How Much is Negative Online Word of Mouth Costing Your Brand?



Most everyone knows that negative online Word of Mouth  -- critical online reviews, harsh comments in social networks and online forums --  is bad for your business and brand.

But the actual cost of negative online WOM may be dramatically higher than you think.

Our analysis shows that negative online WOM can cost a company an amount that's equal to about 25 percent of its total annual revenue.

In other words, the financial impact of negative online WOM for a company with $100 million in annual revenue may be $25 million a year or even more in cases when online WOM is especially hostile.

An Unhappy Customer Tells 5 People...Wait, Make that 5,000

Remember the old saying that an unhappy customer will tell five people about a negative experience with your company?

Thanks to the power of social media, it's time to update the old adage and make that 5,000 people.

And by the way, that's 5,000 people who were shopping for your product or service on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, or asking friends for recommendations on social networks.

The "Silent Sales Killer"

I call negative online WOM the "Silent Sales Killer" because rarely if ever will prospects contact you to say they decided to buy a competitors' product after reading complaints about your product.

They just take their business elsewhere.

And PS: they go out of their way to warn friends about your company and products. Ouch! More lost revenues.

How Does Negative Online WOM Affect Your Business?

Left unchecked, negative online WOM has many negative impacts on your business including:

  • Decreased sales and revenues
  • Decreased customer loyalty (customers churn out faster and in higher percentages)
  • Increased difficulty attracting and retaining employees
  • Increased difficulty attracting partners and investors
  • Lower market valuation and stock prices

How to Combat Negative Online WOM

Of course, you should respond consistently to negative reviews, posts, and Tweets. And it goes without saying that you need to identify and fix the issues that are causing customers to bash you online.

However, a critical key to fighting negative online WOM is to go on the offense. 

That means you need to have a systematic, pro-active program to identify, mobilize, and amplify your highly-satisfied customers and other defenders, i.e., your Advocates.

Mobilize & Amplify Your Advocates

Here are four powerful ways to activate your Advocates:

1. Enable and encourage your Advocates to post positive reviews, stories, testimonials, videos, photos, and other original content.

2. Make it easy for them to share positive news about your company and products.

3. Give them rewards for referring friends and peers.

4. Invite them to join an Advocate hub, where they can learn about ways to recommend and refer plus earn points, status, and badges.

When PC Mag named the new Neato Botvac Connected D7 an "Editor's Choice," Neato Robotics encouraged its Advocates to share the exciting news with friends.

When PC Mag named the new Neato Botvac Connected D7 an "Editor's Choice," Neato Robotics encouraged its Advocates to share the exciting news with friends.

Waiting Costs You $$$... So Why Wait?

Prospects are making decisions TODAY about whether to buy your product, enroll in your school, eat at your restaurant, or stay in your hotel.

These choices are being heavily influenced by what's online about you today.

So waiting to address negative online WOM is costing you money right now. More reason to get started now to launch a systematic WOM advocacy program.






Why I Hate the Term "Micro-Influencers"

You've heard the term "Micro-Influencers," right?

This term is used to describe Influencers who have a smaller number of fans and followers (between 1,000 and 25,000) than Mid-Tier Influencers (between 25,000 and 100,00 fans and followers) and Top-Tier Influencers, who have 100,000 or more fans and followers. 


There are two reasons why I dislike the term "Micro-Inluencers" (OK, "hate" is probably too strong of a word.)

1. There is nothing "micro" at all about the influence of Micro-Influencers.

In fact, these Influencers -- which often includes customers -- have huge influence over purchase decisions and brand perceptions.

There is nothing more influential than a recommendation from a friend or peer who is an actual user or owner of a product or service, study after study has proven.

People trust recommendations from peers or friends 2X to 3X more than recommendations from paid influencers, i.e. Mid-Tier and Top-Tier Influencers.

2. Reach alone is a very limited way to measure influence.

Categorizing Influencers on the basis of reach alone is dumb.

