Bringing Brand Advocacy to B-to-B

Julie Davis
B2B Marketing
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Key Takeaways
  • The first step in building an advocate program is defining and identifying advocates.

  • Advocates help marketers tap into customers’ innate desires, and B-to-B brands should harness this interaction.

  • Assigning someone responsibility for the health of the overall brand advocate program and making sure you have buy-in from company stakeholders is key.

Brand advocates are a key part of many consumer marketers’ toolkits, and B-to-B marketers are catching on, using them to drive referrals and boost sales, experts say.

If you don't have advocacy, it means you’re driving way less profit that you could,” says Mark Organ, founder and CEO of Influitive Corp., a B-to-B brand advocacy software company based in Toronto. “Advocates reduce the cost of acquiring new customers, and they increase the value of every new customer you win.”

Brand advocates—those passionate, highly satisfied customers who go out of their way to promote a brand on social media and through word of mouth—aren’t a new concept, especially in the B-to-C realm. If you were to open a newspaper 150 years ago, you’d see ads with customer testimonials, but dramatic changes in social media have extended the reach of brand advocates, Organ says. “It’s so much easier, risk-free and fast to hear from peers than it was even a decade ago, and buyers just don’t want to hear from marketing departments any more like they used to.

While B-to-C companies tap advocates to share promotional offers and write product reviews, B-to-B companies typically look to advocates for testimonials and referrals, says Carter Hostelley, founder and CEO of Burlingame, Calif.-based social media consultancy LeadtailWith everything that’s happening in the B-to-B space with social media and content marketing, [brand advocacy] is much broader. ...The value that advocates drive is different, but not insignificant,” Hostelley says.

According to Hostelley, the first step in building an advocate program is defining and identifying advocates, and customer surveys can help brands determine who might be willing to become an advocate. Some B-to-B companies might want to refine brand advocacy along certain parameters, such as the size of a customer’s company, their industry or their role at a company, in order to reach a more targeted audience, Hostelley says.

The next step is to set goals for your brand advocate program, such as increasing referrals, Organ says. A fully mature brand advocate program should be tracking the value that advocates bring to the company and make them feel valued, he adds.

Hostelley agrees. “[As an advocate], I'm not doing it for that bottle of wine, or … for a Starbucks gift card. I'm doing it because I believe in you, I want to help you out and I know that the people I bring, I’m helping them out, too.”

Assigning someone responsibility for the health of the overall brand advocate program and making sure you have buy-in from company stakeholders is key, Organ says. Marketers must work across departments, from customer service to product development, to make sure that brand advocates feel justified in their work, he adds.​​​​​​

Advocates help marketers tap into customers’ innate desires, and B-to-B brands should harness this interaction. “We, by and large, like to advocate for things all the time. … It’s a natural part of how we interact,” Hostelley says. “Frankly, we do it because we want to help others.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2015​ issue of B2B Marketing.​​​


Author Bio:

Julie Davis
Julie Davis is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She can be reached at jdavis@ama.org.
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