In the age of mass advertising, customers are your best advocates. As marketing news increasingly proclaims that content is king, consumers are being inundated with conflicting messages and are slowly learning to just ignore the blast. However, peer opinion is gaining importance in the buying process.
According to advocate marketing experts, 92 percent of all B2B buying decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations. These experts additionally state that 59 percent of buyers look for advice from peers who went through similar challenges when making purchasing decisions.
With such high importance placed on discussions with peers rather than the brand itself, engaging customers to turn them into advocates can augment existing marketing programs and give back in unexpected ways. Below are five main means that these advocates, also called influencers or brand evangelists, can generate interest and help to improve a brand.
1. Social Sharing
An influencer can share their experiences with their professional and social networks, in person, on social media, in meet-ups and through other mediums. This content will bring positive awareness for your brand and will likely direct web traffic towards your site.
Additionally, as a real user, these influencers can often reach out to an audience that a marketer could never touch. When 37 percent of buyers seek out recommendations from social networks to help make their purchasing decisions, social sharing is a valuable resource
Reliable feedback is incredibly useful in figuring out where products can be improved. It promotes loyalty in customers and gives a competitive advantage by allowing you to manage your business’s reputation and establish confidence in your brand. Influencers can provide helpful, in-depth feedback, as they are often self-motivated and excited at the potential of having their voices heard. They want their participation to be noted, and in return, will help you to improve your brand and its image.
3. Low Cost Marketing
Influencer marketing augments traditional marketing programs at little to no cost. A true evangelist is motivated by curiosity and is merely interested in what the brand has to offer. This is demonstrated in a 2014 Doss and Carstens study called the “Big Five Personality Traits and Brand Evangelism,” which proves a positive correlation to extraversion and openness in brand evangelists, indicating that they are in fact self-motivated by curiosity and by establishing a relationship with the company.
If you give an influencer early access to information about your company or listen to their suggestions, they will likely be happy to share their experiences—Often, they already do so, with or without your participation. When there are limited marketing funds, engaging consumers and turning them into evangelists is a low cost option to maximize your marketing reach.
You work at a company. Clearly, you want that company to succeed. Therefore, whenever you put out an advertisement about how great your brand is, consumers are going to take it with a grain of salt. Meanwhile, an evangelist is merely promoting your brand because you have proven to them that it is valuable, and as industry thought-leaders, they were inspired to share it. This makes them a source of credible information.
Digital Intelligence Today shows that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know and 70 percent trust online consumer opinions, while only 40 percent trust search engine ads and 36 percent trust ads on social networks.
5. Trustworthy Reviews
Organizations are increasingly taking advantage of the credibility of influencers and becoming “Yelpified” in order to provide a platform for users to share their experiences. In the tech world, for example, sites now offer crowd-sourced reviews of B2B enterprise technology solutions.
However, unlike Yelp, many of these companies such as mine, IT Central Station, have verification processes including LinkedIn and other social media to provide transparency and validate that reviews are real. Reviews such as these provide a neutral channel that not only supplies potential customers with greater insight into a product and its performance in similar situations, but also instills faith in a company’s claims.
For example, IDC statistics show that for over half of buyers, peer networks promote greater confidence in vendors. Inspiring users to share testimonials is becoming an invaluable resource in the marketing world.
Engaging customers can sometimes be a time consuming process, but in the end it pays off. Activating influencers gives your brand a voice in the community that will promote interest and awareness of your company. Through these five ways and more, influencers are becoming an increasingly important marketing channel.