Leadership’s Role in Customer Advocacy

In B2B companies, Marketing has long been seen as a cost center, not a revenue generator. On the other hand, Sales has traditionally been heralded as the breadwinner that not only finds, but also woos and ultimately wins customers. But just as social media and online matching services have changed dating, B2B buyers now do a lot of proactive browsing and researching long before they invest time in any formal interactions with salespeople.

Because more and more of the sales cycle passes before Sales gets involved, companies need to recognize Marketing is an equal and essential partner with Sales in generating revenue. In turn, Marketing must acknowledge their role and responsibility to provide the content to attract and educate prospects as well as to equip the sales force (more on that next time).

To achieve this goal, a paradigm shift is essential. Companies must evolve “from selling to prospects to building organizations whose customers sell for them,” says Bill Lee, customer advocacy expert with the Center for Customer Engagement.

C-Suite’s Part

Success requires active buy-in from the C-suite and a clear demonstration of the value to individual departments

as well as the company as a whole. Executives need to cast a clear vision as well as support the training and execution. That means doing more that just saying: “make it so.”

Senior Executives throughout an organization need to invest in the customer advocate-centric approach that puts the customer and customer results at the heart of their enterprise. Today’s nimble organizations foster an active, cross-functional interchange of information. Marketing fills the funnel and Sales empties it.

Marketing is the hub of useful content, none more so than that of the customer advocate. Whether developing case studies or video testimonials or engaging customers in online communities or social media, Marketing organizations should leverage the extraordinary power of their existing customers to fuel business growth. No one is better equipped or a more trustworthy source of information than your customers. Marketing develops customer advocate content and pushes it out to the prospect via email campaigns, blogs and social media posts. Well executed, marketing guides the prospect towards the sales funnel, while priming them with important information.

The successful approach is holistic, crossing traditional departmental boundaries and placing the advocacy management program right in the middle. This new cooperative approach may ruffle some feathers, particularly in sales teams where ownership of the customer is the well-established norm.

When senior Sales management embraces and communicates the value to the sales team, resistance is minimized and results happen quickly. When Marketing shoulders the responsibility of providing the early-stage information and tracking those interactions, it frees Sales from unproductive activities and primes their pipeline.

The key is to demonstrate the value of both the content and process. By working together as two interrelated components of the revenue generation machine, Sales and Marketing will drive more revenue and also have more fun working together to achieve success as each organization focuses on its core competency.

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