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Live from Advocamp: What we learned about advocacy marketing

Last updated on March 31st, 2015 at 01:20 pm

Marketing is a big beast but advocacy marketing is a creature often neglected since it doesn’t get the spotlight as often as, say, content marketing.

That changed in San Francisco on March 25, when B2BNN attended Advocamp, the first advocacy marketing event of its kind. In the elegant Hotel Nikko near Union Square, marketing specialists gathered to hear from the leading practitioners in this trending field of B2B marketing.

Below is our recap of several sessions we attended:

Giving a hoot with Hootsuite

In one of the morning sessions, Jeanette Gibson, vice president, customer experience & community at Hootsuite, offered a four-step process for getting customers activated to become B2B advocates. According to Gibson, advocacy marketers need to: listen,  attract, build community, engage, celebrate, and adapt.

By listening, the advocate marketer will be able to find people who are already talking about your brand. The key here is to offer easy triggers to join your customer advocacy program. Invite them to become your brand ambassadors, she said.

To attract customer advocates, Gibson noted you have to focus on WIIFM—what’s in it for me. She added that marketers should offer their potential advocates unique benefits to participate. For example, Hootsuite gives new advocates a free 90-day enrolment in Hootsuite University. This resulted in a 40 percent increase in engagement in the advocacy program.

In building community, Hootsuite connects its brand ambassadors to each other locally, according to Gibson. Events can be one ways to establish this connection.

Engaging advocates empowers the B2B company’s most passionate users. When brand advocates are properly engaged, overall social media sharing of company messages will increase 200 percent as compared to normal levels of sharing.

Celebrating is a way to recognize advocates as local “superheroes,” according to Gibson. For example, Hootsuite will recognize its brand ambassadors in a yearbook. This tactic has proven so successful that ambassadors increased from about 100 in 2014 to more than 1,000 ambassadors in 2015, Gibson says.

Advocacy programs have to evolve to grow globally, stressed Gibson. Start by gamifying your program to offer advanced challenges and be transparent about your program as it evolves, she said.

Overall, the key takeaways from Gibson’s talk revolve around B2B marketers knowing their advocate audience, creating relevant experiences for them, championing customer needs, making it easy for them to share simple content and using events to connect advocates to one another.

Where’s the ROI?

Just before lunch, the Advocamp crowd heard about the ROI of customer success from Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight. In B2B marketing, there is an equation for determining the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer that will predict the net profit to be attained. But in all the equations for LTV, the value of the customer is underestimated, according to Mehta.

Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight
Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight

To help simplify how customer advocacy drives ROI, Mehta offered five ways forward.

  • Measure customer success managers (CSMs) on advocacy. There are many metrics that CSMs are measured on such as number of case studies generated etc. but nothing on advocacy
  • Make CSMs identify their executive advocates. These are usually the official top execs identified in customer advocate programs
  • Have CSMs find user advocates that like what your company does. For example in examining a pie chart of how one B2B enterprise utilizes its Gainsight solution, among all the CSMs one sales rep, stuck out. Turns out this sales rep says she had closed hundreds of thousands of dollars of pipeline deals based on customer advocacy
  • Follow advocates to new companies. Just because a customer advocate switches companies is no reason for CSMs to end the relationship. In fact, it’s an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. Send your customer advocate a bottle of champagne to mark the occasion, Mehta says. Don’t let those relationships fade.
  • Ask your customers to become advocates. Not only will this help CSMs but also drive customers to be more engaged, more loyal and ultimately more successful, according to Mehta

In following his model, B2B marketers can retain their customers longer and make more profits from them over a lifetime. You can do this by making your customers your evangelist and champion. And sometimes they even become your teammates, Mehta added.

On the KACE with Dell

As morning came to a close and Advocamp attendee thoughts turning to lunch, Rob Meinhardt, formerly of Dell-acquired startup KACE, took the stage. Now a venture capitalist with interests in firms including Advocamp organizer Influitive,  Meinhardt explained how with advanced customer advocacy marketing techniques he managed to grow KACE, a fairly “dorky” information technology service management (ITSM) product, into a $100 million per year revenue generator.

