Customer advocacy, also known as word of mouth marketing, is one of, if not the, most powerful marketing tools brands have today. Why? Because consumers trust third-party reviews, endorsements, and recommendations from real people far more than ‘cold’ marketing or advertising messages.
In fact, research suggests a 12 per cent increase in advocacy (done well) can represent up to a 200 per cent increase in revenue. Customer advocates are also 50 per cent more likely to influence a purchasing decision and two times more likely to generate sales than paid advertising. Meanwhile, 92 per cent of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.
One of the most critical B2B marketing mix components is having a robust and scalable customer advocacy program. Having your customers explain how they use your product to solve their problems in a clear, authentic way is key to marketing and selling your B2B solution.
Despite the benefits of customer storytelling, 80 per cent of companies don’t like leverage advocates in their inbound marketing, and 58 per cent of companies don’t even know who the brand advocates are.
So why is this the case? From our experience, we’ve all too often seen companies place customer advocacy in the ‘too hard basket.
Approaching customers and getting their buy-in becomes manually intensive; producing the content internally becomes laborious and time-intensive. Then amplifying the content across the right paid and organic channels becomes a logistical nightmare.
Suddenly, simply running an ad just seems so much ‘easier’ in comparison. You set it up, automate, boom. But what happens when you turn off those ads? Your marketing stops.
Meanwhile, the cost of digital advertising is rising five times faster than inflation, even though 30 per cent of all internet users are now using ad blockers, and among both Millennials and Gen Xers, there is a consistent rise in ad blindness.
However, when done right, customer stories are the ‘gifts that keep on giving.’ They remain on your site, PR, social and marketing channels, on your sales slides, and on partner sites for months, if not years.
That’s why they’re called marketing ‘assets’. You get sustained ROI from them over time. And that’s why more and more agencies are so passionate about driving, scaling and amplifying customer advocacy content within their marketing strategies.
As the famous RockstarCX James Dodkins says, “find those organic stories, the stories that customers share themselves online, not the ones they’ve been ‘coerced’ to tell. If you’re going to be putting systems in place to find these authentic stories, then really make a big deal of them, share them!”
First of all, your C-Suite needs to understand and value the business and commercial benefits of customer storytelling and advocacy. This needs to be cemented from the top and trickle itself down.
Next, employ a dedicated internal customer advocacy manager who is seasoned and can orchestrate a scalable and sustainable program that can be integrated with demand generation and inbound marketing, plus aligned with sales strategy.
Thirdly, invest in a seasoned media and marketing partner who understands strategic customer advocacy marketing. A specialist partner can help streamline internal strategy, scale internal efforts and produce suitable content streams, such as webinars, events, videos, use cases, sales slides and media campaigns. These can then be integrated into a holistic inbound campaign aligned with sales KPIs.
There’s ample evidence that consumers trust ads less and want more personalised experiences. Putting the customer front and centre of your marketing efforts showcases how much you value the customer experience.
At the same time, your customer champions get additional marketing and media exposure, which in turn helps them enjoy an experience beyond the product or service you provide to them. It all starts with a mindset shift. Are you ready?
To understand more about the role of customer storytelling and the impact it has to play on your marketing strategy, talk to the team here at CSMG digital.
Article courtesy of Marketingmag.com and Azadeh Williams, Founder and Managing Partner of AZK Media.