28 Search Results for "advocates"

Advocacy Marketing Part 2: Building Your Plan in 5 Steps

Posted on December 1st, 2014 by Monique Torres

Welcome to part deux of our 2-part series on advocacy marketing. In part 1 we answered two burning questions about the practice:  What is advocacy marketing? and Why is it awesome? This installment will unpack the How (as in How is it done?) and provide some nuts and bolts that will help you build a solid advocacy marketing strategy.

Let’s start with …

A brief recap of part 1

What is advocacy marketing?

Advocacy marketing is a centuries-old (at least) practice commonly known as word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising. If you’re of a certain age, you might harken back to the Faberge Organics Shampoo commercials of the 1970s and 80s:

If you tell two friends, then they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on …

FabergeOrganicsShampoocommercial

Ring a bell?

If not, suffice it to say that advocacy marketing is a strategy whereby people who like you (e.g., happy customers, employees, and partners) spread the word about your company, products, and services via their networks and communities.

In the digital age, the opportunities for tapping into the power of advocacy marketing are enormous. And that might be an understatement.

Why should you care?

Because buyers trust friends, family, colleagues, peers, and other respected influencers far more than they trust your brand.

  • According to a new DemandGen study on B2B buyer behavior:
    • 97% of B2B buyers give more credence to content that includes peer reviews.
    • 72% of them use social media to research a purchase.
    • 53% rely on peer recommendations to make a purchase.
  • A Sprout Social survey says that 74% of consumers rely on their social networks to guide purchase decisions, and Lithium says the same percentage, 74%, use social media to encourage friends to try new products.
  • Forrester Research reports that 85% of B2B decision-makers rely on online communities when researching business technologies.

The value of advocacy marketing comes down to the psychology of trust – simple as that. And if you can identify and strategically (and authentically) engage your advocates, you can leapfrog your current success metrics and milestones, including increasing demand, traffic, qualified leads, sales (both quantity and transaction size) and, by extension, revenue.

5 steps to building an advocacy marketing program

A caveat: The following steps are specifically focused on customer advocates; however, these steps can certainly be followed when creating other types of advocacy marketing, such as programs for employees, partners, fellow travelers, alumni, and investors.

Step 1: plan and get consensus

IcebergThis is the infamous 80% of the iceberg that’s hidden, bulky, cumbersome … and hugely critical. Planning focuses on defining, coordinating, and documenting the objectives, processes, people, and technologies that are involved in creating great opportunities and experiences that will turn customers into advocates.

It’s a big and necessary first step; without planning, there is no execution.

Here are key elements to consider when creating your plan:

  • Who are your advocate personas?
  • What are your strategic objectives for an advocacy program? For example:
    • Increased revenue via customer referrals
    • Shorter sales cycles
    • Bigger deal sizes
    • Increased web traffic
    • Lower lead acquisition costs
  • What are your operational objectives? For example:
    • Total number of advocates in the program
    • Total number who engage on a defined regular basis
    • Total number of communications or “asks” completed in a defined timeframe
    • Percentage of advocates who redeem rewards
    • Percentage of advocates who opt out
  • What deliverables do you want to get out of the program? For example:
    • References
    • Recommendations
    • Reviews
    • Social shares
    • Case studies
  • What are your viable campaign ideas (and how do they work and which objectives do they serve)? For example:
    • Refer new customers
    • Review products and services
    • Participate in surveys/research
    • Participate in beta programs
    • Contribute content
  • What are you going to measure and track? How?

Step 2: identify and onboard

After you’ve got a plan crafted and agreed to, the next step is to recruit your advocates. You should already have their personas nailed down, so now it’s a matter of finding them, and then making them an offer they can’t refuse.

Identify

How do you find them? According to Judy Logan, Act-On’s Director of Customer and Partner Marketing, “Start by talking to the people in your organization. Who talks to your customers most? It’s probably sales, and customer success and customer support. Leverage their knowledge and expertise. They’ll know who to contact.”

Onboard

Once you identify who you want to target, you need to reach out with one or more appealing opportunities/offers that will compel them to get on board with your program.

