Your Advocates are your most valuable customers, far more valuable than average customers and even more important than loyal customers.
Unlike average customers or even loyal customers, Advocates go out of their way to recommend you, refer customers, and defend your reputation from haters.
In short, Advocates are powerful, trusted "salespeople" for your brand and products.
Yet many marketers don't know who their Advocates are or only know who some of their Advocates are. They don't have a database of Advocates with names and contact information for Advocates.
This is a huge missed opportunity.
Each Advocate you identify is a valuable asset for your company. Therefore, identifying Advocates on an ongoing basis should be a top priority.
3 Ways to Identify Advocates
Good news: it's actually easy to identify your Advocates.
Here are three ways to find customers and others who would (or actually do) recommend your brand and products:
One of the easiest and most effective ways to identify your Advocates is this:
More specifically, ask your customers how likely they are to recommend you to others.
One of our clients -- a workwear apparel brand -- identified almost 1,000 Advocates with a single email send to about 10,000 customers. That's the start of what can be a powerful Advocate Army.
Intuit Quicken Identifies Advocates
Intuit Quicken sends dedicated emails to Quicken customers asking the "likely to recommend" question. This has enabled Intuit to identify thousands of Quicken Advocates.
In addition to email, we also suggest asking the "likely to recommend" question at other online touch points including:
- In your email newsletter
- On your website
- On customer portals
- In post-purchase and post-usage emails
Don't forget offline opportunities to ask the "likely to recommend" question like at trade shows or at kiosks in your stores.
AT&T Mobile Uses SMS to identify advocates
If you're an AT&T Mobile subscriber, you may have received a text from the company asking the "likely to recommend" question.
Here's a text message below I received recently after I was on the phone with AT&T Mobile customer support.
By the way, as a test, I've responded to this question several times with a 10 rating (indicating that I'm an Advocate) and with a 1 rating (which means I'm a Detractor.)
I've never received a follow-up from AT&T Mobile in any of these cases. Again, this is a huge missed opportunity for AT&T Mobile.
Calculate Your NPS
One of the advantages of asking the "likely to recommend" question using a 0-10 scale is that this will allow you to capture your Net Promoter Score (NPS), a powerful customer loyalty metric created by Bain & Company and Satmetrix.
Here's the formula for NPS:
% Promoters (Advocates) - % Detractors = NPS
Keep it Short
We recommend that Advocate ID surveys be no more than five questions with the "likely to recommend" always first and the only required field.
Remember: the purpose of this survey is to identify Advocates. The more questions you add to the survey, the lower your response rate and the fewer Advocates you'll identify.
Listening is also an effective way to identify Advocates.
When a customer gives you a "shout-out" on social media (like the example below), immediately follow-up by thanking the person and inviting them to take an action like writing a product review. You may even want to invite them to join your Advocate community.
The key thing is to capture the person's email address so you have a way to communicate with them on an ongoing basis and they can be added to your Advocate database.
Lastly, you also can identify Advocates by inviting all customers to write a review, create a testimonial, refer a friend, or perform other advocacy actions.
Customers who perform these actions are Advocates. They haven't just said they're likely to recommend, they've actually done it.
We categorize customers who give five or four-star ratings when creating product reviews as Advocates.
One note: It's still a good idea to ask the "likely to recommend" question, even if you use this third approach (enable) to identify Advocates. Some customers may be willing to recommend your brand or product, but may be unwilling to write a review or just don''t have the time. You don't want to miss identifying Advocates in these cases.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Identifying your Advocates should never be a one-time exercise. You should be identifying Advocates and growing your Advocate Army on ongoing basis.
The more Advocates you identify, the more impact and value you get from your Advocate marketing program. For example, if you have 10,000 Advocates recommending you, you'll get more positive reviews and referrals than if you have 1,000 in your Army.
So what are you waiting for? Start identifying your Advocates now!
Marketers often use the terms "fans" and "Advocates" inter-changeably.
Fans and Advocates are more loyal and engaged than other customers. But there are three important differences between the two groups.
1. Advocates go out of their way to recommend your brand and products.
For example, you may be a fan of a particular beer brand. You really like the beer and drink it often. You may have liked the beer brand on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.
