Ever wondered 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 it is rapidly extending enterprisewide. A few years ago, TOPO has 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
ABM is a, established marketing strategy where 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 the various channels and using personalized messaging which appeal to their specific personas and needs. This method can be very effective on large accounts where each sale has a significant impact the your overall revenue.
Another 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/loss 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 alike to what Account-Based Everything is looking to accomplish: a tactic that aligns sales, marketing, and customer success. So, it stands to reason that by using ABM 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 ABM and customer advocacy
Intuitively, we understand the impact of high-value advocacy in our own product choices and purchasing behavior. For example, we may, or may not, try out a new restaurant if we read a positive customer review somewhere. However, if the recommendation comes from a trusted friend, one who knows exactly what cuisine we like, and who also happens to work as a food critic or a highly demanding chef, how much more likely will we be to try it out?
Similarly, in customer advocacy programs, it’s vitally important to recruit the right advocates in order to create the biggest impact. Yet many firms today, even those with reasonably mature customer advocacy programs, apply a non-targeted, blanket approach to recruiting advocates. As a result, they do not have influential advocates at the right level, in the right companies, or in the right industry. For example, many software firms recruit advocates at the technical level, for example database administrators, instead of targeting VPs and C-level executives who can speak with authority about the specific business benefits and strategic impact of the technology deployed. While all positive voices are of course welcome, some are far more influential than others.
It’s Valentine’s Day today, so what better time to celebrate a match made in heaven? ABM + Customer Advocacy = LOVE! This power couple delivers the right advocates to consistently support your sales, your marketing, and your customer success efforts.
1. ABM tactics for CAP drive exec 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 executives are a busy lot and the toughest crowd to engage.
Have you ever wondered “what do executives care about?”. It turns out 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 ABM strategies gets their team — all subject matter experts that you already have in your program — speaking (not even externally) about your product, service, support, and experience execs will listen and support.
2. Valuable and personalized buyer experiences
Gartner research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. The rest of the time is spent in individual research and internal discussions. In the same study, Gartner finds The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must deconflict with the group.
Pairing ABM 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 info, from the mouth of their peers. It empowers the buying group to achieve alignment across in-person and digital research channels and come to a buying decision faster. So if your organization sees a preponderance of opportunities stuck in the decision making sales stage, this one’s for you!
3. Bigger share of wallet, more upsell / cross-sell
By engaging high-level decision makers at your existing clients, or even just regularly reminding them your value prop, via 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 enables you to learn about and address any concerns which otherwise might go unmentioned, unresolved, and lead to a lost contract.
- Furthermore, higher-level executives are more likely to have responsibility for, or influence in, other areas of their business which could benefit from your products or services, opening up opportunities for you to expand your footprint.
4. Product innovation beyond beta testing
In most advocacy programs I know of, it’s a small group of advocates who voice their enthusiasms over and over again. An ABM approach to customer advocacy can help you grow the number of advocates inside a client organization.
You may not gain vocal advocates; they probably don’t know you brand as well as your power users. But you can get a constant flow of testers, feedback givers, and idea generators. The more divorced these other people are from the IT staff you typically engage, the more you will find about desired use cases, features that make someone’s life easier, UX optimization ideas, and more.
Ask your vocal advocates to recruit their colleagues for small but relevant asks and you will open the door for discovering priceless niche opportunities and market gaps.
How to recruit high-impact advocates
There are several ways to approach this. But firstly, generating advocacy must be viewed and accepted in your organization not as a post-implementation afterthought or a nice-to-have, but as an integral part of your overall sales cycle. Furthermore, it must be treated as a separate sales process in and of itself, albeit with a similar structure to your regular sales activities.
A typical sales process involves:
- promoting brand strength through image and a ‘can-do’ approach
- creating awareness of customer pain points
- proposing a solution
- closing the deal
An advocacy generation sales process involves:
- promoting brand strength through actual performance and a ‘has-done’ approach
- creating awareness of the customer’s desire to showcase their success
- providing a vehicle to advocate
- agreeing on a concrete plan
Your first and most important step therefore is to ensure the customer’s continual satisfaction with the use of your products and services. When applying the ABM approach to advocacy generation, this means appealing to specific high-level personas. Find out what your targeted advocates value most about your brand and why—and use personalized messaging in your engagements.
This leads on to the customer’s desire to highlight their accomplishments. Having the right rewards in place will be paramount to securing the right advocates, as each should be rewarded according to their contribution.
When a key decision maker or higher-level executive advocates your brand, their testimonial may be 10x more impactful to your bottom line than that of a database administrator—therefore if you have a points-based CAP you should offer them 10x more points for their advocacy. Alternatively, potential high-value advocates may be motivated by opportunities to increase their public profiles, such as by giving a presentation in front of hundreds of experts at a flagship industry event.
The specific vehicle for advocacy should also align with the specific advocate type or persona. Speaking engagements, ROI studies, or press coverage are more suited to high-value advocates from the business side, whereas social media posts, product reviews, or involvement in beta testing are more appropriate for technical or less senior advocates.
Finally, agree on a concrete plan and initiate the engagement. As with all major deal closing, make sure that responsibilities and expectations on all sides are clear and concise; that objectives and timelines are established; and that all queries are fully answered.
The exponential future of your CAP with ABM
As you begin to apply an ABM approach to customer advocacy, you will notice your CAP’s success and your company’s bottom line take off to new and unforeseen heights. High-value advocates lead to new high-value customers, initiating a feedback loop as the process repeats and opportunities expand exponentially.
To reach your most wanted, most esteemed, most valuable high-level advocates, begin with your existing advocates and start building trust up the value chain. Make sure you are always ready for the demands ahead, by establishing dedicated program content including brochures, clear program descriptions, community landing pages, readymade examples of previous advocacy content, and even advocates of your advocacy program.
And, as with all ABM efforts, above all focus on value, theirs and yours.