What's the Value of UGC?

How do you value UGC created by Advocates like five-star reviews, glowing testimonials, videos, photos, etc.?

Well, one way to answer this question is to ask yourself the following:

How much would you pay a happy customer for a positive review or a glowing testimonial, or video like the one below?

This an actual customer testimonial created by a real Jenny Craig customer.


So, would you pay a happy customer $100 for a testimonial like this? $250? $500 $1,000?

Before you answer this question, keep in mind these facts:

  • Positive UGC is proven to get people to buy your product or service. 93% consumers say UGC is helpful in making a purchase decision.

  • UGC is 2X more trusted than brand-created content.

  • 92% people trust Word of Mouth over any type of marketing

In short, nothing — including ads or paid social influencer posts —  is more trusted and powerful than positive customer testimonials.

PS: Jenny Craig doesn’t pay customers for testimonials. As a way of thanking customers for sharing the love about Jenny Craig, the company provides eGift cards.

What’s a Customer Advocacy Program, and Why do You Need One?

Customer advocacy programs are defined as follows:

A marketing program that encourages and enables your highly-satisfied customers to pro-actively recommend your company and its products/services to peers and others.

Customer advocacy is a rapidly-growing area of marketing. According to a 2017 study by IDC, 67% of B2B IT vendors have customer advocacy programs, a 570% increase over 2016. Many B2C companies also have customer advocacy programs, although they may refer to them as “Brand Ambassador programs” or “Brand Advocate programs.”

What’s Driving Adoption of Customer Advocacy Programs?

Companies are embracing customer advocacy programs because of two facts:

  1. Buyers trust Word of Mouth more than anything. Ninety-two percent of people trust WOM over any form of paid media including ads. (source: Nielsen.) Online adults are 5X more likely to trust a brand or product recommendation from friends or family than an online ad, and they are twice as likely to trust them over information found on a brand’s website. (source: Forrester.) In the age of empowered buyers, you must have a systematic marketing program to amplify positive WOM on review sites, social networks, and elsewhere.

  2. High ROI, relatively low cost. Customer advocacy programs are proving to deliver high ROI as measured by:

  1. Media value: trusted user-generated content like stories, testimonials, reviews, and more.

  2. Sales value: driving prospect traffic, qualified leads, and even sales.

  3. Loyalty/engagement value: increasing customer engagement and retention.

On average, our customers are seeing a 24X ROI from customer advocacy programs. In a study by Forrester, most B2B marketers said they can tie revenue results directly to advocate participation.

Customer advocacy programs typically cost a fraction of paid media programs like advertising.

For example, a single, full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal (one time, one insertion) is $248,000. For that amount or even much less, a company can fund a customer advocacy program involving thousands of Advocates for an entire year.

How Customer Advocacy Programs Work

Customer advocacy programs have four key steps, as shown below:


  1. Invite. The first step is to invite customers to join your customer advocacy program. This can be done by sending emails to customers plus promoting the program on other communications channels like your social media; website; customer portals; or even within your product experience.

  2. Mobilize. Once customers join your advocacy program, you want to immediately enable and encourage them to participate by doing things like:

    1. Creating and posting positive UGC like reviews, stories, testimonials, case studies, endorsement quotes, videos, photos, and more. A client of ours got a 400% increase in positive reviews and increased its ratings from 3.7 to 4.2 (out of 5) by mobilizing its Advocates to post reviews on a leading B2B reviews site.

    2. Sharing your content. By this we mean getting Advocates to take your content — your case studies, blog posts, social posts, white papers, videos, etc. — and posting this on their social accounts: their LinkedIn, Twitter, or in the case of consumer brands, their Instagram and Facebook. By doing this, you can dramatically extend your reach. Most people today have a total of about 500-1,000 social contacts and connections. If you can mobilize 1,000 customer advocates to share your content, you can reach 1 million prospects.

