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Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your B2B marketing.

For most B2B companies, international growth is a natural aspiration and in today’s increasingly connected world, it’s easier than ever to enter new markets. But there’s more to going global than simply setting up shop in a new place. That’s why business-facing brands encounter everything from language and communication differences to cultural preferences when branching out internationally.  Localisation is a logical solution — and it’s something that consumer-facing companies are well versed in. According to a Shutterstock survey, 80% of marketing decision-makers in the U.S., UK, Germany and France believe that using localised content is critical when entering new markets, and 71% have seen sales increase in target markets as a result of this strategy.  Like their B2C counterparts, B2B brands must treat their target customers as people, not faceless entities, and adapt their marketing to local preferences when seeking opportunities in new countries.   

Here are three ways B2B companies can localise their global marketing and achieve success:


1. Choose the right marketing model

The way you structure your marketing operations can make a big impact on how you gather and use local intelligence. In other words: you have to consider your marketing model. Namely, whether to choose a centralised structure with one main team controlling the activities, initiatives and brand image for the entire business, a decentralised model where multiple local teams have free reign over their own patch or a hybrid approach that’s a blend of the two. According to the CMO Council's new Reshaping Global Engagement Operations report, a lack of localised intelligence has led to missed opportunities for 57% of marketers, largely caused by whatever structure is in place. Moreover, the study found that fully centralised organisations are not close enough to their customers, while fully decentralised ones lack consistency in terms of look, feel and messaging. Depending on what your goals are, a hybrid approach that leverages local expertise while aligning all teams around a centralised strategy could be the answer.   

2. Find local partners

Don’t assume you can enter a new market by following the same playbook that brought you success with current customers. Find a local partner who not only knows the market but who can help you communicate your company’s unique selling point in a way that’s relevant to your target audience, whether that’s suitable messaging and marketing channels or even product packaging. This will minimise the costs and risks that can come with international expansion and ensure your market entry is as seamless as possible. While having boots on the ground is often the easiest way to get the inside scoop on a target market, it’s not always possible for a company to send someone to spend time in a region. At Atomic Beta, we know that having access to local resources in global markets can significantly improve the success rate of entering a new region. That’s why we’re a member of Worldwide Partners, a collaborative network of more than 70 independent marketing agencies in over 40 countries, which means that our clients’ global campaigns will always have the local insights they need to succeed.  Take IBM, for instance. The technology giant manages a global network of local partners called “Futurists” — subject matter experts on emerging technologies, commerce and marketing from all over the world — and enlists them to co-host webinars for local audiences, participate in events and co-author whitepapers to accelerate their international growth. Similarly, when Salesforce hits the road with its World Tour, local Trailblazers take the stage to talk about how the company’s solutions have helped their businesses, while plenty of user-led events such as Southeast Dreamin’ take place throughout the year.  

3. Localise more than language

Localisation involves a lot more than translation. Beyond figuring out the official language in your target market, it’s important to adapt all types of content to speak to the audience you’re trying to reach, from imagery and pricing to campaigns. For instance, a whitepaper about a B2B customer’s pain points in one market might be very different from those elsewhere, while a marketing email sent at 9 am in New York City reaches inboxes in Sydney, Australia, at 11 pm.  When Intercom discovered a large number of visitors from non-English speaking markets were visiting its English site, the company took its highest-performing English keywords, ads and landing pages and localised them into French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese. After running a month-long paid experiment in which it tested localised and English campaigns in countries that spoke those five languages, Intercom discovered not only a demand for its product in non-English markets but that it was cheaper to capture this demand with localised content.  Speaking of ads, co-working company WeWork uses copy and imagery specific to a geographic location in its Facebook campaigns.  Another point worth noting is how much information people in other markets are willing to share. When e-commerce payment manager CyberSource wanted to use a survey to generate leads in Asia and understand how those businesses managed fraud, it realised that many weren’t comfortable disclosing sensitive information upfront. So the survey first returned benchmark results and recommendations based on their anonymous responses and then asked for their contact details to send a personalised version.  Expanding into international markets is a great way for any B2B company to grow. But moving into a new market requires more than money or resources to be successful. Businesses must focus their efforts on targeting the right markets at the right time in the right way and adapt their products and marketing strategies to suit local buyers. [vc_column text_align="center" el_class="p-limit-width-1" animation="fadeIn"][vc_row_inner padding_size="no-padding" el_class="atomic-max-width-1" el_id="lets-talk"][vc_column_inner text_align="center" animation="fadeIn" el_class="atomic-vp-200"][wyde_separator text_align="center" border_width="4px" el_width="20%" el_class="lets-talk-separator-padding"][vc_column_text el_class="atomic-color-p"]Are you looking for a partner to help you expand in Ireland or beyond? Get in touch![/vc_column_text][wyde_button title="Let's Talk" link="|||"][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column]

Acquisition and adoption are hugely important for nearly every B2B vendor but prioritising one over the other is a surefire way to lose customers and kill profit margins.