True influence is the ability to get people to take action, like inciting others to buy the recommended product or service.

Recommendations from friends or peers is what really gets people to buy products or services -- not so much what paid influencers say.

Check out this post from social media marketing guru Jay Baer on why confusing reach with true influence is a mistake:

So what should we call Micro-Influencers?

I don't have a better term to describe Micro-Influencers.

More than anything, I hope the next time you hear or use the term Micro-Infuencers, you consider this perspective.



How to Host an Advocate Community

Being the host of your brand’s Advocate Community is like being the host of a party. (In this case, your "guests" are hundreds to thousands of your brand's most loyal, enthusiastic Advocates.)

So how can you be a great host of your Advocate community? Glad you asked!


Introduce yourself. You can do this with a pinned post. You should also make sure to fill out your profile card completely including uploading your profile photo. Tell your guests about yourself. And, of course, make sure to say why you’re passionate about your brand.

Check in on your guests often. A good party host checks in with guests to make sure they’re enjoying themselves. You should log onto your Advocate community at least twice a day to see what’s happening. BTW, hosting an Advocate community can be pretty addictive. You may find yourself logging on several times each day.

Like members’ posts. You should like just about every post on the community by clicking on the heart logo. By doing this, you’re acknowledging and encouraging members. Do this at least once daily.

Comment on their posts. A good party host participates in conversations and compliments guests. You should do the same. Here are a couple examples:

  • “Debbie, that’s a great post! Love it!”

  • “Nate, what an awesome post. Keep up the good work!”

Ask questions. Encourage discussions and interactions by posting questions in response to members’ posts. Here are a couple examples:

  • “Terry, that’s a really beautiful photo you posted. Where did you you take it?”
  • “Shailesh, those pics of your latest meals you created look amazing. What inspires you to cook?"

Notice that in the above examples, members are addressed by their names (or screen names.) Helps make it personal.

Use a conversational tone that reflects your brand's positioning. When commenting on members' posts -- or creating posts yourself -- don't come across as stiff or too formal. A good party host is relaxed, friendly, warm, and welcoming. So too with a good Advocate community host. 

Respond quickly to any problems. Ever have a guest spill a drink at your party? You probably grabbed the paper towels and quickly rushed to their aid.

Same thing with your Advocate community. Whenever members post that that they’re having problems (e.g., they completed a challenge but didn’t get their points; they’re having product problems, etc.) respond ASAP. Either fix the problem or let them know you’ve reported the problem. Invite them to contact you directly via email if the problem isn’t solved.

Here's to hosting a successful Advocate party! Cheers!







What's the Business Value of an Advocate Community?

A marketer recently asked me: "What's the business value we're getting from our Advocate community?"

Here's the answer:

1. Significant amount of valuable user-generated content (UGC)

Consumer marketers know how valuable content is. They spend a ton of money paying for it.

The most valuable content is authentic user-generated content like five-star reviews, compelling testimonials, success stories, photo's, videos, and more. 

Advocate communities are like a content engine. Neato Robotics, for example, has generated hundreds of pieces of UGC created by Advocates who are members of "Neato Nation."

2. Improved brand and product awareness.

Building awareness is challenging and expensive. Plus, most consumers don't trust or ignore what brands say about themselves.

One of the biggest values you get from an Advocate community is the increased awareness from Advocates taking the positive content they create and sharing it on their social networks.

If you can get 1,000 Advocates sharing the content they create -- or content you provide -- on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest accounts, that's powerful. In many cases, you can track how much traffic is going to your website as a result of Advocate sharing.

3. Increased sales.

Advocate communities help directly boost sales in these three ways:

  1. Referring friends to try and/or buy your products.
  2. Sharing your promotional offers with their friends.
  3. Buying more from you via exclusive, Advocate-only offers.

All of these actions are popular, effective challenges for Advocates.

Another way Advocate communities boost sales is by publishing their positive reviews on Amazon and other sites.

