What Is Customer Advocacy, and How Do You Build It for B2B SaaS?
The B2B purchasing process can feel complicated for customers. They have to weigh a bevy of product features against their business needs and budget, sometimes without a complete understanding of what a SaaS product really does. Faced with too many options, many buyers base their buying decisions on the frank opinions—both good and bad—of your current customers. That’s why you need strong customer advocates who believe in your product and can speak to its benefits.
As a product manager, you can influence whether your customers advocate for your product by consistently meeting their needs and prioritizing their experience. If you don’t yet have a core group of advocates among your B2B customers, you can build one by delivering a product they continue to find valuable over time.
What Is Customer Advocacy?
Customer advocates are users who find so much value in your product that they’re willing to spread the word about it to their coworkers and industry peers. Customer advocacy turns organic word-of-mouth excitement into honest, persuasive referrals for new prospects.
Compelling social proof, like honest reviews from existing B2B customers, goes a long way toward informing new customers’ purchasing decisions. According to a 2018 report, more than 92% of buyers were more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review about a product or service.
Customer advocates can have a positive effect on sales all on their own, simply by telling their peers and coworkers about how much they enjoy your product. You can also lean on your most loyal customers by featuring them in promotional content, like case studies, videos, or testimonials.
Are Customer Advocates the Same as Brand Advocates?
There is some disagreement about the difference between customer advocates and brand advocates. While “customer advocate” is sometimes used to describe an internal job role, we use them here to refer to an external role, and we use the two terms interchangeably. Both customer advocacy and brand advocacy describe customers who promote your product or brand because they believe in it.
Why Customer Advocates Mean Product Growth for Your Company
Customer advocates show that your customer base is highly engaged and excited about your product. If that segment is large enough, it indicates that you’ve found product-market fit—and you can build explosive growth off of a product that’s ideal for its market (especially if other metrics are positive, like customer retention, customer satisfaction, and customer engagement).
Because customer advocates talk naturally about your product to their peers and colleagues, it’s a low-lift way to increase brand awareness among an audience that’s well-suited to your product. In fact, organic word-of-mouth growth is highly sought after because it happens naturally and instills trust. It doesn’t involve dedicated marketing strategies or extra budget spent to achieve positive results (though, as mentioned, your marketing team can work with advocates to collect and share their testimonials). Customers simply share their positive experiences because they want to.
How to Turn Your Customers into Devoted Advocates
For the most full-throated, genuine recommendations of your product, you need authentically engaged, happy customers. However, you can’t advertise your way into organic customer advocacy. If you want a devoted group of advocates among your customer base, you must first offer an amazing customer experience and a highly valuable product.
Without an overall positive customer experience, you’ll probably run into speed bumps on your path to product growth. It’s difficult to retain customers if they’re unhappy with their experience—59% of them will churn after a handful of negative incidents. Customer retention doesn’t have to be a mystery, though. You just need to be open to feedback and communicate clearly. Do that, and you’ll easily address your customers’ needs.
Collect User Feedback and Communicate Regularly
Ensure that your customer feedback collection process allows for constant touchpoints with your users. As a best practice, make it easy for customers to leave their feedback. Give them multiple channels to contact you—such as through email, chat, a web portal, community forum, comments on social media, or as a response to solicited questions—and ensure that the feedback funnels into a single feedback management tool that’s shared across your organization.
This process starts with follow-ups in your customer feedback process. A message or call after you receive feedback helps your customers feel heard and valued. If you were able to update your product based on feedback, deliver that positive news to your customers directly. Even if you weren’t able to act on a particular feature request at that time, letting your customers know you considered it shows them how much you value their thoughts about your product.
For example, we developed Outreaches as a way to make it easier to follow up with your customers. Using this feature, your team can ask customers questions directly through UserVoice, so you can follow up or ask for additional details however often you need to.
Outreaches are also a great way to find out that your customers’ needs have changed because you’re keeping communication with them open. Even though customer communication is often a job function of the customer success department, your product team can talk with customers and get their opinions on your product. Regular communication helps to build trust and strengthen customer relationships—and trusting relationships help with customer loyalty.
You can check in with customers through:
Address Customer Needs with Product Updates
Focus your team on valuable product updates that solve your customers’ pain points. If you’re working with limited time and resources (as many of us are), you simply won’t be able to make every product update that customers request. What’s more, if you did update your product each time a customer suggested it, you’d likely end up with extraneous features that don’t directly deliver more value to your core customer.
Instead, determine which customer requests are the highest priority for you to meet based on how they relate to your product’s value. Align your entire team around meeting those top-priority customer needs.
We address that challenge at UserVoice with tools that sort feedback based on a number of factors, like how frequently you get a similar request, how many customers are asking for a product change, and the amount of revenue associated with your various customer accounts. You also have the ability to filter feedback by account status—for instance, you can view requests associated with at-risk accounts, prospective customer accounts, and accounts that recently churned. Having these insights may help identify trends to build for. This allows you to work cross-functionally with your customer success and sales teams to help spot top-priority requests.
Validate Your Product Choices with Your Customers
Product validation reduces some of the risk involved in product development because it allows you to test your assumptions about how your customers feel about your product choices before you make them. It’s an accessible way to test your product features, and it can be done successfully with a small group of customers (think 10 or 15) at a time.
The product validation process can be scaled to fit your needs via standard customer feedback channels like surveys or interviews or with an advanced tool like UserVoice Validation.
To validate a product choice, start by identifying a small group of customers to test with. You’ll ask those customers for specific feedback about a proposed feature (and taking that step before development can save you from sinking time and resources into something your customers don’t really want or need).
However you choose to go about it, try to validate your product choices as often as you can. That way, you let your customers weigh in on your product’s journey and ensure that the changes you make continue to offer value.
Consider a Formal Customer Advocacy Program
After you’ve created a process around validating and developing features based on feedback, you’re likely to have some happy customers who want to advocate for your brand. To jumpstart customer advocacy for your product, create a formal program that rewards customers for referring others to your product.
You can leverage B2B influencer marketing using targeted channels like LinkedIn and relevant forums that you know ideal potential customers frequent. Your goal with a B2B program is to encourage your customer advocates to act as spokespeople, typically by offering them incentives for doing so. Perks could include discounts off of their subscription costs for your product or affiliate deals where they earn rewards any time a new customer signs up using their link.
It’s possible to build a successful customer advocacy program at a level that works for your organization. You can begin by determining which customers may be a good fit for your program. Your CRM or customer feedback management tool may help here—with UserVoice Discovery, for instance, you can easily see which of your customers are engaged and routinely offer positive feedback. Build a simple landing page with information about how they can join and what perks they’ll receive if they do sign up. You may also opt for a referral program tool to help you manage your customer advocates and keep track of the rewards they’ve earned.
Track and Prioritize Customer Experience as Part of Your Customer Advocacy Strategy
Products that meet customer needs are one component of creating a customer experience that’s so engaging it encourages advocacy. If your company is aligned on customer centricity, you’ll get the organizational support you need to maintain a successful product that continually meets customer needs. That’s key for engagement—and engaged, satisfied customers make great advocates for your product.
Make customer-focused initiatives easy to track with UserVoice Discovery. UserVoice Discovery lets you monitor your progress using the custom metrics that matter to your company. Share customer feedback and opinions seamlessly across all departments and easily follow up on new product-related requests from your existing customers. Try UserVoice Discovery for free to see how you can turn your satisfied customers into loyal advocates for your product.