Advocates MUST convince “themselves” first…

How committed are you as an Advocate - to spread Word-of-Mouth WOM on SteroidsThink about your own situation when it comes to being an Advocate for someone else.  Before you risk your reputation, credibility, position, you have to have convinced yourself that this person or group is someone you are truly passionate about and want to tell others about. If you haven’t convinced yourself, you won’t share it.  If you haven’t convinced yourself you won’t passionately support them.  If you haven’t convinced yourself, you won’t be proactive in the way you talk about them with others.

So you are probably saying to yourself, “Well of course I have to go through this before I would tell someone else, that just makes sense.” But what you might be missing is that you have to have the “story” clear in your own mind first before you feel you can proactively tell someone else.  How do you put this story together? That is where YOU can help your advocates along the way…

You are the one to help them put their story together.  You can supply them with all the raw material and even give them some great quotes or statements to help them describe the way they feel about you and your business.  You can supply them with experiences, passion, other stories, pictures, etc. that will help them organize their own story. Don’t ask them to both be your advocate and then leave them to put it all together by themselves.

HOWEVER, to do this, you have to AVOID pimping and telling them how great you are – this is not what they are in need of – they need stories and content to help them “form their own story” they are passionate about. Many think if they just dump the standard marketing crap in their lap then they will have all they need – this is EXACTLY what they don’t need or want.  They want you to give them great stories of others’ passion and their stories to illustrate some key points and aspects.  I know this is a fine line and something I deal with every day – but it is critical to successfully arming your advocates.  Think “how can I help them build their story” instead of “how can I give them all our features and functions.”

Helping an advocate is what they are asking for…just not directly. They are your best army of soldiers, take the time to treat them this way and they will generate more business for you than all the masses that don’t really care…

Quantifying “Advocacy” from your Advocates

Groups of people connected to others sharing - being an Advocate for youI was talking to the business owner of a mid-sized company this past week and he said something that really struck me as not only true for him, but is probably true for most of you as well.

He said…

We all know the proverbial 80/20 rule where we get 80% of our revenues from 20% of our customers. We are no exception. But upon further prodding from you (that was me) we took a hard look at the people that weren’t just spending money with us but which ones were saying the most to others about us. While it was more of a guestimate than hard data, the results were astonishing. Of the 20% that generated the majority of our revenues, there were only about 20% of those that were aggressively telling others about us. But this 20% accounted for almost 100% of our referrals and new business from this source! I was shocked and it really showed me how valuable an “Advocate” is to our business.  Our mission is to do whatever we can to increase this number from the 20% of the 20% it is today.  We do that, we will see more growth than we have in the past 5 years.  This “Advocate stuff” is very real and something we haven’t paid as much attention to as we should have – but we will from now on…

I didn’t know what to say – he really “got it” and understood the power of his new customer, The New Advocate! The only difference is that he was able to put some quantification around it and come up with his own numbers to see how powerful it really was. He is a changed leader and as such, this is now the focus of his organization over the next year and beyond.  He finally saw the power an “Advocate” has in his business.

From all the business owners and CEOs and other leaders I talk to, I would bet my consulting fees he is not the exception, but the norm amongst businesses. The issue is that when I talk to leaders, they either don’t know the numbers or they are too embarrassed to figure them out. But for those that do take the time and embrace the notion of focusing on Advocates, the rewards are plentiful. As a leader, ask yourself this question…”How many of my competitors get more word-of-mouth business than I do and do they have more Advocates than us?” This might just be the motivation you need to think differently about the 80/20 rule going forward!

Timing can “amp up” your advocates and what they say…

Passion infographicThe other day I wrote a blog post on my WOM10 site, “Passion” is way too UNDERESTIMATED…, about passion and thought it deserved a bit more discussion in regard to being an Advocate.  Passion is without a doubt a key ingredient with an Advocate.  When someone is passionate about something they naturally want to talk about it and share it freely.  It is a core component to Word-of-Mouth.

But let’s take this a little deeper in regard to advocacy and being an advocate for someone or something you just purchased.  The old saying, “people buy on emotion and justify with the facts” is still alive and well – only now, through social media, they can tell thousands about their experience.  This makes very valuable if you are the one delivering a great experience and not so good if you deliver a poor or mediocre experience – they both get talked about to thousands.  What we find at the heart of this great experience is passion – for the purchase, for the company, for the people involved, etc.

