We all know how good customer advocates are for sales: Reference calls help reps close deals; case studies can entice prospects to take a closer look; the list goes on.
But when it comes to strategically integrating customer voices into marketing content and activities, many organizations still find themselves in the wild west, grabbing at opportunities as they arise but rarely taking the time to fully strategize how they’ll use customer advocates in marketing content. And this slap-dash approach leaves us apt to neglect the potential impact of customer voices earlier in the buying journey.
That’s why the same marketers who have embraced strategic content operations and account-based marketing are now starting to taking a serious look at building robust customer voice and customer advocacy programs for marketing that integrate customer advocates throughout the entirety of the customer journey, not just to seal the deal on for a sales rep.
They’re attuned to a growing trend in the expectations of potential buyers who expect more than thought leadership from you, but also to hear the opinions of their peers at every step of the way.
Customer advocacy programs aren’t just for facilitating reference calls anymore. They’re a strategic, full-funnel marketing tool.
Let’s take a closer look at the key reasons marketing executives are taking a serious interest in building and scaling a dedicated, programmatic approach to harnessing customer voices.
Three Reasons Marketing Leaders Should Invest in Customer Advocacy Programs
1. Peer voices > company voices
At this point, it’s a cliche that content is king in the world of marketing. And while it’s essential to build a consistent voice that provides expertise and value to prospects and customers alike, it’s just as important to let your customers speak on your behalf.
Prospects turn to you for your expertise, but they look to their peers for an honest assessment of what your promises look like on the ground. No amount of research or expertise can match the insights of a real customer living the problems (and your solution to them!) of your target market.
That’s why content marketers must incorporate customer voices into as much content as they can, whether it’s ghostwriting customer-authored content or simply infusing quotes and insights into eBooks and blogs.
And remember that your prospects aren’t your only audience. Your customer advocates influence the opinions of news outlets, analysts, and more.
2. Not all customer reference content is created equal
Customer advocacy content is like any other marketing content: Some pieces have a higher ROI than others. Building and maintaining customer relationships is an investment—as is the output that results. When you take a scattershot approach to customer advocacy, you’ll end up throwing time and money around in unstrategic ways.
A marketing-led program works because it’s data-driven, highlighted by visibility into dollars influenced by references. In many ways, tracking the impact of reference content is one of the most tangible ways of measuring marketing ROI. The most effective teams do more of what works by tracking how reference material is used (or not) and using that information to influence future decisions.
3. Customer advocacy is full-funnel
Customer voices belong at every stage of a customer journey, which means advocacy needs a programatic approach. And if there’s one thing at which marketers excel, it’s running a program with efficiency and intention.
In fact, Heinz Marketing found that companies are three times more likely to achieve their revenue goals when marketing manages the referral program. Coincidence? I think not.
Marketers have the clearest view of the buyer’s journey, from awareness through to renewal, of anyone in an organization. In leading the messaging that forms a customer’s experience, marketers are well-positioned to bring advocate voices into the full journey.
How to Mature Your Reference Program
Most businesses have made some level of investment in customer advocacy, but that “customer advocacy program” may look like nothing more than a single employee trying to keep up with sales requests while working out of a spreadsheet.
As a marketing leader, it’s critical that you lend your support to efforts to mature the program so that your advocacy managers can get out of the day-to-day and into a more strategic approach to amplifying the voice of the customer.
Your advocacy managers should be empowered to:
- Serve as gatekeepers to protect references from being over-used
- Track the usage and impact of various content types, as well as performance across buying stage, industry, and more.
- Maintain a clear view into the bench of available advocates (as well as how much they’ve been called upon and which acts of advocacy they’re interested in participating in) in order to identify gaps and strategically reward and incentivize key advocates
- Track and report on program ROI
- Build a customer-centric marketing and selling culture
Want to learn more about the intersection of marketing and customer advocacy? Check out the CMO’s Guide to Peer-to-Peer Selling.
Photo by Charles Deluvio.