5 Proven Ways to Leverage Customer Advocates in B2B

If you're a B2B marketer, you may be wondering how to drive more advocacy for your company and products.

Here are five proven ways to tap into the power of customer advocacy in B2B:

1. Get Advocates to create and post product reviews.

Reviews for business products and services are becoming more popular. Business sites like TrustPilot, G2 Crowd, and Spiceworks all feature user reviews. 

Hibu, a digital marketing services company, encourages Advocates to create and publish reviews for their products and services. Since starting their Advocate reviews program last year, Hibu's ratings have skyrocketed from two to eight stars on a popular business reviews site.

2. Encourage Advocates to create and share stories.

Stories are different than reviews.

Reviews usually focus on product features and functions. Stories, on the other hand, are often  about the overall experience customers are having with your company or about a topic or issue related to your company.

NursesRx, a company that places traveling nurses on assignments at hospitals and other health-care settings, conducted a highly successful Advocate stories campaign entitled: "I am Nurses Rx."

NursesRx generated hundreds of compelling, original stories from nurses who participated in this campaign, which helped bring their brand to life in a very human way.

3. Encourage Advocates to refer peers.

Referral marketing is highly cost-effective. In a recent study by Software Advice, B2B marketers rated referral marketing as one of the lowest-cost yet highest quality lead gen tactics. 

The key is having an "always-on" referral marketing system that makes it easy and rewarding for Advocates to refer peers.

Here's an example of how LeanKit, a client of Zuberance's, has solicited referral leads from Advocates.

4. Get Advocates to answer prospects' questions.

Let's imagine that Darren, a small business owner and prospect of yours, is thinking about subscribing to your software but is still on the fence.

Why not invite Darren to chat online with one of your Advocates?

That's exactly what Intuit QuickBooks is doing with its "Advocate Answers" program, which is managed and powered by Zuberance.

Pretty cool stuff, right? It's like a real-time, online customer reference program. You can even reward Advocates for answering prospects' questions.

5. Create an online community of your Advocates.

More B2B companies are creating by-invitation-only communities for their Advocates, where these customers can earn rewards for completing actions like the ones mentioned above.

Advocate Communities are Different that Customer Communities

Please don't confuse Advocate communities with online customer communities used primarily for peer-to-peer support, technical problem-solving, or product feedback.

Advocate communities differ in two major ways from customer communities:

  1. Advocate communities are for Advocates only. They are limited to highly-satisfied, enthusiastic customers who pro-actively recommend your company, products, or services. 
  2. Advocate communities have different goals and purposes than customer communities. The primary goal for an Advocate community is to encourage and enable Advocates to spread positive WOM and help drive sales via actions like referrals. This is not the case with a peer-to-peer support community.

Do You Need an Advocate Community?

You don't necessarily need an Advocate community to drive more advocacy and sales.

With Zuberance's cloud-based advocacy solution, you can engage and leverage your Advocates wherever they are -- and without requiring them to join a community.

How are you leveraging your B2B Advocates?



How this Home WiFi Company Boosted Online Ratings from 2.9 to 4.0


This start-up company manufactures and sells routers that cut or eliminate WiFi "dead zones" in homes.

Home WiFi routers are a highly-competitive market.  Dozens of companies offer products that make similar claims.

And like many other products these days, 90% of shoppers for home WiFi routers (and other products) are influenced heavily by online ratings.


Online reviews and ratings for this company's product stood at 2.9 -- poor. Here are some of the headlines of these negative reviews:

  • "Horrible WiFi"
  • "Very frustrating"
  • "It does not work"

Negative Reviews = Lost Sales

These negative reviews were costing the company thousands of dollars in lost sales and damage to the brand's reputation.

Most consumers won't buy products with less than four stars, research shows. For example, 22% of consumers will not buy after reading just one negative review. After three negative reviews, that number jumps to 59% (source: Google consumer study)

It was imperative for this company to boost its online ratings. And they needed to do it quickly before more money flew out out the door.

Zuberance Solution

Zuberance created a program that identified and mobilized the company's highly-satisfied customers (AKA "Advocates") to create and publish reviews.