Your outreach plan should answer questions such as:

  • What’s in it for our advocates?
  • How can we position the program to appeal to/entice our target advocates?
  • Which channels should be used to recruit and onboard them?
  • How many advocates do we want from each channel in total? Per month? Per quarter?

NOTE: It’s important to launch an advocacy program with as many advocates on board as possible, rather than taking a cautious and incremental approach to program growth. Similar to a restaurant or store that has few (or zero) customers inside, people are less likely to enter a program that isn’t attracting a crowd. Conversely, if it’s bustling with members and activity, they’ll be more inclined to want a piece of the action.   

ActOnALUV_casestudyNext, create your outreach schedule. This includes:

  • Teaching internal teams (e.g., sales, customer success, customer support, etc.) the value of the program so they can have effective conversations when they communicate with potential or current advocates.
  • Drafting the introductory pitch and invitations, ensuring the value is crystal clear, and the process for joining is quick, easy, and glitch-free.
  • Creating at least 10 campaigns (e.g., complete this survey or review this product or become a subject matter expert in our forum) for your early advocates that allow them to engage immediately and, by extension, experience the program’s value.
  • Soliciting feedback often. This is essential because feedback allows you to gauge the program’s performance and make improvements quickly. It also demonstrates that you are listening and responding to your advocates’ opinions and inputs. They won’t want to stay if you aren’t there too.

After a few iterations of the above tactics, your program will be increasingly positioned to scale up – more invitations, more campaigns, more advocates.

Step 3: engage

Engaging your advocates is just like engaging your prospects and leads: you use campaigns. In advocacy marketing, campaigns are often called “asks” because they’re used to request specific action from your pool of advocates. (Many of these might be on the list you brainstormed in Step 1.) For example, your campaigns may ask advocates to:

  • Refer a new customer
  • Take a survey
  • Beta test a product or process
  • Follow us
  • Mention us
  • Comment on blog posts

Ektron_casestudyDon’t get complacent here; that is, don’t assume your advocates are forever interested in and committed to your program merely because they signed up. If you don’t keep the romance alive, they’ll eventually grow bored and disengage, or walk away entirely.

Keep it fresh. Mix it up. Here are some ways:

  • Motivate engagement by creating a sense of urgency. For example, add an expiration date (e.g., “Limited Time!”) coupled with the promise of a great gift or opportunity to spur higher (and quicker) advocate participation.
  • Spice up the campaign variety. Don’t get into a rut of always asking for the same thing (take a survey is a common “ask” that can become tedious in a hurry). Vary your campaigns – both the “asks” and the designs/modes/channels – so they stay fresh. Incorporate the fun (videos, puzzles, trivia) with the serious (news, product information, and yes … surveys).
  • Don’t make every campaign an “ask.” Think about it: It becomes deflating and annoying when someone you like contacts you only when they need a favor, right? It’s the same thing for your advocates. Make it a two-way relationship.

Step 4: recognize and reward

There’s a wonderful economics term that summarizes this step: incentive compatibility.

In other words, what motivates your advocates to stay in your program and, more importantly, to spend time and energy engaging with you and with their networks on your behalf?

For the most part, your advocates stick around because they like you, believe in your brand or products or values, and enjoy a sense of connection and partnership. But like all of us, they also want to know they’re appreciated.

Folica_casestudyAmong the many incentives that drive people to action, the following four are considered the most important and should be the basis of your program’s recognition and rewards:

  1. Status. This is public recognition for one’s efforts and it’s the most desired incentive. Examples of how to use status as a level of reward include recognizing an advocate at a customer event, offering them speaking opportunities, showcasing them on your website, or including them in high-value content (e.g., a case study).
  2. Access. Getting unique access to something that most others don’t get is a mighty appealing incentive that can be a successful driver of continued advocate engagement. Some ideas include the opportunity to take part in a new initiative, receive a “backstage pass” at a key event, or be invited to cocktails or dinner with the C-suite.
  3. Power. In the case of advocacy marketing, power means having a higher level of impact than merely providing feedback. For example, an advocate might contribute to the product roadmap, be a guest blogger, or become a go-to consultant.
  4. Stuff. This is the bling, the swag, the giveaways – from t-shirts and pens to discounts and gift cards to solid-state drives and tablets – that can drive a lot participation in a short amount of time. They should be used in moderation, otherwise you risk attracting and keeping a lower value of advocate than you want.

