The other day I was thinking about what got me so fired up about advocacy marketing in the first place and it occurred to me that I should share my story.
It all started years ago, when I was first dipping my toe into entrepreneurial waters and starting my own business. That’s when I witnessed the awesome power advocates have when it comes to tipping the scales to a company’s advantage (or detriment) - they can literally make it or break it, especially in today’s digitally interconnected world where conversations are done online.
As marketers and salespeople, we count sales as wins - we want as much of them as possible in the shortest period of time imaginable. We want to keep raking it in, right?
However, for people spending their money, coming to the decision to buy is a journey. We’ve divided that journey into stages - awareness, interest, desire, and action (the popular AIDA customer journey stages).
We’ve all been on that side of the equation - researching our options, getting the nitty-gritty on every product/service, narrowing our choices, doing some more research; it’s an exhaustive process. We devour information in order to make sure we’re making the right decision.
That’s where advocacy marketing comes in handy - and produces stellar results. Considering the fact that traditional advertising is losing its power (millennials scarcely trust it at all), businesses need to learn how to harness the power of reviews, testimonials, user-generated content, and other advocacy activities.
Around 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust personal ones, which means that they perceive them as trustworthy and credible.
And there’s nothing quite like the mantle of credibility to drive people to buy whatever it is you’re selling, as I’ll demonstrate right now.
Getting Yourself Out There - Awareness Stage
Let me set the stage
When I was starting one of my first businesses I was still a bit wet behind the ears. There were so many things that needed doing and they were all, frankly, a bit overwhelming.
My biggest concern was accounting - invoicing, bookkeeping, and such. Previously, I did it all the old-fashioned way (read: I paid an accountant) but that was no longer an option since it was costly and it, surprisingly, it took too much of my time.
One day, I was reading an article about the pains of bookkeeping for small enterprises and one comment made a reference to a software called Freshbooks. I vaguely remembered that one of my business partners also mentioned it at one point so I decided to find out more about it.
Takeaway: Often, customers don’t know exactly what they’re looking for or where to find it. They have a problem and they are searching for a solution. Your product/service needs to enter that conversation and there’s no better way to do it then being present wherever the problem is discussed.
In my case, it was a comment on an article but it can also be shared blog posts, mentions on social media sites, review sites, and so on.
Encourage your advocates to share your posts, comment on related articles, participate in online discussions on forums, and talk to their friends, both online and offline.
The more conversations you appear in, the better the chances that you’ll end up in someone’s crosshairs at exactly the right time.
Peaking Customer's Curiosity - Interest Stage
So, now I was made aware of Freshbooks as a service that could, potentially, solve my pressing problems. The next logical step was to find out more about it so I took to Google.
I immediately typed in ‘Freshbooks reviews’ - there’s no point in contemplating a service if other users are not satisfied with it.
I found out that Freshbooks had hundreds of satisfied users who were trampling over each other to leave a great review - it had 9.3 stars out of 10! However, I also found out that there are other services out there too, with similar reviews and hordes of satisfied users. The question became - how do I make a decision?
Takeaway: Once your potential customer knows about you it’s time to make them really take notice. Since their next step will be to search for reviews, encourage your brand advocates to head over to review sites and talk you up.
A well-executed review campaign will increase not only your visibility but also the overall sense that your brand is trustworthy, reliable, and that it nurtures relationships with customers.
Making Them Want You - Desire Stage
The research I’ve done on Freshbooks left me with a dilemma - go with them or choose one of their competitors? Since I’ve heard of Freshbooks first, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and dig a little deeper.
What I found was dozens of video tutorials on how to use the service, posts full of advice about common issues and how to solve them, and case studies detailing exactly what Freshbooks can do for small businesses.
I also noticed that Freshbooks employees often interacted with creators and user-generated content - they were quick to compliment a well-executed tutorial and even quicker to offer advice and pointers in the comments.
That almost convinced me - I had just one more thing to check before I was completely sold on their service.
Takeaway: The Desire Stage is a critical one - this is where potential customers go from ‘interested’ to ‘I really, really need that!’ So how do you get them there? By developing in-depth knowledge pieces about your service and encouraging advocates to share them or create their own.
Also, solicit testimonials from people already in love with you and use them in email blasts and on sales pages.
Remember to nudge your employees to interact with content advocates. Share or create - it signals to potential customers that you’re approachable, service-oriented, and available to help.
Advocacy Marketing Clinching the Deal - Act Stage
At this point, I was pretty sure I was using Freshbooks in the future but I wasn’t still completely sold on the idea. I decided to phone that business partner who mentioned it once to get his opinion. He told me that he hardly even thinks about bookkeeping since he started using the service. It’s no longer something intimidating, he said, and went on to conclude that I should give it a chance because I would love it.
That was that. I signed up that afternoon and I’ve been a proud (and happy) customer for the past five years!
Takeaway: This is where advocacy can help you seal the deal. Make sure to give your advocates a reason to talk you up whenever you’re mentioned in a conversation. Your product needs to be top-notch and you really have to work at those customer relationships but it really pays off.
Also, set up a rewards system - advocates are much more likely to do something for you if they feel they’re getting something back (hint: making them feel appreciated works 9 times out of 10 - this post explains how to set up an advocacy reward system in great detail).
To get potential customers to act quickly, give your advocates referral codes or affiliate links that they can pass on. These can be used to get a small discount, 2 for 1 deals, or something else that will create a sense of urgency and get them on board more quickly.
Conclusion - Your Job Doesn’t End When They Buy, It’s Only Just Beginning
Sometimes these four customer journey stages happen in the space of an hour. Someone states a problem and a delighted advocate who happens to be around jumps at an opportunity to mention and promote your brand.
That’s the true power of advocacy marketing - it can make customers of people who’ve only heard about you that morning!
Granted, it took a bit more time for me to warm up to Freshbooks but still, it would never have happened without their strong advocate network and well-executed advocacy campaigns. In the end, their advocacy marketing made an advocate out of me as well.
I guess what I’m trying to say is - people trust people, they don’t trust companies. In marketing, credibility is the key and a happy and satisfied customer is more than credible - they are your best salesperson.
All this takes is some minimal guidance and steering on your part.
How about you? Are you head-over-heels about a product or service? Let me know in the comments - I’d love to hear your brand-related love story!
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