Key data: Nine out of ten consumers say reviews influence their purchases. Plus about eight in ten won't buy products with less than four (out of five stars.)

So even if you can't directly measure the positive sales impact from increased ratings and rankings, you know there is business value in boosting your ratings.

4. Increased engagement, enhanced relationships, and loyalty.

With an Advocate community, you transform the customer relationship from a transaction (buy this product, thank you) to a genuine relationship.

Advocate communities do this by providing the platform that enables two-way dialogue between you and Advocates and amongst Advocates.

You can even give rewards to Advocates for additional or follow-on purchases, which has a direct and measurable revenue impact.

Still wondering about the business value of an Advocate community for your brand or products? Shoot me an email to



Why Advocate Marketing is Your Best Marketing Investment

Advocate marketing is 3X more trusted and influential than ads and other forms of paid media marketing, according to studies by Nielsen and others.

In short, people place a LOT more credibility in what real product owners and friends say about a product than what brands tell them.

But did you know that Advocate marketing also has the highest return on investment (ROI) of any marketing program?

$1 Investment = $10 Return OR MORE

We've managed and powered over 1,000 Advocate marketing programs for B2C and B2B brands involving more than 10 million Advocates.

Through our analytics and custom reporting, we carefully track the return that our customers get from these advocacy programs.

Here's the key finding: Most of our customers get at least a 10X ROI on their Advocate marketing investments, as measured by sales and media value.

In short, for each $1 invested in Advocate marketing, they're getting $10 or more back!

Advocate marketing delivers the highest ROI of any marketing approach.

Advocate marketing delivers the highest ROI of any marketing approach.


Here are three examples:

Software Company Gets 47X ROI on Advocate Referral Program

  • Annual Investment: $120,000 (includes platform, services, Advocate rewards)
  • Return: 47 new customers x $30,000 annual contracts = $1,410,000
  • ROI: 47X

Consumer Electronics Company Gets 46X ROI on Advocate Content Program

  • Annual Investment: $70,000 (includes platform and services)
  • Return:  
  • Over 2,000 pieces of content (Advocate reviews and stories) created @ value of $250 per content. 5,000 x 250 = $1,250,000 
  • Over 2 million people reached via Advocates sharing and publishing content online; 2 million x $1 = $2 million
  • Total return = $3,250,000
  • ROI: 46X

Start-Up Gets 20X ROI from Advocate Community

  • Annual investment: $75,000 (includes platform, services, and Advocate rewards)
  • Return:
  • Over 1,000 pieces of content (Advocate reviews, stories, photos, videos, etc.) created @ value of $250 per content. 1,000 x 250 = $250,000
  • Over 1 million people reached via Advocates sharing and publishing content online; 1 million x $1 = $1 million
  • Over 1,000 Advocates engaged on community; estimated value of engagement = $250,000
  • Total return = $1,500,000
  • ROI: 20X

Get an Estimate of Your Advocate Marketing ROI

If you're considering Advocate marketing, we'd be glad to help you assess the potential return on your investment.

We have an Advocate marketing ROI tool that you can easily customize by plugging in your own numbers.

While it's not a predictor of actual performance, the tool can help you give you a ballpark estimate of the ROI you'll get from Advocate marketing.





New Harvard Study: Negative Reviews can Kill Your Company

Negative customer reviews are proven to damage your revenues and reputation.

Now, a new Harvard Business School study shows that the impact of bad reviews can be even worse:

You could lose your business.

The study, entitled “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit,” shows that restaurants with low ratings on Yelp are at a much higher risk of closing, compared to restaurants with higher ratings.

The authors of the study analyzed Yelp ratings for about 35,000 restaurants in the San Francisco bay area from 2008 to 2016.

Here are the key findings:

·      Restaurants with a 2.5 star rating (out of five) were 25 percent more likely to close

·      For restaurants with 4.5 to 5 stars, the risk increase dropped to 0 percent.

