There are 2 powerful approaches every startup or SME must adopt to drive customer acquisition and business growth. In this article, the first of a 2 part series, we’ll discuss the first – “Advocacy Marketing”.
What is Advocacy Marketing?
Advocacy Marketing is about using existing clients and customers who are strong advocates of your start-up or SME (ie your raving fans) to endorse and promote your products and services to other potential clients and customers.
Advocacy Marketing is comprised of two key components:
- Referrals: Endorsements from trusted people such as colleagues, employees and friends
- References: Customers who are willing to speak to on your behalf to potential customers about:
- The products and services your start-up or SME provided
- The impacts they had on their business
- Their experiences working with you
Why is Advocacy Marketing important?
It is essential that you have advocacy marketing as part of your B2B marketing strategy as B2B buyers find a peer to peer dialogue to be authentic and trustworthy.
FACTS: A study of more than 600 B2B organizations in Canada and the US found that 84% of B2B decision-makers start the buying process with a referral.
Furthermore, recent studies by TrustRadius have found that trust among B2B buyers is at an all-time low.
Referrals and references can significantly impact a B2B company’s performance.
- 71% of companies with referral programs reported higher conversion rates
- Companies with reference programs have increased their closing rates significantly ranging from 30 to 150%
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How to implement Advocacy Marketing?
The key to getting the most out of these Advocacy Marketing approaches is to set up a centralised, formalised B2B Customer Advocacy program. The program should consist of the following:
A formal referral program which specifies:
- what types of referrals to seek
- when to ask for a referral
- how to ask for a referral
- how to manage the referral both internally and externally
A customer reference program may involve activities such as:
- case studies/success stories
- video testimonials
- prospects visiting customer premises
- customers speaking on behalf of your company to media and/or at industry or company events
The activities that you will use for your start-up’s or SMEs Customer Reference Program will be determined by:
- Where your buyers look
- The kinds of information your buyers want to look at
- Who your buyers want to speak to
Asking customers to participate in your Customer Reference Program is like making a withdrawal request based on their goodwill.
You will need to provide incentives to encourage them to participate. However, you will also need to consider what rewards the members of the buying groups in the participating companies will value.
Some examples of incentives your start-up or SME could offer include:
- Free product trials
- Invitations to special industry VIP events
- Professional Development
The key success factor for customer reference programs? Buyer appeal
To maximise the benefit your company gets from your customer reference program, you must get executive references (ie references from your buyers’ senior-level peers) and not just those who appeal to users.
Your references should demonstrate how your start-up or SME helped them achieve strategic and broader objectives, in addition to user requirements.
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About Michael Haynes
B2B Customer Acquisition & Growth Strategy Consultant
For over 20 years, Michael has worked with micro-businesses to large corporates alike across Australia and Canada, developing and implementing business growth strategies and programs.