Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth
In marketing, there are countless methods and strategies implemented with the intention of raising brand awareness and increasing revenues. One of the most basic forms of raising awareness is good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Brands take advocacy marketing (the technical jargon for word-of mouth) and apply it on a large scale, rewarding customers for their efforts. However, customers aren’t the only ones rewarded. According to the Harvard Business School Press, a 12 percent increase in advocacy leads to two times more revenue.
What is advocacy marketing? According to Influitive, an advocate marketing platform, advocacy marketing takes the influence of existing customers – usually brand enthusiasts with wide networks – and uses them to fuel existing marketing and engagement strategies. A good example of this is the work of many social media influencers. For example, a person who specializes in makeup tutorials online might partner with a cosmetics brand and create sponsored content promoting the brand’s products. On a smaller scale, a brand might reach out to its customers, whether they’re a bona fide influencer or not, and allow them to make their own referral codes or associate links – every time someone uses the code or link, the new customer gets a discount and the customer doing the referring gets a return (through discounts and promotions). Furthermore, the new customer may also make their own referral, resulting in larger reach for the brand and perks for the customer.
In a report by Business Wire, 81 percent of customers research products before buying them. Customers want to know the opinions of other buyers, through reviews, ratings, and live video demonstrations, before they spend their money. According to Nielson, a global info and research organization, 83 percent of customers placed the most trust in recommendations made by friends and family, and 66 percent trusted the input of consumers found online.
Not only is advocacy marketing effective because it is powered by human connections, it is an economical marketing strategy. Advocacy marketing leverages the initial investment made in products and customer service. Due to the social norm of reciprocity (responding to a helpful action with another helpful action), humans naturally advocate for things they enjoy. Satisfied customers are often eager to recommend to someone a product that made them happy. Part of a marketer’s goal is to please customers and use that emotion to achieve the goals of the company. Advocacy marketing runs along existing marketing campaigns and makes their impact more potent.
According to the blog BigCommerce, there are several ways to attract loyal brand advocates, and the first way is consistency. Helpful customer support, reliable shipping, and a website that is easy to navigate and always available all factor into brand image and experience. Experience ensures the customers feel that they’re getting value out of their purchase. Finally, a brand’s narrative helps a customer remember a specific company and how that company’s products or services made their life easier. Brands should offer different ways for customers to advocate and should recognize their efforts, whether it be through discounts and promotions or recognition in company materials (web page, social media, print, etc.). To know what incentives to apply, ask the customers what’s most important to them.
Simply put, advocacy marketing takes loyal customers from the brand’s existing base and inserts strategy into what customers do naturally – make recommendations. To make sure that advocates get the most out of a program, and remain happy with the brand, simply ask them what they want. What is most useful to them as a customer? Through these methods, customer engagement, growth, and retention and guaranteed sales increase. Effective advocacy marketing takes reference and referral programs, online communities, and rewards/loyalty programs and rolls them all into one.
Advocacy marketing reaches a larger audience through guaranteed channels, as opposed to TV, radio, web, and print. While all of these mediums are usually effective, a brand still reaches just a portion of its target audience. Through word of mouth, there’s assurance that a brand’s message gets to directly to who it’s intended for at a much lower cost.