    3. Referring peers/friends and distributing your sales/promotional offers. Customer Advocates can serve as a virtual sales force by delivering highly-qualified referral leads for you plus posting your promotional offers on their social media. People are 4X more likely to purchase when referred by friends and referral leads are known to have a 5X-10X higher conversion rate than other leads. Plus, referred customers are 37% more loyal than non-referred customers (source: Deloitte.)

    4. Serving as Advocates in other ways. For B2B companies, this includes mobilizing Advocates to participate as guests on webinars and podcasts; speak at trade shows; participate in reference calls with prospects; participate in formal case studies; and more.

  3. Reward. When Advocates participate in the activities above, you should show your appreciation by giving them rewards like gift cards, discounts, brand swag, and other perks. At Zuberance, we have a robust rewards system that includes all of these items plus enables Advocates to earn status within the Advocate community; get on a Leader Board; earn badges; and more.

  4. Re-engage. Customer advocacy programs are not one-time marketing campaigns or promotions. They’re ongoing marketing programs. Most of our clients issue a new “challenge” to Advocates — a “challenge” is an activity they’d like Advocates to participate in — about once a week or once every two weeks. This enables you to get more value/ROI from customer advocacy programs than a one-time campaign plus enables you to build meaningful relationships with your Advocates.

Beyond References or Referrals

Many B2B companies and others have stand-alone reference or referral programs. Customer advocacy programs take these stand-alone programs to a new, more valuable level:

  1. Customer advocacy programs encourage and enable Advocates to participate in multiple ways, all from within a single program. As mentioned above, this includes content creation, content sharing, referrals, offer sharing, plus serving as Advocates in other ways.

  2. Customer advocacy programs are pro-active. Customer advocacy programs engage and activate Advocates on an ongoing basis — once a week or once every two weeks — to get the word out. Many reference programs are focused primarily on static case study collection. As Forrester says:

“B2B marketers should adjust their investment mix between static customer case study collection (resulting merely in impressive collateral that nobody reads) and a more agile, digital advocacy program that engages with buyers as early as possible in the customer life cycle.”

Top 4 Benefits of Customer Advocacy Programs

To summarize, here are the four top benefits that your organization can get from a customer advocacy program:

  1. Increased awareness/positive WOM. Getting Advocates to share positive information about you on social media boosts awareness and drives interest. As Forrester says: “WOM and peer testimony are powerful B2B marketing tools.” The same applies to B2C.

  2. Dramatic, rapid increase in UGC. A client of ours needed customer endorsement quotes for its revised website. In the past, getting customer quotes was like pulling teeth. This time, the company tapped its customer advocates for quotes. They got almost two dozen quotes in 24 hours!

  3. Increased engagement/loyalty. Customer churn is a big problem in nearly every industry and category. Study after study has shown that engaged customers are more loyal and less likely to leave. Customer advocacy programs help in two ways: 1) by boosting engagement of customer advocates themselves and 2) by leveraging customer advocates to remind other customers of the benefits your products/services offer.

  4. Positive impact on sales. While B2C companies can see an immediate sales lift from an advocacy program, this benefit often is more elusive in B2B companies especially firms with long, complex purchase processes. Nevertheless, most would agree that a pro-active program to showcase and amplify your happy customers positively impacts the sales funnel — from awareness to interest through consideration, trial, and eventually, sales.

Get Started Now

If you don’t have a customer advocacy program — or if you have “pieces” of a customer advocacy program, you’re missing a major opportunity to drive awareness, UGC, engagement, loyalty, and sales.

As Forrester concluded: “Customer advocacy must be a part of your marketing strategy.”

Footnote: What about other Advocates?

Customers aren’t the only ones who can serve as effective Advocates. Here are others who you can create advocacy programs for:

  1. Employees

  2. Partners like sellers, value-added resellers, distributors

  3. Micro-influencers

In most cases, it’s best to have separate advocacy programs for these groups because a) Different groups of Advocates have different profiles, characteristics, and needs and b) while there may be some overlap, you usually will have different activities and rewards for different Advocate groups.

Got Advocate Marketing?

Most people would agree with this statement:

“Word of Mouth is the best form of advertising.”