You have just had a great experience – with both the product and the people.  You feel really good about it right now and you want to share it with others. The sooner you share it the more passion will reside in the description and the story you tell.  The longer it goes, the less emotion and passion.  But even if there is time between the experience and when you talk about it, there is still a great deal of passion that remains – just some of the exuberance and emotion will fade away.  This is natural.  So the goal is to both allow and encourage your advocates to blog, tweet, post, or whatever else they are doing on the social networks to do it as soon after or during the experience as possible.  Think about the last concert you went to.  When you were there, you were amped up and excited and if you sent out a message right then it would carry that emotion with the words.  If you waited a week, it would still be worth talking about but the words would be a little less colorful and a little more “descriptive”.

So as a leader in a company, think about your New Advocate and how passion and emotion play into the experience they are having with your company.  What are you doing to encourage sharing of this with their audience as close to it happening as possible?  Are you “arming” them with the right “channels” (social media tools) to freely talk about it while it is going on or are you waiting and hoping they might say something?  Do you have a strategy of how to accomplish capturing the content in a timely fashion based around your own social media?  Lots of questions in this arena – might want to check in with your management team and see how you all are doing in this regard…

Advocates alreay know where you “live”…

Let’s say you are the CEO or Business Owner of a company and are attending a business or social luncheon and strike up a conversation with someone at the table.  You do the formalities of your name and company name and so forth and then start talking about either your business or why you are at the luncheon and what you both have in common with the group hosting it.  Standard stuff we all do.

After 1 minute of this, if you like the person you probably decide to continue the conversation and learn more about what they do for a living and you can make an assessment of whether or not you feel they are successful at it or not.  But during the discussion, as they open up more and more, they probably start talking about challenges or issues (in a broad sense) they are wrestling with and seek to confirm if you are facing the same situation.  You may or may not confirm you have this issue but you at least can relate to it and support the way they are feeling.

Then comes the interesting part.  By human nature we are built to want to “help others” whenever we can.  And if you are a male, your natural instinct is to “solve the problem” so you are naturally looking for solutions or ideas to help this person.  Regardless, we all want to offer some insights, our experiences, or connect them with someone we think could help them with their situation.  This is where Advocates come into the picture.  An Advocate is someone who “proactively tells someone else about you.”  Using me for the sake of this example, in this situation, you tell the person, “I know just who you should talk to about this – they are not only an expert but a really good person and they know a lot about strategy and social media, I think they could help at least answer some of your questions.  His name is Blaine Millet and his company is WOM10 – you can find him at www.WOM10.com or just Google his name and you can see a variety of ways to contact him.  I will also send you his e-mail address when I get back to the office.”

Advocates know where you “live” – they don’t tell someone to go Google Social Media or Strategists or something else.  Nope, they know exactly how to reach you and they can share this information with other people.  In this situation, do you care about how good your SEO is on your website?  Do you care that you have all the keywords in place? Do you care that you ranked top on the first page of a Google search?  None of these matter because the person is directing them right to your FRONT DOOR – YOU!  This automatically puts you ahead of anyone you compete with because they have just drawn a straight line from the prospect to you – and that’s absolutely, positively the best way to have someone connect to you.

Think about your customers, partners, vendors, and others – can (and will) they draw this straight line from a prospect to you?  If not or you don’t have very many, I would recommend thinking about developing an “Advocate Strategy” and starting as soon as possible.  It is the least cost, most effective way to attract new customers and build new relationships.  “Arm” the people who know where you “Live” with great content and ways to find you – it will have a phenomenal ROI for you and your business…

“Minority” Rules…

The minority rules and can passionately spread the word through Word-of-Mouth

I was having a conversation the other day with the CEO of a well established company about business strategy for his company and how social media could play a role in helping them grow. There was a part of the conversation that really struck a chord with him and I think it will with other leaders.  My question(s) were in regard to his audience, specifically his customers.  What I asked was, “How many total customers do you currently have?  Of those, how many represent approximately 80% of your annual revenues?  (It was the usual 80/20 rule where about 20% of his customers generated 80% of his revenues)…of these 20%, how many would you say were “Advocates” (those who “proactively” talk about you to others)?”  Then I stopped and listened for the next hour…

He shared they had only about 2% Advocates!  Of all the great things they were doing for their customers and others, only 2% were proactively out there singing his praises.  When I put it in this light, he wasn’t very happy about that number.  But I explained this was not atypical, many businesses have a small number of advocates because the “normal” trend is to focus on “getting more” customers, not turning the ones you have into “advocates.”  He agreed, this was their focus as well with their sales and marketing teams.  I could tell he was rethinking this decision during our entire conversation.

