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Buzz Watch 2/5: Advocacy Marketing

In my previous post, in an effort to clear up some of the confusion in the way new terms are being used in the industry, I discussed what Account-based Marketing (ABM) was all about. This time, I’ll attempt to define advocacy marketing.

Advocacy marketing generally describes the idea of promoting (advocating) a product or service, typically where people or brands act as a third party to encourage prospects to buy. The overarching aim is to create trust in your product and your brand, based on the principle that people tend to trust the opinions of those they perceive to be similar to themselves – or to be independent experts in a specific field. Advocacy marketing can be used both to acquire new customers and increase loyalty with existing ones. Continue reading

Not just another B2B case story

Does your B2B case story allow you to speak the truth?

How often have you read a B2B case story and thought that you’d seen it before, just from another supplier? Same old, same old.

I’ve seen it often. You realize that what you’re reading is another product brochure disguised as a customer case story.

I was recently involved in what could have been a very interesting story, covering the journey traveled by the company and customer. It was a journey describing a strong, long-standing relationship and the use of market-leading technology (sorry about the propaganda), careful attention to detail, and excellent customer service.

But, most interestingly, it also covered how the company solved unexpected challenges that arose during the implementation of the solution. Continue reading

Inspire customer creativity with innovative case stories

B2B customer case stories follow a fairly simple format of explaining how a product or service solved a specific customer pain. But they don’t necessarily communicate that a company is innovative, or encourage customers to innovate with them. Yet there are good reasons why a repertoire of innovation-focused stories can draw in new customers or stimulate new ideas among existing ones. So why not use them to inspire innovation?

Showcasing novelty

Today’s markets are increasingly demanding evolution, not just adequate performance. And employees are being encouraged to seek out opportunities for incremental or radical innovation. In response, businesses could take the opportunity to highlight case stories about creativity involving their products or services. Continue reading

Is word-of-mouth best for business execs?

Conversation is more than a social media strategy. While all the attention these days seems to be on online marketing – and, sure, that’s where the excitement is, there are still plenty of B2B executives getting results from good ol’ fashioned face-to-face networking and word-of-mouth exchanges. By and large, we are social beings, and most of us still value the opinions of people in our personal networks and trusted business connections more than rather tenuous Twitter and LinkedIn connections. But what is word-of-mouth marketing worth in B2B? Find out below and find three tips for making your clients become your biggest advocates. Continue reading

Should B2B forget all about Facebook?

B2B marketers are often asked whether their companies should establish a Facebook presence. Could it be the way to more leads, if they can get people to “Like” them? In conversations with B2B marketers, I often hear grave doubts. And I’m not surprised when I see research released by the University of South Australia, which sheds doubt on the value of Facebook Likes. Continue reading

We’ve had a “Voice of Customer” program for 10 years – is that good?

The book “The Death of Propaganda – B2B Buyer Behavior Has Changed. Now it’s Your Turn.” co-authored by me, Michael Best and David Hoskin, talks about three concepts that are absolutely vital for B2B marketers to grasp: Voice of the Company; Voice of the Industry; and Voice of Customer. Communicating with all three of these voices is mandatory if you want to fully address the needs of the new breed of B2B buyer.

Experienced marketers may feel a little confused about our use of the already established term “Voice of Customer”. Voice of the Customer is a term that has traditionally been used to describe special programs for involving customers in core corporate activities such as product development and the design of customer-facing functions. Such activities usually involve inviting key accounts or a cross-section of customers to special, offline events where they can provide direct input and feedback to management.

Today, this type of Voice of Customer program is basically a dinosaur. A relic. An outdated idea that was only ever useful as a far-too-small plaster on a gaping wound in the way businesses were interacting with their markets. Enlightened B2B marketers now look past this type of program to get customer input on customers’ terms rather than those of the company.

