Building Brand Trust Through Trusted Advocates

Nothing builds trust like a third-party endorsement; especially an endorsement from someone the consumer knows and trusts. Brand advocates extend your brand to their personal networks, generating more inherent trust among prospects. Customer advocacy and brand advocacy programs are interchangeable terms describing when companies cultivate brand advocates in a dedicated effort.

customeradvocacyNothing builds trust like a third-party endorsement — especially an endorsement from someone the consumer knows and trusts. Brand advocates extend your brand to their personal networks, generating more inherent trust among prospects. Customer advocacy, or brand advocacy, occurs when companies cultivate brand advocates in a dedicated effort.

A customer advocacy program aims to build consumer trust by increasing the volume of trusted voices on behalf of the brand. Brand advocates are most likely to be your customers or employees, but they could also be analysts, partners, writers or others involved with your industry, category, company, or products and services.

While advocates can appear naturally and organically, a successful customer advocacy program requires the structure, funding, time and talent to find, recruit and nurture these valued relationships. The program must meet the needs of both new and long-time advocates, from various locations, across target populations, in different channels, with different motivations and different response triggers.

It may seem like a monumental amount of work, but it will be worth it. All evidence suggests that quality personal recommendations and objective reviews highly impact buying decisions. And the results are even more exaggerated in decisions regarding technology, high-ticket items and B-to-B.

As consumers become less reachable through traditional advertising methods, a customer advocacy strategy becomes a necessity. The crux of a consumer advocacy program is finding the right advocates to engage in strategic brand conversations. These advocates may have a lot of followers and influence, or they may serve a niche audience. Most importantly, you want them to have passion and knowledge of your subject area and relevant topics to assure credibility. These advocates are often found on social media, but can also be gleaned from customer email lists and other channels.

Dedicate social listening and other research efforts to look for those with digital influence, quality content and brand affinity. You want them to already have a platform that you can enhance with product trials or betas, special access to company leadership, partnership opportunities and special offers for their followers. But reward their brand participation only through a completely transparent relationship, so as to protect the your public integrity and trust.

A brand with a customer advocacy mindset thinks of their advocates as more than opportunistic sources of content, leads or sales. Smart brands cultivate customer advocates as precious resources that create credibility and positive sentiment, reaching into and influencing populations the brand can’t touch as effectively itself. If a brand is authentic and responsive to these advocates, the relationship can start dialogue that returns immediate value.

The brand derives value from customer advocacy in numerous ways, including:

  • Frank feedback from knowledgeable and objective resources.
  • Reviews and testimonials that ring honestly to broad audiences.
  • Increased referral rates.
  • Humanization of the organization or brand.
  • An empowered staff.
  • Personalization of the customer experience.
  • Development of third-party resources, knowledge bases and assets.
  • Increased positive brand sentiment.
  • Increased overall awareness, share-of-voice and influence in your industry.
  • Increased leads and sales.

Tracking the value of an advocacy program requires the same strategic approach as other marketing program analytics. Start by crafting a goal statement that outlines specific, quantifiable objectives and then benchmark the appropriate KPIs. Regularly track and report against goals to keep the program performance on target, and to understand the relative value of different advocates. Look for impacts on business outcomes, not just measures of activity, to draw a straight line between this critical effort and your strategic business goals.

It is likely that your program analytics will identify some assets and channels that have more activity than others. Share these great stories and numbers with your team to develop key insights about your audiences and inform content planning across the organization.

Many organizations are investing in some of the activities that define a customer advocacy program but have yet to combine the elements into a cohesive plan under dedicated leadership with appropriate goals and funding. Plant the seeds for a true customer advocacy program by following these few key rules for advocacy within your organization:

  1. Earn Trust: Brand trust is essential to advocacy success. Organizations or brands challenged by scandal or disappointed customers should reform their business practices before attempting to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
  2. Show Empathy: Understanding and communicating an emotional brand message will resonate with audiences in a way that other messaging approaches cannot.
  3. Focus on Quality: You don’t need the biggest network of advocates — you need the most impactful.
  4. Think Long Term: You will need to dedicate resources and incorporate advocacy activity into strategic planning.

Want to know more about building an effective customer advocacy program? View our free, one-hour webinar on the topic with audience Q&A, available here until 3/2/2017.

