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Build a Marketing Plan Around Your Best Customer

February 19, 2014 By Mandy Emel
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You've found the sweet spot in marketing when one of your customers puts his or her reputation on the line and becomes a vocal advocate for your business. One of the most compelling tools in your sales team's armory is a positive customer reference, and the investment in a comprehensive customer marketing plan can generate significant return.

All-star customers hit the trifecta: great brand, confident spokesperson and a passion for your business. Limiting yourself to one or two disjointed marketing exercises is wasted potential when you get your hands on one of these rarities. Your all-star customers can help you reach a larger audience and drive your message through multiple targeted channels. The most obvious marketing deliverable is a case study, but the typical case study has a limited audience. If you use the information you gather during the case study process in a broader campaign, you can hit more audiences in different ways with little additional effort.

Once you've identified your customer advocates, the next step is to work hand-in-hand with them to create a long-term customer marketing plan.

We've been working with customer advocacy programs for 25 years, and we've refined the process and learned a few lessons along the way. Successful customer marketing programs always include the following best practices:

Get Buy-in
You must gain support—both internally and externally—for your plan. Your leadership team must support the customer and the whole plan, and understand the goals and objectives of the campaign. The last thing you want to do is get your customer fired up about a co-marketing effort, only to find out your leadership team has other priorities and won't fund the campaign.

Once internal support is secured, it's time to engage your customer's team, including senior executives, communications and PR teams, and the legal department, which will help secure approvals down the line.

You'll have to sell your plan, because it will demand your customer's time, which is in high demand within their own organization. Before you approach your customer, you should be able to answer the first question that most of them ask: "What's in it for me?"

Remind your customer's leadership team that you are providing a great way for their experts to demonstrate thought leadership in their field. It will deliver positive exposure to their customers, build relationships, give access to products and programs, and create valuable networking connections between senior leadership at both companies.   

 

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