3 Key Considerations To Convert Customers to Salespeople

Published: February 14, 2012

By Paige O’Neill, VP MarketingAprimo

Happy customers are a B2B brand’s best salespeople. These brand advocates can be tremendously potent ambassadors for a sales force, especially now that social media platforms make it easier than ever for satisfied customers to spread positive feedback about a favorite product or service. The key techniques for creating business advocates – as in many areas of CRM – are careful listening and engaging messaging.

Specifically, devoting attention to three areas can empower company advocates to create valuable opportunities by positive word-of-mouth:

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  • Customer Experience
    Certain B2B customers will go out of their way to praise a high-quality product, helpful customer service or even a compelling interaction with a company. Marketers should pay attention to who’s talking about their products and services, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it. Social media listening tools will help locate enthusiastic customers who are prime targets for engagement.
  • Loyalty
    Customers who are willing to share their positive experiences with a company are well-worth the time and resources needed to cultivate a relationship. Nurturing and investing in happy customers to create a loyal following can pay dividends down the line. Marketers should update customer profiles to include recognition of product advocacy, and nurture loyalty with special acknowledgments, promotions and discounts. It’s critical to keep these interactions relevant, personalized and well-timed. It’s also important to track response rates in order to optimize message cadence later.
  • Platform Availability
    Finally, marketers can help advocates find their voice by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings online. Making sure they feel welcome to talk about their positive experiences on a company web site, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via email are great ways to engage. It’s important that blogs are “comment-friendly,” tweets and Facebook posts are responded to in a timely manner and customer service contact information is readily available on the company web site. One of the keys here is to present a seamless approach across all platforms – including both traditional and digital – to ensure messaging is consistent and credible—and that you’re listening.

Some B2B marketers have avoided social media, assuming Twitter, Facebook and the rest are only useful for B2C products and services. However, a new Global Web Index study, Social Strategy for B2B Marketing 2011, shows that 60% of B2B decision makers use social media. That means B2B buyers are 10% more likely to use a social network than the average internet user. And these numbers are growing quickly: Two years ago only 41% of B2B decision makers were on social media. DemandGen Report’s own study, Inside the Mind of the B2-B Buyer, found that more than half of buyers look to their peers for information on purchase decisions, many of them through social media. Both studies demonstrate the power and value of using social media to turn B2B customers into some of a company’s best advocates.

Today’s digital marketing strategies allow marketers to reach potential advocates in new ways.  Marketing automation solutions empower tracking and integration of multi-channel messages, and advanced data analysis techniques offer fresh insights into the customer life cycle. Combining all these tools allows marketers to create a powerful, influential advocacy network, one that will amplify messages and extend them to new audiences.

Customer advocates have always played the role of valuable, cost-effective salespeople. With a little encouragement and support, today’s brand advocates can become a powerful component of a company’s sales force (and strategy).  Implementing marketing automation and integration tools will help marketers locate satisfied customers, engage with them and delight them even further with offers and promotions that resonate and cultivate deeper brand loyalty.

As VP Marketing at Aprimo, Paige O’Neill is responsible for marketing strategy, messaging, branding, demand generation, collateral development, customer marketing, communications, social media and Aprimo.com. A seventeen-year B2B marketing veteran, Paige uniquely combines product marketing expertise with an extensive background in communications and PR. Her diverse experience crosses marketing software, enterprise software, wireless technology, SaaS/cloud computing, green technology, social media, supply chain software and marketing software.

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