Advocates, on the other hand, go way beyond buying your products or liking you on social.
Advocates pro-actively encourage their friends and others to try and buy the products they love. In the case of the beer brand, Advocates will buy the beer for their friends and tell them: "Dude, you gotta try this!"
In short, Advocates are like salespeople and marketers for your brands and products. Fans, not so much.
2. Advocates are your most loyal customers.
Fans love you when you're winning. But when you hit a losing streak, fans will often desert you. (Look at all those empty seats at San Francisco 49ers' home games.)
Advocates, by comparison, will support and defend you, protecting your cherished reputation even when you're down.
I saw this at Apple, where I worked for several years as a marketing communications consultant. When Apple was sputtering many years ago, its Advocates stood by its side.
Remember that old Tammy Wynette song? Well, you could change the name of the tune for Advocates to "Stand by your brand."
3. Advocates don't just cheer, they get into the game with you.
Advocates are your most engaged customers.
They get in the game with you by giving you ideas and feedback; suggesting new products and services; and joining online communities of fellow Advocates.
And they're the first to participate in online and offline events.
Rubio's, a San Diego-based casual restaurant famous for its Baja fish tacos, holds an annual beach clean-up called "Coast Fest." Rubio's Advocates are the first to show up at the beachfront for Coast Fest with plastic bags and twist ties in hand.
One last big difference: Advocates create and share content like positive reviews, stories, videos, and more at a 2X to 10X higher rate than fans, our real-world results show.
Identify Your Advocates
Get started by identifying your Advocates by name and contact info. Then put these super-charged recommenders to work for you!
Since this is an election season, I have a question for you:
Which type of advocacy program do you think has the highest value for your company: Customer Advocate marketing programs vs. employee advocate programs?
Cast your vote now.
Meanwhile, here's my response:
Before you think I'm an "Advocacy Fence-Straddler" with one foot in a blue state and one in a red state, let me explain my vote:
Both types of advocacy programs are valuable. The answer really depends on what you're trying to achieve.
Employee Advocacy Programs are best at:
- Boosting recruitment
- Increasing employee engagement
- Getting employees to share your content, thus extending your brand reach in a very cost-effective way
Customer Advocate Marketing programs are best at:
- Driving revenue
- Generating referral leads
- Boosting online ratings and rankings
- Creating user-generated content
Customer Advocate Marketing #1 FOr driving Revenues
Forrester recently asked marketers which type of Word of Mouth program was generating the most revenue.
The winner by a landslide:
Customer Advocate marketing with 70% of the "vote" versus 55% for category influencer programs and 45% for employee advocacy.
Not an Either-Or
In fact, you shouldn't pick between customer Advocate marketing or employee advocacy programs.
Both are valuable, proven approaches to building your brand and business.
Here's my two cents: take some of the budget you're going to spend in 2017 on paid media and ads, and instead invest in your most credible "spokespeople":
Customers and employees.
Your brand will be the winner when it backs both of these advocacy candidates!
Looking to turbo-charge your marketing funnel?
Unleash your "Advocate Army"!
Advocates can help you turbo-charge every phase of the marketing funnel, from top-of-the-funnel awareness-building to bottom-of-the-funnel conversion and sales.
This diagram shows specific ways Advocates can add value at each step of the funnel:
So at what stage of the funnel do you need most help?
Let's say awareness is your key challenge. Advocates can boost awareness by sharing your content like your videos, white papers, case studies, and more with their peer and social networks.
Advocates are your most loyal, enthusiastic customers. They'll gladly re-tweet and re-post your content.
On average, Advocate sharing rates are 2X to 5X higher than other customers.
Boosting Purchase Intent
Is your primary funnel challenge getting prospects to increase their purchase intent?
Energize this part of the funnel by enabling and encouraging Advocates to create and post five-star reviews on shopping sites.
Positive reviews not only increase purchase intent, they also can lead to an immediate purchase. For example, millions of travelers immediately book a hotel room after reading a positive TripAdvisor review.
The "marketing choke point" in your funnel may be getting prospects to purchase your products, download your app, or sign up for a free trial.
