Let’s say you work in marketing at a relatively early stage company. Your company, while validated by the analysts and press, is still new-ish and doesn’t exactly have the recognition or reach of say Uber, or the other so-called unicorns of Silicon Valley. That said, your product portfolio is solid, your customers are happy, and everyone is looking at you to get the right customers, the right brands, and the right logos on board for co-marketing.
You might be wondering: Why should that list of Fortune 500 companies that have just joined your customer roster vouch for you right out of the gate? Which of these customers are willing to smack their logo on your website on day one? What’s in it for them?
What seems like a seriously steep hurdle for many businesses, should really be seen as an opportunity. Intimidating? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Do-able? Absolutely.
Here are my three tips for transforming your best customers into your best advocates:
1. Build the type of relationship with your customers that makes you more than a vendor.
I know, I know, it’s always all about the relationship and sometimes they’re just not easy to get. But, I’m here to tell you, try...and try again. It will make all the difference.
There will be times when you need a customer reference and the customers you need are not available. But, it’s your relationships that can persevere.
For example, at my previous company, I was involved in helping close the largest deal of the year, and we needed three solid enterprise customer references. This request coincided with our platform crashing and cutting off all email processing of online orders...on no day other than the biggest online shopping day of the year, Black Friday. True story.
But when our CEO looked at me and told me there had to be a way to provide positive references within 24 hours time, guess what I had to rely on...the relationship. And you know what? Because of the relationship I had fostered with this customer, it really wasn’t that hard for them to speak to the longevity of their experience with us, instead of focusing on a technical issue that was a blip in time.
They knew we would fix the situation. They knew we would make it right for them. And they knew that no matter what the trouble was, we were still the right provider for their needs. We were more than a vendor.
Building these kinds of relationships doesn’t happen overnight. It means learning how to not take ‘no’ for an answer. It means carefully crafting follow-ups and finding new outreach opportunities. Remember the power of picking up the phone and verbally communicating with your customers. Emails are easy to ignore and can go unanswered while conversations are the very foundation of a great relationship.
2. Be 100% aligned with your Customer Success team.
Staying completely aligned with the team that's on the front lines with customers every day can be a challenge. Here are a few of things to keep in mind:
- Yes, the customer success or account managers often own the customer relationship -- but don’t undervalue your stake. Once you get to know the key contacts and the account manager trusts your new found relationship, reach out on your own and take the burden off the account manager.
- Do you know the in’s and out’s of your customer’s co-marketing policy? Okay, so the fine print says no-way to any kind of logo usage or naming. What about speaking opportunities? Can you promote their brand during an event? Could that lead to loosening the reigns in the future?
- What do you know about the customer as a person, not just as a client? Get to know them. When a gift is relevant, don’t send a generic fruit basket -- show them you actually care enough to take the time to learn what they’re all about and send something relevant their way.
3. Always be prepared to answer the “what’s in it for me” question.
More often than not, your customers want to help you, but don’t mistake that for thinking they have some sort of obligation to do so. It’s important to help your customers understand what’s in it for them. You’ll quickly learn that some individuals get super excited about anything that you gamify. Do you have a favorite airline or favorite hotel loyalty program? If you’re like me, you love seeing your point totals and status level rise. Same thing on the B2B side. People like being rewarded for their participation. Offering points as a reward or in exchange for one’s time on a reference call, prepping for a speaking engagement, etc. is a great starting point.
While your biggest fans will likely appreciate some swag as a thank you, you will want to be more creative. Think about creating a list of rewards like conference passes, travel credits or gift cards specific to your customer family that can be redeemed for points. Or you can leverage a gamification tool like Influitive to manage the rewarding, amongst many other advocacy activities.
While the rewards are nice, sometimes advocates are more interested in recognition in order to build their personal profile. It’s been pretty incredible to watch the number of advocates that we’ve worked with over the years climb the ranks at their respective companies. From the speaking opportunities that we helped them land, to the impressive case study data we published together, sometimes the storytelling that may be most helpful to your brand is also incredibly helpful to one’s professional development. Find out what your customers interests are. Are they up for a promotion or looking to expand their role on the team? Do they want to have more of a voice -- with a user group or maybe even their executive team? How can you help?
Building a world class customer advocacy program takes time, but remember you don’t need to work for a household company name with a huge customer base to drive impressive results. You will be surprised by the number of customers, let alone the marquee names, that are willing to advocate for your brand...and not just willing, but want to. You will also be surprised that when you sit down with your customer’s PR team and explain your company’s goals and how you’d like to partner, that they may be up for it and their reach may actually end up helping yours.
Take a minute to check out two ways Invoca customers are actively joining us in our co-marketing efforts. You can watch a few customer stories here, and see which customers took home awards during Invoca Summit.