3 New Ways to Get More Bang for Your Referral Marketing Dollars

This article originally appeared on Business 2 Community Referrals are the marketing lifeblood for many companies. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), 90 percent of small businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals. And Nielsen reports that people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.

>>Webinar: How to Generate Thousands of Referral Leads via Brand Advocates<<

Are you looking to get more ROI from your refer-a-friend program? Here are three new ways to get more bang for your refer-a-friend bucks:

1. Get Advocates to rate and review your products

Your Advocates will do more than refer friends to you. They’ll also create valuable content like glowing testimonials and highly positive reviews that boost your online ratings and rankings on shopping sites.

Consumer electronics company TiVo recently ran a highly successful refer-a-friend campaign. The company generated over 100,000 referrals and millions of social media impressions.

A whopping 54 percent of TiVo Advocates who referred friends also have recommended TiVo by writing and publishing positive reviews on shopping sites or advocating TiVo in other ways. This has helped TiVo increase its star ratings on Amazon.com, Best Buy.com and other sites.

To get referrals and content, you’re going to need an Advocate marketing platform that enables Advocates to recommend your brand and products in both these ways and more. This platform should provide you with a single view of each Advocate so you don’t create separate silos of data about Advocates.

2. Use refer-a-friend promotions to amplify your brand message

A well-known Las Vegas hotel that has spent millions on a major renovation is launching a refer-a-friend campaign that encourages happy guests to tell friends about the hotel’s facelift.

Advocates will create and share stories about their experiences at the newly-renovated hotel. Advocates  can earn up to ten nights’ free stays for referring friends who stay at the hotel. Plus, Advocates and their friends are entered into a drawing for a Grand Prize: an all-expenses weekend at the hotel including a free room in the hotel’s celebrity suite.

Refer-a-friend campaigns and programs should be managed by demand generation specialists in your company. But you should be involving branding and social media teams in the process of creating refer-a-friend promotions.

3. Support a worthy social cause

Most refer-a-friend campaigns are little more than bounty-hunting: you bring us a new customer, we’ll pay you a fee. While this can and does work in many cases, why not create a refer-a-friend incentive that people feel good about and increases brand engagement?

Norton, the consumer brand of Symantec, generated thousands of recommendations and referrals when it provided donations to Computers for Youth on behalf of Norton Advocates. The companies generated over 10,000 referrals and, at the same time, helped needy kids get computers.

Chances are, your company already has a favorite cause or charity it supports. If not, pick a worthy non-profit or other cause that matters to your Advocates. Then, make donations on behalf of Advocates who refer friends. Everyone wins.

>>Webinar: How to Generate Thousands of Referral Leads via Brand Advocates<<

Estimating The Value of an Advocate

You may need a way to estimate an Advocate's value before launching advocacy programs. You can use the formula suggested by Owen and Brooks in their excellent book. If you need something more simple, here's a logical way of estimating the value of an Advocate plus the person's advocacy value. Spend value. This is how much a Brand Advocate spend s on the company's products and service over the lifetime of his or her relationship with the company or brand. In many companies, Brand Advocates spend at least twice as much as average customers, studies by management consultants Deloitte and others show. Online IT retailer CDW says that its Advocates spend 14 times more than average customers. to be conservative, I use Deloitte's findings and estimate that Advocates spend two times more than average customers.

Advocacy value. This is the sales and marketing value that the Brand Advocate provides via recommendations and referrals. This includes positive ratings and reviews; glowing testimonials; answers to prospects' questions; enthusiastic comments on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online forums and more; and shared offers.

I estimate that Brand Advocates are worth at least five times more than average customers.

  • Many Brand Advocates spend significantly more than twice as much as average customers.
  • The actual number of customers who purchase a company's products or services as a result of Brand Advocate's recommendation may be much higher than in many examples above given the trust, influence, and reach of social media.
  • Customers who come to companies as a result of Brand Advocates' recommendations are more likely to become Brand Advocates themselves, studies show.

Advocacy helps brands sell millions of dollars in products and services. Brands do not pay for or provide incentives for advocacy.

Marketing Problems? Advocates Have Answers

Energizing your Advocates to answer prospects' questions provides compelling benefits.

  1. Increase conversions. HomeAway, a popular online vacation rental marketplace, got a whopping 13% conversion rate among prospects who had received answers to their questions fromAdvocates. Average sales conversion rates are 1-2%.
  2. Reduce shopping cart abandonment. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is about 90%. In other words, about 9 out of 10 shoppers bail out of the purchase process at the final step--the purchase. Enabling prospects to ask Advocates questions during the final purchase process can help cut shopping cart abandonment rates. For some companies, even a 1% reduction in shopping cart abandonment rate can mean millions of dollars in sales.
  3. Generate highly qualified referral leads and clicks. Prospects must enter their email addresses to ask questions. this  generates qualified leads. Additionally, the questions prospects ask can help you understand them better. By providing prospects with a promotional offer or coupon, you can also generate clicks to your website or landing pages.

There's another powerful benefit of activating Advocates to answer prospects' questions. By analyzing the questions prospects are asking (and the answers Advocates are providing), you can capture valuable insights. These insights can be used to improve your product,s enhance customer experiences, and understand unmet needs.