Step 5: measure and analyze

You can’t improve, fix, or optimize what you don’t measure. Like every other type of marketing strategy, you should measure your advocacy programs and always tie it back to your business objectives.

Here are some essentials metrics:

  • Advocate conversion rates
  • Participation rates per campaign, channel
  • Engagement rates
  • Number of advocate-referred leads
  • Conversion rate of advocate-referred leads
  • Average value of advocate-referred deals
  • Revenue influence/attribution (set up a scoring system that gauges the impact each advocate has on your revenue streams)
  • Rate of renewals, repurchases, upsells by advocates
  • Number of deliverables from your advocates, e.g.:
    • References
    • Reviews
    • Testimonials
    • Recommendations
    • Social shares

With good data in at your disposal, you can optimize your campaigns, continually improve and expand your program, and definitively see the value your advocates contribute to revenue.

68% say advocacy is integral to company success

That’s according to a Forbes study wherein 300 marketing leaders answered this question:  Which of the following results are integral to your definition of successful customer engagement?

Here’s the chart:

ForbesStudyOnAdvocates

Advocacy marketing is a proven strategy for gaining tremendous business upside. If you haven’t entertained the option, do. If you have an advocacy program in place, keep it going. The power of advocacy marketing has worked in business’s favor for centuries. In the digital age, the potential is that much greater.

 

 

"Iceberg photomontage" by Uwe Kils, used under GNU free documentation license.

Advocacy Marketing Part 1: End-to-End Advantages You Can’t (Shouldn’t) Ignore

Posted on November 24th, 2014 by Monique Torres

share_it_by_pixelised-d36xchgIf you’re not taking advantage of advocacy marketing (aka influencer marketing, referral marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing), you should give it serious consideration. Here are a few reasons:

  • According to McKinsey & Company, word-of-mouth (WOM) is the primary factor behind 20%-50% of all purchasing decisions.
  • A Zubrance white paper states that for every $1 a company invests in energizing its brand advocates, it receives $10 in positive WOM impressions and sales.
  • MathMarketing did a study that showed marketers who use referral marketing have higher marketing-qualified lead (MQL) closure rates than those who use purchased lists.
  • BzzAgent says brand advocates are:
    • 75% more likely to share a great experience about a product.
    • Prolific content creators; they write and share more than 2X as many online communications about brands than do non-advocates.
    • 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them.

Advocacy marketing has bubbled up with vengeance this year, but the practice isn’t new – leveraging WOM amplification from influential people who like you (they really like you) is probably one of the oldest marketing techniques in the book. But since everything old is new again (I’m talking to you, pork pie hats), advocacy marketing is back in the spotlight, heralded by digital pundits as an essential technology-aided marketing strategy that can deliver big upside.

History and the above data points suggest they’re right. This post – part 1 of 2 – will attempt to tie a bow around the business case. (Part 2 will dive into the how-to’s and offer a few case studies.)

First things first …

What is Advocacy Marketing?

Advocacy marketing is a strategy for motivating your most important marketing assets – e.g, happy customers, employees, partners, and fans – to spread the word about your company, products, and services via their networks and communities.

It’s always been a powerful practice, and it’s more so now thanks to the digital age and, in particular, the rise of social media. With modes spanning recommendations, ratings, reviews, testimonials, answers to forum questions, comments, and shares, today’s advocacy marketing is more immediate and more scalable than ever in history.

There are three types:

Customer BaseEarned Advocacy. This is the most valuable type because the source is authentic – actual customers, industry thought leaders, and influencers. It’s also the most scalable because it’s self-perpetuating: as you fill the funnel with new leads and gain new customers, the advocacy process begins anew. Additionally, earned advocates are more likely than others to be content creators – people who generate content that references, touts, and/or links back to yours.

