2014-29-May-Horse-Race.jpgYou've seen the stats: 60 to 80 percent of the buying process is done before anyone wants to chat with your chomping-at-the-bit sales reps. To make matters worse, more people than ever are now involved in the process of buying complex products. So where does that leave you?

Most likely trying to craft a never-ending stream of content marketing to influence this very process. And that helps, for sure.

But let’s be honest. You need to do more than turn your brand into a publisher … especially as most publishers are having their own issues these days. With that in mind, there’s another approach to influencing the buying process while also supporting your could-be-better content marketing efforts.

Start engaging the influencers.

As you’ve probably heard by now, we trust the recommendations of people over brands. So start with folks that already like what your company is doing. From there, you can move on to others that influence your target buyers in a big way.

1. Brand Advocates

Who better to recommend your brand than those already delighted with it? And you don’t need to be Apple, Harley-Davidson or TiVo to have customers inclined to say positive things. All companies have advocates, even those that sell to other brands (or they wouldn’t be in business).

But how do you identify your brand advocates?

It’s simple. Just email a Net Promoter survey to your customer database. Those that identify themselves as “highly likely to recommend” your company are brand advocates. And within 48 to 72 hours you’ll have identified hundreds or maybe even thousands of advocates. Easy, right?

Now comes the harder part. You need to flag these customers as brand advocates in your CRM database, develop dedicated marketing campaigns to get them sharing branded content, and acknowledge and recognize them along the way. But these efforts will be worth it … since we all know how powerful positive word of mouth can be!

And for mid- to enterprise-sized companies, vendors such as Zuberance and Influitive can give you a leg up with launching and managing your brand advocacy programs.

2. Employee Advocates

Most employees are active on social media and already make recommendations to their personal networks. Plus, many believe in what your company is up to. Sound like a recipe for success? It is.

Imagine if you could get 10 percent of your company’s employees to share, tweet or “like” your latest content marketing offers, and to do so on a regular basis. Think of the impact. Technology providers like Dynamic Signal and SocialChorus think so. They say that employee advocacy results in much higher engagement with branded content and can represent hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in equivalent paid media value.

Whether you decide to bring on specialized technology or not, don’t let that stop you from getting started with employee advocacy.