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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Dec 20, 2016 9 min read

Prediction #9 — Customer Advocacy Now A Part Of Inbound Marketing

Transparent Businesses Will Need Customers To Tell Their Story Early And Often

Customer Advocacy and Inbound MarketingIt makes sense that if your customers are talking about you, you’ll get more leads. It also fits in perfectly with the changes in buyer behavior. We’ve already seen it on the agency side. Want to see how good we are? Visit Clutch.co, Agency Spotter or HubSpot’s Partner Directory.

Information on your business is going to be available to anyone wanting to know anything about you. The faster you get out ahead of this, the more new customers you’ll get compared to any competitors that beat you to the punch.

We’re all-in on customer advocacy marketing as part of a well-thought-out inbound marketing program, but as with all new tactics, it’s going to require some change management. The question for 2017 is this: How quickly will companies adopt this, get it rolled out and then see the impact?

Here are some of the challenges associated with this breakthrough marketing tactic.

Getting Customers To Participate

Even your best customers have other priorities than reviewing you, being your reference or participating in a case study. As much as they’d like to, they’re always going to have conflicting priorities. It has nothing to do with you or the level of service you provided; they’re just busy.

Advocacy programs and the gamification of customer advocacy helps, but it won’t remove this impediment entirely. As an example, I participate in HubSpot’s advocacy initiative, earning points for various tasks, but I can’t possibly do as much as HubSpot would like for me to do or as much as the top-participating people do — I’m just too busy. You need to have realistic expectations when you roll these programs out. Not everyone will participate at the level you might want or need them to.

Deciding How Much Is Too Much

Write a review and earn a t-shirt? You’re going to have to think hard about how intricate you want your advocacy program to be. In some cases, and in some businesses, it might be too much to reward your customers for every single thing they do, or the types of rewards might be too insignificant to matter. The program design is going to be just as important as the rollout, management and maintenance of the program.

As it relates to my example above, HubSpot’s program is too labor-intensive. I’m a huge advocate of HubSpot, but the time required to be a top rewards earner in its program is not valuable enough to warrant the amount of time required to achieve those rewards. I gave up. A healthy balance needs to be struck. I don’t want a part-time job that includes advocating for any business.

Using Software To Make It Easier

On the positive side, several new software tools are available to make creating the program, automating it, managing it, gamifying it, rolling it out and maintaining it much simpler. Influitive is a partner of ours, and its product is a top-ranked example of this type of new software. Other examples include Advocately, PeopleLinx and CustomerAdvocacy.com.

These tools allow you to privately label their gamification hubs, configure them to meet your needs, and then manage the rewards and recognition aspect of customer advocacy marketing. As with all software, you need the strategy, tactics and program to be complete. The software simply makes deployment, management and tracking much easier.

Monitoring For Accuracy And Fairness

Inbound Marketing and Customer AdvocacyOne of the major challenges facing businesses in this area is going to be the accuracy, fairness and monitoring processes associated with advocacy. For example, a lot of review sites are one-sided, meaning the reviewer tells their story independent of any third-party validation. Whatever they say is posted as the truth. In almost every case, these are simply one-sided and just one person’s perspective. The actual reality is usually something else, but that’s not represented in the review.

Other sites take the time to fact-check or interview the reviewer to validate the story. This provides the people reading the reviews a more objective perspective and a more accurate review of the business’s performance. When you see a restaurant on Yelp, it's almost always filled with both positive and negative reviews. You don’t know if the business owner wrote all the positive reviews or if generally angry people wrote the negative reviews. Instead, you’re left to draw your own conclusions. Wouldn’t it be great if all those reviews were verified?

Measuring The Return

Finally, these programs are not cheap to create, maintain and monitor. The software mentioned above might require between $1,000 and $3,000 a month to get started. However, one positive review might result in a new customer worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, making the return well worthwhile.

Make sure you're aware of the full investment required to get an advocacy program up and running, and then make sure you have some idea of the impact this type of content will have on your ability to close more new customers faster and for higher average dollars per new customer. Once you run the numbers, you’ll have a good idea as to the expected ROI on your advocacy efforts.

There are quite a few parallel systems that have changed the way we do business already. The precedent for a system like this, a move toward transparency, and attempts to influence this content with tactics and rewards are already in play. Just look at the business review tools on Facebook, Google+ and sites like Glassdoor that allow employees to review their employers. I’m still waiting on the site that allows employers to rate employees.

Regardless, the transparency of our businesses means we need to focus on delivery now more than ever. If we simply give our clients a remarkable and amazing experience, over-deliver and take wonderful care of them while they work with us, the sites that allow them to talk about our businesses will, in the end, help us to grow our companies.

But this does mean that more resources need to be deployed to monitor, maintain and support these sites, the content on these sites and the proactive engagement with our clients to participate on these sites.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

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