continually give us high marks and rave about our customer service. We’ve always conducted annual customer surveys and have other tools for capturing customer feedback. Unfortunately, we sat on all that data and love for quite some time.

You know how it is – you get the survey done and jump to the next thing on your to-do list. Before long, the survey is a distant memory.

But as the conferencing space becomes increasingly competitive, our sales team found itself in battles for every deal. We know customer referrals go a long way toward helping deals close – and close faster – so we took steps to capitalize on all the goodwill in our favor.

Formalizing and mobilizing customer relationships

While we had been loosely engaged in advocacy – such as collecting customer feedback and recognizing customers when they spoke positively on our behalf – we needed a formal program. We also needed an effective way to handle referral campaigns.

With a goal of mobilizing our strong customer relationships to fuel continued growth, we built a customer advocacy program. Then we looked for a tool to help us manage it. When we saw Influitive’s AdvocateHub demoed at a trade show, we knew it was the right platform for us.

Beating the competition at every turn

Previously, whenever a prospect asked for customer examples or references, our marketing and sales teams would cobble something together. It wasn’t uncommon for interested prospects to have drifted away by the time we followed up.

Now, immediately after speaking with prospects, our sales reps drive them to our recommendation page on LinkedIn. Because there’s no delay, the deal keeps moving forward.

We’ve been able to easily build up that recommendation page because of our advocate marketing program, the ReadyTalk Summit Club.

ReadyTalk Summit Club

In the past, we had too many other requests and never got around to asking our customers to recommend us on LinkedIn.

Now, it’s easy to put out a challenge and we see a terrific response. Because our customers are speaking on our behalf and sharing candid feedback, prospective customers take note.

The program has had a measurable impact on our sales team closing deals. By tapping into our advocates, we’re beating out major competitors in every deal we win.

Words of wisdom

As I reflect on our customer advocacy journey, here are a few guiding principles we’ve followed:

  • Keep account managers engaged in the program by giving them exposure into what advocates are doing and empowering them to encourage customers to join and participate.
  • Identify a core group of customers to start with and send communications so they appear to come from the account manager to leverage the ongoing relationships they maintain.
  • What motivates most advocates isn’t stuff, but rather the ability to give feedback that shapes the product and direction of the company.
  • Our most engaging challenges are the ones that allow customers to interact with each other and build community.

bo-bandyIn her next life, Bo Bandy wants to drive a Formula 1 car. In this life, she likes driving results. Bo is the Marketing Communications Manager at ReadyTalk where she manages brand communications, content marketing and customer advocacy. Prior to working at ReadyTalk, she managed media relations, promotions, and web activities for B2B and B2C technology companies.

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Don’t miss Bo’s Advocate Marketing Workshop at LeadLove Denver 2014

ll-typographyBo will be sharing more insight from ReadyTalk’s customer advocacy program during the Advocate Marketing Workshop at LeadLove Denver 2014 on March 4!

In this session, you’ll learn about the “Yelpification of B2B,” as well as five simple steps you can take to build a world-class advocate marketing program that drives your brand, demand and revenue.

Register now