Solving the B2B Advocacy Challenge

THE B2B ADVOCACY CHALLENGE

Getting Advocates to publicly endorse products and services can be a challenge for B2B marketers. Many companies have policies that prohibit employees from openly recommending vendors.

I know this challenge well. When I was at Regis McKenna, I worked for weeks to create a customer testimonial for a client of ours. When I finally got the testimonial back from the client, their attorneys had red-lined every paragraph in the testimonial except the section about who the company was.

In other words, they killed the testimonial.

THE SOLUTION: CREATE A CAUSE

An effective strategy for overcoming this challenge is getting Advocates to recommend a big idea or unique approach associated with your company. This is called “creating a cause.”

No Software

Salesforce.com is a good example of a company that has done a brilliant job of creating a cause. Salesforce.com was a pioneer in “software as a service,” or SAAS, an approach where people “rent” software rather than buying it.

Salesforce.com knew that many IT and business leaders were tired of buying big, bloated software packages they had to install on their company’s servers. They also knew that many people were annoyed by costly, time-consuming software installations, expensive maintenance fees, upgrades, and high-pressured sales tactics.

So they tapped into this frustration and galvanized it. The slogan for the campaign was summed up in two words: “No Software.”

Salesforce.com Ignites Advocacy

Salesforce.com’s message hit a nerve.

Thousands of IT and business professionals rallied around the “No Software” battle cry. Software.com invited its customers and others to tell their “big software” horror stories and why SAAS kicked ass. Of course,  Salesforce.com plastered these testimonials on its website and across all of its marketing materials.

Ironically, when Salesforce.com began the No Software program, they were just another upstart CRM vendor like ACT! or Goldmine. But Salesforce.com beat its competitors to the punch by creating a cause-based advocacy program.

You Can Do This Too

Here’s how you can create a cause that drives advocacy and overcomes the challenge of getting public endorsements:

1.     Identify the cause or issue that your company stands for or against. It helps if there is an clear “enemy.” For Apple, that enemy was IBM at first and later Microsoft.

2.     Identify customers and others who share your viewpoint. These are the Advocates for your cause.

3.     Give Advocates for your cause tools to create and share content in support of your cause. This includes tools that make it easy to create stories and share them on blogs, Twitter, online communities, and elsewhere.

4.     Smartly leverage the content these Advocates create by showcasing it on your website and elsewhere in your marketing materials.

5.     Track and optimize results.

It’s Not a Product, It’s a Movement

Much of your marketing and selling is focused on why your products and services are better than the other guy’s. A lot of this doesn’t even register with buyers who are overwhelmed by marketing messages and sales pitches.

Go beyond speeds and feeds. By creating a cause, you elevate your sales and marketing. As support for the cause grows, interest in your products and services and your sales will rise also.