Like “earned media,” earned advocacy is not paid for … at least not directly (there’s a lot of hard work involved in providing great products, services, and storytelling that lays the groundwork), and it can’t be bought. It can be effective through the entire funnel.

Best_EmployeeOwned Advocacy. Owned advocates are “inside players” who are associated with your brand and have a stake in its success; e.g., employees, fellow travelers, suppliers, and business partners. Its value can be important in the middle and bottom of the funnel when prospective buyers are diving deeper and looking for more specific proof points and engagement levels on which to base their decisions.

 

GrumpyCat

Paid Advocacy. Like the term, these are advocates a company pays to endorse the brand. Celebrities and athletes fall into this camp, as do doctors, lawyers, and other influencers who are remunerated in exchange for their seal of approval. Although they’re far less likely to be viewed as authentic, paid advocates can help jumpstart awareness and interest for a product or service.

 

Why is It Valuable?

Economics.

Advocacy marketing is based on the data-supported premise (the bullets that introduce this post, for example) that buyers are heavily influenced by their peers and, in fact, have higher trust in the information supplied by people they know than in the information supplied by companies. And, the people actively listening are probably active buyers.

Here’s a graph that puts a fine point on it, sourced from Nielsen and presented at the 2014 i♥marketing conference:

TrustInAdvertisingChart

Assuming your advocates spread positive WOM, advocacy marketing is a highly effective way to expand marketing reach and amplify what works without significantly increasing marketing costs. Key business benefits include increases in demand generation, traffic, qualified leads, revenue, and transaction size.

Not too shabby.

 

What Can Advocacy Marketing Be Used For?

There are many goals that can be met and/or supported by using advocate marketing. Here are four of them:

1. Revenue growth. Most advocacy marketing programs (earned, owned, or paid) are all about getting referrals – people who will visit you, engage with you, purchase from you, join forces with you. The larger your pool of advocates, the more opportunities you have to expand visibility, improve trust, and grow your revenue streams.

2. Demand generation. Advocates can be great champions for you at the top of the funnel by promoting you and your products, services, great experiences, content, events, offers, promotions, deals, coupons, etc. across their wide range of blogs and social networks.

3. Content marketing. Advocates tend to be prolific content creators (even paid advocates because they have a vested interest in your brand’s success). This means advocates are far more likely to proactively share your content. The more useful and relevant your stuff is to their networks, the better.

4. Product development. Developing a new product or service generally takes a lot of time, resources, and money, all of which can be reduced by tapping into your pool of advocates. Their quick feedback and insight into consumer needs and expectations can help you understand your ideal target customer and decrease the time-to-market.

 

Don’t be the 7 Percent

That’s the percentage of brands that offer only social customer incentives and rewards, even though 47% of us expect incentives and rewards when we connect with brands online (Lithium). True, advocacy marketing is more than social, but the data point illustrates a very real disconnect … and a very real opportunity to harness an underutilized strategy.

Advocacy marketing can give a welcome and measurable boost to the entire sales funnel. In Part 2 we’ll dive into how it’s done.  Stay tuned …

A

 

 

“Share me” by pixelised, used under Creative Commons license.
“Exit Bear Stearns, Enter Grumpy Cat” by SFview, used under Creative Commons license.

 

Best Ways to Thank (& Galvanize) Your Brand Advocates

Posted on November 26th, 2013 by Hari Raghavan

Act-On AdvocateAs Thanksgiving approaches and a new year looms large upon the horizon, it’s only natural to take a bit of time to think back on the changes past months have brought, and to show your loved ones the appreciation they’re due. And just as you thank friends and family for their continuing care and support, it’s important to also thank those that speak on behalf of your business – the people who are first to defend your brand against critics, and who stay loyal to you through thick and thin.

