The Power of Customer Advocacy in Times of Disruptive Transformation

In this time of fundamental disruption across industries and sectors, most B2B companies are going through significant transformation of their business. Whether it is a nimble startup that is disrupting the status quo or a large established enterprise that is going through a significant change in business model, this era of uncertainty is here to stay. In the words of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, “change and comfort do not coexist.”

One of the most critical and powerful assets to survive the tumult is a strong, loyal customer base. But in these times where change is the only constant, the challenge is to not get so wrapped up in the change itself that you lose focus on your customers and the core mission to delight and enable them to deliver value in their own organizations.

This loss of focus is more than just a distraction. According to Gallup Research, 70% of B2B customers are willing to take their business elsewhere at any moment; only 30% of B2B customers identify as being engaged with the brands they procure.  This lack of engagement and loyalty comes at a cost.  Gallup has found that B2B businesses with highly engaged customers experience 55% higher share of wallet; 63% lower rate of attrition; and 50% higher revenue.  This emphasizes just how critical it is to maintain a loyal set of customers and find new and innovative ways to engage them.

At the upcoming B2B Marketing Summit in London, Farland Group President Jane Hiscock will be sharing insights and lessons learned around what it takes to create successful customer engagement programs that build advocacy and loyalty. Together with Alison Orsi, Vice President of Marketing at IBM, she will provide examples of how IBM – and others we have worked with – have approached this, and how to focus customer engagement efforts in the right direction.

Key highlights from the lessons learned in working with B2B companies on what it takes to create customer engagement include:

  • Senior level commitment and leadership: In our work with IBM and other B2B companies, one critical component we’ve observed is a commitment from the top of the organization to building customer engagement as a strategic focus and putting it at the center of the organization’s culture and purpose.
  • A shift from stand-alone engagement to integrated strategy: Too often we see companies looking at enabling engagement and advocacy through one-off or standalone events. We have found that building a strategy with event-driven imperatives, along with a plan and cadence of activities, follow up, and focus on outcomes creates the foundation for success.
  • Emotional connection and authentic communication. Behavioral economics research, a study of how thoughts and emotions influence our decisions, demonstrates that emotions – not rational thinking – drive behavior. This has important application to B2B marketing, with the need to build an emotional connection with clients beyond the product or offering that is part of a day-to-day relationship.
  • High touch engagement programs. Particularly when it comes to executives, creating those connections requires a high touch element to the program. We have worked together with IBM and others to build out strategies targeted at CIOs, CMOs, CDOs and COOs to drive deeper emotional connections, relationships and engagement through Customer Advisory or Strategy Boards; co-creation environments, events, and forums; and client advocacy programs that elevate the CXOs professional persona. These are all elements of an engagement or advocacy program that creates belief, and an emotional connection.

We will be sharing more from this session in coming posts – stay tuned for additional ideas and insights on how to weather the transformation turbulence through client engagement and advocacy.

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