You may see or hear hundreds or thousands of ads for a brand or product. Most of these ads never even register with you.

But if a friend recommends a brand or product, people listen, remember, and buy.

  • 92% of people trust Word of Mouth (WOM) over any form of advertising (source: Nielsen.)

  • People are 4X more likely to buy a product when a friend recommends it to them (source: Nielsen)

What is Advocate Marketing?

Advocate marketing (“Word of Mouth marketing”) is a marketing approach that gets your highly-satisfied customers (“Advocates”) plus others to spread positive WOM about your brand and products. B2B companies often refer to this approach as “Customer Advocacy Programs.”


Four Ways to Leverage Advocates

You get much more impact and value when you enable and encourage Advocates to spread positive WOM in multiple ways like these:

  1. Create original content (AKA “UGC”) like positive reviews, stories, testimonials, videos, etc. and post this UGC on their social accounts (their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)

  2. Share brand content like your videos, photos, testimonials, etc. on Advocates’ social accounts, extending your reach plus driving more impressions and engagement

  3. Tell friends about your promotional offers like Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals; holiday offers like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day; plus many other promo offers. Doing this drives qualified traffic, leads, and sales.

  4. Refer friends to purchase your products, get a free trial, subscribe, download or take other actions that help you build your sales funnel and drive revenues

#1 Advocate Marketing BEST practice

The best way to do Advocate marketing is via an ongoing Advocate marketing program, not a one-off campaign.

An ongoing Advocate marketing program enables you to leverage Advocates in all of the ways above (see 1-4) vs. limiting yourself to one activity.

Plus, you can learn who your Advocates are and build relationships with these VIP customers.

CREATE AN Advocate Hub

The best way to do an ongoing Advocate marketing program is via an Advocate hub.

An Advocate Hub is a private, by-invitation-only website for Advocates. (No haters, competitors, or evil doers allowed.)

On the Advocate Hub, Advocates learn about and participate in “challenges” — actions you’d like Advocates to complete.

This includes all of the activities above (again, see 1-4) plus other things like answer surveys, provide product feedback and ideas, etc.

Rewarding Advocates

When Advocates complete challenges, they earn points that can be redeemed for rewards.

Plus, they can earn badges, get on a Leader Board, and achieve status within the Advocate group.

This helps boost challenge participation and ongoing engagement.

Advocate marketing Benefits

Here are the three biggest marketing benefits:

  1. Increased awareness. Getting Advocates to spread positive WOM is a very effective, inexpensive way to boost awareness of your brand and products. The average social media user has a total of over 1,000 friends and followers on their social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) If you have 1,000 Advocates sharing on their social, you can reach 1 million people.

  2. Lots of valuable UGC. A key part of Advocate marketing programs is user-generated content: stories, reviews, videos, photos, and more. Most brands struggle with creating compelling content. Your Advocates will help solve this problem for you. They’ll create fabulous content at a tiny fraction of the price you’d pay to social influencers or for professional video shoots.

  3. Increased sales activity. An Advocate marketing program can help you generate highly-qualified referral leads, prospect traffic to your website and landing pages, and actual purchases.

    Many factors determine how much sales you get from an Advocate marketing programs. These factors include how large your Advocate group is; how compelling your products and promotional offers are; how compelling the rewards are that you offer Advocates for helping bring in new customers.

    Like almost any marketing program, it takes time, patience, and testing to get sales from an advocacy program.


Many of our customers report that they’re getting other important benefits from having a systematic advocacy program and automated platform. These include:

  1. Dramatic savings of time and effort for a customer advocacy program

  2. Ability to scale and grow their customer advocacy program, without increasing time and effort.

  3. Greater ability to customer advocacy program results and ROI.

Summary: Get Started Now

More than ever, your success depends not so much on what you say about your brand and products, but rather what your customers say.

If you don’t have an ongoing Advocate marketing program, you’re missing a major opportunity to build your brand and business through your best marketers and salespeople: your authentic Advocates!

