Demand for peer insights and opinions before buying are at an all-time high in the B2B space. What’s driving it? Fear, the strongest of human emotions, of course.

An SAP study in 2015 asked B2B buyers what their biggest concerns are when making a purchase. The perception of wasting company money (52%) and losing internal credibility (23%) were ranked as the top “biggest risks.” What’s the best way to avoid both outcomes? Knowing that others in your position made the same decision and everything worked out well for them and their companies. In other words, reliance on peer experiences.

In a recently published study (free for download), “Forrester’s Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos, found that formal advocate marketing programs ‘have a measurable, positive effect on your business, and fostering advocates is essential to becoming customer-obsessed.’”

“New advocate marketing technologies help to scale customer relationship-building while maintaining a personalized touch.”
– Forrester

A cognitive disconnect? Or maybe just a sign of coming investment.

A 2015 SiriusDecisions study found:

  • 83% of executives said references are “critical” or “valuable” to sales cycle
  • Just 35% of B2B companies have a formal process to identify and recruit top customer advocates
  •  A majority still allocate less than 10 percent of marketing program dollars to customer advocacy and engagement

Customer Advocate Programs = Sales Enablement

Forbes Insights and Brainshark surveyed U.S. executives about their 2016 technology investment plans. The top responses: 55% of respondents answered “Sales Enablement Technologies” followed by 54% for Analytics and 53% for CRM.

Technology that makes customer advocates and their perspectives consistently available to Sales and Marketing—through CRM—is as enabling as a technology can get.

We’re finding that interest in customer advocate software and expertise is growing most notably in the mid-market. The enterprise segment has more history with leveraging customer advocates but in a limited way I’ll refer to as the old school approach. From the Forrester report:

“Traditional reference programs are about getting case studies or sales references from
 customers,” says Joan Jenkins, Senior Director of Marketing, Oracle. “Successful advocacy programs deepen those relationships by having conversations, understanding needs and giving buyers a platform to build their own and their company’s brand.”

CMOs do not seem to have connected customer advocate programs with sales enablement. It may not be clear that with current technology program contributions are quantifiable, and because they support top company goals, they’re strategic. Investing in a program is not a waste of company money, and most likely a boost to internal credibility. Every aspect of the business stands to gain from being focused on what customer advocates have to say.

Yet many executives are still reluctant to green-light a customer advocate initiative. Our recommendation to CMOs: Talk to your peers.

Get an infographic that illustrates the customer advocate program imperative through a multitude of industry expert reports.

Customer Advocate Program Imperative Infographic Click to get the infographic