24 Search Results for "advocates"

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.

Webinar Recap: How Do You Measure Social Media Engagement in B2B Marketing?

Posted on June 5th, 2012 by Act-On Software News

Recently, Ian Michiels of Gleanster presented Quantifying the Value of Social Media Engagement in B2B Marketing, a webinar in which he discussed social media and B2B marketing.

According to Gleanster reports, 52% of Top Performers have used social media in marketing campaigns, compared to 18% of Everyone Else. However, Top Performers also say measuring the return on investment is their number one challenge with social media.

Before you dig into how to measure social media, Michiels advises, there are three big questions to ask.

  1. Should we engage in social media?
  2. Where should we engage? – where are we going to see the biggest bang for our buck?
  3. How should we engage?


Should we engage in social media?

Social media has changed buying behavior by changing the ways that people interact and influence one another; social sites have democratized information. In the past, B2B marketing was a 1-to-many broadcast conversation between a seller and multiple potential customers (think trade magazine advertising and direct mail).That’s changed; buyers now use social media to get information from peers, customers, competitors, and anyone else who might have an opinion.

Are people talking about any of the following on social networks?

  • Your company
  • Your industry
  • Problems your product addresses
  • Your products

If so, you should be there. Your competitors probably are.

Where should we engage?

According to Gleanster research, LinkedIn is the number one social media site where Top Performers engage. Sharing links within email, on websites and in blogs is the second most popular place.Data from eMarketer.com shows that LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogging are the social tools most successful for lead generation for B2B marketers.

Don’t neglect to blog. It’s your best opportunity to share new content and become a thought leader. Blog entries also create content that can be shared on social media.

How should we engage?

The 2 Cs of B2B social media marketing are content and conversation. In order to create measurable ROI, you need both.

Don’t use social media to push sales information; use it instead to become a trusted advisor and source of valuable information. Your goal is to get in front of people and educate them. Social media isn’t a sales channel itself, but supports other channels used for selling.

If you have good content, people will share it. Make it as easy as possible by using Share This links in email, on landing pages, and on your website, and cross-link shareable content. Sheer numbers don’t make a viable metric; identify active influencers and look for the channels they use. For the B2B marketer, five advocates are better than a million followers. Consider using marketing automation to set up dedicated campaigns for influencers who share your content.

How do we measure it?

It’s difficult to link the value of social media to return on investment, because so many variables are involved in a complex B2B sale.

Michiels advises weighing metrics based on the company culture and  strategic imperatives, such as  brand exposure. You can’t measure social media with a single metric; Michiels advises four areas to benchmark as a beginning:

  • Distribution. Look at how many and which channels you’re using, and measure followers, fans, and mentions.
  • Interaction. Count forwards, shares, and comments, and measure sentiment,
  • Influence. Look at your reach and credibility, and your Net Promoter score.
  • Action. Track how many leads, conversions and sales came from social media, or appear to be influenced by it.

Michiels also advocates a sophisticated “Mean Performance Media Score” that he uses to track the aggregate growth on social media, depending on what matters most to a particular organization. Regardless of the sophistication of your tool, taking multiple  measurements allows you to benchmark your activity and identify what’s most important to your organization, giving tangible metrics for social media.

Looking for tools to help measure your social media efforts? Our Twitter Prospector allows you to identify relevant conversations and track your overall effectiveness. Contact our sales team to learn more.


Social Media Marketing Laws, Part 2

Posted on June 7th, 2013 by Rekha Mohan

This post is the thrilling conclusion to last week’s post about the first law of social media marketing. Here are the balance of “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,”  as presented by Target Marketing’s Jim Gilbert in this on-demand webinar. The Bachelor jokes are all mine. You’re welcome.

Law #2: Brand + multiple channels = revenue.

The more channels in which a consumer interacts with your brand, the more likely they are to buy. Your presence in multiple channels allows consumers to find you in their preferred channels, just as offering myriad contestants for each Bachelor and Bachelorette enables them to select their ideal significant other from a variety of options.

soc media 1 contestants

Don’t try to convince me that he’s even remotely in the league of any of these women.

 Law #3: Brand + time + multiple channels = advocates.

