Image: Micah Taylor

Views & Opinions

Unlocking Advocacy

Imagine for a moment.
Let’s pretend I have a key. With that key you could open a door, walk through it, and there would be 1,000 people with their wallets open and ready to buy from you and your company. Guaranteed. It’ll cost you $1,000 to get the key from me.

In my other hand I have a ticket. The ticket gets you entry to Target Field, where there are 35,000 people. There is anywhere between one and 2,000 people in that stadium who may or may not buy from you. Those who aren’t interested today will very likely never buy from you. This ticket costs $10,000.

Which will you buy?
Easy right? You’ll buy the key. You’re guaranteed to get 1,000 people at a buck apiece. With the ticket, who knows. You might get one buyer. Maybe 2,000.

But there’s a catch to this decision. Your boss has told you that in order for both of you to keep your jobs you need to reach as many people as possible.

You say, “I’m confused. Do you want me to make money or reach people?”

“I want you to make us money by reaching people,” says your boss.

“But what if it costs more to reach those people than we make in revenue?” you brightly and logically ask.

“Trust me. That’s not our problem,” retorts your boss. “How much do you like your job?”

So, you choose the ticket. Logically and financially, it makes no sense. But, you do it regardless because ultimately the choice is not about doing what’s right, but doing what’s personally less risky and organizationally efficient.

In today’s marketing environment, we are constantly facing choices between the stats quo and “completely different.” As the old adage goes, the more status quo we do, the more things remain the same. On the other hand, new stuff is seldom well-tested. Sometimes you need to go with your gut.

For example, I offer my clients something we call brand advocacy. Brand advocacy is just a fancy way of describing the key to the room with the 1,000 people. The people in that room are there because my clients’ customers have recommended and endorsed my clients’ products and services freely and transparently. All research – ALL of it – indicates that people trust each other more than they trust brands and advertising. Connecting people and brands through real relationships is brand advocacy.

Everyone’s guts tell us that getting happy customers to advocate for us will drive revenue but few have any real plans around creating those outcomes. Why? Because embracing brand advocacy and extracting the intense value it offers takes new ways of doing things. It takes an entire new level of transparency and accountability, and a reprioritization of classic skills; like corporate communications, public relations, and creative execution.

And this is why my clients and I aren’t afraid of the hard work required to create true brand advocacy — the spoils of the labor are too real and great not to. The risk of not pursuing large scale advocate networks is too great and puts the power of the consumer well out of reach. Without proper thinking, reprioritizing, and soul searching, an entire brand could be put at risk and entirely at the whim of the marketplace. In no other area of a business would this be tolerated. Why should we in marketing?

So you have a choice between a key that unlocks the potential of true customer celebration or a ticket that has no predictable outcome. When you use the key, you become a brand that can become more responsive and attuned, creating greater products, service, and experiences. When this happens, your customer has the means to create massive positive outcomes for you. They want to tell their friends and networks about you.

Why? Because that reflects well of them too. Most people don’t become brand advocates out of the simple goodness of their hearts — although some do. Most have a core human desire to be wanted and loved. Advocacy comes from a need to promote good things to others in the hope that that goodness will come back in the form of appreciation and thankfulness.

Each of you marketers has an option between a key and a ticket. Which will you take?

© 2014 Ciceron Inc.
Ciceron is a full service digital marketing and brand advocacy firm in Minneapolis. Hire us, and we'll be your guide in creating and delivering truly outstanding brand experiences. Our promise — build a brand so great that your customers will want to advocate for you.
Ciceron Inc.
126 North Third Street, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55401
612-204-1919