According to Gartner, 89% of organizations surveyed expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience within the next two years.  This is up from 36%, when the same question was asked in 2012.

But your salesperson telling prospects that your customers’ experience is great doesn’t carry much weight (for obvious reasons). 

You need one of your customers to tell them.  And if it were as simple as, “Why yes Mycroft, the folks at America’s Best Software are great,” then it’d be pretty easy.  But it’s more than that. Your prospect has questions and concerns that must be addressed by your customer, and that means a dialogue, and that means time –and that’s the one thing they aren’t making any more of.

Young business womanSo why would your customer, who’s most likely already giving you money, give up their time to advocate for your team?

The answer is, as with most things involving humans, self-interest.

What is it about being your advocate that would help your customer?  That depends on a number of factors, but here are a few general suggestions that can most likely be applied to your organization’s situation.

Genuine Advocacy Makes Your Customer Look Good

External to your relationship with the client, the value propositions of acting as an advocate could be to promote their brand and increase theirs organization’s visibility among industry peers and other clients.  After all, by discussing the positive impact of working with your organization, it makes your advocate look smart because ultimately it was their decision to work with you.  By gaining professional recognition for their achievements and those of their organization it can help drive value for their business.  Some topics that might your advocate might discuss that would make both your teams look good are:

  • Why they decided it was smarter to go with you over another option.
  • What new processes and methodologies were developed?
  • What are they most proud of sharing to their peers and industry?
  • What pain point did working with your organization solve?
  • How did the relationship effect the bottom line?

Advocates Gain a Reputation as Thought Leaders

Additionally, acting as an advocate for the benefits of working with you (if not directly for your relationship) may help your customer build a personal and professional reputation as a thought leader and innovator, particularly if you’ve helped them solve problems others in the same industry are experiencing. Solving these problems can lead to attention, and thereby access to industry analysts and experts.  If that reputation continues it can lead to speaking engagement opportunities at both user and key industry conferences, which in turn increase the advocates’ reputation.

Advocates Get a Bigger Say in Future Development

Naturally, some clients won’t be attracted to public-facing benefits.  For those clients, it may be best to focus on value propositions internal to the relationship, which may require you to focus more strongly on what they wish to achieve with their relationship to your organization.

When this is the case, the advocate most likely wants a greater say in the direction of the product or how your organizations solutions are implemented within their organization.  Some ideas for this include:

  • Access to leadership & executives
  • Invitation only special events for program participants
    • Early product and solution announcements
    • Participation in Client Advisory Boards
    • Exclusive Webcasts for these select clients
  • Access to Product Development and Service Organization management
  • Engagement with Beta programs or early innovator programs

Advocates Build Their Peer Network Faster

You can also attempt to combine external and internal value propositions by creating networking opportunities. In these cases, advocates from different client accounts may get together and share ideas and best practices through select conferences or communities. By connecting others with similar opportunities or problems you can assist your customers in building their peer networks.

Bottom Line…It’s NOT About You!

Ultimately, when trying to persuade a customer to be an advocate for your organization, you need to stop thinking about what you get out of it.  Flip the scenario on its head and think about what’s in it for them. That’s how you will win them over to the side of advocacy now and in the long term.

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Matthew McLean
Matthew McLean is a Program Manager at RO Innovation. He has a passion for helping organizations and individuals increase sales and market share through the design and application of software. With over 15 years of experience in customer relationship management, project management, and product management with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 in a variety of industry verticals, McLean can help your company grow via sales and marketing best practices.