So, for the purposes of our Three Voices strategic model, we took over the old terminology and gave it a make-over, re-positioning “Voice of Customer” as the all-important conversations going on between B2B prospects and buyers about which solutions, and which brands, should be on their short lists. We recommend our B2B clients to have their ears firmly to the ground wherever such conversations are taking place – both online and offline – and to be ready to respond to salient topics and opportunities as they surface. “The Death of Propaganda” has much more to say on the subject, and I’ll try to make the new direction of  Voice of Customer as a term even clearer in posts to follow.

The three ‘Voices’ of B2B marketing and communication

I’m going to talk about three concepts that form the pillars of the Three Voices™ strategic framework (described in “The Death of Propaganda – B2B Buyer Behavior Has Changed. Now it’s Your Turn.” and which I believe are important for B2B marketers to grasp: Voice of Company; Voice of Industry; and Voice of Customer. All three of these concepts are mandatory if you want to fully address the needs of the new breed of B2B buyer.

I’ll briefly explain what each of these ‘Voices’ is and what role it should play in your work.

Three Voices Strategy™, in essence, is a stakeholder engagement model created by Eye for Image that stretches across all of a company’s audiences. It rests on three original concepts that are vital for B2B marketers and communicators to grasp: Voice of Company; Voice of Industry; and Voice of Customer.

The basic idea of Three Voices Strategy™ is probably best described on a paper napkin in less than ten minutes. That’s because the principles underlying it are relatively simple and can be communicated by drawing three circles, each representing one of the Voices as below.

Three Voices™ Strategy by Eye for Image

The circle on the left represents the Voice of Company. We use this as an umbrella term for messages and materials created by a manufacturer or service provider to describe its offerings to prospective customers. In today’s world of B2B marketing and communications, Voice of Company is also the home of corporate propaganda. The key strategic direction in this arena, as far as Three Voices Strategy is concerned, should be to reduce or eliminate propaganda-like messages and become a more credible entity that is seen to help prospects and customers to determine the solution that best fits their needs.

Now let’s turn our attention to the circle on the right called Voice of Customer. We use Voice of Customer as a term to describe the peer-to-peer conversations going on between B2B buyers, discussing and recommending, or recommending against, specific solutions and products, well before the manufacturer is consulted. Here’s where all the action is, where the big changes in B2B buyer behavior have taken place, and where companies need to actively listen and respond if they are to match their marketing efforts to the new realities of B2B buying processes.

Of course, historically “Voice of the Customer” (VOC) has been a term used to describe special programs for involving customers in core corporate activities such as product development and the design of customer-facing functions. Today however, we hear from our clients that this concept is fast becoming outdated, its practices have become too costly and its outcomes insufficient. In fact, these programs were a stop-gap measure that was only ever useful as a far-too-small plaster on a gaping wound in the way businesses were interacting with their customers. Enlightened B2B marketers now look past traditional Voice of the Customer programs to get customer input on the customer’s terms rather than those of the company.

If Voice of Company is where most B2B companies are focused on today, and Voice of Customer is where they, in fact, should be focusing their attention, then the middle circle, Voice of Industry, should be seen as the bridge companies need to use to close the gap.

By Voice of Industry, we mean the activities where the company seeks to influence its market and enhance its brand by discussing industry-level matters instead of directly pushing its own offerings. Typically, Voice of Industry activities encompass paid media (paying to place industry-level content on other companies’ media), earned media (being seen as a valuable content partner on, for example, an independent industry news site), and the all-important owned media (you own a content platform prospects and customers use to help them make decisions). A recent example of an owned-media Voice of Industry activity is A.P. Moller-Maersk’s “Let’s change the way we think about shipping” site, which encourages the container shipping industry to effect beneficial changes for a more viable future.

Simply put, the ultimate goal of a properly implemented Three Voices Strategy is to move from the company telling prospects and customers “We’re great!” to having these audiences telling each other “They’re great!”. To get there, you need to build Voice of Industry activities, move from propaganda to credibility, and shift from being a salesperson to the role of customer advocate.