Azadeh Williams is the Managing Partner of AZK Media, a global B2B agency helping technology companies grow in new and emerging markets.
Customer advocacy—getting customers to be your champions and explaining how your product or service solves their key business problems—is critical for any B2B demand-generation strategy.
When done well, it can slash sales-enablement time, drive demand organically, and ensure sales and marketing work cohesively, especially when companies are growing in new and emerging markets. Poorly mishandled, however, and customer advocacy programs can quickly become a cost center and detrimentally impact your bottom line.
Why Customer Advocacy Is Important
Customer advocacy is about building and nurturing relationships with your happiest customers to turn them into your biggest brand champions. If you can get your customers to explain, in their own words, why they chose your product or service over your competitors, this level of brand endorsement is far more powerful than any other first-party promotional content.
Prospects trust other consumers, and not necessarily the brand, to tell them the truth. This is particularly the case in B2B technology, where it can be extremely difficult to choose which tech platform is the right fit when so many vendors sing the same sales tune. Therefore, an endorsement by a customer goes a long way in convincing potential new customers to give your business a try.
The Holy Grail Of Customer Advocacy
To achieve true, valuable customer advocacy, the relationship must be mutually beneficial and reap a wealth of sales and marketing rewards for both parties. Customer advocacy can result in extra exposure, engagement, awareness and coverage for both your business and your customer when skillfully executed. For example, a written case study featuring your happy customers can be placed in the media and on both of your websites. A video case study can be featured across paid and organic social campaigns. And a live customer Q&A can be featured at a “lunch and learn” or on stage at an industry summit.
Of course, there is a lot of work that needs to be done behind the scenes to bring all of this together to ensure the relationship lasts and everyone is on the same page. A good B2B customer advocacy program needs specialist skills. Many times, however, companies simply don’t have the internal capability to pull it all together. They need specialist external marketing partners and agencies to help scale customer advocacy programs, particularly if they’re expanding across multiple global regions.
Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Scaling Your Customer Advocacy Program
At AZK Media, we’ve launched hundreds of exceptional customer advocacy programs across the world for some of the biggest technology vendors. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Below, we’ve compiled some red flags to avoid when scaling your customer-led demand-gen program:
• Too much ‘heavy lifting’: Customers are doing your business a favor by becoming advocates, so you need to respect their time and take care of the heavy lifting. If you are asking them to participate in articles, show up to webinars, attend video productions or speak to the media, what value are you giving them in return? Ensure you have the right media agency or partner that can help you do all the legwork so the time investment on behalf of your client is as minimal as possible.
• All about you: Making the relationship all about you is the fastest way to end it, losing you both an advocate and a valued customer.
• Process overkill: Before any kind of assets can be developed, a strict workflow and signoff process must be put in place, ensuring everyone is clear about what their responsibilities are as well as the time frame they have to complete them. However, many technology vendors make the mistake of overcomplicating the process, turning what should be a seamless and simple process into a drawn-out and painful experience for everyone involved.
• Pitch/place without signoff: Every single aspect of your program needs to be agreed upon in writing. This ensures customers are fully aware upfront of what they need to do to participate in order to make an informed decision.
• Throw them in the ‘media deep end’: Never pitch customer interviews to the media unless that customer has been properly media trained and prepared. Media training and practice questions are absolutely vital because if done poorly, it could damage both of your reputations within the media and at large.
• Too many revisions: This often happens in top-heavy organizations. Just because your marketing head wants a customer case study crafted in a particular way doesn’t mean the customer can accommodate. Customers are not at your beck and call. Therefore, any program needs to have significant lead time built into it so it is not onerous for your customer to participate. Going back and forth to your customer with multiple revisions and requests is disrespectful of their time. This can turn them off to the idea of participating in any future campaigns with you.
Streamline And Scale
Like anything, good communication and streamlined processes are keys to launching and growing your customer advocacy program—and this is where engaging a trusted B2B customer advocacy agency is invaluable. A B2B marketing and media agency that specializes in these kinds of relationships has the right kind of experience to ensure everyone is happy with customer advocacy efforts. They can help get the most out of your customer champions, whether you are growing in the U.S., the U.K., Europe or APAC.
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