Building a B2B Marketing Brand Advocate Army

Being in customer marketing, I am always looking for new and better ways to identify and empower our most active customers. Enter the Marketo Champion program that was launched in June of 2011. The purpose of the program was to reward and celebrate our biggest brand advocates. We’ve now “inducted” 50 customers into the program and it has been an enormous success. In the last year, we’ve seen a substantial increase in our social media engagement, community contribution, and overall reference activity by our Marketo Champions and customers hoping to reach Champion status.

Here are my steps in creating your own Champion-esque program:

Step 1:  Identify characteristics you want “Champions” to have

We identified and ranked customers based on 5 characteristics, each having multiple activities that I scored and ranked against. Make sure that the characteristics you choose can have factual and unbiased metrics associated with them–this will be helpful when you start ranking your advocates’ participation. For example – “they are really funny” isn’t easily quantifiable and will make it tougher for you to choose (and explain why you chose) your advocates.

Here are the characteristics that we decided were the most important for our advocates to exhibit:

  • Is a loyal reference for our organization
  • Leads thought leadership conversations offline and online
  • Has deep expertise in our product
  • Responds in social media and our customer community regularly
  • Voices innovative product ideas

Step 2: Identify the activities connected with each of those characteristics

I came up with a list of activities for each characteristic that I could score against. For example, the following are some of the activities that are associated with the characteristic “is loyal reference for our organization”:

  • Refers Marketo to their peers
  • Speaks on behalf of Marketo at events or with press
  • Advocates for Marketo in B2B social media
  • Promotes our thought leadership content
  • Blogs about experience with Marketo

You can look at a number of activities, just make sure they match the activities that you are trying to reward.

Step 3: Build out exclusive benefits

Once we have decided what characteristics we want and choose our advocates, we want to reward them! This is a  great way to engage top customers.  Here’s a list of the benefits that our Champions can get:

  • Access: Meetings with our product and marketing teams to give exclusive feedback
  • Previews: Early previews of products, features, and releases when available
  • Publicity: Exclusive speaking opportunities at Marketo User Summit and other events
  • Networking: Special networking events with Marketo executives and fellow Champions
  • Credibility: Special Champion badge on Marketo Community profiles, and profiled on Marketo’s corporate website
  • Sweet Swag: Champion-exclusive swag

Here’s a sample of the awesome swag our Champions receive:

Step 4:  Identify potential candidates

Next up – aggregate a list of potential Champions.  I started with a list of my top 20 contributors within the Marketo Community then went to a few different departments to gather their top customers.  I collaborated with my customer reference manager, success team, social media team, and support team.  Find the people who interact with customers every day and are actively tracking your influencers and top references.

Step 5:  Build out your “Activity Matrix”

Next, we built out a “Champions Activity Matrix”. I know this is super nerdy, but this definitely helps you rank activities with ease and confidence. I give customers a 5 if they are extremely active, a 3 if they are moderately active, a 1 if they are somewhat active, and a 0 if they inactive. If you want to get more advanced, you can associate point values to each activity, giving higher priority to some activities and lower to others. For example, public speaking takes more time than retweeting content, therefore you could give that a higher priority score.

Name Company Refers Marketo to their peers Speaks on behalf of Marketo at events or with press Advocates for Marketo in social media Promotes our thought leadership content Total
Joe Smith ABC1 5 3 8
Jon Smith ABC2 3 1 4

We chose the top 25 customers to be included in our first class of Marketo Champions, but that number may be different for you. Whatever the number you choose, make sure that you have the resources to manage that amount of people in the program. Time, budget, and attention are all things you need to keep in mind.

Step 6 – Launch!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in building out a “champion” program. What successes have you seen with a program like this?

For more tips on how to develop a brand advocate team, stay connected to the Modern B2B Marketing Blog.

Related Resources

  • Liz Pedro

    This is awesome! Thanks for the great article Heather!

  • Heather Watkins

    Thanks Liz!

  • Jodi Florence

    And all this time I thought it was because I was funny. :)  Great job Heather.  Marketo community in general rocks and I’m glad to be a part of it.

  • Kimi Fowler

    Great article Heather! I’m very proud of my champion status! I’m definitely going to pass this along to our own team who are hoping to build a similar program. 

  • Carrie

    This is great, but how come no mention of this at Tuesday’s Rockstar event in Silicon Valley? I noticed a lot of info on you FB and website that was not promoted…maybe more work needed on integrated marketing …

  • Katrena Mcgrigor

    We’ve been thinking about something like this for a while but reading this just gave me additional inspiration an motivation! Thanks for that!

  • Michael Becker

    Liked the piece.  Do you have suggestions on how to do this at scale and automate the report card?

  • Heather Watkins

    Hi Carrie, that’s a great idea.  We’ll be sure to mention all of these upcoming activities at upcoming roadshows.

  • Heather Watkins

    It’s pretty difficult to automate the entire report card as they are coming from multiple different sources.  We use Salesforce for our community so I have some pretty good dashboards built out for Community participation.  Radian 6 is also a great product to see who is talking about you in the outside world.  If you sync this to Salesforce, you can get a great view of who in your customer base is talking about you the most.

  • Lesley Morris

    Thanks for sharing. Especially liked the activity matrix idea – great idea 

  • Zoë Geddes-Soltess

     Thanks for the mention, Heather!

    Zoe Geddes-Soltess
    Community Engagement, Radian6

  • Heather Watkins

    Thank you Lesley!

  • Helen Lewis

    This is a great article thanks! An awful lot of take away points here

Building a B2B Marketing Brand Advocate Army

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