About this time last year, I wrote one of my first blog posts about an interest in hearing Advocacy Marketing stories. At the time, I believed (but without a lot of data to back it up) that it would become increasing important.
Fast forward about 12 months.
I can comfortably say that my view has been confirmed. I strongly believe that Advocacy Marketing should be at the top of the priority list in terms of marketing investment. Now, there are some things that need to be present for this to be the case:
- A collection of customers who LOVE what your products and services have enabled them to accomplish. These are fans who will share their stories, without you even asking them to do so.
- Well defined and understood positioning and messaging that your fans believe–and will echo in their communities
- Organizational willingness to accept the good with the bad as the leverage marketing they can not control
Of these, the first two are a prerequisite (if you don’t meet them–they become the top priority). The last one is more of an excuse that you need to fight to get over—you are not in control anymore, buyers are. Get over it.
The momentum behind Advocacy Marketing continues to grow:
- Daily I see between 3 and 5 articles/blog posts focused on the topic. In early 2013, it was more like 3 to 5 per week.
- The list of providers continues to grow with folks like NextBee and Amplifinity competing with others like Influitive, Zuberance, and more (Richard Fouts covered many of these companies in a research note written last year-subscription required).
- The recognition that this applies to B2B marketing, and not just B2C, is general accepted.
- Influitive has even held their own awards ceremony, The BAMMIES, celebrating companies with effective advocacy marketing program efforts.
Why is this so important? It’s more than the hype. It is because customers trust peers more than they trust you. And we have data to back this up.
In one Gartner survey, buyers stated that their number one source for understanding the differentiation of a technology provider was peers of the same size in their industry (60%). Professional communities (36%) and same size peers in their region (25%) also made the top 5. Company sources of information (sales reps at 19% and Web sites at 12%) trailed significantly. In another survey, peers and communities were cited as the second most preferential source of information at all phases of the buying cycle, trailing only self-driven information search.
These are the facts that are driving my opinion. If buyers trust and rely upon peers, and you have a base of fans that love to talk about what you, what would be a better source of value that advocacy marketing? Once you empower your fans to share their stories, in the context of your overall brand promise, you’ll have a legion of people assisting you with your sales and marketing efforts. This, in turn, will help create more fans, and the momentum will grow.
I do strongly believe that 2014 will be the year of Advocacy Marketing.
What do you think?