I’m talking, of course, about your brand advocates, the users or fans of your product that are often the most vocal in their endorsements. These individuals tend to be more visible than most on social media: according to a recent Geometry Global study, 80% of today’s consumers are digitally engaged, and of those, 25% identify themselves as brand-connected advocates. These are people who actively seek a relationship with the brands they support, and who want to be seen and heard doing so.

And if you’re looking to really galvanize these advocates, it’s crucial to make them feel valued and respected. Here are a few ways to do so:

  1. Help them to reach people and make themselves known. If they head up a business of their own or are marketers themselves, point them toward opportunities for promotion. Refer them to events or tradeshows relevant to their industry, or connect them with the press (either through your own media contacts, or via a free database like HARO, Help a Reporter Out).You could also give them dedicated shout-outs on your social pages, or weekly spotlights and profiles that highlight their businesses and areas of expertise. Comment on and share what they publish, so that your followers are inspired to do the same. Remember: there’s no publicity quite like free publicity!
  2. Tailor your offerings to meet their needs and pain points. As Ekaterina Walter points out in her Forbes story, “8 Essentials of Creating a Sustainable Advocacy Program,” on the topic, advocates are likelier to support brands that speak directly to their own interests, and that work actively to challenge and excite them.So if your followers are the type to seek out entertainment, keep them entertained with funny memes, videos, and articles. If they’re the sort looking to educate themselves, provide them with the resources they need to succeed in their respective fields (datasheets, webinars, whitepapers, etc.). Think more carefully about who they are, where they are, and what they do, then tailor your offerings to those observations, and your advocates are sure to return that consideration tenfold.
  3. Give them a say over the content you publish. Solicit their input (via email, perhaps, or with a survey across your social channels) on changes to your brand’s image, initiatives you plan to push through, and deals/giveaways you make available. Allow them to weigh in on the blog posts you write or solutions you devise, so that they feel heard and useful. After all, as Anita Loomba notes in her story,”Tips for Building Loyal Brand Advocates” for Social Media Today, businesses that don’t listen to their followers are liable to produce “brand critics, not brand advocates.”
  4. Thank them directly! Never underestimate the effect a simple “thank you” can have, and keep on the lookout for all possible opportunities to engage your advocates directly.

So, as the holidays get underway, be generous in your thanks – as much to those you know as those who know you. The more respect you can show your advocates, the more support they’ll give you.

And for more insights into advocacy, the customer expansion process, and other aspects of sales and marketing, be sure to visit our Center of Excellence.

VISIT THE ACT-ON CENTER OF EXCELLENCE

Photo of Jeff Linton by Emilee Johnson (with Jeff’s camera)

4 Tips for Maximizing Advocacy

Posted on December 30th, 2013 by Hari Raghavan

Thumbs upAs more buyers today make the Internet their primary tool for researching particular solutions and brands, businesses are afforded unique opportunities to set themselves apart and to speak directly to customers sounding off on the services they receive. One of the most effective ways to capitalize on these opportunities is to ensure that your best customers are also your brand advocates.

The benefits of advocacy platform are legion – increased brand awareness, greater online influence, deeper customer engagement, higher profits, enhanced goodwill, and a better reputation. Additionally, the right plan helps ensure that your users find success with your company and can ultimately shape your offerings in lasting, meaningful ways.

Building and executing this sort of plan, however, is a multi-step process. You’ll need to consider just how you answer questions during the buying process, how you listen to customers’ needs, and how flexible your solutions are. You need to be willing to enable, engage, and communicate. One form of engagement that has worked particularly well for Act-On is its ALUV program, which has seen massive returns since its deployment six months ago.  A recent article about the ALUV program from Software Advice, a company that reviews marketing automation systems, has these points to offer:

1. Encourage all customers to be advocates. Act-On customers are invited to join ALUV and are encouraged to participate through various gamification strategies. Ongoing engagement is fostered through “challenges,” activities advocates can participate in for points. Architects of ALUV challenges closely monitor the forums members use, to identify potential advocates and opportunities for evangelism. This kind of diligence keeps challenges timely and draws in as many advocates as possible.Kristen 2

2. Increase the value of your offers to boost engagement. The more effort that an ALUV challenge requires, the greater the reward that advocates ultimately receive. One recent giveaway, for example, was a MacBook Air, awarded to the advocate who referred the most leads over a three-month period.