Customers who interact with you in multiple channels are far more likely to become brand advocates and influences than if they were engaged on only one social media channel. The 21st-century multichannel marketing model means getting people involved in all channels, for wider impact and greater reach. One way to achieve this is to show customers that they have an impact by asking for their input at every step and showing that you actively implement updates and features based on their feedback.

Another way to create real reasons for customers to become involved in your various channels is to hold regular contests – nothing makes people want to engage with you like a possible prize resulting from it. Try having the prize be a sample of your company’s product, so that when someone wins, they can try the product and advocate it to others. Just don’t make your contests as ridiculous as the ones our beleaguered Bachelors and Bachelorettes are forced to endure.

social media laws 4 contest

 Do you really want to ask? Didn’t think so.

 Law #4: The exponential search factor.

Social media increases your search engine rankings, and helps drive additional traffic via organic search. If you’re lucky, it’s exponential:  a single tweet can be shared by one person, and then by two of that person’s followers, and then by two of each of those peoples’ followers, and so on.

It’s kind of like how on The Bachelor, rumors will spread throughout the house until all of a sudden you find yourself locked in a bathroom with several of your competitors screaming obscenities and physical threats at each other while cutting to teary confessionals about how unsafe you now feel in said bathroom. Except, you know, in a positive way.

soc media laws 5 rumor

 How it always begins.

 Law #5: The customer service factor.

People will choose their contact preferences when they need technical support or have questions about your product. You need to be there for them on all the channels on which you offer customer service, and ideally you should be offering it on all channels which can support it. Brands without multiple channels for customer service risk losing customers – consumers expect instant gratification where customer support is concerned. Luckily, social media delivers in this sense. It’s especially easy to use Facebook for this purpose – sales and/or IT professionals can monitor pages and respond immediately to those who post questions and concerns.

Law #6: The behind-the-scenes factor.

People don’t buy from brands – they buy from people. Social media puts a human face on faceless corporate entities, and gives customers glimpses of the humans behind the titles of “tech support” and “sales.” This goes a long way toward reducing the distance between corporations and their customers. The days of corporate anonymity are over. Provide bios of employees, and include fun facts about each of them. (All the women and men of The Bachelor have to answer whether or not they are “romantics” in their bios; if they do not immediately say “yes” they are taken to the back of the ABC lot and summarily executed. Nah, I’m just kidding. Probably.)

One tactic is to shoot fun behind-the-scenes videos about whatever you want, perhaps an aspect of the development process or the three-part-chronicle of an elaborate office prank. Your goal should be to create everyday celebrities within your staff – people who customers will come to know and recognize from your behind-the-scenes posts.

Law #7: Trust is the new black.

Work to gradually build transparency and trust; social media harkens back to the days of the neighborhood store, during which consumers and brands had trusting relationships with each other. Don’t try to make up personas from which you send social media content – this can backfire almost as badly as wearing a mask for the first several weeks of The Bachelorette so that viewers could get to know “the real me” first.

soc media laws 6 mask guy

If he really wanted to be judged solely on personality, he should’ve put on a ski mask and a muumuu and called it a day. Also note that the mask didn’t stop him from taking off his shirt multiple times.

Make sure your business practices are public and accessible. Use photos and videos to illustrate what it’s like behind the scenes; a big part of transparency is your willingness to open up to your customers and show them you have nothing to hide.

Law #8: The online reputation factor.

Whether you like it or not, people talk about your brand. Listen to what they’re saying – you may be surprised. Try to monitor online conversations about your brand. Set up Google alerts to tell you when your company makes the news. Regularly check Yelp and other review compilation sites; don’t try to plant good reviews (you may think you’re being subtle but 99% of the time, people can tell), but try to learn from less-than-good ones. If you have a negative online reputation, the best thing you can do is take in your customers’ feedback and work to make your brand the best it can be. You can actually become more trustworthy if you acknowledge and solve problems. Good reviews will come along with that.

Law #9: The time spent factor. Engagement + time + trust = revenue.

Here’s the main point: Customers aren’t always ready to buy, so use the previous all laws to make sure they’re engaged until they are. At its core, social media marketing is all about using various platforms to spread the word on how awesome your company is, so no matter what, remember this:

soc media laws 7 sparkle

Enough said.

Get all “9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing” in Jim Gilbert’s on-demand webinar.