What is Advocate Marketing?

Modern marketing has been challenged. Potential customers are flooded with endless options and seamlessly endless advertisements. Advocates cut through the noise.
Emily Lonetto
Emily Lonetto
October 8, 2017
What is Advocate Marketing?

And why you should be using it

Modern marketing has been challenged. Potential customers are flooded with endless options and seamlessly endless advertisements. You would think, “Hey, if I have more options to explore obviously I can find the best option out there.” — in most cases, this is wrong.

You see — as buyers are flooded with choice, marketers are faced with new challenges to combat. People aren’t as easily influenced by traditional advertisements or even online ads. In fact, more and more people are turning to their peers, reviews, and research to help them with their buying decisions.

Why should you care?

Advocate marketing helps you formalize this otherwise independent modern buying behaviour. Not yet convinced? Let me explain in an everyday format.

Advocate marketing is a lot like asking for a food recommendation.

Ever sit down with your partner or friend and get hungry? Sure you have. Most of you have. Ever decide that you’re both hungry but spend the next hour debating on what type of food, where to go, when to go or whatever other question that could possibly come up? Sound familiar?

Let’s think of another example where advocate marketing could help. Let’s think about the same situation, but instead of going back and forth between the two of you… maybe you consult a yelp or two or you ask a friend that knows the area well. In this case, your problem may be solved a little faster.

This is an example of advocate marketing.

Let’s get systematic

Odds are you’re not in the business of recommending restaurants, but for the sake of this example let’s break this down systematically.

To understand advocate marketing and how you can use it, you need to first understand your specific buyer’s dilemma (in this case, two indecisive and hungry friends).

  1. They get hungry (dilemma)
  2. They decide to go and eat (reaction)
  3. They don’t know where to eat (problem)
  4. They bicker between the two of them, research, ask a friend (reference)
  5. They decide on a place (decision)
  6. They eat (solution)

Advocate marketing lets you, the business, formalize the reference point for your buyers. Instead of trying to stand out with flashy ads, image if you could be top of mind. Imagine if you were their friends’ top choice. Imagine you could become top choice. Guess what, you can!

Let’s get down to business

Now that you understand how advocate marketing works on the buyer side, let’s take a look on the company side. Companies use advocate marketing in a number of different ways: to get new customers, increase revenue, boost brand exposure, or even get feedback.

The thing is, every business is different and every business can succeed with a specific type of advocate. Lucky for you, advocates come in all shapes and sizes.

Advocates can be consultants, marketing professionals, customers, influential figures, or even your next door neighbour. The most important thing to focus on is that advocates need to align with your company’s mission and understand your product/service.

When done right — advocates can be a fulfilling and generous way for companies to work with their best customers and top supporters. It’s a way for marketers and community managers to reward their top promoters for helping them reach their business goals and turn their loyal customers into engaged evangelists.

Advocates are brand warriors

Knowing your product is one thing, knowing what motivates your advocates is another. Choosing the right type of person is a crucial aspect of setting up your advocate team for success. For instance, if you’re Apple and you’re looking for advocates — your list of characteristics might look like: technology enthusiast, uses Mac OS, has multiple or has had multiple apple products, and is passionate about the product. If Samsung repurposed the exact same successful advocates and asked them to join their advocate team, they might not do as well.

The Apple vs. PC or Apple vs. Samsung debate is a great example of strong advocates fighting for the brands they love. An Apple user is often a die-hard. They love their operating system, they’re loud about their love for their computer, and wouldn’t think twice about switching. This is a prime example of a customer turned advocate.

Why does that matter? Who gets the apple.

Having a strong group of people that publicly support your company is the greatest marketing channel — ever. Advocate marketing is powerful because it harnesses the collective voice of your biggest supporters and connects them with potential buyers.

Let’s revisit the original buyer’s dilemma example above:

  1. Fred needs a new computer (dilemma)
  2. Fred decides to get a new computer (reaction)
  3. Fred doesn’t know what computer to get (problem)
  4. Fred asks research online then asks his friend, Mary — she recommends Apple (reference)
  5. Fred decides to buy a Mac (decision)
  6. Fred gets a new computer (solution)

In this example, Fred (a potential buyer) had the opportunity to buy any computer he wanted. He began by researching, but ultimately ended up asking a friend. Mary, in this case would be an Apple Advocate. Because Mary likely had an Apple computer herself, her experience helped influence Fred’s buying decision — despite him doing research beforehand.

The Advocate Opportunity

The biggest thing to note here is that Fred researched and spoke to a friend before he went to purchase his computer. Meaning, that Apple’s salespeople didn’t have a chance to speak to Fred until much later in his buying decision. Imagine if Mary hadn’t spoken to Fred beforehand. Would Fred have made the same decision? What if she recommended another computer? Would Apple have had an even chance at winning his sale? According to the Harvard Business Review, Apple wouldn’t have.

89% of purchasing decisions are influenced by word of mouth or online research. That means that despite Apple having the same training, same product, and same salespeople as they would have if Mary hadn’t suggested them, Mary’s recommendation was the reference that helped Fred make up his mind.

It shouldn’t take an hour to find a place to eat

Just like it shouldn’t take an hour to find a place to eat, it shouldn’t take hundreds of hours of research and advertisements to influence a buyer’s decision. Advocate marketing programs empowers companies to get in front of potential customers faster, and more organically than ever before.

Instead of bombarding people with sales pitches, flash advertisements, and retargeting, advocate marketing lets marketers reward everyday people and professionals for helping them reach their business goals — sales, hits, signups, you name it.

Why you need to start thinking about Advocate Marketing now

Whether you’re a restaurant trying to become the local foodie’s favourite spot or a new software company looking to increase signups — advocate marketing is a channel you should consider.

By teaming up with loyal customers and brand supporters, you can not only increase your ways to hit your goals but also build loyalty into your existing customer base. The best part, it’s dead simple as long as you keep your advocates motivated.

Step 1: Figure out what motivates your advocates: is it cash, is it gift cards etc.

 (Pro-tip: 88% of advocates state they’re motivated by a mix of cash + brand merchandise)

Step 2: Offer them a way to advocate on your behalf

 (Pro-tip: whether it’s a personalized URL, promo code, etc. find an easy way to let them
 promote you, and set them up for success!)

Step 3: Recognize their success and reward them for helping you

(Pro-tip: a simple thank you, congratulations, or personal email can go a long way in
 building a lasting relationship and successful advocate)

Need more reasons to start?

  • Reach a wider audience through trusted channels
  • Accelerate your revenue
  • Increase customer engagement, retention and growth
  • And do it all without a massive budget

The best part of about advocate marketing is that it’s extremely cost-effective. Not only do you partner with your best customers and supporters, but you also lower your cost per acquisition drastically. Set your rewards to complement the stage of your business.

For instance, if you’re a new company with a small marketing budget — reward your advocates a % for each new sale they bring in. This way, you’ll only pay for performance and always redeem your costs! 

Curious about how advocate marketing can work for your company? Shoot us a line, our panel of experts would be happy to talk with you!

Emily Lonetto

Emily Lonetto

Head of Growth at GrowSumo

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