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This chapter is from the book

The New Tools Work Well

Not only are new tools available to build trust, but also they actually work. In this book, I will give numerous examples of tools for advocacy and evidence that they work. Here are a few brief examples that I will expand upon later in this book.

Credit Unions like First Tech in Portland, Mission Federal in San Diego, Bellco in Denver, and University Federal in San Antonio are finding that a trusted advisor for mortgages and loans builds trust with customers, substantially increases loan volume, reduces costs by requiring fewer loan officers and shorter customer sales sessions, and earns recommendations from users (95% would recommend the advisor to a friend).

General Motors created and experimentally tested a Dream CRM that converted their push/pull CRM into an advocacy tool by giving fair advice across all cars, providing comparative test drives across GM and competitive vehicles in a non-selling situation, building communities, and providing individualized product information customized to consumers’ preferences. The results of market experiments were statistically significant and implied the potential for large increases in market share for those exposed to all the Dream CRM components. A complementary analysis of the dialog between the advisor and customers yielded opportunities for new models with an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars of sales. Most recent experiments are based on extending the Dream CRM into a full auto advocacy system.

Intel refined its customer support download site by conducting five sequential market experiments and found that adding improved navigation, a logic wizard, and persona resulted in a one-third improvement in download success and millions of dollars of lower costs in meeting the customers’ download requirements with the Internet instead of with personnel from the call center or channel members.

Other companies such as John Deere, travel sites like Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, and Orbitz.com, and retailers such as Epinions.com, Amazon.com, Shopping.com, and Cnet.com have had positive experience with full information and honest comparisons. The pioneers have proved that the new methods work, and now many firms are considering adopting these techniques as they shift the balance of their marketing efforts from push/pull to trust and advocacy.

Is Advocacy for You?

Many things are new in customer advocacy, from philosophy to strategies of communication and product development. But you need to decide if they will work for you and your firm. If I am to follow my own advice, I must alert you, the reader (my customer), to the alternatives to trust-based marketing and note that an advocacy strategy is not suitable for everyone. Indeed, many companies face competitive situations, operating conditions, or customer characteristics that preclude the use of advocacy. Yet, with each reason to not build trust, there are exceptions to the exception—reasons why conditions that preclude trust might change or where trust might provide competitive advantage by moving from push to relationship or full advocacy.

An advocacy strategy is not suitable for every organization. For instance, a company’s products could be undifferentiated, highly standardized commodities requiring little involvement from customers. Or buyers could be deal-prone individuals who evaluate offerings only on price. Or a company could enjoy a monopoly position. In addition, an organization’s goals can be a major impediment to implementing an advocacy strategy. If short-term results are crucial, then advocacy might not be the best approach because it requires a long-term outlook and patience for return on investment in relationships with customers. We will discuss where trust may not work (and the counter-arguments for why it might still work) in a range of business scenarios in Chapter 7, "Is Advocacy for You?". All that being said, I believe customer advocacy will be relevant to most organizations and will be the strategy of choice for the industry leaders and most successful firms. In this book, I will teach you how to tell if advocacy is for you.

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