Get sales flowing by inviting Advocates to share your offers with their social and peer networks and by referring friends.
Conversion rates for Advocate referrals are up to 50X higher than conversion rates for web leads and other marketing tactics.
Maximize Funnel Impact
Get the most value from Advocate marketing by deploying your Advocate Army at every stage of the marketing funnel.
You can do this by giving Advocates multiple ways to recommend your brand and products, as the chart above shows.
Brand advocacy programs focus on getting customer Advocates and others to recommend your brand -- versus a particular product -- to others.
Brand advocacy programs are proven to:
- Increase positive awareness and brand perceptions
- Create a "halo effect" around your brand that positively impacts product sales
- Accelerate growth. A 12% increase in advocacy scores can double a company's revenue growth rate, studies show.
How Brand & Product Advocacy Programs Differ
Product advocacy programs often focus on getting Advocates to post positive product reviews.
Brand advocacy programs, on the other hand, are usually about creating more favorable perceptions of your brand. This is often done by encouraging and enabling Advocates to create stories that reflect favorably on your brand.
GoDaddy Boosts Brand Advocacy
GoDaddy has a very active product advocacy program that gets highly-satisfied customers to recommend GoDaddy products and services like web hosting.
At the same time, GoDaddy has begun a brand advocacy program aimed at improving its brand reputation.
Thousands of customers Advocates have created and shared stories that reflect positively on GoDaddy.
In a recent program, GoDaddy encouraged and enabled small business owners to share their business success stories. This helps positions GoDaddy as a champion of small businesses.
Intuit Gets in the Game
Like GoDaddy, Intuit's "Small Business, Big Game" also is an effort by Intuit to be perceived as a champion of small businesses.
Tens of thousands of small businesses have shared their stories of what inspired them to start their businesses, reaching millions of potential Intuit customers.
The prize for the winning small business: a Super Bowl ad, courtesy of Intuit.
An effective strategy for boosting brand advocacy is to mobilize Advocates against a common enemy.
For example, Salesforce.com has enabled thousands of its Advocates to share their stories and testimonials under the "No Software" banner.
Thinking of starting a brand advocacy program? We'd be glad to share best practices, how-to's, and critical mistakes to avoid.
Companies that boost their ratings on shopping sites like Amazon.com may increase their sales revenues by about 10% for each .1 their ratings go up, for example from 3.5 to 3.6 stars.
And, companies that boost their ratings one full point -- for example from 3 to 4 stars -- may double their sales revenues, our research and real-world experience shows.
Online Ratings Heavily Influence Purchases
Nine out of 10 prospects say consumer online ratings influence their purchase decisions, numerous studies have shown.
If your product gets four or more stars (out of five), prospects are very likely to buy your product. But a large majority of shoppers -- over 80% -- won't buy a product with less than four stars, studies show.
Boosting your online rankings increases the likelihood that prospects will buy your products (see chart below.)
Company "A" is a consumer electronics company.
The company's flagship product previously had a 3 rating out of 5 on Amazon.com, where at that time it was generating about $500,000 in annual sales revenues. At 3 stars, most shoppers were reluctant to buy this product.
The company began a systematic effort to identify and mobilize Advocates to post positive reviews on Amazon. (The company did not pay or provide incentives for Advocates to post positive reviews.)
The company's sales revenues started increasing as its ratings started going up, first from 3 to 3.1 then from 3.1 to 3.2, etc. However, the company saw the largest sales lift when the rating jumped from 3.9 to 4.0 stars.
Within one year, ratings for the product increased one full point from 3 to 4 stars and sales revenues from Amazon doubled from $500,000 to approximately $1M.
Numerous studies have shown the ROI of increased star ratings:
- Given equal pricing, guests are 3.9 times more likely to choose hotels with higher ratings than lower ratings. And even if the hotel with great reviews has higher pricing, travelers are still willing to book at that hotel (source: PhocusWright, 2014)
- Hotels that increase their ratings by one point on TripAdvisor can boost revenues 39%. (source: “Hotel Performance Impact of Socially Engaging with Consumers,” Cornell University Hospitality Research Center.)
