Personas and journey maps have become key tools for the modern marketer. As my colleague Lori Wizdo expertly explains:
It is the job of marketing to guide the buyer through the buying journey.
But what is the final destination of this journey?
Looking at Forrester’s customer life cycle, “Engage” would be the answer — an answer that raises more questions: Engage with whom? For what purpose? And how does Engaging lead to more Discovering? (It is a circle after all, not a line or a funnel or a waterfall . . .)
The Answer Is “Engage In Customer Advocacy”
Customer stories and testimony — examples of what customer advocacy produces — are among the most powerful tools at the disposal of B2B marketers. Authentic customer validation provides crucial evidence that you do what you say. It shows that you deliver on the brand promises you make as a marketer. It is also the No. 1 type of content that buyers value when exploring purchase options.
To tap into this customer goodwill, you need to alter your post-sale, current-customer marketing effort from currying favor to nurturing advocates. We call the process of creating advocates — people who have a personal story or expert perspective to share about your firm — and helping them spread the word about you “customer engagement marketing,” which we define as:
The use of B2B marketing strategy, budget, and resources to encourage existing customers to advocate for, publish content, activate media, or influence buyers on behalf of your company in exchange for implicit value.
When information accessibility and service-oriented business models favor buyers, it is essential to market with and through your customers, and not simply generate high-level testimonials.
In interviews with practitioners and client discussions, we found that B2B marketers who take a strategic approach to customer engagement marketing share a common characteristic: They ensure that customers benefit from participating. They put delivering value first and trust that solid references, case studies, or other useful marketing artifacts will follow.
Four Customer Personalities And Practices Guide Your Customer Marketing Strategy
Our analysis of current practices found that individual advocates tend to exhibit one of four personality types (see figure to the right.)
Top marketers use these four personality models to match a customer’s specific preferences and abilities to what they want to achieve, such as increasing reach, generating referrals, fostering online reviews, or helping sales accelerate deals. Again, they do this by focusing on the advocate first and knowing that the rest will follow.
A well-designed customer marketing program gives key customers many opportunities to share their experience, knowledge, and advice to further their career, to be seen as a valuable asset, or to substantiate their investment choices. Four best practices that can help you create the right balance between “asking for a handout or giving a hand up” in your programs are:
- Design programs around your most prevalent personalities. Customers are a unique company asset, and firms don’t always enjoy an equal share of any one asset compared with another. With sales, services, and customer support, talk about the characteristics that make your current customers valuable. Determine where you might have an abundance of one of the four personality types and how to kick-start the right program by designing it with that personality in mind.
- Focus on creating a personal touch at scale. Every company has certain salespeople, service managers, executives, or marketers who really hit it off with customers. Examine these relationships to understand what creates that spark, and look for ways to incorporate similar personalized experiences into customer engagement marketing programs.
- Grow advocate participation in incremental steps. Minimizing the amount of effort you ask for while maximizing value back to customers will get them to participate more often and more consistently. Getting customers to contribute short videos or fun facts helps lead them to the Holy Grail of advocacy — delivering a public case study.
- Align recognition to the unique motivations of each personality. Collaborators don’t care about redemption points and merchandise, while educators might not relish the idea of dinner with a roomful of executives. Learn what motivates your core personality types as well as which characteristics define their unique personality for your business or industry. Keep the focus on your customers to really make advocacy pay off.
Join Me In Austin To Learn More About The Power Of Customer Advocacy
Besides the “Turn B2B Customer Goodwill Into Gold” and “Convert B2B Customer Passion Into Value Through Advocacy” reports recently published, look for the third and newest edition on this topic to come out in conjunction with our B2B Marketing & Sales 2018 Forum at the end of the month. At the Forum, and in the report “Help Happy Customers Share Their Delight By Prioritizing Post-Sale Marketing” (publication pending), I take a closer look at what it takes to create advocate relationships that produce goodwill gold. (Hint: The answer is content). Like celebrity and online endorsers, your customers have the “star power” to make their experiences, knowledge, and advice valuable to prospects and other customers.
Customer-obsessed marketers are three times more likely to cultivate advocates than their customer-naive peers. Want to be customer-obsessed? Start creating advocates today.