“…customers, partners, employees, influencers, and other stakeholders that are willing to publicly support, endorse, or recommend your company, products, or services.”That means you need to (1) identify and (2) inspire advocates who will speak and act on your behalf. Since modern marketing is all about metrics, the biggest challenge will be accurately measuring how your advocate marketing efforts impact profitability. ALSO READ: Why Your Business Can’t Ignore Advocate Marketing Of course, for every brand advocate identified, there are hundreds of customers ready to start using the services of your closest competitor at a moment’s notice. One example is the war between traditional and online retailers: retail customers are so promiscuous today that we’ve coined new terms like showrooming (viewing a product in-store before buying it online at a lower price). Despite promiscuity in almost every market with more than a few vendors, some brands manage to inspire a level of loyalty that rises to brand advocacy, or even the fabled “evangelism.” Just look at the cult following enjoyed by companies like Apple, Harley-Davidson, IKEA, or Wegman’s. New products and stores are met with long lines, media mayhem, and astronomical sales. None of these things are accidental. They require a thorough understanding of human motivation and an authentic, seamless brand experience.
Why Advocate Marketing?Maybe you’ve already decided to pursue an advocate marketing strategy, but you’re wondering how advocacy and promiscuity can simultaneously exist in the same market, demographic, or community. In reality, they’re two sides of the same coin: you have advocates on one side, and on the other, everyone else . . . ready to abandon your brand the moment it becomes convenient. The modern customer decision journey, as outlined by Edelman in the HBR graphic below, reflects this duality: The largest loop (consideration and evaluation) is where buyers spend most of their time. They make their purchase and quickly exit the Enjoy→Advocate→Bond overlap before most brands take the opportunity to build a lasting relationship. Those brands who do build a bond with customers can pull them into the smaller “Loyalty Loop,” where they’ll spend far more time advocating and bonding than buying, but where they will — however unconsciously — have the biggest impact on revenue. The classic marketing concepts of reach and frequency, coupled with the gold-standard trusted referral, best explain this outsized impact. Your brand advocates will redistribute your marketing messages to their own networks, which has a multiplying effect.
Building Your Own StrategyBefore you can organize and mobilize customers on your behalf, you’ll need an advocate marketing strategy — a roadmap to help you build effective practices and track ROI.
Identifying Brand AdvocatesFirst and foremost, you’ll need to establish a list of potential advocates. Ask the following questions:
- Who are your best customers?
- Who spends the most money with you?
- Who are your longest-tenured customers?
- Who has reviewed your product on sites relevant to your industry?
The Ultimate QuestionOnce you’ve built a list of possible advocates, it’s time to ask what authors Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey call The Ultimate Question:
How likely is it (on a scale of 1–10) that you would recommend this company/product/service to a colleague or friend?Markey and Reichheld created The Ultimate Question as part of their work in developing the Net Promoter Score, or NPS. An effective advocate marketing program can solve many of the oft-discussed issues with using NPS to measure marketing success. The ultimate question is valuable inasmuch as it helps you identify advocates. Rating of 9 or above? Probably an advocate (or the opportunity is there for them to become one).