Of course, there are many reasons why restaurants close: intense competition, high operating costs, poor location, to name a few.

But this study demonstrates how powerful customer reviews really are.

Mobilize Your Advocates Now

Whether you’re in the restaurant business, smart home technology, consumer electronics, B2B software – just about any industry or product category today -- it's critical that you have a pro-active advocacy program to generate a steady stream of positive reviews.

It's also essential that you get and keep your rating above 4 out of 5, since most people won't buy a product with under four stars.

If you've got too many negative reviews, you’re at risk of losing more than sales.

You may lose your company.






5 Proven Ways to Leverage Customer Advocates in B2B

If you're a B2B marketer, you may be wondering how to drive more advocacy for your company and products.

Here are five proven ways to tap into the power of customer advocacy in B2B:

1. Get Advocates to create and post product reviews.

Reviews for business products and services are becoming more popular. Business sites like TrustPilot, G2 Crowd, and Spiceworks all feature user reviews. 

Hibu, a digital marketing services company, encourages Advocates to create and publish reviews for their products and services. Since starting their Advocate reviews program last year, Hibu's ratings have skyrocketed from two to eight stars on a popular business reviews site.

2. Encourage Advocates to create and share stories.

Stories are different than reviews.

Reviews usually focus on product features and functions. Stories, on the other hand, are often  about the overall experience customers are having with your company or about a topic or issue related to your company.

NursesRx, a company that places traveling nurses on assignments at hospitals and other health-care settings, conducted a highly successful Advocate stories campaign entitled: "I am Nurses Rx."

NursesRx generated hundreds of compelling, original stories from nurses who participated in this campaign, which helped bring their brand to life in a very human way.

3. Encourage Advocates to refer peers.

Referral marketing is highly cost-effective. In a recent study by Software Advice, B2B marketers rated referral marketing as one of the lowest-cost yet highest quality lead gen tactics. 

The key is having an "always-on" referral marketing system that makes it easy and rewarding for Advocates to refer peers.

Here's an example of how LeanKit, a client of Zuberance's, has solicited referral leads from Advocates.

4. Get Advocates to answer prospects' questions.

Let's imagine that Darren, a small business owner and prospect of yours, is thinking about subscribing to your software but is still on the fence.

Why not invite Darren to chat online with one of your Advocates?

That's exactly what Intuit QuickBooks is doing with its "Advocate Answers" program, which is managed and powered by Zuberance.

Pretty cool stuff, right? It's like a real-time, online customer reference program. You can even reward Advocates for answering prospects' questions.

5. Create an online community of your Advocates.

More B2B companies are creating by-invitation-only communities for their Advocates, where these customers can earn rewards for completing actions like the ones mentioned above.

Advocate Communities are Different that Customer Communities

Please don't confuse Advocate communities with online customer communities used primarily for peer-to-peer support, technical problem-solving, or product feedback.

Advocate communities differ in two major ways from customer communities:

  1. Advocate communities are for Advocates only. They are limited to highly-satisfied, enthusiastic customers who pro-actively recommend your company, products, or services. 
  2. Advocate communities have different goals and purposes than customer communities. The primary goal for an Advocate community is to encourage and enable Advocates to spread positive WOM and help drive sales via actions like referrals. This is not the case with a peer-to-peer support community.

Do You Need an Advocate Community?

You don't necessarily need an Advocate community to drive more advocacy and sales.

With Zuberance's cloud-based advocacy solution, you can engage and leverage your Advocates wherever they are -- and without requiring them to join a community.

How are you leveraging your B2B Advocates?



How this Home WiFi Company Boosted Online Ratings from 2.9 to 4.0


This start-up company manufactures and sells routers that cut or eliminate WiFi "dead zones" in homes.

Home WiFi routers are a highly-competitive market.  Dozens of companies offer products that make similar claims.

And like many other products these days, 90% of shoppers for home WiFi routers (and other products) are influenced heavily by online ratings.


