Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Advocating for Customer Advocates

Bob Peterson from SiriusDecisions shares the value of customer advocacy at different points of the buying cycle. View his entire presentation here.

Happy customers are your business’s best advocates, so why don’t more companies have formal customer advocacy programs? In many organizations, the culture of the company drives a customer-centric philosophy but is that enough to make the most of your customer relationships and really impact the business?

These questions and more were covered at MassTLC’s recent roundtable “Mobilizing Your Company’s Advocates to Boost B2B Sales and Marketing Efforts.” The roundtable featured a panel of experts with broad experience and perspectives on the benefits of customer advocacy and how it can impact sales and marketing.  The audience actively participated in the session providing examples of customer advocacy efforts in our organizations and asking questions such as: Who should own an advocacy program? At what stage(s) of the sales process do advocates add the most value? Are tactics such as writing case studies and having customers present on webinars or at events enough or does every company need a strategy for customer advocacy?  

Having spent much of my career in small technology companies that compete with the likes of Oracle, IBM and SAP, I can’t say enough about the importance of leveraging customers as advocates and using these advocates to complement traditional marketing and sales efforts. Research shows that buyers want to hear from their peers during their vendor evaluation journey so it’s critical for companies to know how and when these advocates can have the most impact. Many organizations have decentralized activities specific to their functional areas (sales manages sales references; marketing manages PR and speaking references) and I believe collaborating cross-functionally is critical to a successful customer advocacy program – but how you centralize the function and maintain a focus on strategy, not just tactics, are unique to every company. And just like any sales or marketing program, you need to determine KPIs and establish benchmarks so you can measure your progress and results. 

Does your organization have a formal customer advocacy program? Do you leverage tactics such as references and case studies during the sales process and, if so, do they add value to the buyer? I’d love to hear from others on the strategies and tactics you’ve used to maximize the value of customer advocates and learn more about the customer advocacy programs you’ve developed.

Rachel Weeks is director of marketing at HealthcareSource, the leading provider of talent management software for HR professionals in the healthcare industry. Rachel excels at driving marketing strategy, transforming marketing operations, and developing relationships with colleagues, clients, and strategic partners. Rachel is an active member of MassTLC and presented at the 2012 Marketing Analytics Summit. You can connect with Rachel on LinkedIn.   

In addition, Influitive has shared a link to their advocate marketing playbook, chapter 1. It's 5 chapters in total and if you register here you will receive the other chapters as they are published through the Fall. 

Thanks to our speakers for joining us;  Bob Peterson, SiriusDecision for moderating the discussion, Evan Jacobs from Rapid7, Tom Wentworth from Acquia and Mark Organ from Influitive.  Thank you to Acquia for hosting the program and to our sales and marketing community sponsors: Dassault Systemes, SiriusDecisions, KnowledgeVision and ZoomInfo.