Did you ever wonder what account-based customer advocacy is? Let’s explore!
Account-based marketing (ABM)—targeting marketing efforts towards key accounts in an individualized way—is becoming increasingly valuable and commonplace for B2B marketers and, according to Gartner, is rapidly extending enterprise-wide.
A few years ago, TOPO even introduced an “Account-Based Everything” (ABE) framework to help companies mobilize efforts across sales, marketing, and customer success.
However, one program that sits at the interdepartmental crossroad remains unaddressed—your customer advocacy program.
The case for account-based customer advocacy.
Account-based marketing is an established marketing strategy wherein a few key accounts, or potential key accounts, are marketed to as units of one. Each high-value business account is identified and thoroughly researched, and its key stakeholders are then targeted through various channels and using personalized messaging that appeals to their specific personas and needs.
This method can be very effective on large accounts where each sale has a significant impact on your overall revenue.
A recent growth area in marketing has been customer advocacy. Businesses everywhere have increasingly been launching and ramping up their customer advocacy programs in recognition of the multiple benefits they can bring: increased brand awareness and lead generation, improved win ratios, fewer touches per lead, and reduced closing times—all of which translates into a significant boost to the bottom line.
That sounds very much like what Account-Based Everything is striving to achieve: a tactic that aligns sales, marketing, and customer success.
So, it stands to reason that by utilizing account-based marketing strategies you can maximize your advocacy program’s effectiveness—for example, by engaging high-value advocates who convey deep levels of trust, specificity, and authority to the market.
Combining account-based marketing and customer advocacy.
Intuitively, we understand the impact of high-value advocacy in our own product choices and purchasing behavior. If we read a positive customer review somewhere, we may or may not try out a new restaurant. But if the recommendation comes from a trusted friend who knows exactly what cuisine we like, and who also works as a food critic or a highly demanding chef, we would be more likely to give it a try.
Similarly, when it comes to customer advocacy programs, it is crucial to recruit the right advocates in order to achieve the greatest impact. However, many companies, even those with mature customer advocacy programs, use an indiscriminate and generalized approach to recruiting advocates.
This leads to a lack of influential advocates in the ideal positions, companies, or industries. For example, many software firms may recruit advocates at a technical level, such as database administrators, rather than going after VPs and C-level executives who can speak authoritatively about the precise business benefits and strategic impact of the technology being utilized. While all encouraging voices are welcomed, some are far more influential than others.
Account-based customer advocacy leads to four clearly distinguishable benefits for your program.
Benefit #1: You drive executive engagement.
It’s a no-brainer that customer advocacy programs should recruit executives and decision-makers as advocates. But it’s also common knowledge that busy executives are the toughest crowd to engage.
Executives care about things at a higher level—the strategic, the long-term, the financial. And there’s only one thing that can make the strategy work long-term and bring financial benefits: people.
Executives care about their teams. And if your account-based marketing strategies get their team—all subject matter experts that you already have in your program—speaking (not even externally) about your product, service, support, and experience, executives will listen and support.
Benefit #2: You obtain personalized buyer experiences.
Gartner finds in its research paper “5 Ways the Shift in B2B Buying Will Reconfigure B2B Selling” that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers. The rest of the time is spent on individual research and internal discussions. According to the same study, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to ten decision makers, each armed with four or five pieces of information they have gathered independently and must reconcile with the group.
Pairing account-based marketing tactics with customer advocacy allows your marketing team to strategically position your product during the research phase and target the entire buying group with consistent, relevant, and influential information, directly from their peers. It empowers the buying group to reach alignment across in-person and digital research channels, leading to a buying decision faster.
If your organization finds a high number of opportunities stuck in the decision-making sales stage, this strategy is for you!
Benefit #3: You increase upsell, cross-sell, and market share.
By engaging high-level decision-makers at your existing clients, or even just regularly reminding them of your value proposition through their teams who advocate for you, you are more likely to keep the current contract and also to expand your business with them. Their direct or indirect involvement in your customer advocacy program will serve to regularly reinforce in their minds your product, your brand, and the successes they have achieved with them.
Closer relations with decision-makers also enable you to learn about and address any concerns which might otherwise go unmentioned and unresolved, and lead to a lost contract.
Additionally, high-level executives are more likely to have responsibility for other areas of their business—or influence in those areas—which could benefit from your products or services, opening up opportunities for you to expand your footprint.
Benefit #4: You innovate products beyond beta testing.
In most advocacy programs we know of, it’s a small group of advocates who voice their enthusiasm over and over again. An account-based marketing approach to customer advocacy can help you grow the number of advocates within a client organization.
You may not gain vocal advocates; they probably don’t know your brand as well as your power users. But you can get a constant flow of testers, feedback-givers, and idea generators. The more disconnected these other people are from the IT staff you typically engage, the more you will find out about desired use cases, features that make someone’s life easier, user interface optimization ideas, and more.
Ask your vocal advocates to recruit their colleagues for small but relevant tasks, and you will open the door to discovering priceless niche opportunities and market gaps.