Online reviews and ratings for this company's product stood at 2.9 -- poor. Here are some of the headlines of these negative reviews:

  • "Horrible WiFi"
  • "Very frustrating"
  • "It does not work"

Negative Reviews = Lost Sales

These negative reviews were costing the company thousands of dollars in lost sales and damage to the brand's reputation.

Most consumers won't buy products with less than four stars, research shows. For example, 22% of consumers will not buy after reading just one negative review. After three negative reviews, that number jumps to 59% (source: Google consumer study)

It was imperative for this company to boost its online ratings. And they needed to do it quickly before more money flew out out the door.

Zuberance Solution

Zuberance created a program that identified and mobilized the company's highly-satisfied customers (AKA "Advocates") to create and publish reviews.

Via Zuberance's smart publishing system, Advocates were invited to publish their reviews on major shopping sites plus share them with their friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, Zuberance made it easy for the company to display selected reviews on the company's website, plus leverage the reviews in email, ads, and more.

Authentic Advocates

Importantly, Advocates were not offered incentives or rewards to publish reviews.

They were encouraged to share their honest opinions. In addition, the company didn't change, edit, or influence the reviews.

Zuberance's Turn-key Solution

Zuberance handled the entire program for this customer, from copy and design through development, management, custom reporting, and more. 

The program was powered by Zuberance's Advocate Marketing Platform, an all-in-one advocacy platform that also mobilizes Advocates to share brand content; refer friends; create stories, photo's and videos; answer prospects' questions; join Advocate communities; and more.


Here are the results of the program, after about six months:

Ratings Jump to 4.0

Online ratings for the product have jumped from 2.9 to 4.0. This is extremely important and valuable for this company. Shoppers were very unlikely to buy this product when the ratings stood at 2.9. Now, shoppers are likely to purchase this product or at least give it strong consideration.

Online Ratings for WiFi Networking Product Before & After Zuberance

Online ratings for this product jumped from 2.9 (poor) to 4.0 (very good) after Zuberance started mobilizing the company's customer Advocates.

60% of Positive Reviews Online from Zuberance

Here's another important stat:

Nearly 60% of the positive reviews for this product are coming from Zuberance-powered Advocates. Without these Zuberance reviews, ratings for this product would be well under 4.0.

Positive Reviews on Shopping Sites from Zuberance vs. Other Sources

Nearly 60% of the positive reviews on shopping sites for this product come from Zuberance-powered Advocates.

Thousands of Shoppers have been Reached

Another key result from this program is that it has enabled the company to reach thousands of shoppers.

It's important to note that this kind of reach is much more valuable than reach achieved via paid media and ads.

Reach through your Advocates is 10X more credible and influential than reach through ads. 

And importantly, these Advocate-delivered messages are reaching prospects during that "zero moment of truth" when they're making a purchase decision.

Not a One-Time Campaign

Boosting your online ratings is not a one-time thing. It's not something you do now or then, or when you need it.

Here's why it's important to have an ongoing Advocate Reviews program:

1. Maintain and improve high ratings. Many times, ratings slip below the 4.0 mark as negative reviews pile up. It's important to continue finding and mobilizing Advocates to keep your ratings positive.

2. Keep a steady stream of fresh, positive reviews being posted online. Shoppers are more influenced by newer reviews (reviews published within the last three months, in most cases.) Additionally, most shopping sites including Amazon give more weight to newer reviews vs. older ones.

Getting Even More Value from your "Advocate Army"

In addition to leveraging its Advocate Army to maintain positive ratings online, the company is planning to leverage its Advocate in other valuable ways:

  • Generating thousands of referrals 
  • Getting Advocates to engage with shoppers via Zuberance's Advocate Answers
  • Generating hundreds of compelling stories, photos, videos, and other valuable "AGC" (Advocate-Generated Content")

The company even plans to create an online community of Advocates, where these enthusiastic customers can earn rewards points and even get on a Leader Board. 

Stay tuned for more updates.