Digital Marketing

Are You Harnessing The Power of Brand Advocates?

Social Influencer Case StudyYesterday I wrote a case study post on ReadyTalk and how they worked with Influitive to work with all of their happy customers to market their brand.

In this case study, we learned that advocates are simply people who are happy with your brand. In order to get them to keep talking about you without getting burned out or feeling like their being used, you need to reward them.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Once we understand what an advocate is, where we can find them, and who exactly they are, the hardest part is yet to come – asking them to talk about you.

A Bold Marketing Claim

To get a more in depth look at advocate marketing, I talked to Mark Organ, Founder of Influitive.

Before starting Influitive, a platform designed specifically to serve as a hub for companies to house their advocate marketing programs in, he started Eloqua, which was acquired by Oracle two years ago. It’s safe to say this man knows his stuff when it comes to engaging customers… 

Mark claims that in 10 years, every marketing team will have an advocate marketer.

“Influitive is simply riding on the wave of a powerful force—the voice of the customer.” 

He says that advocate marketing will be as mainstream in a few years as email marketing is today. (tweet this)

I dig bold claims and I am a strong supporter of bringing customers in to the brand instead of treating them as an outside part of a brand, so I was naturally drawn to this topic.

More Control with an Organized Process

Whether it’s using a platform like Influitive or  setting up an internal process, having an organized advocate marketing strategy and reward system in place gives marketers more control over word of mouth than they’ve ever had.

Aside from keeping customers satisfied, WOM is generally out of your hands. However, implementing an advocate marketing program gives marketers a little more control over their program when executed well. For starters, you are creating and incentivizing a group to share brand recommendations and information.

Mark explained that the main difference between traditional WOMM and advocate marketing is that with advocate marketing “marketers can scale the voice of the customer across the entire organization while providing an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship for advocates.”

The fact that advocate marketing programs are opt-in-only and propelled with incentives gets rid of the whole “customer burnout” factor that results when you ask too much of your customers.

“We all have companies and products that we love and want to talk about but without a system that provides recognition for this effort, advocate activity tends to wane over time.”

Who are the Right People?

One of the most crucial components of outreach marketing is that marketers reach out to the right people at the right time

I asked Mark for advice on finding the “right” people to invite in to a program. I liked what he had to say:

“Every customer, partner and employee should be considered a potential advocate—they just need the right experience, relevant content and feedback to keep them engaged.”


Some marketers may ask if incentivizing advocates to talk about you leads to inauthentic posts.

I think, when done well, an advocate marketing program can simply amplify sincerity in the voice of people who like your brand.

Scoring authentic brand recommendations comes from inviting the right people to be in the program in the first place. Find advocates based on the following criteria and you can’t go wrong!

Here are some ideas for finding the right people for your advocate program:

  • Send a customer survey to your entire client base. Set a certain score that people need to rate you and consider these the “uber happy people” and invite them in to your advocate marketing program.
  • Talk to your customer facing employees such as support and sales and ask them to recommend people who would be a good fit.
  • Monitor the social world and invite people who write about you on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Any customers who have participated in acts of advocacy in the past such as worked with you on a case study or recommended other clients.

Closing the Feedback Loop

Not only can advocate power be harnessed for the good of sales, but working with them closes the feedback loop as well.

It’s no secret that your customers have the best input on how to improve your product or service. However, getting this input can sometimes be tough especially if you’re asking the same customers over and over again.

Part of having a group of advocates that you work with in an incentive program is that you can also ask them product improvement questions and reward them for their input.

campaignideas-webimageMark explained that, “Advocate marketing gathers a large pool of stakeholders into one central location where they can be surveyed about almost anything at any time. Advocates can choose to participate in these activities according to their timeline, not the company’s.”

Do you think advocate marketing is the next big thing? Please share your input in the comments! Cheers to an awesome discussion!

  • Jonathan Ybarra

    I like the idea of tapping into the voice of brand advocates, but how do you measure ROI? How do you quantify word of mouth?

  • Anupam Bonanthaya

    Nice points by Mark. Harnessing the power of customer advocates makes a lot of sense in 2 ways in marketing. It not only helps you reach larger audience in earned media via word-of-mouth, but also helps create customer content in the form of testimonials, case studies, videos, reviews, UGC, etc, which can further be used as social proof to help conversions across your marketing. (read more about different ways of using customer content/social proof in marketing here –

  • Andrew

    Right now we are figuring out who the “right people” are to reach out to. This has been a challenge for us.

  • Liz Pedro

    Thank you for this article! Great topic! LOVE this quote by Mark – “Mark claims that in 10 years, every marketing team will have an advocate marketer!” I so agree. I am very passionate about customer, employee and partner advocate marketing and am amazed how engaged advocates can transform a company’s culture and marketing efforts.

  • Nicholas

    Great topic and really interesting insights into the current and future state of advocate marketing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ray Gans

    @Jonathan — I find ROI to always be a challenge with social marketing. Referrals and references from advocates are (fairly) easy to quantify, but the benefits of tweets, on-line comments and word of mouth actions –that build a healthy “buzz” around your company/products– are difficult but not impossible to capture. As Kristen explains, by organizing your advocates (people who are already talking about you) to be more effective, the quality/authenticity of the “buzz” will be much more effective. How much so? I guess it depends on how you want to measure it. For example, you can count on-line responses/likes to advocate posts and/or see if more conversations occur. You can provide custom tracking links to your advocates to see how effective their efforts compare to those of similar marketing campaigns, and while measuring word of mouth is certainly a challenge, you can always ask new customers/prospects what inspired them to contact you. Tying such things into $$$ isn’t easy, but heck, is it ever easy? :-)

  • stephanieburns

    Yes, I absolutely thing Advocate Marketing is the next big thing. I am a prime example. I was super hesitant about it first, never thought it would work, I personally was not into the whole idea. A few months later, I am completely hooked. And so are my co-workers. I think it’s a great way to share and collaborate with the community to be the best in marketing

  • LizAtBomgar

    Great point on how every employee, customer and partner should be viewed as a potential advocate. It’s finding the right mix of content, advancement, power and rewards to make it appealing to anyone who loves or has a vested interest in your product.

  • Kevin Lau

    Tapping into your super fans is the only way to really move the needle in a big way for your 1) awareness/reputation 2) customer loyalty 3) against your competitors. It’s one of the biggest areas for growth that most companies barely utilize when it has so much potential.