The Age of the Advocate

The key to advocacy is information. Honest, seemingly unvarnished information from people in the know. It’s a method of marketing that isn’t marketing, though it takes as much strategy as any other form of marketing. It isn’t new but it is getting more important.

Spreading the news

During the age of broadcast media dominance, advocacy hadn’t developed much past the doctor who popped up on the six o’clock news healthcare story about a new drug aimed at treating some disorder or other. Now, we all use, seek or act as advocates.

We look at local business reviews on Yelp, check the quality of a possible laptop purchase on Cnet or some other tech blog and dig deep into the forums of obscure message boards for user opinions on everything from bass guitars to baby strollers. The things we see, the things we say or the questions we ask on social media are a whole other landscape of brand advocates and saboteurs, often unwittingly so.

The YouTube generation has dedicated themselves so aggressively to reviewing products that the term Generation C has come up for the consistent creators and curators of opinion online. Advocacy is everywhere and it is swaying opinion.

But is it B2B?

Listen, you just spent twenty minutes online figuring out if the bruschetta at a restaurant was up to snuff but you don’t think a company wants user reviews before they buy a six-figure system? Of course they do. It’s why you’ve been doing case studies. You’ve been doing case studies, right?

In many ways, the B2B market is like the younger generations. Everybody is pushing to sell to them and they are difficult to reach by traditional means. You need very specific targeting for their individual needs rather than a generic broadcast approach.

And they’re more likely to trust their peer group than outsiders.

What better way to reach your prospective customers than through the network they’ve been building and relying on throughout their career?

Nurturing clients into ambassadors

Want clients to become a brand advocate for you? Did you ask them to?

First, here are a few tips for anybody gearing up their advocacy program:

  1. Woo them. Take them to dinner or a game. Let them know they’re important.
  2. Maximize their results by working with them to turn a moderate success with your product into a startling win by making sure they can squeeze the most out of every little feature you developed.
  3. Make them a beta-tester. This was always a big one through my years in video production. Editors loved to be able to say that they were the first ones to get updates on a system and that the company was taking their advice during the development process. Over the last decade-plus it’s become commonplace for people to line up for absurd lengths of time to be the first to own the new gadget, see the latest movie, etc. People love to be first and it takes very little for you to make that happen.
  4. Advocate for them. Can you share their success story in a way that promotes their brand without hurting relationships with other users, even if it’s just on social media?

It’s not just their current network

Business moves. It expands. It contracts. People shift. The person who may not have been a great influencer through the usual channels of their network might have better success suggesting your brand when they take a position at another company.

Don’t just give up on the advocates who don’t seem to have paid off yet. Not if they haven’t given up on you. Like any marketing effort, you’re casting a wide net to snag a few big fish but you’ll never make a good haul if you stop fishing. By continuing to build their presence as brand advocates you may help increase their legitimacy until they can effectively advocate for you. Even if that never happens, the worst you’ll end up with is a very happy customer.

It can be a long process turning leads into leaders. We know a few shortcuts. Contact us.

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