Advocacy Marketing – What is it?

 Forbes Magazine, 6/20/2013 @ 3:43AM

Mark Fidelman   , Contributor

CMOs: Let’s Give Up On Advertising And Do These 6 Things Instead

Everyone knows there’s enough change in marketing today to put corporations everywhere on edge, but there are a few big things happening that are providing a clear path to the future.  Let’s look into Advocacy Marketing and six influencers.

One of them is the momentum in advocacy marketing. Nothing has more potential to increase sales, customer loyalty and innovation for organizations — by connecting and partnering with the people that like the company most. Nothing has more potential to increase the effectiveness of marketing by instilling passionate people with your value proposition, and nothing has more potential to unlock a flood of ideas from people that care most about your success to solve the organization’s biggest challenges.

We call these passionate people “company advocates” and up until now, it’s been difficult to manage and direct these advocates to support the organization’s objectives.

“We’re heading in the direction where advocacy is more important than advertising and traditional marketing because your prospective customers trust company advocates more,” Influitive VP of Marketing Jim Williams told me. And judging by the results of the advocacy campaigns I’ve seen recently, you have to appreciate Williams’s view of its revolutionary potential. One of my favorite advocacy campaigns is how Ektron used their InnerCircle Program(the name of their advocacy group) to crowd-source content for their user conference. This advocacy content is the type of content that pulls prospective customers into an organization’s sales orbit.

For me and my company’s (Evolve!) experience, the reason why advocacy marketing is and will be far more effective than it’s more traditional predecessors is due to a buyer’s circle of trust. The inner circle and the people that populate it – influence the customer the most. When prospective customers don’t have reference points in the inner circle they will be most influenced by people who are positively passionate about an organization’s product or service (advocates). Amazon product ratings from their top reviewers are a good example of how this works.

Top 3 circles of trust

You’ll notice the outer circle is populated by what most marketing and PR departments use today, traditional banner ads, print ads, TV commercials and earned media from the press- while some of these move the revenue needle, most have a “don’t trust – and don’t verify” perspective from prospective customers. In the future, these types of advertising campaigns will either evaporate or become hyper-targeted ads shown to people at key points in the buying cycle.

Yet the challenge for most organizations has always been how to incentivize advocates to take action on their behalf. It’s one thing for an organization to have happy customers, it’s quite another to get them to share that satisfaction with their friends, family and social circles.  According to Ektron CEO, Bill Rogers, “An organization’s goals should be to generate a lot of revenue from your existing customer base and make them feel like they are part of your company. Give the most passionate of them a voice on multiple channels and they will help you in multiple ways.”

I asked both Rogers and Williams for their advice on identifying and working with advocates: here are 6 things your company can do today:

1. Use employees and social signals to find advocates: First ask your salespeople and customer service agents for their opinions on the organization’s top customer advocates. Then turn to social analytics to identify advocacy patterns.

2. Create a win-win advocacy program: So you found your top advocates, now you want them to help spread the word. Create incentive programs, advocacy challenges and leaderboards to motivate and reward advocates. Solutions like Influitive’s AdvocateHub makes this easy.

3. Make it easy for advocates to share offers with their social circle:Don’t just send your advocates a link, coupon or content to share – design programs that make it easy for advocates to share your content and design the content to be shareable by those receiving the content. For example, make it easy for advocates to share a coupon, but make the coupon more valuable if the recipient shares it with their network.

4. Help advocates create social proof: As our research has shown, prospective customers look for signals from the people most passionate about your product or service. Create social proof on your website by showing visitors advocacy activity. The Huffington Post, Amazon and the New York Times all do an excellent job of exposing people to content, products or services from people just like you.

5. Gamify the advocacy program: Bitcoin is a great example of how virtual currency can motivate people to act. Organizations can also use this type of motivator to produce behaviors that align with its objectives while rewarding the advocate. By giving away virtual currency for approved advocacy activities, the organization signals how they want advocates to spend their time. For example, AdvocateHub uses a point system to reward advocacy activities, when enough points has been earned, advocates can exchange them for prizes or donate them (in the form of cash) to charity.

6. Create Volunteer Networks: In the future, even a small organization will have the ability to bring their largest competitor to its knees. An organization that understands how to organize its advocates to take advantage of a trend, make its content viral, promote a product or create new ones will be formidable. No longer will organizations with more human and financial capital hold all the cards, companies that create a volunteer network of advocates will use its social capital to trump them.

Marketing as we know it today must be reformed —so it does not end up deformed into an ineffective discipline used by hacks to mislead people instead of helping them succeed. The days of spray and pray advertising are coming to an end – and if you need to advertise this way in the future, you’ve already lost.

Companies like Influitive and Ektron understand this development. They see a day soon where influencer and advocate marketing will just become “marketing” and everything else is secondary. Advocacy programs will change how organizations create new products, respond to competitors and disrupt entire industries. Look no further than how groups of people in Egypt, Brazil and Turkey have used social media and mobile phones to organize and force their governments to concede or yield to their demands. The more positive lessons learned from these developments will be translated into business strategy. It’s only a matter of time.

Welcome to the new world – it’s evolving – and every business will need to adapt.

Written by

1 Comments to “Advocacy Marketing – What is it?”

  1. Sonia Divita says:

    It’s a great post.

Leave a Reply