Why aren't B2B marketers doing more to generate recommendations for their brands? I mean every B2B marketer (or head of sales, for that matter) understands how important positive word of mouth and referrals are, right?

And these days, it’s easy to leverage social media to amplify favorable comments about your brand, products or content. Yet my experience is that few B2B marketers are making it a priority to generate these “social recommendations” as part of their marketing strategy.

Why is that?

A Matter of Trust

Sure it can be a challenge to get business professionals to publicly recommend a company. But we’re talking B2B, so you don’t need thousands of vocal fans — just a few will get you started. And while it may not be a snap to identify brand champions in your CRM system today, it's still a pretty straightforward issue to address.

Or maybe it’s because you’re too focused on (obsessed with) content marketing. If that’s the case, then shouldn’t you consider spending less time on content activities and more time on identifying and mobilizing advocates to generate social recommendations?

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of building brand awareness and authority with buyers before they’re ready to chat with your chomping-at-the-bit sales reps. High quality content is awesome for that. Not to mention, it helps with SEO and fuels social media. So yes, I get the value of content marketing.

On the other hand, buyers trust the recommendations of peers more than what we marketers say in our blog posts, white papers, webinars, status updates or tweets. Sorry, but it’s true. To highlight the importance of social recommendations, Christopher Duskin, vice president of marketing at referral marketing company Extole, noted:

At some level, social recommendations are the only valid marketing for B2B… It is thousands of forums, emails and casual conversations all asking ‘what should I do’ and ‘who should I use.' If you have ever been a customer reference or asked to talk to a reference, you've experienced it.”

And here’s what Tim Handorf, co-founder and president of business software review site G2 Crowd, claims:

Although business buying decisions tend to be more complex than a consumer decision, buyers still want insights and lessons learned from their peers to help them make a decision.”

Put another way, wouldn’t you be more likely to pick a vendor that comes highly recommended versus one that emails you lots of quality content? Hands down, peer recommendations win me over every time.

Advocates for Your Brand

With that said, let’s take a moment and consider who can do the recommending on your company’s behalf. It’s probably more people than you think.

Customer Advocates

First of all, every company has customers willing to advocate, even those that sell to other businesses. How do you go about identifying these brand advocates? The quickest way is to email the Net Promoter Ultimate Question survey to your database to discover which customers are most likely to recommend your company. Within 24 to 48 hours you’ll identify a bunch of brand advocates.

Employee Advocates

If your company is like most, then your employees are an untapped source of advocacy for your brand. Remember, they have a vested interest in the business’ success. And hopefully a certain percentage of your workforce is ready and willing to tell their social networks the story of your company and its products. So go ahead and make it easy for them to spread the good word about your brand.

Partners, Influencers and Prospects

You have a whole ecosystem of vendors, partners, and investors who you can turn to for recommendations and favorable tweets. Are you tapping into them? And what about industry influencers and thought-leaders that understand how cool your company is? Plus, consider prospects who may have found your website helpful or your latest whitepaper informative. Make it easy for all of them to share their positive opinions, too.

How to Generate Recommendations

Now consider all the ways you can mobilize the different types of advocates to promote your company:

  • Ask for testimonials
  • Get them to share branded content on social media
  • Use their quotes in case studies and content marketing
  • Invite them to participate in company webinars and events
  • Make them guest contributors for the company blog
  • Prompt them to write reviews on sites like G2 Crowd

What’s the bottom line?

Sure it’s great to get people reading and sharing your content. But wouldn’t it be better to get more of your advocates to be recommending your products and services on social media? In more practical terms, wouldn’t you benefit from doing fewer blog posts every month and instead putting that time into identifying and mobilizing advocates to recommend your brand? I sure think so.

Now it's your turn. What are you doing to identify and mobilize advocates? Is generating social recommendations one of your key initiatives or not even on your priority list?

Title image by Clint  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.