Framework of Advocacy Marketing Gather Brief
Do you know your advocates?
Your customers do.
It’s no secret that consumer trust in brand-led messages is abysmally low.
According to a recent Gallup poll, only 12 percent of respondents ranked advertising practitioners as having “high” honesty and ethical standards. That distrust, along with the fact that consumers are in complete control of their buying journey, makes it hard for brands to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. That’s why forward-thinking brands leverage the power of advocates to authentically influence the purchasing decisions of consumers. Generally speaking, there are the four types of advocates consumers turn to when looking for advice on what to buy.
1. Online Influencers
When most people think of advocates or ‘influencers’ they picture the insta-famous like Chris Burkard, professional YouTubers like Collins Key or mommy bloggers like Jenn Worden. And they’re right, these people represent one type of advocate – those primarily defined by their reach. When paired with the right brand and products, online influencers can help create brand awareness, generate demand and even validate the product to their audience. Where their strength of recommendation may lack, they make up for it with the ability to reach an audience that has opted in, and connected with, their personal brand. While online influencers are the most widely recognized type of advocate, they don’t embody the full scope of a comprehensive advocacy program.
2. Retail Sales Associates
There has been a lot of talk about the doom and gloom of retail but the fact is: brands and retailers that empower sales associates to create great consumer experiences are thriving. Because of their proximity to potential buyers and their expertise in a wide range of products, recommendations from sales associates are informed, personal and powerful. While a retail sales associate may not have a following like an online influencer, they are counted on to help consumers navigate their choices with personalized care, consideration and recommendations. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, consumers are now also turning to other types of advocates for this type of advice.
3. Industry Professionals
Every industry features professionals whose immersion in their craft — from innovations to gear — make them a trusted source for advice. Consider a certified personal trainer, classically trained chef, experienced outdoor guide or trained massage therapist. Their strong balance of firsthand experiences and knowledge in their category make the strength of their recommendations unparalleled, while their reach may vary. These advocates typically share recommendations in the moment rather than at the typical point of sale. This means their recommendations are often situationally based; giving them an enormous level of credibility while they solve a very specific need.
4. Knowledgeable Friends and Family
These are the advocates who spend their off-the-clock hours training for their next triathlon or planning another backpacking trip. They’re relentless in their pursuit of knowledge and possess a passion that is unmatched. They’re the people we know and love, so we trust their advice. Individually, knowledgeable friends and family may have a smaller reach than all other types of advocates and can be difficult to identify, but the strength of their recommendations is off the charts. Because of their personal relationship with you, their buying advice is given with your best interest at heart and usually trusted at the highest level.
Recognizing the value in each type of advocate is a critical step in developing a comprehensive advocacy program – but it’s not the only step.
Advocates across all types have varying degrees of strength and reach. As each of these components increases, so too does the impact of that advocate’s advice. There are three basic tiers of advocates: category expert, brand expert and elite expert. The best companies identify and engage with all three advocate tiers. The mistake many companies make is only engaging with the highest-ranking experts. At first look, exclusively focusing on this tier appears to be a strong strategy, but this tends to be the smallest cohort of experts and it overlooks the reality that purchase decisions have multiple points of influence through the buying process. Brands with the strongest advocacy programs recognize that advocates can move up and down this tiered continuum based on their current strength and reach. More importantly, these brands work to help advocates traverse each tier to become an elite expert – both building a larger base on highly effective advocates, and creating a deeper bond with those individuals.
Bringing it together
Forward-thinking brands connect with and engage a healthy mix of online influencers, industry professionals, retail sales associates and knowledgeable friends and family. And while the strength and reach of the different types of advocates vary, they all make recommendations that matter to consumers — and impact your bottom line. The first step to building a successful advocacy program is identifying and gathering the best advocates for your brand, but a successful advocacy program doesn’t end there. Strengthening these advocates recommendations through brand and product education as well as product seeding is the next step in building your brand with an advocacy marketing program. Discover how to do just that here.