The biggest marketing trends of the year are often influenced by conversations that happen at SiriusDecisions Summit.
This year’s hot topics included:
- The new Demand Unit Waterfall
- Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
- Ungating content
If you’re concerned about how to effectively implement these ideas in your already-packed marketing strategy, there’s good news. You already have a way to bolster these initiatives: your customer advocates.
What do advocates have to do with demand waterfalls? Well, no matter how you implement SiriusDecision’s new model, every demand unit needs one thing to propel them through the buying process: customer social proof.
Remember: a Google study found that 60% of B2B tech buyers seek peer reviews before they make a purchase. Your advocates’ authentic reviews, social shares, testimonials, and referrals help your prospects make a decision faster. This is because advocate WOM drives interest, builds trust and validates your messaging.
Most companies have a few case studies kicking around and a small pool of references. However, a formal advocate marketing initiative allows companies to build a large pool of customers who are eager to advocate in a variety of ways.
While some companies are dipping their toes into advocacy, most are missing out on this valuable opportunity to generate demand. (Advocacy programs also improve customer retention and engagement, but that’s a whole other blog post.)
— Matt Senatore (@MattSenatore) September 27, 2016
Here’s how four organizations at SiriusDecisions—InTouch Health, Okta, Cisco and ON24—are using advocacy to fuel their pipeline and recurring revenue. I’ve also included insights on how you can use advocates to drive new paths for ABM, user-generated content, post-sale customer engagement and ungated content.
P.S. If you want to start implementing an advocacy strategy at your company, sign up for our Advocate & Customer Marketing Summit.
1. Mobilize advocates at every stage of the demand unit waterfall
While you discuss the updates to the demand gen waterfall with your team, consider how you can leverage your advocates throughout each stage.
InTouch Health uses their advocacy program, Heroes InTouch, to build a scalable, predictable demand generation machine. They do this by sharing user-generated content from advocates with prospects through every stage of the buying journey.
The InTouch Heroes program allows them to quickly source happy customers who are ready to share their stories on a continual basis. Advocates do this in a number of ways, including:
- Volunteering for case studies
- Sharing testimonials
- Speaking at events and on webinars
- Doing reference calls
- Referring others
- Writing reviews
The key success metric for their advocacy initiative is the speed and quality of the conversions resulting from acts of advocacy. Peter Garza, VP of Marketing, says advocate referrals are converting at five times the rate of other sources.
Peter predicts that, over the next two years, advocates will influence millions in closed/won revenue, and help avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in content production and research costs.
InTouch advocates do more than play a role in the sales funnel. Their product feedback and beta testing helps InTouch deliver customer value and make faster decisions.
Tip: Incorporate your advocates into your ABM campaigns by getting them to speak to potential prospects directly. It’s much more powerful than a generic reference call at the end of a deal cycle.
2. The messenger is the message
Think about the story, tweet, or video that last convinced you to make a purchase. It likely wasn’t hidden behind a form on a brand’s website. It was probably shared by someone you trusted, and it probably had a message that resonated (read: no marketing jargon!).
That’s why Alyssa Smrekar, Director of Customer Marketing at Okta, leveraged their advocate marketing program, The Ozone, to boost user-generated content and social media promotions among their advocates’ networks.
Thanks to their advocacy program, in 2016 alone, Okta was able to generate:
- 1.1 million social impressions driven for #Oktane16, Okta’s annual conference
- 20% increase in advocate signups for Oktane 2016
- 95 speakers sourced for their events
- 65 video and written case studies/blogs
- 197 advocate references sources for sales, analysts, and PR requests
The lesson learned? When stories are delivered by people—not brands—they can have way more impact. Since customers tend to have like-minded peers in their network, it only makes sense for Okta to tap into their advocates to help promote the Oktane conference.
Tip: When launching an advocacy campaign with a social component, include some example copy advocates can use so it’s easy for them to share. Plus, make sure the content you ask them to share isn’t purely self-serving. It should always adds value to your customers’ networks.
3. Build advocacy into every part of the customer lifecycle
You can’t deploy happy advocates throughout your sales funnel if you aren’t able to engage and mobilize them to begin with.
Cristina Melluzzi, Head of Advocacy at Cisco EMEAR, has put advocacy at the forefront of every step in their customers’ post-sale journey by building a “relationship-first” model.
To create an authentic brand experience for their advocates, Cristina’s team has developed a multi-channel approach to advocacy for their global customer base.
Every touchpoint a customer has connects back to their advocate marketing program, Cisco Live, through integrations with programs that customers touch. From personalized invitations to social triggers, Cisco lets customers create their own path and inspires them to be advocates by creating an integrated experience.
This holistic approach to the customer experience has paid off. Cisco was able to get an engagement rate of 61.5% among advocates in the program within 3 months, which led their advocates to give them:
- 78 referrals
- 40 reviews on 3rd party technology review websites
- 8,000+ social clicks generated by 600 advocate social shares of Cisco’s content
Tip: Keep your advocacy program top-of-mind by using integrations, and surrounding your customers with opportunities to advocate for you. Also, make sure you can track the results of advocacy through tools your teams already use, like your CRM and/or marketing automation platforms. There are lots of dashboards you can build to show overall ROI from various programs.
4. Use ungated customer stories as your secret sales weapon
Tiffany Beddow, Senior Customer Marketing Manager at ON24, uses partnerships with customer-facing teams to source great candidates for success stories their advocacy program, Customer Voice.
They do this by collecting product feedback and asking advocates about their results with ON24’s platform.
Then, they ask the advocate to create first-person customer stories through Upshot, a solution for effortlessly producing authentic advocate stories.
This example from their customer Twilio provided great references for prospects and excellent fodder for their sales team.
Bonus: they’ve now built a closer relationship with this customer through the story creation process, turning Twilio into an even bigger advocate. Not to mention, they saved their marketing team time and amplified their reach, since the customer also shared the content on their own social networks.
— Jesse Dang (@jessedang) April 11, 2017
Tip: Getting real customers’ voices in front of prospects is key to getting their interest in an authentic way—and leaving them ungated removes the pressure of entering their email. You can do this not only with blogs, but social testimonials and online reviews. If you aren’t encouraging customers to use these channels to share their stories, you could be missing out during the prospect research phase (also known as the “targeted demand” phase in the new demand unit waterfall).
Developing your own advocacy strategy
To generate lasting, authentic demand, your satisfied customers’ voices are your most powerful asset for engaging demand units.
If you’re curious as to how you can start building your own advocate-driven strategy, join top marketers at the Advocate and Customer Marketing Virtual Summit on June 15th, where you’ll learn how to transform customer love into advocacy—and actionable business results.