Advocacy Marketing and its Value to Product Management

February Event Review: “Advocacy Marketing and its Value to Product Management” with Dan Lindblom, Board of Directors at Customer Stories

By Vinesh Thakur

We live in a commodity driven business world that is run by social media.  Every purchase on Amazon is dictated by customer reviews and star ratings associated with every profile.  This business trend, which has been prevalent in B2C markets for a long time, has also started to penetrate the B2B world.  On Feb. 1st 2017, Dan Lindblom gave an interesting talk about the increasing importance of advocacy marketing.  Advocacy marketing is a form of marketing in which existing customers promote products or services they use.  It is gaining importance as the scope of the sharing economy increases, and macroeconomic trends shift from an ownership to a subscription economy.

No matter what kind of business you are running, customers today are taking the initiative to do the research using the plethora of content available at their fingertips.  As a result, most buyers already have strong impression of a product much before the sales team gets involved.  This creates a huge incentive for marketing teams to get their best stories out to potential customers.  Advocacy marketing is an approach that enables companies to leverage their existing customer experiences in order to build a following for their products.  Once a company has established a reputation for customer satisfaction, it attracts new customers on its own.  Advocacy plays a big role in building that reputation.

Nobody will promote a product that they themselves are not happy with.  As a result, customer experience is the most important factor in building advocates for a product.  Advocacy marketing starts with a few happy customers and a platform to share that satisfaction with other potential customers.  In this process, you build a brand for your company that will ultimately lead to more customers that will in turn lead to more advocates for your product.  It is a chain reaction that, if perfected, can lead to exponential business growth.

The combination of social media and sharing economy has created opportunity for advocacy marketing platforms like never before.  There is value in finding out what platforms customers use to share their experiences and which recommendations lead to a sale.  Identifying key references can increase a product’s outreach to customers and open new avenues for businesses.  I bought my first pair of shoes at Zappos after noticing that over 10 of my friends had liked Zappos on Facebook.  I am not a huge fan of online shopping.  I like to go to a store, pick out the stuff I like, try it and then buy it if it fits the bill.  But the customer experience at Zappos was enticing and gave me very little room to complain.

Advocacy works because people tend to trust the advice they receive from their peers more than advertising campaigns.  Every happy customer that becomes an advocate for your product can attract new customers at virtually no cost.  Therefore, it becomes imperative for the success of advocacy programs to have a framework in place that enables building advocates. There are several ways you can promote advocacy among customers.  Incentivizing advocacy is the best way to build advocates out of customers.  These advocates can be given special access to the product, power to make recommendations on product features, recognition in the industry as thought leaders or just an increase in the star rating on their customer profile.

With great customer experience and an advocacy program that keeps customers engaged, a company can build its brand and create a following.  Once a company has created a following and built strong relationships with its customers, the fruits of advocacy will bring enormous value in the long run.

Vinesh Thakur currently works as a Software Engineer at Cisco Systems.  He has previously held engineering positions at Juniper Networks and Citrix Systems in routing and security domains.  With almost 5 years of experience working as a software developer, Vinesh has worked on several different products across the development lifecycle.  He plans to use his ingenuity to develop innovative products as a future product manager, taking ideas from concept to successful launches.