The Importance of Customer Advocacy: Interview with Jim Williams

Jim Williams has seen the light. With more than 20 years of experience in the marketing world, he’s experimented in many areas of the modern marketing technology stack. Marketing automation, lead nurturing, personalization, and sales alignment are all important pieces to solve the martech puzzle — yet Jim knows the most powerful marketing channel is the voice of a happy customer.

[Tweet “The most powerful marketing channel is the voice of a happy customer. @Terminus”]

What truly brings it all together is when a company is able to turn its own customers into marketers. That’s the gospel Jim is helping to spread. I was honored to have him join me on a Google Hangout to share his knowledge with our audience.

He offered some stellar customer-focused insights for any marketing or sales champion tasked with growing revenue, especially when it comes to flipping the funnel.

Before we explore customer advocacy, let’s get to know Jim a bit better.

What are his favorite business books?

“Anything by the Heath Brothers, especially Switch and Made to Stick. These books make you rethink your marketing copywriting skills,” Jim says. “I also love Good to Great by Jim Collins.”

His favorite non-business books?

“I really like to read books about history. I’m wrapping up The Black Count, which is unbelievable. It’s all about the French Revolution from a person of color. I love page-turners like these.”

His favorite marketing heroes?

“There’s all types of marketing rockstars. Most of the time, I tend to learn most from peers of mine who can provide practical examples. I really admire Meagen Eisenberg. She’s had quite a career, rising through the ranks to a number of roles, and she’s a master at how to build the marketing technology stack. Meagen’s achieved amazing results building sophisticated systems. She even implemented Eloqua in less than nine days with her team.”

If you weren’t a marketer, what would you do?

“I’d be unemployed,” Jim jokes. “Kidding! When I was as a younger man, I dreamed of becoming a foreign policy analyst. I was really into political science and international relations. I considered getting my master’s degree and never went in that direction. Very early in my career I got into government, but it only takes about a month of working in government to wake up and ask, ‘What am I doing?!’”

The Importance of Customer Advocacy

As a marketer, I know first-hand that getting people to talk about your brand can be a daunting task. Jim believes generating buzz comes down to the effort you put into making your customers your advocates.

Jim’s company, Influitive, is an advocate marketing platform provider based out of Toronto. The company has been around for about four years, and the product has been live for two years.

“Influitive helps marketers get their evangelists out talking about them online, on social media, and in communities, plus offline spreading the good word through grassroots and word of mouth marketing,” Jim explains. “I like to say these activities helps to grease the wheel to revenue.”

Within every industry, the idea of rallying around your customers and the importance of customer success continues to gain traction. There are horror stories from companies who had an amazing product but suffered from not being focused on customer success. Marketers are truly starting to understand that the next customer is going to come from their current customers.

[Tweet “Your customers are an integral part of your sales & marketing team. – @jimcwilliams“]

The Switch to Customer Advocate Marketing

Five years ago, customer advocacy simply wasn’t written on the marketing to-do list. Jim says that in order for a company to make the switch to customer advocate marketing, the team should first focus on their goals.

Are you trying to grow your business? Are you attempting to move up or downstream in the marketplace? Whatever your goals may be, take a step back to determine how customer advocacy can help you get there.

Growth-oriented marketers tend to focus and spend their money on fueling demand generation. They dedicate resources to creating content and improving product marketing to try and generate leads at the top of the funnel. Jim explains that when he talks to marketers, they often cite their three biggest revenue contributors as inbound, outbound, and channel — or marketing, sales, and partners.

“Then I bring up the concept of the piece that they’re missing, which is their customers,” Jim explains. “Their referrals help you drive business. The fact of the matter is, if you can just get your customers to share their stories and positive sentiments about your brand, products, or services, then you could make a huge, meaningful impact on your growth strategy.”

[Tweet “Customers sharing success stories helps your company grow revenue. – @jimcwilliams #FlipMyFunnel”]

How Customer Advocacy Impacts the Funnel

Some people say the B2B marketing and sales funnel is getting too skinny at the top, or it’s getting longer because we’re adding more steps to it. What we’re promoting at Terminus is to flip your funnel and start with your “best-fit customers,” then focus all of your time, energy, and resources on turning these customers into advocates. This is the exact idea Joseph Jaffe preaches in his book Flip the Funnel.

“It’s a radical idea to start with a small group of customers and let your organic marketing grow from there,” Jim explains. “It’s what we believe in, but it seems really risky if you haven’t done it before. Some marketers say, ‘Oh my god! How can I tweak the process of driving leads into the funnel to increase revenue by 1%?’ It involves B2B marketers talking to a group in the company who they haven’t aligned with very much before — and that’s customer success.”

For the last 10 years, SiriusDecisions has promoted building an alliance between marketing and sales. Now marketing has to have the same agreement and framework with the customer success team in the organization.

“That can be intimidating for marketers,” Jim says. “There was an evolution of IT and marketing alignment. Then there was a second evolution between sales and marketing alignment. Now, there’s a third evolution coming where the marketing is also responsible for the customer experience.”

[Tweet “The #CMO is also the champion of creating customer advocates. – @jimcwilliams #B2Bmarketing”]

Making Your Customers Your Marketers

We’re increasingly seeing marketers focusing on the customer experience and customer success. One of the primary reasons comes from a trend we’ve talked about for a while: the consumerization of B2B.

“B2C and B2B just aren’t different worlds anymore,” Jim states. “Consumerization applies a number of different ways [to] how you expect to interact with a company.”

The rise of marketing automation, big data, and analytics is a healthy thing because it gets marketers away from “arts and crafts marketing” to something that’s measurable, scientific, and data-oriented, Jim explains. But at the same time, the pendulum might have swung a bit too far — because at the end of the day, our jobs are about creating relationships with individuals and their companies.

“This beats the heck out of A/B testing,” Jim says. “You must have face-to-face interactions. The psychology of marketing is coming back more than it has been.”

It’s through building these relationships with your clients that you’ll turn them into advocates for your brand. Customer advocates do more than help you grow revenue, though. They are more efficient, more authentic, and more engaging than any other marketing channel. Turning your customers into raving fans is the most organic type of marketing available.

[Tweet “There’s no better salesperson for your products than a happy customer. – @jimcwilliams #CX”]

Flipping the Funnel on Customer Experience

Jim is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to flipping the funnel to create customer advocates. What are some successes or challenges you’ve faced with turning your customers into marketers? I’d love to hear in the comments below.