Via Zuberance's smart publishing system, Advocates were invited to publish their reviews on major shopping sites plus share them with their friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, Zuberance made it easy for the company to display selected reviews on the company's website, plus leverage the reviews in email, ads, and more.

Authentic Advocates

Importantly, Advocates were not offered incentives or rewards to publish reviews.

They were encouraged to share their honest opinions. In addition, the company didn't change, edit, or influence the reviews.

Zuberance's Turn-key Solution

Zuberance handled the entire program for this customer, from copy and design through development, management, custom reporting, and more. 

The program was powered by Zuberance's Advocate Marketing Platform, an all-in-one advocacy platform that also mobilizes Advocates to share brand content; refer friends; create stories, photo's and videos; answer prospects' questions; join Advocate communities; and more.


Here are the results of the program, after about six months:

Ratings Jump to 4.0

Online ratings for the product have jumped from 2.9 to 4.0. This is extremely important and valuable for this company. Shoppers were very unlikely to buy this product when the ratings stood at 2.9. Now, shoppers are likely to purchase this product or at least give it strong consideration.

Online Ratings for WiFi Networking Product Before & After Zuberance

Online ratings for this product jumped from 2.9 (poor) to 4.0 (very good) after Zuberance started mobilizing the company's customer Advocates.

60% of Positive Reviews Online from Zuberance

Here's another important stat:

Nearly 60% of the positive reviews for this product are coming from Zuberance-powered Advocates. Without these Zuberance reviews, ratings for this product would be well under 4.0.

Positive Reviews on Shopping Sites from Zuberance vs. Other Sources

Nearly 60% of the positive reviews on shopping sites for this product come from Zuberance-powered Advocates.

Thousands of Shoppers have been Reached

Another key result from this program is that it has enabled the company to reach thousands of shoppers.

It's important to note that this kind of reach is much more valuable than reach achieved via paid media and ads.

Reach through your Advocates is 10X more credible and influential than reach through ads. 

And importantly, these Advocate-delivered messages are reaching prospects during that "zero moment of truth" when they're making a purchase decision.

Not a One-Time Campaign

Boosting your online ratings is not a one-time thing. It's not something you do now or then, or when you need it.

Here's why it's important to have an ongoing Advocate Reviews program:

1. Maintain and improve high ratings. Many times, ratings slip below the 4.0 mark as negative reviews pile up. It's important to continue finding and mobilizing Advocates to keep your ratings positive.

2. Keep a steady stream of fresh, positive reviews being posted online. Shoppers are more influenced by newer reviews (reviews published within the last three months, in most cases.) Additionally, most shopping sites including Amazon give more weight to newer reviews vs. older ones.

Getting Even More Value from your "Advocate Army"

In addition to leveraging its Advocate Army to maintain positive ratings online, the company is planning to leverage its Advocate in other valuable ways:

  • Generating thousands of referrals 
  • Getting Advocates to engage with shoppers via Zuberance's Advocate Answers
  • Generating hundreds of compelling stories, photos, videos, and other valuable "AGC" (Advocate-Generated Content")

The company even plans to create an online community of Advocates, where these enthusiastic customers can earn rewards points and even get on a Leader Board. 

Stay tuned for more updates.



What's the Difference between "Fans" and "Advocates"?

Marketers often use the terms "fans" and "Advocates" inter-changeably.

Fans and Advocates are more loyal and engaged than other customers. But there are three important differences between the two groups.

1. Advocates go out of their way to recommend your brand and products. 

For example, you may be a fan of a particular beer brand. You really like the beer and drink it often. You may have liked the beer brand on Facebook or follow it on Twitter. 

Advocates, on the other hand, go way beyond buying your products or liking you on social.  

Advocates pro-actively encourage their friends and others to try and buy the products they love. In the case of the beer brand, Advocates will buy the beer for their friends and tell them: "Dude, you gotta try this!"

In short, Advocates are like salespeople and marketers for your brands and products. Fans, not so much.

2. Advocates are your most loyal customers.

Fans love you when you're winning. But when you hit a losing streak, fans will often desert you. (Look at all those empty seats at San Francisco 49ers' home games.)

Advocates, by comparison, will support and defend you, protecting your cherished reputation even when you're down.

I saw this at Apple, where I worked for several years as a marketing communications consultant. When Apple was sputtering many years ago, its Advocates stood by its side.

