Getting Started with Advocate Marketing and Online Customer Reviews

Customer engagement begins the moment a prospective client spots a mention of your company on social media, or hears about your product from a peer in their industry. Potential buyers are actively listening to what your current customers have to say, and, like many things in life, first impressions count.

In fact, according to a Forrester report, eight out of ten IT decision-makers rely on word of mouth marketing as their primary influencer when making buying decisions. That’s the power of advocate marketing.

In this post, I’ll introduce the concept of advocate marketing, share how Bluewolf has worked with Influitive to experience increased engagement with customer reviews, and explain what you should consider when getting started with your own review program.

Why Advocate Marketing?

Advocate marketing is a discipline that helps businesses capture the enthusiasm of their customers, partners, and employees, and turn that into a powerful force for igniting business growth. By using advocate marketing strategies and inviting advocates to have conversations with and about your brand, you can leverage the power of your most vocal evangelists to achieve business objectives such as increased brand awareness, demand generation, and revenue growth.
 
Still skeptical? Consider how much the business-to-business buying process mirrors how we buy as consumers:

  • 92% of buyers trust recommendations from family and friends above other types of marketing. (Nielsen Research)
  • 84% of B2B decision makers start off the buying process with a referral. (Edelman Trust Barometer)
  • Before making a purchase, 59% of B2B buyers engage with peers who share their challenges. (Forrester Research)

Customer reviews on third-party websites also play a significant role, especially early in the buying process when buyers are considering multiple vendors.

Building brand awareness – and customer engagement – with reviews

Bluewolf understands first-hand the impact of customer advocacy, so before embarking on their own efforts to engage their global clients, they reached out to Influitive.
 
Influitive’s platform is a natural fit for a company already obsessed with customer engagement, and we’re really excited that Bluewolf has experienced some early successes with their new program, particularly in the area of customer reviews.

Because buyers place so much faith in customer reviews, Bluewolf has decided to focus a portion of its new advocate marketing program, Bluewolf Champions, on generating more genuine customer reviews of the services they provide.

Although there are a variety of sites that customers can visit to give reviews about products and services, Bluewolf has been concentrating on two sites:

  • AppExchange: Salesforce.com’s marketplace of business applications and consulting partners
  • G2 Crowd: a site used by enterprise technology buyers, investors and analysts to compare and select software based on peer reviews and synthesized social data

Bluewolf understands that their clients are busy. They are confident that if they ask — and reward — their customers, their online customer review program will thrive.

How to build your own bank of customer reviews 

Want more genuine customer reviews for your own products and services? Here’s how to get started:

  1. Mobilize your advocates
    Contact your most loyal, enthusiastic customers and ask them to post a review about their experience with your company. The key is to encourage authenticity rather than mandating positivity.
    With a simple request, Bluewolf advocates responded by posting several reviews within a couple of weeks. 
  2. Choose your review sites
    As the number of online review sites grows, it can be tempting to want to have presence on as many as possible. However, you’ll make a bigger impact by having more reviews on just a few sites that align closely with your business.
    Ask your advocates to post one review on each of your selected sites, and you can quickly grow your online review portfolio. This listing of business technology review sites can help you get started.  
  3. Streamline the review process
    While you can send out emails to customers each time you want them to post a review, Bluewolf has chosen to use advocate marketing software to help them automate their requests to get more responses and save valuable time.
    Influitive’s AdvocateHub allows Michelle Parker, Bluewolf’s Marketing Communications Manager, to post fun activities that make it easy for her customers to take action when convenient.  
  4. Make it fun!
    To keep your advocates interested, why not throw in an unexpected survey question or other fun activities in between requests for reviews? This could be as simple as asking them to respond to questions such as:

    “Coke or Pepsi?”
    “Beatles or Rolling Stones?”
    Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Whichever activities you choose, be sure to keep the focus on your advocates so they’ll feel like they’re getting something back, and be motivated to meet the next opportunity you send their way.  
  5. The 3 Rs: Reuse, recycle and repurpose
    Your advocates don’t have to write unique content for each review site. Assuming it’s still true and it fits the requirements of the website, encourage advocates to reuse, recycle and repurpose what they’ve already shared on one site for another. 

Early engagement by the numbers

Since launching the Bluewolf Champions program just over a month ago, Bluewolf has seen some promising results, discovering a whole new group of advocates they didn’t know existed.
 
Here’s the breakdown since launching:

  • 138 global customers have opted in to become advocates
  • 69 advocates are what we call “engaged advocates” — those who perform high-value, revenue-generating activities
  • 12 customer reviews for AppExchange, G2Crowd and their own website
  • Together, Bluewolf’s advocates have performed nearly 500 activities (and counting!)
  • Primary advocates include: senior managers, directors and some Chief Information Officers

Bluewolf is looking to build on these results by increasing the number of engaged advocates, as well as getting more C-suite and senior-level individuals involved. In my next post, I’ll shine the spotlight on how Bluewolf is building a customer community that allows them to better engage with their customers in the long run.

Chris Newton is VP of Business Development at Influitive.


Bluewolf, an IBM Company, is a global consulting agency and proven Salesforce strategic partner that builds digital solutions designed to create results. Now.