B2B Loyalty Part 2: The Loyalty Messaging Advantage

This article is the second in an Advocacy-Loyalty Fusion series that explores a question.

“What if the answer to under-performing advocate engagement programs is to borrow the rigidity of the participant > benefit structure and key messages from the world of loyalty programs and use those as a firm foundation on which to build in opportunities to explore, motivate and activate advocates?”

Whether you are using Influitive or another advocate marketing platform, generating sustained customer engagement and outcomes long term is a challenge for even the most masterful customer marketer. Some companies have automated, perpetual recruitment flows in place that essentially back-fill customers when enthusiasm eventually wanes. While those flows can be very effective in attracting new advocates and generating net-new results, over time the program roster can become bloated with long-gone, disengaged members who then skew overall results downwards, sometimes quite severely and detrimentally. This trend is common in the advocate lifecycle.

The advocacy-loyalty fusion concept is an attempt to disrupt that tendency by shifting advocacy and loyalty from opposite ends of the customer engagement spectrum and smashing them together in the center; Taking the best of both worlds to bring more value to the business and the customer. The benefits of this approach are outlined in more detail in the first article [link] in this series.

Take Five: Key aspects of retooling an existing advocacy program

There are five big to-do buckets in a project where an existing B2B advocate marketing program takes on characteristics of a B2C customer loyalty program:

  1. Messaging
  2. Levels and badges
  3. Creating and communicating “top-tier” value
  4. Measuring success
  5. Execution

The focus in this article is on the first to-do: Messaging.

The Loyalty Messaging Advantage

“The practice of customer advocacy is well understood internally to differ significantly from customer loyalty programmes. However, the structure and language associated with customer loyalty programs is more widely adopted and easily understood than advocacy by our customers. Let’s use this to our advantage.”

Over the last 15 or so years, it has become increasingly easier to explain what “advocacy” is to internal stakeholders. Whether self-touting as customer centric! or customer obsessed!, most businesses today have a handle on how important their current customers are to the bottom line. During a conference presentation in March, lovely and talented customer marketing expert Megan Heuer underscored how valuable a (seemingly) minor 1% improvement in retention is to revenue/ARR, for example.

What hasn’t gotten any easier is explaining what “advocacy” is to customers. After all, the concept of advocate marketing and/or customer engagement is very internal facing. Do customers really think of themselves as card-carrying advocates? Or Heroes, Ambassadors, Insiders, etc. Is their definition of “advocate” the same as ours? I’m not convinced. But, loyal to a brand or community? Yes. Why? Because being loyal feels a tad easier to unpack and expectations seem more manageable. Because being an advocate (by definition, a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy) is a presumptive call to action before, in many cases, you’ve had the chance to directly engage, nurture or motivate a user to that idyllic stage.

Advocate is an end-goal in the customer relationship arc, not the beginning. Loyalty sits in the middle of the arc, as an intake and interaction mechanism, a testing and vetting place where some roads lead to true advocacy, and others don’t.

Amending the Value Proposition

Core to a marketing message is the value proposition. Defined as “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers”, the value prop of an advocacy program differs significantly from that of a loyalty program. The goal here is to meld the two when refreshing an advocacy program.

First, take the messaging focus off all the usual advocacy suspects: Networking with peers, spreading the world about ACME Corp, appearing in content or on stage, early access to reports, and educational opportunities. These opportunities will be offered up in due time to the right members and may be presented as benefits in an infographic, but it’s not what you lead with in the copy.

Instead, analyze the concise, matter-of-fact promo copy of your favorite loyalty programs. Borrow from that by using simple, effective infographics to demonstrate program structure and benefits, and use wording such as:

“We have restructured the program to more accurately reflect the types of opportunities and benefits offered in [program name]. Not unlike a frequent flier program, the higher you go, the more value you’ll find. We’ve also simplified the criteria for levelling up. This streamlined approach means you’ll know exactly what activities to take on in order to reach the next level of perks and benefits.”

Once you’ve redeveloped the core messaging, whiteboard how that message may need to differ audience to audience. How you message this transformation to highly engaged members who may already be advocates will be very different to how you bring it to those long-gone members. Same goes for recently joined members, or those representing highly strategic accounts. Develop your core messages, then wrap them accordingly by audience.  

Up Next

Coming soon, the third instalment in the series will focus on levels and badges. This aspect is both technical and strategic, and is the glue that holds it all together.

May 20, 2020
Deena Zenyk