That said, the numbers don’t lie — retaining and growing existing customers has a huge impact on the bottom line. Studies say that acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times more than retaining an existing one, while research by Bain & Company has shown that increasing customer retention rates by as little as 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.

While a certain amount of churn is inevitable, successful companies understand that retention requires a holistic view of the entire customer life cycle  —  starting from the moment a prospect first encounters your product, right through to commitment to buy, onboarding, adoption and expansion. Moreover, returning customers often lead to quality referrals and word-of-mouth reviews.

That’s why it’s key to look at customer acquisition and retention as intrinsically linked rather than two separate entities — and an advocacy programme is a great way to leverage existing customers to bring in new business.

What is customer advocacy and why is it important?

Global research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions define customer advocacy as “the set of activities and channels an organisation uses to build, capture, grow and share positive customer sentiment.” And it’s fast becoming a critical component of any modern B2B marketing strategy.

In fact, according to SiriusDecisions’ 2017 B-to-B Buying Study, previous customer experience is the top driver of B2B purchase decisions, followed by the influence of customer references and testimonials.

That’s why a growing number of organisations are choosing to invest in programmes that ensure customers will share their experiences with peers, whether that’s by way of positive reviews on sites such as CapterraG2Crowd and GetApp, referrals or partnering on case studies and testimonials.

What drives customer advocacy?

While customer advocacy starts with providing a great experience and ends with word-of-mouth marketing, it’s important to remember that the former doesn’t end with the sale.

According to Oracle, customer experience encompasses the entire customer life cycle, “from early engagements through ads, social media and marketing content to the nurturing, buying, delivering and service.” To that end, cross-functional collaboration is key, requiring people from marketing, sales and customer success to come together to provide a positive experience across the entire customer journey.

That can be anything from marketing content that’s clear, concise and human, to listening and responding to customer needs, to service that goes above and beyond.

If customer experience isn’t already a focus for your organisation, it should be: it’s set to overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020, as a Walker report pointed out.

How to get started with customer advocacy

Remember, the purpose of an advocacy programme is to create happy customers who will champion your products and services through word-of-mouth marketing. Think of it as your organisation’s well-deserved prize for providing a world-class experience.

Not sure where to start with your own customer advocacy programme? As with any business activity, it’s important to set goals and objectives before diving straight in. The SiriusDecisions Customer Advocacy Model sets out activities in three stages:

  • Define (the why): What’s the reason for creating a customer advocacy programme? Is it to generate new business, retain existing customers, or both? How will progress be measured?
  • Design (the what): Who are the key internal stakeholders? What does your ideal customer advocate look like and how will you recruit them to the cause? What resources are necessary to make this programme a success?
  • Develop (the how): What steps are required to put the plan into action? What’s needed to grow reach and impact?
Need some inspiration?

Salesforce is a great example of a B2B brand leveraging customer advocacy. The global tech giant’s community of Trailblazers (as it calls its most accomplished users) are front and centre everywhere from its Dreamforce and World Tour events to ad campaigns and other marketing collateral.

Not only do these Trailblazers show potential customers how much they love and support Salesforce, but they’re also on hand online and offline to answer questions and share their personal experiences with the products.

Similarly, the e-commerce platform BigCommerce includes existing customers in the speaker lineup of its Make It Big online conference, giving them the chance to share their insights and expertise on the current state of e-commerce and offer tips on how other sellers can reach their full potential.

Cloud-based identity management solution Okta takes a different tack, hosting the annual Oktane Awards to recognise customers who “equip their organisations with the right technologies to drive innovative solutions to today’s toughest business challenges.”

There’s even an Evangelist award, the winner of which takes advocacy to the next level, participating in speaking events and reference calls throughout the year and “sharing their Okta success with customers, partners and peers.”

Whether your organisation wants to put time and effort into getting more user reviews and testimonials or sees referral programmes as a great way to encourage new customers to try out your product or service, it’s worth keeping in mind that advocacy is an ongoing process that starts with providing a great experience.

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