- Restaurants that boost their Yelp rating by one star can increase revenues by 5% to 9% (source: “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com,” Michael Luca, Harvard Business School, 2011)
- 92% of people will hesitate to do business with companies with less than four out of five stars (source: BrightLocal, 2014)
norton revenues jump 200% on Amazon.com
Check out this 90-second video featuring a Zuberance customer, especially the part where she says revenue increased 200% after her company began an Advocate reviews program.
You also may want to look at this cool infographic:
How does a scrappy start-up disrupt the $2 trillion consumer packaged goods industry, while spending almost nothing on paid media?
Method, an eco-friendly cleaning products, built a successful business and brand by inspiring advocacy.
"Don't sell to customers, create Advocates for your social mission," Method founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry state in their excellent book, "The Method Method."
In fact, inspiring advocacy is so key to Method that it's one of their seven "obsessions" or guiding principles for the company.
Method's Success Formula
Method lacked the marketing warchest to wage a paid media battle against giants like P&G and Unilever, each of which spends billions annually on ads.
As a challenger brand, Method needed a more cost-effective marketing approach to build its brand and business.
So Method focused on inspiring Advocates.
Here's Method's method:
1. Start with a belief
What's your brand's social mission? What do you stand for? Think beyond the products you sell. Method's social mission was to get dirty out of people's homes.
2. Brand from the inside out.
Building a belief brand starts on the inside. Create the kinds of products you'd want your family members to use and hire people who embody your brand's values.
3. Aim small and over-serve.
Focus on a niche and serve this niche better than anyone else. Method focused on three archetypes -- true greenies, trend-setters, and status-seekers -- that together represent about 27% of US households. As you do this, your goal should be to make Advocates your biggest group vs. a small percentage of your customers.
4. Create a movement.
Method did more than sell a product. It created a movement, as summarized by the tagline "People Against Dirty."
Method engaged its Advocates on an ongoing basis --- soliciting their ideas, enabling them to share the Method story, inviting them to join and participate in an online community of like-minded people, and even getting Advocates to protest against a legal action against Methd by Clorox.
Shift your Mind-Set
Here's how Ryan and Lowry sum it up:
"...to succeed in a world of earned and social media requires to shift your mind-set from talking to customers to inspiring Advocates."
Learn More about Method
You'll find more about the Method story in my book Brand Advocates. Footnote: Method was acquired in 2012 by Belgian company ECover. Nice exit for Eric, Adam, and the Method team.
A growing number of consumer and business brands have Advocate communities -- online communities of their highly-satisfied customers and others who are enthusiastic about the brand, products, cause, or vision.
Why do you need an Advocate Community? Here are five reasons:
1. You need more positive Word of Mouth. Your sales depend on Word of Mouth. Nine out of ten consumers and business buyers say recommendations from friends and peers heavily influence their purchase decisions. Advocate communities are an effective way to super-charge Word of Mouth by encouraging and rewarding Advocates to spread positive WOM about your brand and products.
2. You need more organic reach. Organic reach refers to how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page. Organic reach on Facebook has plummeted to about 2% for most brands, according to DMR. This means that you've likely noticed a drop in how many of your fans have been viewing and interacting with your organic posts. An Advocate community helps solves this problem by creating a direct, unfettered line of communication between you and your Advocates.
3. You need more referrals and sales. Brands with Advocate communities are seeing sharp increases in the number of referral leads they’re getting from Advocates. Bomgar, a secure remote access company, increased its referrals by 700% after starting an online Advocate community. In addition, brands are finding that Advocates who are community members spend more than other customers. For example, members of Sephora’s BeautyTalk spend 10X more than non-community members.
4. You need more user-generated content. UGC like user stories, reviews, and testimonials is the most valuable and trusted form of content. Nearly every brand struggles to get more UGC. Advocate communities encourage, enable, and reward Advocates for creating amazing content that’s proven to drive sales.
5. You need to increase loyalty and reduce churn. Even your Advocates can fall out of love with you, at some point. Advocate communities keep the love light on, long after the glow of buying your product starts to fade. An Advocate community helps cement relationships with Advocates by creating ongoing engagement and two-way dialogue.
If these needs resonate with you, an online Advocate community could be a excellent solution for you.