How this Company Got a 400% Increase in Positive Reviews

Online reviews can make or break your company:

  • 92% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews (source: BrightLocal, 2015)

  • 90% of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions (source: Dimensional Research, 2013)

  • 88% of people trust online reviews from strangers as much as personal recommendations (source: BrightLocal, 2014)

Negative reviews can kill your sales:

  • 92% of people will hesitate to do business with companies with less than four out of five stars (source: BrightLocal, 2014

Company Gets 400% Increase in Positive Reviews

Zuberance created and powered a program for this company to identify and mobilize their customer Advocates.

A key part of this program is encouraging and enabling customer reviews.

Here are the results after only a few weeks.



  • Customers were not paid to create reviews.

  • The reviews were not edited or altered in any way, nor were the reviews subject to prior approval.

  • Customers were encouraged to post honest reviews based on their actual experience with the product.

3 BIG Marketing Advantages of having an "Advocate Army"

An “Advocate Army” is a group of Advocates that go out of their way to spread positive WOM about your brand or products on social networks, e-commerce sites, and elsewhere.

Depending on the size of your customer base, your Advocate Army can be hundreds or even thousands strong.

We work with a software company that has an Advocate Army of over 100,000 enthusiastic Advocates!

How an Advocate Army can Help You

Here are three BIG marketing advantages of having an Advocate Army:


1. More UGC

User-generated content — stories, reviews, testimonials, posts, and more — is 2X more trusted than brand-generated content and is proven to have significant influence over purchases.

By mobilizing your Advocates, you can enable a ton of UGC. On average, a brand with with 1,000 Advocates can get over 3,000 unique pieces of UGC in one year.

That’s a powerful content marketing engine! You can leverage this content on your social; on your website; on your landing pages and elsewhere to drive conversions and sales.

2. More Reach & Impressions

Awareness still matters. That’s why many brands continue pouring money into advertising and other forms of paid media.

Amplify your Advocates! Make it easy for Advocates to share their content and yours on their social channels; shopping sites and review sites; plus elsewhere online.

On average, each Advocate has 1,045 friends and followers. (The average Twitter user has 707 followers and the average Facebook user has 338 friends. Source: Brandwatch)

This is a conservative estimate that doesn’t include the number of social contacts Advocates have on other social networks like LinkedIn and Instagram plus the number of people who view Advocate’s five-star reviews on Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other sites.

This means you can reach 1,045,000 people via 1,000 Advocates each time they share on their social channels.

This brand got its Advocates to re-tweet a tweet of theirs. Look what happened: a 10X increase in the number re-tweets.


3. More Referrals & Sales

People are about 4X more likely to purchase a product when referred by a friend, according to Nielsen.

And referred-in customers have a 37% higher retention rate than other customers.

Depending on much customers pay for your products or services, and how long they typically stay, referral programs can generate millions in dollars in revenues for your company. (source: Deloitte)

Start mobilizing your Advocate Army now to get these three big marketing advantages - and more.


Quick intro to this topic:

A few years back, rock-star business author Gary Vaynerchuk @garyvee, gave a famous talk entitled, “What’s the ROI of Your Mother?

As usual, Gary Vee is funny and provocative. And as usual, he drops several F-bombs. So if his salty language is a bit too much for you, skip down to the rest of this post.

Gary’s point was that asking about the ROI of social media was silly and pointless.

There are some things, like motherhood, that you just instinctively know have value. Not everything that has value can or even needs to be measured, Gary argued.

Another way of putting this: If your company couldn’t prove an ROI for social media, would you ignore doing social?

What’s the ROI of Advocate marketing?

By now, most everyone knows that having an army of thousands of authentic Advocates and Ambassadors spreading the word about your brand and products is valuable.

The good news is that the ROI of Advocate marketing isn’t like the ROI of your mother.

We can actually measure the ROI. Here’s how:

1. Content Value

Each piece of UGC created by Advocates (five-star reviews, glowing stories, videos, photos, etc.) has enormous value.

Studies show that UGC is up to 3X more trusted and credible than brand-generated content like brand-generated blog posts, case studies, videos.

It’s also more trusted and credible that content created by paid social influencers, including celebrity endorses.

So assign a value to each piece of UGC. You may want this to be $100 or $500, whatever seems reasonable. OK, this is arbitrary. But you need to peg the value of UGC.

2. Media (Reach) Value

Each time an Advocate or Ambassador shares and/or publishes this UGC — or shares content you provide Advocates — there’s more media value.

An army of 1,000 Advocates or Ambassadors can reach approximately 1 million people each time they share. We can assign monetary value to that reach.

3. Sales Value

Enable your Advocates and Ambassadors to distribute your promotional offers and refer friends. We can track the in-bound traffic, leads, downloads, sign-ups, and sales you get from this out-bound sharing.

SUMMARY: Calculating Advocacy ROI

Here’s the formula:

Content (UGC) Value + Media (Reach) Value + Sales Value = Advocacy Value.

Advocacy Value - Advocacy Investment = Advocacy ROI

Other Values to Add into Your ROI Model

By the way, there are other things that should and can go into an Advocacy ROI model, like:

  • Loyalty value

  • Engagement value

  • Relationship value

We’d be glad to share more.

3 Reasons Why Advocate Marketing should be in Your 2019 Marketing Budget

This is the time of year when many marketers are creating their 2019 marketing plans and budgets.

Here are three reasons why Advocate marketing should be in your 2019 marketing game plan:

1. Word of mouth (WOM) is the #1 driver of purchase decisions.

It’s a proven fact: WOM plays a huge role in purchase decisions because it’s the most trusted form of marketing communications.

  • 92% people trust Word of Mouth (WOM) over any form of advertising (Nielsen)

  • Up to half of all purchases rely on WOM (McKinsey)

  • 88% say buying decisions are influenced by user-generated content like customer reviews (Gartner Group)

It’s therefore critical that you have a systematic, ongoing program to get your Advocates to recommend your brand and products by doing things like:

  • Creating and posting positive reviews and stories

  • Sharing your content and offers

  • Referring friends

2. Advocate marketing is highly effective.

Here are three data points that prove this:

  1. The conversion rate for most traditional marketing programs is about 1% or less. However, conversion rates for Advocate marketing programs is about 35% (Ogilvy)

  2. On average, when brands send messages to 100 prospects this results in about five in-bound clicks. When Advocates send messages to 100 prospects, brands get about 70 in-bound clicks. (Zuberance customer data)

  3. Customers brought in via Advocate referrals are 37% more loyal than customers brought via traditional marketing (Deloitte)

Cut Customer Acquisition Costs via Advocate Marketing

Here’s another proof point below.

This company was paying a whopping $216 per customer to acquire a new customer using traditional marketing methods like paid media. The company cut this to $52 per customer via Advocate marketing.

In other words, the company was able to acquire new customers via Advocate/WOM marketing for one-quarter of the cost of traditional marketing.

This SaaS company acquired subscribers via Advocate marketing for about one-quarter the cost compared to traditional marketing.

This SaaS company acquired subscribers via Advocate marketing for about one-quarter the cost compared to traditional marketing.

3 Ways to Boost holiday sales by Mobilizing Brand Advocates

Brand Advocates are like your “Santa Elves” — they’ll make your cash register ring by posting and tweeting about your brand, products, and holiday offers.


Here are three ways to boost sales this holiday season by mobilizing Advocates:

1. Give Advocates promotional offers to share with their friends

Running a Black Friday or Cyber Monday special? Get Advocates to share your promotional offers on their social networks.

Getting Advocates to post your holiday offers will extend your reach, boost impressions, and generate sales.

On average, each Advocate reaches about 1,000 people each time they share your offers or content on their social channels. If you get 1,000 Advocates to share your Black Friday or Cyber Monday special, you’ll reach 1,000,000 potential buyers.


PS: Show your Advocates you care about them by giving them exclusive, early access to Black Friday deals.

Ooma, the #1-rated VOIP company, got thousands of Advocates to post its Black Friday promo on their social channels.

Ooma, the #1-rated VOIP company, got thousands of Advocates to post its Black Friday promo on their social channels.

2. Get Advocates to create holiday-themed UGC

Encouraging Advocates to create and post stories and photos with a holiday flavor is one of the best ways to drive awareness and sales.

Starbucks’ annual “Red Cup” contest is the best-known example of this. Each holiday season, Starbucks asks fans to share images on Instagram of how they celebrate the red holiday cups. Prizes include Starbucks gift cards. The contest generates thousands of pieces of UGC and millions of shares.


You can do something similar.

For example, create a contest that encourages Advocates to post photos or videos about why your product would be a great holiday gift for a friend or loved one. Example: “Why my Mom would love this pasta maker for Christmas.”

Select the winning stories, then reward Advocates by giving free product to the person the Advocate mentioned in his or her story.


3. Support a charitable cause

Here’s how to do this:

Each time an Advocate recommends your brand or product on their social channels, give a donation to a charitable organization and rewards points to your Advocates. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It motivates your Advocates to recommend your brand and products during the holiday season, which drives sales.

  2. It serves a social purpose. BTW, did you know that consumers are far more likely to buy from and be loyal to brands with a social purpose? After all, the holidays are about giving.

Ooma asked Advocates to share their annual “Tell Santa what’s on your wish lists this holiday season” promotion. Ooma makes two lucky kid’s wishes come true.

Ooma asked Advocates to share their annual “Tell Santa what’s on your wish lists this holiday season” promotion. Ooma makes two lucky kid’s wishes come true.


One other way to mobilize your Advocates during the holiday season: Give them 2X rewards points for recommending your brand or products.

Our clients have driven double-digit engagement and conversion rates with a “Double Points December” promotion.

Plus, it’s a nice way to thank your Advocates for their support during the year.


It’s Not Too Late

Black Friday is right around the corner. But it’s not too late to make the 2018 holiday shopping season your best ever by mobilizing your Advocates!

PS: This blog post assumes that you’ve identified your Brand Advocates and have created an “Advocate Army” that you can mobilize during the holidays. If you haven’t, feel free to contact us and we’ll show you how.

B2B Company Gets 44% Customer Advocate Engagement Rate

No, that’s not a typo.

One of Zuberance’s B2B customers is getting a whopping 44% Advocate engagement rate.

The company sells ERP software to smaller colleges and universities. Not exactly a passion category.

Nor are its Advocates any more enthusiastic than Advocates for other B2B companies. (In fact, this company has low promoter score.)

Yet, the company's Advocates are creating reviews and testimonials, posting videos, referring peers, and completing other actions at an outstanding 44% rate.

How 44% Compares to LinkedIn & other Social/Peer Networks

Just to put 44% in context for you, here are the engagement rates for brands on leading social networks, according to the ”2018 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report,” by Rival IQ.

Facebook: 0.16%

Twitter: 0.046%

LinkedIn 0.054% (source: Forrester)

Instagram: 1.73%

Are You Under-Estimating Your Advocates?

As B2B marketers, we often under-estimate the willingness of our customer Advocates to go out of their way to pro-actively recommend and refer us to their peer networks.

Or we mistakenly assume that because our products or services aren't very exciting, few customers would be willing to participate in an advocacy program.

We'e finding that both of these assumptions are often incorrect.

So What's the Secret to Getting a 44% Engagement Rate?

Our real-world experience is showing that there are three keys to driving B2B advocacy:

1. Make it easy

Don't ask too much of your Advocates. Even Advocates can get fatigued.

2. Make it rewarding

Give Advocates rewards they value.

3.  Make it fun

Yep, participating in B2B advocacy programs should be enjoyable.

And Advocates will Reward You with...

Advocates will drive real results and ROI for you, like significant increases in:

  • Referral leads
  • User-generated content
  • Sharing of your content (reach, impressions)
  • Traffic to your website

Will you get a 44% engagement rate? It's hard to say.

But if you're not systematically identifying and mobilizing your Advocates, you're missing a highly cost-effective opportunity to drive positive Word of Mouth and sales.