Past giveaways have included opportunities to author posts for Act-On’s blog and press features – offerings that spoke directly to advocates’ industries and areas of expertise. The benefit here is twofold: customers are given opportunities to be domain experts, while Act-On receives valuable marketing content in terms of testimonials, case studies, and feedback.

3. Be a resource for advocates. When it comes to the rewards you offer advocates, it’s worth your time to consider their needs and pain points as customers. That way, you have something concrete to speak to and can provide them value for their contributions.
For its part, Act-On provides its advocates with eBooks, infographics, and research and analysts’ reports on topics like inbound marketing and demand generation, which are areas of real, on-going concern for its customers.

4. Solicit feedback and craft challenges accordingly. No challenge you issue should ever be set in stone. On the contrary, the challenges that resonate most are those that really account for advocates’ input. It was in surveying ALUV participants, in fact, that managers of the program found that white papers weren’t all that popular, and that the challenges fared better if they required fewer steps to complete. These polls also helped shed light on important aspects of Act-On’s larger platform, and allowed developers to make integral changes, showing just how far the right feedback can travel.

The Internet puts control in the buyer’s hands, and puts your reputation in the virtual street. Galvanizing your advocates to help guard and promote your brand is an important tactic in your overall marketing strategy, and can improve not just how your products get seen, but how your own customers experience your product. A program like ALUV is just one piece of a much larger puzzle, and it’ll be worth your time in the coming year to think about how you can enable your users, keep them engaged, and communicate with them throughout their lifetimes as customers.

You can read the rest of the piece on ALUV here,  and can learn more about attracting customers/generating leads at Act-On’s Center of Excellence.

visit the act-on center of excellence

Why Advocate Marketing Should Be Part of Your Lead Generation Strategy – Part 2 of 2

Posted on December 19th, 2013 by Chris Newton

socialheart

In our last post, we discussed what advocate marketing is, why it works and why marketers love it. Now let’s dive into how to motivate your advocates and keep them engaged for the long-term.

Motivating through value and needs

Let’s be honest. Happy customers will spread the word without much nudging. But you often can’t turn loyal fans into raving advocates without serving up the right incentives. Advocates have their needs, too!

For advocate marketing to be most effective, participants need to feel valued, recognized and be rewarded with perks and feedback.

Here’s a recipe for success:

1.     Create a surplus of value early on

To hook your advocates in the early stages of the relationship, first ensure they are experiencing great value from your products and services.  Exceed their expectations in the very first days to generate true fans and build relationships that will carry you beyond future support cases and provide the foundation for advocacy.

2.     Deliver a compelling invitation

Just like any other campaign, the invitation to your advocate marketing program should clearly indicate what it is, why you’re asking them to join and what’s in it for them. An aura of exclusivity, a welcome email from the CEO, and recognition of early successes may also help your advocate conversion and retention rates.

3.     Provide an amazing advocate experience

Too often advocates are abused or neglected.  Your program needs to avoid these pitfalls and deliver what they really value.  What makes advocates tick?

Feeling like part of the team. Customers who are deeply invested in a brand want to be involved in decision-making and appreciate opportunities to provide their feedback.

Knowing they’re making an impact. Customers like to know that their contributions make a measurable impact on the business and need feedback on their engagement.  If they provide a referral, let them know if that turns into a new customer.  If they suggest a new product feature, let them know if it’s going to make the product roadmap.

Increased social currency. While many advocates respond positively when they unlock badges, perks and awards, what they’re really looking for is status and recognition. For example, invite them to speak as an expert at your next user group or provide a LinkedIn recommendation highlighting their industry expertise.  They’ll love it.

Advocates can be kept engaged with fun, interactive challenges and regular feedback. Segment advocates to provide the right activities that align with their interests and the motivations that are irresistible to them.

