We all know that when it comes to promoting our business, the best testimony is a customer testimony. But how can we build effective co-marketing partnerships with our customers so that they’ll want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing we are?

By making sure that the partnership is a two-way street.

I’m Meaghan Sullivan, Customer Reference Marketing Manager at Google Cloud, and I’m going to teach you how to be a true partner to your customers.

You’ll learn ways to help customers meet their marketing goals and objectives, and how to articulate the tangible and intangible value that customer reference marketing and advocacy activities can bring to our customers and their organizations.

Our agenda will cover:

  • Customer advocacy tenets and why they're so important,
  • Creating superfans and building partnerships with our customers,
  • Building trust with our customers and bringing value to them at all times,
  • How a great customer story benefits the customer the most.

Customer advocacy tenets

Whether it's our first-contact kickoff call or we're a year into the partnership, my team at Google Cloud keeps these five customer advocacy tenants in mind whenever we approach the customer.

  1. Customer empathy. This is key. Always keep customer empathy in mind when partnering with your customers, whether it's for a blog, a reference call, or a marquee speaking opportunity.
  2. Deliver a best-in-class customer experience, always. Often, when we think about customer experience, our mind goes straight to the sales team and the impact that their reps can have on the customer journey. Of course, sales should always deliver a best-in-class experience, but so should everyone else in your organization. We have to be partners with our customers and put their experience first.
  3. Listen to the customer voice. We need to ensure that we’re not only hearing the customer but making them feel heard.
  4. Make sure that the customer voice is inserted into everything that we do. Every decision we make in co-marketing should be guided by the customer’s wants and needs. Remember, we work for them, not the other way around.
  5. Surprise and delight. And then finally, we must surprise and delight our advocates to the best of our ability every time we engage with them.

Creating superfans

Now we’ve laid out the golden rules for customer reference marketing and advocacy, let’s look at why advocacy champions, especially super fans, are so important and so worth the effort it takes to create them.

It's important to keep in mind that no matter how great your business or product is, not all of your customers are going to be references. Your references aren’t all going to be advocacy champions, and your advocacy champions aren't all going to be super fans. Our job is to find those potential superfans and nurture a partnership with them. But why?

Why do you need superfans?

First and foremost, buyers trust their peers far more than they trust sales reps. According to Gartner, references have an 80 to 85% likelihood of influencing a B2B purchasing decision. What’s more, according to the Harvard Business Review and Demand Metric, only 18% of prospects trust the salespeople they work with during the sales process, while 92% trust what they hear from customers.

All of this means that customers and the authentic voice that only they can lend are invaluable in driving enterprise momentum. Superfans will advocate on behalf of our organization, sometimes without even being asked.

Maybe they'll mention us in their earnings report. Maybe they'll reference us on their social media channels or blogs. This natural word-of-mouth marketing is a huge boost to our business.

Because of the strategic marketing partnerships that we build with superfan customers, we can lean on them to support our highest-impact marketing activities. These customers are more likely to share business impact metrics, which are key in creating amazing content.

They're also more likely to participate in PR engagements. Maybe they'll even get involved in peer-to-peer sales reference calls, which we all know are key in accelerating the sales cycle.

A good superfan isn’t hard to find

I could list so many other ways that superfans can benefit your organization, but now let's take a look at how to spot these potential superfans. A superfan is an active reference. It’s an individual or a team that’s willing and able to participate in marketing activities and create assets or content with us.

These champions may be on your customer advisory boards. Maybe they're beta or alpha testers. They're longtime customers who have probably more than one use case deployed, and they're showing impact and results thanks to your product or service. These customers are advocating without being asked, and, if you’re lucky, they're proactively coming to your organization with ideas for marketing and collaboration.

Once we identify customers that display these behaviors, we need to work with the account team to understand their organization. What are their goals for partnering with us? What value can they get out of referencing, or what value have they gotten out of it so far?