No marketer, brand manager, marketing automation professional or even an advocacy marketing exec would look you in the eye and tell you that they’ve got a no-fail brand advocacy marketing strategy. The development of brand advocacy marketing is still in its infancy, though there is a set of variables generally agreed upon as necessary for success. If marketing was foolproof, Coca Cola would never have spent millions to market New Coke back in the 80s. Walgreens would have immediately rejected the offer to carry Barack Obama Chia Pets on its shelves.
That doesn’t mean that brand advocacy is a precarious use of your time and budget. Far from it. In fact, brand advocacy programs are generating huge ROI and delivering measurable results that far exceed results from traditional marketing initiatives. More importantly, the data that results from running a skillfully developed and implemented advocacy program can shape future marketing efforts in a targeted way that wasn’t possible until now.
So what do we know about brand advocacy?
Brand Advocacy: True or False?
1) A brand should know who their brand advocates are, and to what degree they will advocate on a brand’s behalf before running a brand advocacy program.
Surveys and scores based on a set of variable criteria determined prior to implementing a brand advocacy program are not the best indicators of program success.
Even formulas developed with scientific precision that purportedly reveal who among a brand’s customers will more than likely advocate on its behalf? There are quite simply too many deviations and factors to consider that make such formulaic approaches highly effective at the onset of a program.
The truth is, a brand will miss out on major opportunities to activate hundreds, even thousands of customers who happened to tell you that on a scale of 1-5, they’d recommend your brand only “sometimes.”
Further, it is often the initially uninspired customer who will turn around and become your most passionate advocate when properly motivated or nurtured.
2) Incentives are an effective and profitable way for a brand to nurture its brand advocates and encourage future advocacy.
Whether you’re a lab rat or a consumer, rewards drive fairly predictable behaviors. The truth? If they like, love or are loyal to a brand, consumers will advocate on its behalf, and will appreciate the brand’s token of gratitude when they take time out of their busy schedule to do it.
Have you ever recommended your hair stylist to a friend and, in return, received a reward for a free trim for yourself and your friend next time you both set up an appointment? Did you feel it was a gratuitous reward for what you’d have done regardless of the free haircut? Probably not.
Ever been asked to refer a friend to the same bank you left a few months ago because of its horrible customer service? Did you refer your friends anyways, just for the $100 reward the bank was offering? Your enemies maybe, but probably not your friends. No reward can motivate most customers to refer a friend to a brand that the customer doesn’t actually like.
3) When running a referral program for the first time, if a customer does not respond to your initial request for a referral, the customer should be eliminated from the second wave of the program.
People are busy. And when they’re really busy, they probably won’t respond to your brand’s referral request. But, as life typically goes, those same busy people eventually become less busy at some point. Sometimes the very people who seemingly snub you the first go-round, become passionate and proactive advocates the next go-round. Happens all the time.
The truth is, if your customers or employees or partners really like what you do, they will happily help out your brand. You’ve just got to ask them at the right time and place – and sometimes it takes asking more than once.
Originally published on Wired.com Innovation Insights January 16, 2014