How to Create a Winning Customer Advocacy Program in 3 Simple Steps

sochi_winning_customer_advocacyThe Sochi Olympics has come to an end. It’s been an interesting Winter Olympics with the opening ceremony glitch, lack of clean water in hotels, Bob Costas contracting pink eye, and all the players using the hook up app Tinder. Maybe interesting is an understatement.

This year’s Olympics has inspired us to write about how your B2B marketing team can create a winning customer advocacy program that will drive engagement and capture new leads.

What’s Happening to Consumers Today

There’s no denying consumers in both B2B and B2C markets are bombarded with advertisements and promotions everyday either online or in their homes. The struggle B2B companies are having today is differentiating themselves from a sea of competitors who are battling each other for their customers’ attention.

According to Yankelovic, a market research firm, a person living in a city 30 years ago sees up to 2,000 ad messages a day, today that same person will see about 5,000 ad messages.

Gretchen Hofmann, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Universal Orlando Resort explains, “What all marketers are dealing with is an absolute sensory overload. The landscape is “overly saturated” as companies press harder to make their products and services stand out.”

So, how can you really stand out from the crowd? Find the customers who love you and ask for help.

How to Create a Winning Customer Advocacy Group

No matter how old your organization is, you have customers who come back for your business. In fact, you probably have customers who absolutely love you. Creating a customer advocacy group for these people will give you access to their brain power, expertise and influence, ultimately generating new leads.

An advocacy group is a group of individuals, typically your current customers, who adore your product or service and are usually telling their friends about what you do.

Let’s begin.

Step one: Identify the customers who love you

You need to figure out the customers who love you. In general, customers who love your product or service have been with you for a while, and love talking about how much you helped them do their job.

To find these people you may need to talk to your sales team or marketing team, including your social media manager, to identify those customers who say positive things about you both online and offline. Identify a handful of advocates and simply call or email them asking if they’d be interested in joining your advocacy group.

Step two: Create a place where advocates can gather

Once you find your advocates, group them together in a community. This community can be as simple as creating a private LinkedIn group where you can introduce them to each other and have an easy access point. Or, go “old school” and invite them all to dinner one night every six months to touch base. The point is to create a place where these advocates “live” making it easy for you to get quick responses and for them to feel special.

One of our clients, VIF International Education, already had the infrastructure in place to create an online community within their learning center for teachers, similar to Facebook or LinkedIn. We decided that was the perfect place to create a private online group for VIF’s advocates to gather – our members were already familiar with the platform, and it was equipped with everything you need to engage with like-minded people all around the world. All of that made step three a whole lot easier…

Step Three: Start tapping into advocates for special projects

It’s important to keep one or two people on your team as the go-to contacts of the advocate group. Too many people asking for things from the advocates will turn them away. Keep one friendly employee as the main go-to person whom your advocates like and most importantly trust.

You can start by asking your advocates input on special projects you are working on, their opinion on interesting blog posts or maybe a question about your product. Whatever it is, start small and work toward the bigger “asks.” For example, asking them to travel to a conference with your sales team as a valued advocate of the company or even asking them to give a great testimonial for your website.

Advocates will be happy to helpOnce you complete all three steps, you will be surprised as to how far and how much your advocates will want to contribute to your organization’s success. We found one advocate for VIF who was ready to be “paraded around” to every potential client because our business made such a difference in his life.

A customer on your side ready to spread the good news about you and what you do is exactly what you want in an advocate. Once you tap into the power of an advocate you will never look back.