Build a Marketing Plan Around Your Best Customer
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:
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.
Identify the Best Activities for Your Customer
Once you have your customer on board, you need to determine what kind of marketing strategies you can set up, considering the resources available and budget. In addition to marketing efforts, the customer's willingness to speak with press is highly valuable, and PR (and analyst relations, when applicable) should be part of your agreed-upon marketing plan, along with keynote speeches and events.
As your relationship with the customer grows, you can create more elaborate marketing assets like a microsite that showcases all of the great work you've done together, packaged in a beautiful, sharable experience. The key is to continue to build that relationship with the customer—demonstrating the mutual value exchange—which makes more complex asks easier to approach.
It pays to work smart. You should use your customer's time efficiently. For instance, you can get a lot of information from interviewing members of the business for a case study, and then repurpose this interview content for blogs, social content and creative briefs for videos or ads. Consider all of the different content outlets that you plan to use when you create your interview plan.
This process can make or break trust with your customer. Numerous deliverables with many people involved means that things could quickly spiral out of control. Deliverables that haven't been reviewed or approved could be released by accident, or the customer could start to feel taken advantage of if there are four people asking for time to review something. Some ways to mitigate this are to:
- Consolidate review loops. Hold some projects for customer review until you have the majority of work that needs their review/approval.
- Identify one point of contact. The customer shouldn't have to contact one person for written content, another for video, a third for social, etc.
And remember to help the customer out! Be aware of how much time they're investing in helping you and ensure that time is reciprocated. Taking them out for a nice dinner never hurts.
There is a lot of work involved in successfully marketing a customer story, so it might pay to get an agency to do the heavy lifting. Look for one that you can build trust in and one that has a firm grip on all the customer marketing activities you want to undertake.
- Articles (79 percent), social media (74 percent), and blogs (65 percent) are the three main content marketing techniques used by B-to-B marketers.
- Only 25 percent of B-to-B marketers use content marketing for customer retention.
- Eighty-nine percent of B-to-B marketers cite customer testimonials as the most effective form of content marketing.
Mandy Emel is an account director specializing in digital projects, content creation and customer experiences for London-based marketing agency and solutions provider Metia. Reach her at Mandy.Emel@metia.com.