We've said it before and we'll say it again, having customers are great, but having customers who make more customers for you is even better!

That's where customer marketing and advocacy strategies come in.

That's why we spoke to Larisa Sandu, Head of Customer Marketing & Advocacy at Peakon, a Workday company, on the importance of a good customer advocacy program, what strategies you need in place to run one successfully, and how she's adapted her advocacy strategies as a response to the pandemic and beyond.

Hi Larisa, can you tell us about Peakon and your role there?

Peakon, a Workday company, is an employee engagement platform that converts employee feedback into meaningful insights that drive execution excellence and transformational success.

Workday and Peakon together provide a continuous listening platform spanning the employee lifecycle and giving real-time visibility into employee engagement, sentiment, and productivity. By leveraging the largest standardized data set of employee feedback in the world, it delivers insights about employee engagement, diversity, equity & inclusion, and growth, enabling leaders to build an accurate view of employee experience across all levels of an organization.

To date, Peakon has helped over 1,000 organizations transform their employee engagement strategy and improve overall employee experience, while driving better business results at companies such as Capgemini, The Adecco Group, Delivery Hero, Staples, and easyJet.

My current role at Peakon is Head of Customer Marketing & Advocacy, and I manage the overarching strategy and execution of our Customer Marketing initiatives, customer communications, customer advocacy program, customer references, customer referrals program, and customer gifting initiatives.

The B2B marketing funnel
Ask just about anyone to give a rough definition of a customer journey, and they’ll be able to give a pretty good answer along the lines of “the route someone takes from being unfamiliar with a brand/business/product to becoming a customer”.

Why is customer advocacy important to Peakon and other B2B companies?

Customer advocacy is more than just a program or a list of customers - it’s a strategic approach to customer loyalty, engagement, and long-term, reciprocal relationships with your customer base.

When done correctly, customer advocacy is a fundamental pillar of a successful customer journey, from acquisition to retention and expansion.

Customer advocates become extensions of a company’s employee base - they live and breathe your company’s ethos and spread the mission of your company to others out of genuine interest in your company’s success.

What are some of the most effective marketing strategies for fostering customer loyalty?

Customer advocacy is what takes good companies and transforms them into great companies. It elevates your company’s brand awareness, market and industry credibility, and recognition, and spreads word-of-mouth marketing much more effectively and efficiently than ever before. It helps bring your top customers together for product feedback, peer networking, and knowledge-sharing opportunities.

In this day and age, it’s no secret that consumers rely heavily on their own research and trust their peers more than a company’s marketing campaigns.

Peer references remain the single most powerful driver behind most B2B buying decisions. In fact, SiriusDecisions surveyed over 600 B2B marketers last year in a B2B Buyer’s Survey and found the following:

  • In the early buying stages, 51% say peer referrals are their MOST FAVORED content
  • In the mid-buying stage, peers are ranked as the MOST INFLUENTIAL information source (23%)
  • In the late buying stage, peers are the MOST TRUSTED information source (29%)

It is almost impossible to have an effective, scalable and trustworthy reference program without some type of customer advocacy program in place. B2B and B2C companies are more likely to be catapulted into sales and marketing success if they have a customer advocacy strategy. Some excellent customer advocacy program examples of companies that are thriving are: SoFi, Marketo (an Adobe company), Cisco, IBM, Procore, Ceridian, Autodesk, Okta, and Workday, to name a few.

What needs to be avoided to maintain customer loyalty and advocacy?

At the end of the day, customers are just human beings, just like you and I and, because of that, they are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on emotion and intention quite easily. The worst thing you can do is make your customers feel taken advantage of or used.

Do not create an advocacy program that is based on transactional gains for your company, is inauthentic, or strips the customer of their integrity.

Have any of your methods had to change as a response to the pandemic?

There have been some tremendous changes that were made in response to the pandemic. We had to start responding to accelerated change in consumer behaviors such as the increased reliance on eCommerce, a social-first ethos, remote working, and work/life balance, just to name a few.

We had to take a step back and focus on the individuals versus the company as a whole, because employees suffering as individuals affected the bottom line of businesses, especially in times of crises. Our approach to sales and marketing shifted to a more humanized and empathetic approach, which offered comfort and assurance to our customers that we were in it with them for the long haul, through thick and thin.

Do you foresee any of these changes as being long-term? How are you planning ahead as a result?

As we’ve all heard, again and again, the “new normal” is here to stay. Things like the hybrid work model, DE&I initiatives at the forefront, elevated focus on health and wellbeing, work/life balance and security, at home and at work, are all here to stay for the long-term.

As part of our agile work model, we will continue to listen to our customers and to the market trends, and use that information to be malleable and to change with them. As most of us have already heard before, change is the only constant, and moving forward with it will propel your success, as an individual and as a company.

Thanks Larisa!

If you're looking to enhance your customer advocacy capabilities, or if you've got some top tips, head to the B2B Marketing Alliance Community.