14 Quick Takeaways From #IMV16, ICYMI

We’ve already arrived in August, and this has been one busy whirlwind of a summer. Between major elections, summer vacations and Pokemon catching, we’ve all had our hands full. Point being, it’s entirely possible you missed out on some quality, free marketing education.

We’ve already arrived in August, and this has been one busy whirlwind of a summer. Between major elections, summer vacations and Pokemon catching, we’ve all had our hands full. Personally, I can’t focus on anything for longer than an hour until I finally get my hands on a Jigglypuff. (Millennials, amirite guys?)

Point being, it’s entirely possible you missed out on some quality, free marketing education. You might remember I wrote a little about the Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference, an event near and dear to my heart, in a post a few weeks ago. The virtual conference in all its expert marketing glory was live on June 23, and now you can access it on demand whenever your schedule clears up until September 27.

In the meantime, I took to the Tweets and compiled some of the best little nuggets of integrated marketing goodness that show attendees took from the numerous sessions and resources offered throughout the day. Ready for some lightning round takeaways and tips? Here goes!

  • Be more responsive than customers expect to create a great customer experience. -Jay Baer #imv2016 #IMV16 — Melyssa, ABC (‏@melyssa57)  June 23, 2016
  • Hug Your Haters! 1/3 of customer complaints are never answered. #IMV16 @TargetMktg — Kendra Morton ‏(@KendraAtAllCom) June 23, 2016
  • A great #customerexperience = exceeding customer expectations. #IMV16 @jaybaer — Polaris Direct ‏(@PolarisDirect) June 23, 2016
  • Kicking off #imv16 by learning about organization haters. Need to answer every complaint in every channel, every time to + customer advocacy — KathyDanielsPearman ‏(@kathyldaniels) June 23, 2016
  • Most customer complaints on social media go unanswered. “Blow their minds and win their hearts” #HugYourHaters @jayBaer #IMV16 #IMV16 — Dani (‏@danidoll11) June 23, 2016
  • 80% of Americans trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, via @jaybaer #IMV16 — Daniel Burstein (@DanielBurstein) June 23, 2016
  • Avg time it takes for a company to reply to complaints on #socialmedia is 5 hrs, but users expect 1 @jaybaer #IMV16 — Sales&Marketing Adv (@SalesMktgAdv) June 23, 2016

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  • “Customer service is a spectator sport” … so follow @jaybaer’s rule and don’t feed the #trolls #IMV16 – Nancy Simeone ‏(@100indecisions) June 23, 2016

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  • [#digitalmarketing] Answering a complaint online can increase customer advocacy by 25%. #IMV16 – Cyfer Solutions ‏(@cyfersolutions) June 23, 2016
  • Solid #marketing intel with @DanielBurstein from @MECLABS. Finding the gaps and exploiting the heck outta them! #IMV16 #IMV16 – Mary Rose Maguire ‏(@MRMaguire) June 23, 2016  
  • Great information about bridging the gap between #marketing and customer expectations in #IMV16. – Kimberly Weitkamp ‏(@k_weitkamp) June 23, 2016
  • According to @annebot at #IMV16, most people start scrolling on mobile before the page loads. – mobilefomo ‏(@mobilefomo)  June 23, 2016
  • Speed is king when it comes to mobile; if you put in the time, you will reap the rewards. -@annebot #IMV16 – WearableFOMO ‏(@WearableFOMO)  June 23, 2016
  • Your content needs to DRIVE customer experiences to truly be successful (and with that comes so much more!) #IMV16 – Sass Marketing ‏(@Sass_Marketing)  June 23, 2016

There you have it, a fresh sampling of marketing granola, perfect for the pro on the go. And hey, when you have an hour or two of downtime from hunting that Geodude or counting how many Pokemon references the media can make in a week (Spoiler: don’t bother, the limit does not exist), you can check out the full show and all its sessions for yourself.

The agenda is full of more than a dozen webinars covering all the marketing topics on your mind in 2016, led by cream of the crop experts. There’s also a fully stocked virtual exhibit hall and resource center, where you’ll find tons of free resources you can download for immediate use.

Go on and have a little click. Totally worth it, I promise you. Let me know if you check it out, or tweet your takeaways with the #IMV16 hashtag to add to the growing pile.

Till next time!