Remember that old Tammy Wynette song? Well, you could change the name of the tune for Advocates to "Stand by your brand."

3. Advocates don't just cheer, they get into the game with you.

Advocates are your most engaged customers.

They get in the game with you by giving you ideas and feedback; suggesting new products and services; and joining online communities of fellow Advocates.

And they're the first to participate in online and offline events.

Rubio's, a San Diego-based casual restaurant famous for its Baja fish tacos, holds an annual beach clean-up called "Coast Fest." Rubio's Advocates are the first to show up at the beachfront for Coast Fest with plastic bags and twist ties in hand.


One last big difference: Advocates create and share content like positive reviews, stories, videos, and more at a 2X to 10X higher rate than fans, our real-world results show.

Identify Your Advocates

Get started by identifying your Advocates by name and contact info. Then put these super-charged recommenders to work for you!

Customer advocate vs. employee advocate programs: What's best?

Since this is an election season, I have a question for you:

Which type of advocacy program do you think has the highest value for your company: Customer Advocate marketing programs vs. employee advocate programs?

Cast your vote now.

Meanwhile, here's my response:


It Depends...

Before you think I'm an "Advocacy Fence-Straddler" with one foot in a blue state and one in a red state, let me explain my vote:

Both types of advocacy programs are valuable. The answer really depends on what you're trying to achieve.

Employee Advocacy Programs are best at:

  • Boosting recruitment
  • Increasing employee engagement
  • Getting employees to share your content, thus extending your brand reach in a very cost-effective way

Customer Advocate Marketing programs are best at:

  • Driving revenue
  • Generating referral leads
  • Boosting online ratings and rankings
  • Creating user-generated content

Customer Advocate Marketing #1 FOr driving Revenues  

Forrester recently asked marketers which type of Word of Mouth program was generating the most revenue.

The winner by a landslide:

Customer Advocate marketing with 70% of the "vote" versus 55% for category influencer programs and 45% for employee advocacy. 

Not an Either-Or

In fact, you shouldn't pick between customer Advocate marketing or employee advocacy programs.

Both are valuable, proven approaches to building your brand and business.

Here's my two cents: take some of the budget you're going to spend in 2017 on paid media and ads, and instead invest in your most credible "spokespeople":

Customers and employees.

Your brand will be the winner when it backs both of these advocacy candidates!



How Advocates Turbo-Charge the Marketing Funnel

Looking to turbo-charge your marketing funnel?

Unleash your "Advocate Army"!

Advocates can help you turbo-charge every phase of the marketing funnel, from top-of-the-funnel awareness-building to bottom-of-the-funnel conversion and sales.

This diagram shows specific ways Advocates can add value at each step of the funnel:

So at what stage of the funnel do you need most help?

Creating Awareness

Let's say awareness is your key challenge. Advocates can boost awareness by sharing your content like your videos, white papers, case studies, and more with their peer and social networks.

Advocates are your most loyal, enthusiastic customers. They'll gladly re-tweet and re-post your content.

On average, Advocate sharing rates are 2X to 5X higher than other customers.

Boosting Purchase Intent

Is your primary funnel challenge getting prospects to increase their purchase intent?

Energize this part of the funnel by enabling and encouraging Advocates to create and post five-star reviews on shopping sites.

Positive reviews not only increase purchase intent, they also can lead to an immediate purchase. For example, millions of travelers immediately book a hotel room after reading a positive TripAdvisor review.

Increasing Conversion

The "marketing choke point" in your funnel may be getting prospects to purchase your products, download your app, or sign up for a free trial.

Get sales flowing by inviting Advocates to share your offers with their social and peer networks and by referring friends.

Conversion rates for Advocate referrals are up to 50X higher than conversion rates for web leads and other marketing tactics.

Maximize Funnel Impact

Get the most value from Advocate marketing by deploying your Advocate Army at every stage of the marketing funnel.

You can do this by giving Advocates multiple ways to recommend your brand and products, as the chart above shows.


How to Build Advocacy for your Brand

Brand advocacy programs focus on getting customer Advocates and others to recommend your brand -- versus a particular product -- to others.

