You spend valuable time and money training your SDRs and AEs to speak intelligently and persuasively about your product. They’ve got talk tracks, one pagers, infographics, videos and case studies at their fingertips, ready to share at just the right moment.
And yet the reality is, your prospective buyers most likely know all about your product before they’ve even said “Hello” to your Sales team.
Today’s buyers do their own research, which includes a huge emphasis on talking to peers, noticing what influencers say, and taking note of brand ambassadors.
Your company likely has these champions — people who love your product and recommend it to their network. So what’s the best way to tap into this powerful marketing channel?
Using your champions to drive sales pipeline begins by identifying the right people and then finding ways to nurture those relationships to drive more revenue.
Three important types of champions
In a recent podcast, 1health CMO Leela Gill described three categories of champions that can be highly effective marketing channels: influencers, brand ambassadors and raving fans. Each category offers unique strengths for promoting your company.
Influencer champions can be divided into two categories: internal and external.
Internal influencers represent employees who participate in social media channels, posting regularly with thought leadership content or directly promoting your product.
External influencer champions are people within your industry with a large social following that matches your ideal customer profile (ICP). External influencers are paid for what they’re doing to help your brand.
Brand Ambassadors love your company and your product, but are not looking for a financial reward.
This type of champion does not have a million followers on social media, but likely has 3,000 to 7,000 followers. Brand Ambassadors are often willing to go to a conference and talk about your company. This type of champion is happy to be rewarded with gift cards or swag.
Raving Fans are those people who love your product and will talk about your company with little or no reward. When Raving Fans promote your company, you, in return, provide recognition that helps boost their personal brand.
How to identify your champions
Champions can be found in many different places depending on your growth strategy, budget, customer marketing strategy and even your company culture. The process for identifying your champions will vary as they represent a mix of employees, industry influencers, and past and present customers.
When looking for internal influencers, investigate which employees are the most active on the social platform where your audience participates.
Then, evaluate how followers are engaging with these employees’ posts: likes and comments are good, shares and retweets are great. Review the kind of content the employee typically posts and determine if they have the potential to be a thought leader for your prospective buyer audience. Generally, employees in leadership positions are a good place to start.
Look for external influencers in the following places:
- Social media platforms: Look for industry thought leaders discussing your product category in posts, callouts, and even hashtags for your specific product.
- Review sites: Search G2 or TrustRadius for potential influencers who’ve written positive reviews of your product.
- Slack communities: Scan an industry Slack community to source thought leaders.
- Conferences and trade shows: Look for common speakers at popular industry events where your company participates. The speakers are likely thought leaders in your space.
Identifying brand ambassadors and raving fans
Brand ambassadors and Raving fans are some of the easiest people to find because they are either past or present users of your product. If your company operates within a product-led growth (PLG) model, your champions are often people with the highest usage of your product.
For companies operating a sales-led growth (SLG) strategy, your Sales, Implementation, and Customer Success teams are a great resource for champion referrals. They know which customers love your product and which customers have unique and interesting stories you should be telling. Create a process for your employees to nominate a champion, like a simple Google Form.
Personally, I think having a program that’s a little more formalized makes you proactively able to identify your champions. Otherwise, your process tends to be reactive. Like when a prospective buyer wants to speak with a reference, so you go digging around for the right champion.
When looking for brand ambassadors and raving fans, check for virality — those customers who use your product with one employer and then bring your product to their next employer. Repeat customers are some of your best champions.
One last place to find champions is by reviewing lists of customers who consistently attend your webinars, customer events, and participate in your certification programs (if you have one). Repeat attendance and active certification is a great sign they genuinely like your product or brand.
Nurturing relationships with your champions
Now that you’ve identified your influencers, brand ambassadors and raving fans, it’s time to nurture those relationships and create opportunities to drive pipeline.
Nurturing internal influencers
One common way to support internal influencers is through an employee advocacy program. Employee advocacy (EA) is simply the promotion of a company’s brand and product by its employees. UserGems’ Social Media and Communications Manager, Amber Rhodes, developed an EA program for UserGems and recommends the following:
- Get buy-in from company leadership: If you can get leadership on board, you’ll not only have access to more resources to make your program work, but you’ll also have built-in influencers to give your program more traction. With company leaders, emphasize the benefits of free/low-cost exposure that boosts brand awareness.
- Get buy-in from employees: If they need a little push, try emphasizing the benefits of posting, like personal brand building, attracting better candidates, establishing authority in your space, brand awareness, and networking to improve prospecting.
- Create an employee advocacy-friendly social media policy.
- Train employees in fundamental LinkedIn social sharing tools and skills.
- Create a culture of support: Don’t make your employees feel like they’re shouting into a void! Create a Slack or Teams channel where they can share their posts and hype each other up in the channel and on LinkedIn.
Social media is not the only avenue for your internal influencers. Consider placing internal influencers on webinar panels or podcasts, or seek out speaking opportunities at conferences and trade shows.
Hiring external influencers
Fostering a good relationship with your external influencers starts with an intelligent vetting and hiring process. Upfluence, a SaaS marketing platform for influencer campaigns, recommends the following six steps when hiring an influencer:
- Create an influencer shortlist
- Decide your compensation offer
- Reach out to influencers to invite them to join your campaign
- Negotiate the terms of your campaign
- Share the campaign brief and content production expectations
- Sign a contract
Be sure to check your external influencer’s social media content to see that they are posting according to the terms of your contract. Influencer monitoring platforms can help.
Nurturing brand ambassadors and raving fans
While your raving fans will promote your brand with little or no encouragement, a passive approach will not drive pipeline. It’s important to create opportunities for both brand ambassadors and raving fans to advocate for you. Look for opportunities where they can use their own words to describe the success they’ve experienced with your product.
- Invite them to be featured in a case study.
- Invite them to share their use case at a company meeting or external event.
- Invite them to participate on a customer advisory board or user group.
- Create a community Slack channel where they can discuss your platform with other champions and swap ideas.
- Nominate them for industry awards.
- Create customer-exclusive events like lunch-n-learns or happy hours.
- Create educational opportunities to increase their knowledge of your platform.
Your customer-champions will likely change jobs during their career, so protect that relationship with a pipeline generation software like UserGems. When UserGems uncovers a job change, send a congratulations gift through Sendoso and add the contact to an Outreach sequence. You can automate this entire play with a revenue orchestration tool.
Tap into new revenue opportunities with your champions
You have people who are excited about your product and use it on a daily basis.
These champions are a powerful source of referrals. When a trusted friend, colleague, or influencer recommends a product, conversion rates increase, the customer lifetime value is higher, and the closing cycle is faster.
Your champions, an often untapped marketing channel, have the potential to drive pipeline and revenue growth. It’s time to cut through the noise by capitalizing on the kind of creative brand awareness your prospective buyers trust the most: their peers.