Creating value and keeping advocates fully engaged are what keeps an advocate marketing program effective, fun and profitable.

As social communities continue to evolve, word of mouth will keep impacting buyers’ decisions. Companies who tap into this force with advocate marketing will stay ahead of the curve. And the best part is that they’ll be doing it while growing an organic community of like-minded fans who want nothing more than to share their happy experience, earn some recognition and have fun doing it!

Advocate marketing playbook

 

Curious about how an advocate marketing campaign can put you ahead of the curve? Download Influitive’s Advocate Marketing Playbook and discover how to turbocharge your next marketing campaign.

 

 

 

Chris Newton is VP of Business Development at Influitive. He started the first product-centric customer advisory board at Siebel, and created one of the earliest advocate marketing programs using Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform at Xactly before joining Influitive. In his life before software marketing, he was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and earned an MBA at Harvard.

 

Photo of social media heart collage by Kathleen Donovan, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Why Advocate Marketing Should Be Part of Your Lead Generation Strategy – Part I of 2

Posted on December 18th, 2013 by Chris Newton

speech bubble whtie backgroundAs sales prospects rely more on word of mouth, they’re quickly shifting the way business buying decisions are made.  And smart B2B marketers are leveraging this customer influence to the max to drive and nurture leads.

How are they doing this?

With advocate marketing.

If you’ve heard about it but aren’t sure how it works, read on.

What is advocate marketing?

Simply put, advocate marketing is the mobilization of customers, employees, partners, investors and other fans to provide support throughout a prospect’s buying process (including before your marketing and sales teams are ever engaged).

Marketers engage fans in fun activities and challenges around surveys, reviews, referrals or social campaigns. As their engagement deepens, they’re rewarded and recognized with points, recognition and awards.

As this army of advocates grows, their influence reaches prospects which turn into more leads, sales and ultimately, profit. It’s a big, powerful tribe-gathering movement!

Why advocate marketing works:

  • Buyers trust their peers: When it comes to buying decisions, a recommendation from a friend or an online review is more trusted than branded company website information, email newsletters or editorial content, according to Nielsen. If your customers love you, chances are their peers will love you too!
  • Happy customers are naturally inclined to help:  They believe in your solution and have seen it impact their own success on the job.  Advocate programs make it crystal clear how they can help, offer shortcuts to make it easier to do, and provide just enough recognition and rewards to motivate action.
  • It deepens customer engagement: Customers are more likely to share feedback when they feel directly involved in a company’s success, so the benefits go beyond sales and can spill into product design, content marketing or positioning.  In some cases, advocates even help plan product roadmaps and marketing calendars.

Once they’re mobilized and engaged, happy customers can become a brand’s most powerful influence.  And marketers who tap into this passion are reaping benefits many times over.

Why marketers love it

Today’s buying environment is so transparent, which is why happy customers and fans are a B2B company’s biggest asset.  Advocate-generated referrals have been shown to be 4-10 times as valuable as an average lead.  That’s because continuous engagement attracts more leads, and then helps nurture them and close the deal. And that’s why tapping into their excitement makes so much sense.

The strongest advocates are those whose value extends beyond the buying cycle. They help acquire and retain customers, and then contribute to your business in other ways too. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Awareness:  Plant the seeds with referrals, through social media, and by sharing content and comments on blog posts.
  • Consideration:  Nurture leads with product reviews and case studies.
  • Purchase:  Help close the deal with customer testimonials and reference calls.
  • Feedback: Improve your product, processes, marketing and more by sharing feedback or participating in user groups.

If advocates can boost sales and marketing efforts from end to end, how do you hook them and keep them coming back?  Stay tuned for a future post on how to create valuable experiences to keep your advocates engaged.

Advocate marketing playbook

 

Want to learn more? Download Influitive’s Advocate Marketing Playbook and discover how to turbocharge your next marketing campaign.

 

 

 

 

Chris Newton is VP of Business Development at Influitive. He started the first product-centric customer advisory board at Siebel, and created one of the earliest advocate marketing programs using Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform at Xactly before joining Influitive. In his life before software marketing, he was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and earned an MBA at Harvard.

