As consumers, we are always more likely to recommend a product or service when we have bought into it. For example, if I have had a great journey with Aer Lingus, then I’m likely to advocate it to my friends. From a marketer’s perspective, advocacy is sharing a positive experience of an organisation. This can be both informally, and formally through content marketing activities such as case studies, references, community participation, speaking engagements, and peer referrals. For the supplier, advocacy can be a powerful way to identify new customers but also to find organic opportunities within existing ones.
According to IDC’s 2015 Cloud Marketing Barometer Survey, marketers for cloud software companies plan to attribute 9% of their total marketing budget to marketing activities aimed at buyers in the advocacy stage of their decision-journey. This is the period when customers are most likely to promote the services they are using or make referrals to brands or partners.
IDC suggests that Cloud Software CMOs benchmark marketing spend figures across the whole purchase journey to effectively capture and retain new cloud customers. For example, a much larger proportion of spend – 40% – goes on marketing to prospects when they’re at the ‘exploration’ phase. If more spend were allocated to the advocacy phase to grow the customer community more organically, it may be that the budget for the ‘exploration’ phase can be reduced.
So, with valuable ROI up for grabs, how can digital marketers ensure that their approach to a customer advocacy programme is successful?
One way that we combine customer marketing and customer advocacy at Oracle Marketing Cloud is by hosting customer success events and awards. Rather than focussing on self-promotion, we encourage customers to share their stories and achievements.
For example, the Markies, our annual digital marketing awards, promote best practices and celebrate the accomplishments of modern marketers in the rapidly evolving industry we are working in. The customer receives loyalty points and rewards for their involvement and their success is also acknowledged in a room full of other brands.
This influence of the other attendees at events is highly valuable. I recently read an interesting blog post by Bob Peterson, expert in customer marketing and Research Director at Sirius Decisions, ‘Events and Advocacy: A Missed Opportunity?’ In this article, Peterson explains that ‘events are a natural source of potential customer advocates.’ He notes that one indication of advocacy is that the customer has put aside their time to attend, and therefore marketers must make the most of this face time to rally further support.
One way to do this is to use events to introduce customers to other customers. The opportunity to network with peers will be well-received by customers and potential customers, and also allows the company to garner insights from a range of customer advocates. Events are also a great way to introduce your business to new influential networks, while building the confidence of other customers through credible expertise, as well as to give tasters of new products. In this sense, they also help marketing on a cross-functional basis.
For example, marketers can use the same events to find cross-selling opportunities through customer knowledge sharing at meet-ups. By helping customers to understand your other product offerings better, you can help them to improve their own marketing programmes. We hold regular forums and invite our customers to share lessons of success to continually inspire other brands that are working with us so that they can keep getting more out of our services and improve their own campaigns.
Understanding when and why a customer might be open to making new investments with your business is crucial, and events can be effective in building the relationships to gain this insight. They also allow you to gather your community of strongest advocates together, enabling you to drive further advocacy, and also identify cross-sell opportunities. The most successful content marketing customer programmes will harness customer marketing and customer advocacy in equal measure, and with a consistent customer experience, position their business as a market leader and trusted brand.
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