Ants holding up an apple

We recently partnered with a health care cost management company looking to redefine themselves in an industry fraught with systemic change in reimbursement models, regulations, compliance and more. Their customers were struggling to stay above water through all of this dynamic change and relied on strong vendor relationships to ensure business continued to function efficiently.

In speaking to their customers – revenue and billing executives at payer and provider organizations across the country – we were blown away by how authentically and effusively happy they were about their relationship with the cost management company. Our client’s customers didn’t see the company as a vendor, or even a partner – but truly as a friend. They spoke about how the company would bend over backwards to find a solution for their needs, was more than willing to change their process, and genuinely put their customers’ success before their own.

“I’m one of their greatest testimonials just because I’ll go out there and sell them all day long and I don’t even get paid for it.” – Client

We also learned that the top resource prospects in the health care industry looked to when they were choosing a vendor was their own peers. A light bulb went off. It was clear the company had an opportunity to use their enthusiastic customers in a big way to spread awareness and connect with prospects.

While customer satisfaction levels this high are rare, the opportunity to use clients as brand ambassadors is not. How can your company incentivize and encourage your own clients to become brand ambassadors for you? We’ve laid out the three keys to success.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Use existing customer satisfaction reports or develop an external survey to identify your best client advocates. These are the clients that are most happy with your work and will be the most willing to talk to their peers about you.

To convert them into your brand ambassadors, you just need to ask! This is best done by the people in your organization that they feel most close to. That might be an account rep, a senior executive or a technical manager working closely with the customer team. Give these internal stakeholders the tools they need to make the ask: scripts, email templates, clear calls to action and maybe even a small incentive or gift.

2. Let them see behind the curtain.

Often, it is beneficial to use your customers as “product managers.” Letting them play a role in the development of a new product or service provides a dual benefit – it ensures that your product addresses and solves client’s needs, but it will also increase the kinship that your clients have with you because they feel as though they are on the “inside”.

A recent payment technology company we partnered with was introducing a new product to the market and decided to invite some of their top customers to try out the product before launching it broadly. Working through the integration in these trial cases helped the company resolve kinks in their development, but also gave their clients the opportunity to feel as though they were a part of the process, further increasing their appreciation and trust for the company. Now clients intricately understand the company’s product and are more qualified and empowered to “sell” it to their peers.

Other opportunities to make ambassadors feel as though they are on the inside is to give them access to invite-only webinars or conferences where they can learn something they don’t already know – whether it’s an industry trend, new regulatory change or a disruptive competitor entering their field. Clients will appreciate the high value information and feel even more affinity for your company.

3. Give clients a soapbox.

Once you have identified who your happiest clients are, and incentivized them to become ambassadors through special access or high value information, you need to give them a platform for sharing their experiences. Showcase their stories in testimonial videos, case studies and quotes that you can use throughout your marketing and sales communications. Invite them to events, conferences and other in-person opportunities where they will have the chance to speak to their peers directly.

Introducing your client ambassadors to prospects gives them the opportunity to tell their story about working with you. With a recent technology outsourcing client, we proposed the idea of hosting dinners in key cities where top clients and prospects would be invited to hear from an industry analyst or important journalist about an interesting, timely topic. The dinners would allow for current clients to network with some of the company’s most promising prospects – telling them about the great work our client had done for them.

Whether it’s a hosted dinner, a special conference, a baseball game … providing your clients with the opportunity to engage with prospects is key to utilizing them as your brand ambassadors.

Find out what works for you.

While the exact formula for success will vary based on your industry, your target audience, your go-to-market strategy and other key factors, these three steps can help form the foundation of any client engagement strategy. As with any marketing or sales program, it will likely require some initial testing and tweaking.

No matter what industry you are in though, client ambassadors don’t just happen: they are born by engaging your most loyal customers and providing them with opportunities to speak to their peers about their experience working with you. Do this, and you may have just found the best addition to your sales force.

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The Age-Old Debate
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Depending on which report…