The way buyers purchase products and services has fundamentally and rapidly changed over the last five years. The most important shift is that they now want to learn about products and services from authentic, trusted sources – such as a company’s customers – before they buy. They aggressively seek these sources well before engaging with salespeople:
- Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions. (McKinsey)
- 63% of consumers search for help from other customers online. (Lithium)
- Brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them. (BzzAgent)
The rise of social media and online communities has accelerated this change. Just as they visit Yelp before dining out, your prospects will find a current customer and learn about their experiences with your products in just a few clicks on LinkedIn, Quora or any of the hundreds of product review sites. Who are they going to connect with and what experiences are they going to hear first? As a B2B marketer, you may be wrestling with how to best influence these prospects through positive word of mouth marketing.
What you need is an army of advocates. Advocates are not just satisfied customers.
They are enthusiasts who embrace your company’s vision and willingly advance your interests through their interactions with others. Whether by sharing experiences online, referring new business or recommending your products, these supporters have an enormous – but sometimes unseen – influence on your brand, demand generation and pipeline efforts. In a world like this, one of the most powerful things you can do as a marketer is to find, organize and mobilize these advocates. With a marketing asset this valuable, you can’t just cross your fingers and hope it happens organically. As the importance of peer-to-peer recommendation grows, marketers will need to actively convert customers into advocates and build advocate marketing programs that mobilize their advocates to support sales and marketing initiatives.
Part 1 in a series on Advocate Marketing – from the eBook Advocate Marketing Playbook