Brand advocacy programs are proven to:

  • Increase positive awareness and brand perceptions
  • Create a "halo effect" around your brand that positively impacts product sales
  • Accelerate growth. A 12% increase in advocacy scores can double a company's revenue growth rate, studies show.

How Brand & Product Advocacy Programs Differ

Product advocacy programs often focus on getting Advocates to post positive product reviews.

Brand advocacy programs, on the other hand, are usually about creating more favorable perceptions of your brand. This is often done by encouraging and enabling Advocates to create stories that reflect favorably on your brand.


GoDaddy Boosts Brand Advocacy

GoDaddy has a very active product advocacy program that gets highly-satisfied customers to recommend GoDaddy products and services like web hosting. 

At the same time, GoDaddy has begun a brand advocacy program aimed at improving its brand reputation.

Thousands of customers Advocates have created and shared stories that reflect positively on GoDaddy.

In a recent program, GoDaddy encouraged and enabled small business owners to share their business success stories. This helps positions GoDaddy as a champion of small businesses.


Intuit Gets in the Game

Like GoDaddy, Intuit's "Small Business, Big Game" also is an effort by Intuit to be perceived as a champion of small businesses.


Tens of thousands of small businesses have shared their stories of what inspired them to start their businesses, reaching millions of potential Intuit customers.

The prize for the winning small business: a Super Bowl ad, courtesy of Intuit.


An effective strategy for boosting brand advocacy is to mobilize Advocates against a common enemy.

For example, Salesforce.com has enabled thousands of its Advocates to share their stories and testimonials under the "No Software" banner.

Thinking of starting a brand advocacy program? We'd be glad to share best practices, how-to's, and critical mistakes to avoid.











What's the roi of boosting Your Online Ratings?

Companies that boost their ratings on shopping sites like Amazon.com may increase their sales revenues by about 10% for each .1  their ratings go up, for example from 3.5 to 3.6 stars.  


And, companies that boost their ratings one full point -- for example from 3  to 4 stars -- may double their sales revenues, our research and real-world experience shows.

Online Ratings Heavily Influence Purchases

Nine out of 10 prospects say consumer online ratings influence their purchase decisions, numerous studies have shown.

If your product gets four or more stars (out of five), prospects are very likely to buy your product. But a large majority of shoppers -- over 80% -- won't buy a product with less than four stars, studies show.

Boosting your online rankings increases the likelihood that prospects will buy your products (see chart below.)


Purchase intention increases as ratings increase. 

Purchase intention increases as ratings increase. 

Real-Wold example

Company "A" is a consumer electronics company.

The company's flagship product previously had a 3 rating out of 5 on Amazon.com, where at that time it was generating about $500,000 in annual sales revenues. At 3 stars, most shoppers were reluctant to buy this product. 

The company began a systematic effort to identify and mobilize Advocates to post positive reviews on Amazon. (The company did not pay or provide incentives for Advocates to post positive reviews.)

The company's sales revenues started increasing as its ratings started going up, first from 3 to 3.1 then from 3.1 to 3.2, etc. However, the company saw the largest sales lift when the rating jumped from 3.9 to 4.0 stars.

Within one year, ratings for the product increased one full point from 3 to 4 stars and sales revenues from Amazon doubled from $500,000 to approximately $1M.


Numerous studies have shown the ROI of increased star ratings:

  • Given equal pricing, guests are 3.9 times more likely to choose hotels with higher ratings than lower ratings. And even if the hotel with great reviews has higher pricing, travelers are still willing to book at that hotel  (source: PhocusWright, 2014)
  • Hotels that increase their ratings by one point on TripAdvisor can boost revenues 39%. (source: “Hotel Performance Impact of Socially Engaging with Consumers,” Cornell University Hospitality Research Center.)
  • Restaurants that boost their Yelp rating by one star can increase revenues by 5% to 9% (source: “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com,” Michael Luca, Harvard Business School, 2011)
  • 92% of people will hesitate to do business with companies with less than four out of five stars (source: BrightLocal, 2014)

norton revenues jump 200% on Amazon.com

Check out this 90-second video featuring a Zuberance customer, especially the part where she says revenue increased 200% after her company began an Advocate reviews program.


You also may want to look at this cool infographic: