Brand Advocates are also known as Customer Advocates, WOM Champions, Customer Champions and Customer Evangelists. The terms Brand Advocates and Brand Ambassadors are often used interchangeably. Since companies often pay or give special incentives to Brand Ambassadors to tout their brands and products, this doesn't meet our definition of a Brand Advocate. These questions will help you decide if a structured Advocate marketing program will work for you:
1. Can you directly reach your Advocates?
Directly reaching Advocates is key for ongoing Advocate communications, engagement and mobilization. The best way to do this is via email.
Avaya, a manufacturer of telecommunications products and early customer of ours, has a limited ability to reach its Advocates since the company sells its products through channel partners. Other companies that also don't have a direct line of communication may also face similar challenges.
2. Do your prospects typically seek recommendations before they purchase your products or services?
People don't usually ask for recommendations before they buy chewing gum, gasoline or thumb drives. In these cases, other types of marketing tools and techniques like advertising are more effective.
In hundreds of other consumer and business products and services where recommendations influence sales, Advocate marketing is highly effective. While people may not seek recommendations for products like thumb drives, creating and amplifying advocacy at the brand level still offers powerful benefits.
3. Do you have at least 100 Advocates?
If you have fewer than 100 Advocates, you probably don't need a structured Advocate marketing program and specialized advocacy technology. An informal effort may work fine.
4. Are your Advocates willing to use company-provided tools to recommend your products and services?
If your Advocates are surgeons, they're probably not too willing to write reviews or share promotional offers with their peers. An Advocate marketing program may not work very well if your company sells hemorrhoid ointment, adult diapers, or halitosis cures. There are some products that even Advocates may be unwilling to recommend.
5. Are your Advocates social media users?
If your Advocates are social media users, they'll be able to reach many more prospects with their recommendations. This doesn't mean that offline advocacy isn't effective. It can be more powerful than a recommendation on a shopping site.
6. Are your customers and prospects aware of your brand?
You don't need to be a household name, but if people don't know your brand, they aren't likely to recommend it.
Not long ago, a telecommunications equipment manufacturer wanted to boost advocacy for its products, including its desktop phones. It turned out that many of its customers were unaware of the company's brand and thus weren't likely to be effective Advocates.
This post is an excerpt from Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force (Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-1183-3603-8; July 2012; Hardcover & E-book)