Customer advocacy in half a day: getting maximum comms value in four hours

A client asked me an interesting question recently: “I have a customer willing to support our comms efforts, but he’s only available for a few hours. What’s the best use of their time to give us maximum impact?”

It’s a good problem to have: the biggest challenge is often, even for some of the biggest tech firms in the world, finding customers willing to take part in comms activity. But given customer advocacy has evolved into a real competitive differentiator – and arguably the single most useful B2B marketing tool – it’s worth getting right.

So, how best to use that limited time?

It probably helps – as it often does – to think in terms of the funnel. In B2B tech, customer advocacy tends to live in ‘consideration’, when prospects are both subconsciously looking or actively evaluating options. But for large deals with a long lifecycle, it has a vital part to play further down the funnel, convincing buyers who are close to purchase through more in-depth advocacy around the impact and positive experience with the vendor.

Forrester’s Laura Ramos groups customer advocacy in the four areas below, which I think is quite a neat way of thinking about it:

  • Validation (References, social sharing, case studies)
  • Dedication (MVP programmes, referrals, speaker bureau)
  • Education (community / hub, ambassadors, forums)
  • Inspiration (advisory board, business collaboration)

Even if initially time is limited, do everything you can to convince them to take part in a much broader programme. Obviously, that will come down to selling the value: you’re going benefit the most if customers believe they’re getting something out of it – that might be feeling part of a chosen few, networking with peers or telling the world how innovative they are. For many, it’s about growing their personal profile to get a bigger job… and that’s fine!

And if they genuinely only have half a day?

I don’t think there’s just one answer; it comes down to where they can have the biggest impact, and that will vary from organisation to organisation. Content that can be viewed or listened to and shared is often the most useful to get the content seen by lots of people – this can include the tried and tested written case study supported by media interviews, but a compelling video – not just the boring talking head – which really drills into the business benefits is can be really powerful. Both should be boosted by highly targeted social spend. If you’re targeting specific customers who are close to buying, direct conversations either at a small event or one-to-one would work best.

For both routes, it’s about working the limited time hard and creating as much content as you can.

Take two cameras to any shoot to capture the behind the scenes footage; splice it up so you can release chunks in stages; get some pictures for Twitter; note down some soundbites for future releases or social; turn it into a written case study; ask if they’d up for ad hoc media interviews afterwards. They might not let you do / use all of these but you won’t know till you try.

And, of course, measure it. The only way you’ll keep getting (more) value from your customer advocacy programmes is knowing what that value actually is.

Written by Andre Labadie, Director, Business & Technology.