Marketers know that finding ways to increase customer engagement is good for the bottom line. “Customer engagement is highly correlated to customer loyalty,” says Aimee Lucas, Customer Experience Transformist and VP at the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm.
That’s because loyal customers are more likely to buy again, and buy more than before. “We see companies who have improved engagement increase cross-sell by 22%, drive up-sell revenue from 13% to 51%, and also increase order sizes from 5% to 85%,” says R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO at Constellation Research, an advisory and research firm.
However, loyalty can generate revenue on another front: demand gen.
Loyal customers draw in more customers
Customer engagement really begins the moment a buyer spots a mention of your company on social media, or hears about your product from a peer in their industry.
In today’s hyper-connected world, people aren’t shy about sharing their opinions—and B2B buyers are listening. The 2015 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report found that 20% of respondents consider peer recommendations one of the top information resources when researching potential vendors (along with web research and analyst reports).
If B2B marketers don’t get in the game early, they risk having others drive the conversation around their products and services.
The good news is that there’s a group your prospective customers will trust who can speak on your behalf: your current customers. By engaging these power users, and turning them into vocal advocates for your brand, you can improve what is being said in third-party channels about your company.
Engaged customers are more likely to spread positive word of mouth about your brand through blogs and social media, videos, case studies, speaking engagements and other activities. This social proof will help you attract more prospects, close more deals and shorten the sales cycle.
However, you have to engage your customers throughout their lifecycle if you want them to advocate for you at every stage of your potential buyer’s journey.
Building customer engagement & advocacy throughout the customer lifecycle
First, you need a consistent way to connect with your customers. “Companies need to start by understanding how their interactions are meeting the functional, accessible and emotional expectations of their customers through a ‘voice of the customer’ program,” suggests Aimee.
In particular, a formal advocate marketing program can ensure you’re engaging your customers, encouraging them to advocate for your brand and recognizing them for their contributions.
Download this free guide for a wealth of insight on the value of customer engagement from leading industry analysts; as well as real-world examples of how customer marketers at fast-growing companies are focusing on customer engagement—and seeing results.
Here’s how you can leverage and motivate advocates throughout the customer lifecycle.
This is the stage in the buying process when potential buyers are learning about the features of your products and services. Word of mouth, blogs, social media, user reviews and other online content are all heavy influencers at this stage.
Ask your advocates to contribute to this social proof by sharing their positive experiences on various social media and review sites. Then thank them for their contributions and promote their online profiles. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’re helping to boost their online reputation.
2. Final selection
By the time buyers reach this point, your advocates have likely already influenced their decision-making process.
To really help them finalize their selection, connect them with advocates from similar industries and roles that can offer case studies, testimonials and reference calls. Position this as an opportunity for your advocates to increase their professional network and talk about their success with your product or service, and they’ll be happy to oblige.
In this stage, buyers have made the commitment to invest in your solution and are looking for advice from current customers and product experts to get the most from their investment.
Try crowdsourcing tips and suggestions from your advocates to create a best practices user’s guide to share with your new customers. You can also set up a community program where customers can connect with peers and share advice. Share your advocates’ success stories, and help foster professional relationships, and it will be a win-win for all parties involved.
4. Providing feedback on the product or service
At this stage, a customer has spent some time with your product or service and is in a position to provide input on what is working and what needs adjustment.
Reach out to them to ask for their feedback on everything from your newest product release to your next marketing campaign. This will make advocates feel valued—as long as you try to implement their suggestions.
5. Referral leads
Referrals are the most sought-after leads. If customer advocates submit the names of peers who would also be a fit for your products or service it will really contribute to your company’s bottom line.
Encourage advocates to refer new prospects to you by making your referral process smooth and transparent. Then, reward advocates appropriately for making an introduction.
All of these activities ensure increased customer engagement throughout the buying process and customer lifecycle—driving both demand gen and revenue at the same time.
This free eBook demonstrates how forward-thinking companies are mobilizing their best customers to deliver results through every stage of the revenue cycle, including:
- Act-On Software’s pipeline filling referral program
- DocuSign’s domination of product review sites
- Ektron’s customer-generated event content
- Xactly’s prestigious social award wins