Influencer Marketing: The Next Step for Content Marketing

Posted on August 19th, 2013 by Leo Merle

influencer marketingGlobal content marketing expert Andreas Ramos has authored nine books on digital marketing and related topics; served as the analytics and SEO strategist for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business; and founded multiple successful companies. In 2001, as the dust from the dot-com bust was settling, he threw a funeral for the Internet, featuring the burial of the Pets.com sock puppet.

Currently he’s an advisor to Silicon Valley startups and Digital Marketing Practice Leader at the CMO Council. His latest book, The Big Book of Content Marketing, became an Amazon Best Seller within two days on the market.

Andreas will share the best ways to get your content in front of  the right audience – using influencer marketing – in a free webinar: The Next Step for Content Marketing, Tuesday, August 20 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific.

Andreas says you can reach 99% of your target audience by getting the 1% of your market who are “influencers” to talk about your company, and he’s going to show us how to do it.

Among other things, you’ll learn:

  • The difference between followers, contacts, and influencers
  • How to convert contacts into influencers and advocates
  • How to discover what your advocates are saying about you
  • How to engage with your advocates
  • How to craft messaging for your advocates
  • What you can learn from your grandmother

Get useful, cutting-edge knowledge about influencer marketing in this webinar:

The Next Step for Content Marketing
Tuesday August 20, 2013 | 11:00 AM PT / 1:00 PM CT/ 2:00 PM ET

register now

Best Practices in Social Influencer Marketing

Posted on July 11th, 2013 by Paige Musto

Apple giving concept“Try this,” said the first caveman to his friends. And so what we know as “social influence” came to be. In the mid-1950s, sociologists Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz published the book Personal Influence, introducing a two-step communication model which shows that ideas flow from mass media to opinion leaders, and from them to a wider population. The opinion leaders themselves gain their influence through more elite media, as opposed to mainstream mass media. Today’s social media fits this model precisely.

Online social influence is powerful

People trust other people more than they trust your marketing department, and way more than they trust your advertising. The social web is the equivalent of the town square, if the town square could exist in multiple dimensions at once and allow voices from all over the world to commingle. It’s immensely to your benefit to figure out who the influencers are in your industry – the thought leaders others look to and listen to – and find a positive way to connect with them.

Choose the right influencers

To be an effective influencer, the individual has to have a distinctive view in a specialty – without that, no one would pay attention to them in the first place. Tamsen Webster, Sr. VP at Boston-based agency Allen & Gerritsen has a presentation (Glasses, a Love Story) parked on SlideShare, in which she outlines four main types of influencers: Connected Catalysts, Passionate Publishers, Everyday Advocates, and Altruistic Activators.

  • Connected Catalysts are celebrities and other recognizable figures. They gain massive exposure and generate immediate action.social influencers
  • Passionate Publishers generate buzz at the scale of their size. They generally are magazines and other publications dedicated to the analysis of their respective fields.
  • Everyday Advocates are customers who post reviews of products on websites such as Yelp and Consumer Reports. While their interactions with your company usually are limited to their experiences with your product or service, it’s important to monitor their reviews.
  • Altruistic Activators are independent analysts whose opinions are valued by a large population of your target demographic. Because they are so trusted to deliver objective personal opinions in an informal setting, they can be effective promoters of your products and services.

The number of potential customers the influencer can reach should also affect your choice. Total numbers don’t count; consider only the ones in your target demographic.

Act-On’s new white paper, Best Practices in Social Influencer Marketing, covers these influencers in more detail, and includes strategies for:

  • Attracting influencers to your product or service
  • Incorporating social influencers into your greater social strategy using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+
  • Becoming an influencer yourself

It’s a very good idea to stay immersed in the social currents that include you; social influencers can raise awareness about your company, and engender trust. As with other forms of public relations, if you don’t actively manage your own image and messaging, you may find yourself playing catch-up to a competitor who’s used social influencers to grab mind-share that should be yours.