What this told him is that “a very small minority of customers are out there talking about you to other potential customers – and this is your MOST POWERFUL group of “sales people” you could ever have – a customer telling a potential customer how great you are.”  Now he was really depressed!  But I assured him, there is light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn’t an oncoming train).  Look at it this way, you have the opportunity to convert the other 98% into “advocates” – just think what that would do to your sales and business if this happened. Now he was totally excited and practically jumping up and down thinking about how BIG the opportunity was rather than where they were.

I suggested two simple concepts: 1) design a strategy to increase the number of advocates; and 2) create a social media strategy to “arm” this group with great content they could freely share to prospective audiences.  If he committed to do these two things, he could completely leverage the “minority” of customers to capture a “majority” of market share.  The Minority always rules because they are the ones who are most passionate, loyal, and love to spread great things about you via word-of-mouth (individually and through social channels).  He got it and couldn’t wait to start focusing on the “minority” in his business…

“Advocates” and “Satisfaction” don’t go together…

During my 8 years spent at Arthur Andersen (may they RIP) I lived in the world of “Customer Satisfaction” – both from providing it as a consulting service and as a measure of our own value to the clients.  It was HOT. And it was needed at the time.  People were clamoring to understand more about their customers and they wanted them to be “satisfied.”

Fast forward to today – customer satisfaction is dead.  If you want to win customers from your competitors, and your competitors are all over the world today, you can forget about getting there thinking in terms of “satisfied customers.”  When my brother and I wrote our book, “Creating and Delivering Totally Awesome Customer Experiences,” we coined a phrase that has stuck with many and is more amplified today than ever before.  The phrase was, “A satisfied customer is simply looking for the next best deal – they just haven’t found it yet or they would be gone.”

Today, the competition is fierce and if you aren’t creating “memorable experiences” you most likely won’t be around very far into the future.  Sad, but unfortunately the reality of today.  Social media simply amplifies your situation – it allows your customers and others to share their “experiences” with the world fast and often.  If you don’t have any memorable experiences, you aren’t “arming your audience” with anything great to talk about and are leaving it up to them to share what they will.  So how do you win in this upside down game?

Simple – focus on your ADVOCATES!  These are the people who are “proactively talking about you” to others.  What have you “armed” them with that they can share with others?  Or have you armed them with anything?  Do you have some great stories that they can share about you and their experiences or have you just left them without any content to share?  Social media, when used correctly, arms this powerful army of supporters with great content about who you are, your passion as a company or individual, the experiences you provide, the great people you have, your superior innovation of ideas, etc., etc.

Satisfied customers are NOT Advocates, they are merely satisfied, waiting for the next best deal.  Advocates are chomping at the bit to tell someone else about you.  These are your armies of supporters.  Focus on them and leverage them with great content.  If you don’t have any, get a strategy about how you are going to get some and put it in the hands of your most powerful audience.  And the best part of an advocate is that they do it because they want to, not because they are incented.  This makes them the most powerful army on the planet to a business…

It’s been a while…

I know I know…it’s been a while since I blogged on this site.  But there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about that and just run out of time working with clients.  Clients are number one – they are not only my best Advocates but they have also committed to wanting to…

True Word-of-Mouth is not about “the deal”…

All Word-of-Mouth is not Word-of-Mouth – there are differences and it can make a world of difference as you think about how to build your business using this powerful process. Now we have Groupon, Living Social, Amazon, and a host of other “super deal sites” popping up on our landscape and people often ask me…

Have you “THANKED” your ADVOCATES today???

This is the time of year we think more about “giving” than most any other time of the year.  It is when we are most generous with both our time and our wallets to friends, family , colleagues, and customers.  Our natural tendency seems to be answering the question, “What can I get them this…

Advocate…one key word must be included

If you went a month without being able to talk to anyone, would anyone be talking about you? There is a key word that is at the heart of being and advocate for someone or someone being an advocate for you.  PROACTIVE. If someone isn’t “proactively” talking about you, they aren’t your advocate.  They might…