He did this by setting a foundation for customer advocacy. B2B marketers have to remember they don’t control the product, Meinhardt said. But they do control the customer culture, also known as ethos. The key to customer culture is to attract customers with aspirational images.

For example, think of the Corona beer ad that only shows the bottle of beer on the table next to the lounge chair on the beach, but you never see the beer drinker/beachgoer except for their hand. Or consider the Apple iTunes ad with the earbuds in white in contrast against a silhouetted figure. You think it’s an attractive woman, but it’s only your mind filling in the blanks. The customer inserts herself into the image. These type of ads keep interest up by not being boring, according to Meinhardt.

Rob Meinhardt
Rob Meinhardt

People want to be part of a club in an effective customer culture. So display pictures of customers all over your company site, Meinhardt recommended. At KACE, Meinhardt leveraged customer advocacy and skirted legal review issues by just asking individual customers to take a picture of themselves next to their company logos. Not only did he remove lengthy corporate reviews of case studies, which suck in any event he says, but also created more powerful images of advocacy.

Lastly, customer culture works best for advocacy if your B2B company has an enemy, Meinhardt said. Look at the late series of Macintosh vs. PC ads. Apple made a lot of fun of the stodgy, beige stereotype of Windows PCs, with which every enterprise employee could probably identify. In Meinhardt’s market, they had a similar comparison running between the KACE product and a product from a company called Altiris. The advocacy effect was so strong that customers would independently bring up the comparison ads in company calls, he added.

In the end, a customer advocacy program could save up to 50 percent on the amount of marketing spend necessary to go to market. To implement this level of precision requires B2B marketers to be very scientific and systematic in their approach, Meinhardt concluded.

LinkedIn for customer success

Rounding out the afternoon breakout session, Kellee Van Horne, head of customer marketing sales solutions atLinkedIn, talked about reducing the sales cycle through customer success. Van Horne began by quoting a couple of daunting figures from an SAP survey that found significant barriers to launching a B2B advocacy program: 52 percent of survey respondents had a perception that advocacy programs are a waste of money and 23 percent feared losing internal credibility with their B2B coworkers.

To illustrate how breaking down these barriers with an advocacy solution such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator can generate successful results, she cited an anecdote of a salesperson from an enterprise software company. This salesperson was on the job for about a year and not performing so well. She was only attaining 35 percent of her sales quota. However, after receiving Sales Navigator training and making its use a daily habit, her sales quota attainment reached 106 percent. From then on, leaders within the enterprise software company sought her out for best practices, and she was eventually promoted.

To achieve your own best practices for advocacy, Van Horne recommended  a series of three procedures:

  • Run an audit — solicit existing customer stories, identify common themes and break them down into customer personas
  • Map your destination — brainstorm three or more channels for fuelling transformation, set goals for number of stories documented and desired outcomes
  • Showcase your standard — document one best-in-class example, train your team and partner to promote internally and externally (e.g., field marketing)


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Derek Handova
Derek Handova
Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).


  1. What a great recap!  I wasn’t able to attend Advocamp,
    but now at least I have some of the key take-aways that I can use. 
    Thanks very much for sharing these insights!

  2. Great summary! I especially liked Rob Meinhardt’s comments about allowing your customer to picture themselves using the product, like Corona or Apple. Even if using the product itself (ex: software) isn’t all that exciting or sexy, the benefits (ex: save time so you can get to the kids’ games) really can be!

  3. Thanks for this post! Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Advocamp, but it looks like there was some great content presented. These tips and best practices are very helpful for someone just getting started with advocate marketing, like me!

  4. Great summary! I had a great experience at the conference and was excited to meet others who are just as jazzed up about advocacy as I am!

  5. So disappointed I couldn’t make it out for the event! Thank you for posting such a great wrap-up on it though; and the 3 series of procedures are very helpful.

  6. Excellent summary! ROI in particular is always a difficult hurdle to “prove” and I liked the suggestions you reported by Nick Mehta. Now I’m really sad I couldn’t make it to the conference.  🙁

  7. Has anyone tried any other free perks right at the beginning of the program that has increased engagement and retention?


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