marketing strategy

Top 10 Ways to “Sell” a Brand Advocate Program to Your CMO

You’re excited about starting a Brand Advocate program. Now you need to “sell” your CMO or VP marketing on the idea. Here’s some advice and guidance on how to get your CMO’s blessings and budget for an advocacy program:

1.      Keep it simple. Advocacy is a fancy term for Word of Mouth marketing. Some people may not understand or even heard of the term “advocacy.” But your CMO (and nearly all business people for that matter) know the power of Word of Mouth. So instead of saying to your CMO, “We’d like to start an advocacy program,” try telling them: “We’d like to start a Word of Mouth marketing program.”

2.      Find the CMO’s pain/attack the pain. This is “sales 101.” Focus in on the CMO’s pain and show him or her how an advocacy program will help fix it. See chart below:

CMO Pain How Advocacy can Help Real-world example
Negative Word of Mouth, e.g. low online ratings Boost online ratings Symantec doubled its star ratings and increased sales 200% on in one quarter after energizing its Advocates
High customer acquisition costs Lower customer acquisition costs Ooma, a VoIP provider, cut acquisition costs 54% by energizing its Advocates
Get more value from Facebook marketing Find Advocates from among Facebook fans and turn them into a marketing force has identified over 2,000 Advocates on its Facebook page, and is inviting Advocates to share testimonials plus offers with their Facebook friends.

3.      Give your CMO the “word” on Word of Mouth. 94% of consumers trust Word of Mouth; only 24% trust ads, Nielsen says. If you have information about the influence of Word of Mouth on your company’s sales, give it to the CMO. If you don’t have this research, ask your sales team. Many companies get more than half of their sales from Word of Mouth.

4.      Show your CMO negative Word of Mouth about your company. Negative Word of Mouth comes in many forms: poor reviews and ratings; nasty posts on Facebook and Twitter; venomous comments in online forums. Screen-grab this content and show it to your CMO. Or just have your CMO type in your company or brand name with the word “sucks” and see how many hits you get.

5.      Prove that negative Word of Mouth – even a little – can hurt your company’s sales. If your CMO responds by saying, “Oh well, a few negative reviews aren’t a big problem,” share research with him or her that proves that even a few negative reviews can kill your sales and ruin your reputation. One negative post on social media, on average, has as much impact on customer purchase decisions as five positive posts, NM Incite says. And 80% of consumers change their mind after reading a single bad review, according to a survey by Cone, a Boston-based strategy and communications agency.

6.      Provide stats proving that positive Word of Mouth boosts sales. Numerous studies prove that advocacy drives sales. A one-star increase in ratings on Yelp can boost restaurant sales by 5% to 9%, a Harvard study showed. And companies with only 12% higher Net Promoter Scores (a measure of advocacy) grew their revenues 2X faster than companies with lower Net Promoter Scores, according to a Bain study.

7.      Set clear expectations. When making the case for advocacy, it's important to estimate on how many Advocates you can identify; how many will recommend your brand and product; how many will create and/or share or publish positive reviews, testimonials, etc.

8.      Focus on Return on Advocacy. Advocate marketing programs have compelling, measurable ROI as measured by media and sales value. Club One Fitness, a San Francisco-based fitness chain, got $525,000 in lifetime membership revenues from a two-month advocacy campaign. And Parallels, a software company, got a 30% sales conversion rate when Advocates shared offers and testimonials with their peers. To help you estimate the Return on Advocacy from an Advocate marketing program, download "What's a Brand Advocate Worth?".

9.      Show why your company should move some of its marketing dollars into advocacy. About 90 percent of most company’s marketing investments go to traditional marketing like ads. Yet only 1 in 5 CMOs say they’re getting the marketing results they want. Arm yourself with the facts: What’s your sales conversion rate for traditional marketing programs? How many leads are you getting? How qualified are these leads? Then, drawing on relevant case studies and examples, show how advocacy programs are more effective and less expensive than traditional marketing programs.

10.  Show how a Brand Advocate program will super-charge your company’s Content Marketing Program. Depending on the size of your company, your company may be spending millions of dollars developing content. (Companies spend about 26% of their marketing budgets on developing content, one study showed.) One design firm charges $10,000 to $15,000 for a single infographic! Show how a Brand Advocate program will deliver thousands of pieces of premium content like highly positive reviews and glowing customer testimonials for less than the cost of brand-developed content., the popular genealogy website, generated over 6,800 glowing Advocate testimonials in less than 90 days.

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder & CEO, Zuberance, and author, “Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force” (Wiley, 2012)

Microsoft knows that their customers sell their product better than they do #NYBAS

After a couple of admitted missteps in social media, Microsoft is shifting its strategy to focus on communications with influencers and Advocates, admitted Umang Shah, Social Media Strategist for Microsoft.

With more than 20 million customers in the SMB space, it’s impossible for Microsoft to reach everyone. Just a year ago, they had channels of activity that were all semi-active and not integrated at all. Now they’ve stepped back and built an overarching strategy for their SMB customers and their partners, said Shah.

It’s important that Microsoft be very strategic about going after the right people in their community. So that’s why they asked Zuberance to help them identify their Advocates among their customers and partners. In addition, they’re identifying influencers as well, which are not the same audience as Advocates. Since shifting focus to a more narrow and integrated strategy, Microsoft is seeing a lot more influencers and Advocates participating in their community. That’s critical for their success.

As Shah admits, it’s far better to have an Advocate or influencer say Microsoft has a great product, than if Microsoft says it.

-David Spark, Social Media Journalist, Spark Media Solutions

Customer Service “is” the New Marketing

Remember the old small business customer service mentality?  Where pleasing the customer came FIRST, and the need to delight them was “a given” not an option?   Great news – it’s back (or at least on its way back)! The democratizing nature of social media has returned power to the customer, making Brand Advocates one of our strongest marketing assets.  If we want to share their power (not take it!), we need to adopt customer service as the new way of marketing – or “unmarketing,” a term mentioned by Brian Solis in the introduction to his book Engage, and Scott Stratten details extensively in his blog and book UnMarketing.

Considering this power shift, the #1 question we should be asking our Brand Advocates is "How may I serve you?" Ask early and ask often.

This “How may I serve you?” question shows our Advocates that we are back on the customer service bandwagon, and just as importantly, it keeps us in check.   If you aren’t ready to make “How may I serve you?” your priority question, consider these implications for use:

  1. It flattens the traditional hierarchy of "push" messaging, giving even more power to our Advocates.  The more power our Advocates have, the more power our brand has.
  2. It reminds us to arm our Advocates with tools for evangelizing in their own way. Side benefit: those tools are also of great value internally in our organizations!
  3. It reminds us of the necessary two-way street of communication between us and our Brand Advocates.  The era of mutually beneficial brand-Advocate relationships is here – let it work for you, your brand and your Advocates!
  4. It reminds us that our egos need to turn the spotlight over to our Brand Advocates. The success and impact of our product or service is not about how much we love it, but about how it “serves” our customer.
  5. It gives us direction for innovation. When we know what our Brand Advocates want more of (or less of), we have a blueprint for change.  We have unprecedented access to the needs and desires of our market – why would we even consider not tapping into that??

So here’s your new 4-word marketing strategy for 2011:  Guess Less, Ask More… and always start with “How can I serve you?”