No one fully trusts a stranger’s opinion.
Especially when a stranger is telling us to buy their product.
Even the most carefully executed marketing plan can fall flat if there’s no one promoting the product or service outside of the people on payroll.
That’s why customer advocacy marketing is so powerful. Potential customers trust their peers more than they will ever trust the vendor.
You have customers that love you and your product, so how do you get them to proclaim that love?
We spoke with Jim Williams, VP of Marketing at Influitive, about how to leverage the voices of the customers that love you the most.
1. Find Your Biggest Fans
It’s possible that you have fans all over the globe already talking you up wherever they go, but it’s not likely.
You have to seek out your biggest fans and let them know how much their support means to you. So, where do you start looking?
First, you need to recognize that the customer/vendor relationship has evolved into more than an exchange of goods for cash.
For many buyers, exceptional customer service has become an expected part of doing business. When they make a purchase, customers expect you—or at the very least your website—to be there to give them advice and expertise on how to get the most from the product.
Companies that do this particularly well are building the foundation of a loyal fanbase.
Your options for locating customers with the greatest loyalty will differ based on your industry, current marketing strategy, etc.
However, there’s one big source of information that every company should be using no matter how their marketing machine runs: customer surveys and product feedback forms.
People generally offer feedback because a) they had a huge problem with something or b) they really loved your product and/or service. There’s little middle ground, because taking a survey when something was merely “okay” can feel like a waste of time for most people.
Lots of marketers focus on the first group. Addressing concerns is certainly important, but too often that second group is overlooked. After all, they’re already happy. Pick out those people for special consideration in your new customer advocacy marketing strategy.
2. Spark a Conversation
Now that you’ve found a few dedicated fans, it’s time to approach them about representing your brand in a non-affiliated capacity.
You could blast a mass email to people who meet your criteria, but that won’t make people feel special or valued.
Instead, try reaching out on a one-to-one basis. Use specific comments from the surveys to spark a conversation. Ask why they rated you a 10 on “would recommend to a friend.”
It’s all about opening up channels of communication. At this early stage, you’re trying to get the ball rolling and feel out if there is untapped advocacy potential with each of these customers.
3. Equip Advocates for Success
You’re more likely to get a positive response from advocates if you make it really simple for them to talk about your company.
This means you need to lay out the options for how they can help.
For instance, ask them to share your content on social media channels, write a product review, or speak at an event for example. Having a list of ways they can contribute takes the pressure off of them to come up with something.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to establish an exclusive program for loyal customers to join. In exchange for their assistance in spreading the love for your company, you give them rewards and/or recognition.
Big companies like Marketo have used this method with impressive growth results.
These types of programs give customers a sense of belonging and help solidify their relationship with the company.
Rewards and recognition are helpful for giving loyal customers a sense of what’s in it for them.
However, mobilizing advocates isn’t really about dollars; it’s about passion. When potential buyers can see the passion of your current customers, they’re more likely to be interested in working with you.
Which do you trust more: What someone says about himself or what others say about him?
Customer advocacy works on the idea that most people are more likely to trust their peers’ reactions to a company than whatever that company’s marketing machine churns out.
If you can rally the customers who love you most to spread the word on how great they believe your company to be, that movement can have a profound impact on the growth of your business.
This article is based on an interview with Jim Williams, VP of Marketing at Influitive. You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.
Listen to the episode that this post was based on here:
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts a top-ranked podcast according to Forbes: B2B Growth. When James isn’t interviewing the smartest minds in B2B marketing, he’s drinking Cherry Coke Zero, eating Swedish Fish, and hanging out with the most incredible woman on the planet (who he somehow talked into marrying him).