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What Is Advocate Marketing?

Today, engaging customer advocates is one of the most powerful marketing strategies available to you. Advocates provide third-party validation and positive relevance; build and protect brands, and create exceptionally effective content to influence buyer decisions. Sales teams enjoy the benefits of advocates, too, through case studies, referrals/introductions, and assistance in securing renewals. Here, Barbara Thomas discusses what Advocate Marketing means.

This chapter is from the book

You are an advocate. Everyone is an advocate for at least one product or service in this universe. Advocate marketing, in simple terms, is the act of asking for action. It is the strategy used by organizations to encourage and engage clients and other stakeholders to publicly express favorable comments about a product or service. There are millions of brands and products available in the marketplace. Some of them make our lives more productive or more enjoyable. Because so many brands impact our lives in every conceivable way, consumers develop a special bond that links them to a product or service they love and rely on. The benefits from that product or service prompt consumers to enthusiastically tell friends, peers, colleagues, and neighbors about how life is better thanks to that favorite brand.

A person can feel very positively about a product, even to the point of believing he cannot live without the product, but that doesn’t make that person an advocate. That happens only when that positive experience is shared with others. Therefore, advocate marketing can be defined as activities that identify, access, engage, manage, and analyze results of those customer-sharing moments.

Advocate marketing is not just a buzzword. It has been known in a variety of ways over the years, such as customer marketing, customer success marketing, influencer marketing, advocacy marketing, customer reference marketing, and ambassador marketing. These other names are beginning to converge under the umbrella of a single industry term. For some companies, the function of advocate marketing falls under customer success management, while other companies have placed it under the corporate content marketing team.

No matter where advocate marketing may live within the organization, its recognition by top thought leaders as a critical tool that helps the company meet and sustain its mission marks a growing marketing discipline. Advocate marketing ranks in importance with other customer value strategies such as customer relationship management (CRM), which enables companies to calculate the lifetime value of a customer and leverage the immediacy of the Internet to provide access to consumers across global markets. Advocate marketing’s beginnings can likely be traced back to the first word-of-mouth recommendation. More recently, the evolution of social media, including AOL, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other communities, has enabled the prevalence and impact of advocate marketing to explode.

The challenge for today’s marketers is to identify advocates from their stakeholders and develop strategies to get them engaged in any public endorsement channel possible. Savvy marketers are discovering that they can leverage those relationships to drive their competitive advantages.

What Makes a Successful Advocate Marketing Program?

Organizations need to build and operationalize a portfolio of best practices to create a successful advocate marketing program. Begin by including value drivers, such as recognition, personal causes, and rewards, for your advocates to motivate them and ensuring that your advocate marketing program delivers on those value points. Based on proven value drivers, develop your program with these components:

  • Strategic plan—Specify the program’s objectives and goals, processes, and resources, including employees and budget, technology, and metrics.
  • Program process and policies—Define recruitment and engagement strategies for the organization, recognition, and rewards for your advocates.
  • Internal team organization—Identify an executive sponsor and two or more marketing team members who are accountable for specific activities.
  • Technology and tools—Procure and install software to help grow and manage the program efficiently and communicate with advocates.
  • Key performance metrics—Identify, capture, and track the data points that will help you measure what you manage to determine the business impact of your program. Track the number of advocates who are engaged; how they are engaged; and how their engagement impacts company revenue, influences search engine optimization (SEO), or expands visibility in the media.

An advocate marketing program should include information from advocate-focused activities that result in customers sharing their feelings publicly. Sharing can be done confidentially, such as in a one-on-one reference call, or publicly on a stage at a televised event.1 There are a number of ways to promote advocate sharing, including surveys, polls, user groups, customer advisor boards, online communities, product testing programs, guest blogging, recognition programs, references and deal acceleration programs, videos, case studies, testimonials, content amplifiers on social media, press releases, media interviews, analyst interviews, presentations, and other speaking engagement opportunities. An effective advocate marketing program helps advocates find their best channel of engagement, determine compatibility, enable engagement, and strengthen relationships over time.

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