Getting Advocates to answer prospects' questions is ideal for companies that:

  • Have a large Advocate Army. The general rule of thumb is that you need at least 1,000 Advocates for this approach to work well. You don't want to burn out your Advocates by peppering them constantly with questions.
  • Sell products or services where prospects often seek others' advice before buying. Some examples of this include cars, travel, and hospitality, health and fitness, consumer electronics, and technology. Just about every B2B company can benefit from Advocate Answers because people usually ask questions before plunking down a few hundred or thousand dollars for a new business computer or another business tool.
  • Sell new or innovative products or services. Most people aren't early adopters. getting advocates to answer prospects'' questions is a great way to help prospects understand benefits, overcome objections and increase sales.

Are you ready to identify and energize your Advocates? Let's chat. 


This post is an excerpt from Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force  (Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-1183-3603-8; July 2012; Hardcover & E-book)

Google Hangout with Rob Fuggetta & My Community Manager

Here’s your chance to hang out with the man who literally wrote the book on Advocate Marketing: Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force. 

Rob Fuggetta will be on My Community Manager’s weekly Google Hangout hosted by Tim McDonald on Friday, October 25 at 11 Pacific/2 Eastern.

click to RSVP

Getting more customer recommendations is considered the Holy Grail in the social media age, so you won’t want to miss this hangout even if you aren’t a community manager! Rob will be discussing:

  • What is the difference between advocates/influencers and which one serves the best long-term?
  • Why advocacy/earned media is hot right now.
  • What is a brand advocate worth?
  • Is there a brand, service or product that doesn’t need to have a word of mouth / brand advocacy program?
  • How do you turn likes into leads and social media into sales?

We look forward to seeing you there! click to RSVP

Ways to AttendWatch: You do NOT need to join the hangout. Just stay on the Google+ Event and you’ll see the video on YouTube (don’t worry, it will be there and start playing as soon as the broadcast begins) Talk and Be Seen: If you decide you want to talk, not just watch, click to join the hangout when we post the link here or when you see the notification. (we will only invite a few people for this event, so let us know why you would like to attend) Do NOT click the link to join the hangout if you are just here to watch. Chat: You can watch here and/or follow the conversation on Twitter using #cmgrhangout

Don't Turn Off Your Advocates

Failing to recognize your Advocates can make them less likely to recommend you. Here's a personal story that illustrates this point:

I'm an enthusiastic Advocate of a resort hotel on the Monterey Bay in Aptos, California, near Santa Cruz. I've bought several groups to the property for business meetings and other events. I've also recommended it countless times to colleagues, peers and friends, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in business for the hotel.

When I stayed at the hotel recently, I decided to introduce myself to the general manager of the property, who was standing in the lobby. I told him how much I loved the hotel and that I had recommended it many times to others.

In a monotone voice and with a bland look on his face, the GM responded by saying: "Great. What can I do for you?"

Missed Opportunity

As an authentic Advocate of the hotel, I wasn't looking for a room upgrade, a free meal, or a drink in the hotel bar. I recommended the hotel because I've always had an excellent experience there and want others to enjoy the property as well. But at the very least, a simple thank you would have been appreciated.

In fact, imagine how different this experience would have been if the GM had said: "Mr. Fuggetta, thank you so much for your advocacy. We understand that it's our enthusiastic guests like you who tell others about our property that makes us so successful. Here's my business card with my personal mobile number. If there's ever anything I can do for you on this or any future stay, please don't hesitate to call."

Now, to be fair, maybe the GM was a tad distracted at the moment I introduced myself. Or maybe he was having a bad day. But I still remember being taken a back by his aloofness. And I've told this story countless times to hotel marketers and others as an example of how companies miss opportunities to recognize and encourage their most effective salespeople and marketers: their Brand Advocates.

What hotel?

I continue to recommend the hotel. But I'm not as eager to go out of my way to recommend it to others.

The next time one of my peers who's planning on holding a meeting for a couple of hundred people asks me what hotel I recommend in the Santa Cruz area, I probably won't say anything. Or maybe I'll recommend the same hotel with the same warmth and enthusiasm as the general manager showed.

This post is an excerpt from Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force  (Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-1183-3603-8; July 2012; Hardcover & E-book)

3 Ways to Identify Advocates

Identifying your Advocates is the first step of the advocacy process. I often refer to this step as building your Advocate Army. It's the prelude to unleashing your Advocates. Identifying isn't a one-time deal. You should be identifying your Advocates continuously. The more recruits in your Advocate Army, the more impact it can have on your sales and marketing.

3 Ways to Identify Advocates

  1. Ask. The first way to find Advocates is to ask the Ultimate Question for customer loyalty: (On a scale from 0-10), "How likely are you to recommend us?" Customers who answer 9 or 10 (highly likely to recommend) can be considered advocates.
  2. Listen. You can identify Advocates by monitoring Twitter and other social channels. social media listening tools can also help you find Advocates. But these tools by themselves aren't always the best way to identify Advocates.
  3. Observe. You can find Advocates by observing customers' behavior. For example, if customers are bringing referrals to you or creating positive videos about your products and posting them on YouTube, they're already showing by their behavior that they're Advocates.

You may be satisfied with your Jeep Grand Cherokee, but would you put your personal reputation on the line by recommending it to a friend? Maybe not. Advocates recommend. {tweet this}

Based on customers' responses to the Ultimate Question, you can categorize them as either Advocates, Passives or Detractors.

  • Advocates (people who answer 9 or 10) are highly likely to recommend your company, brand, product or service.
  • Passives (people who answer 7 or 8 ) are somewhat likely to recommend your company or product. Some Passives for business products and services are actually willing to recommend.
  • Detractors (people who answer 0 through 6) are highly unlikely to recommend your company or product. Detractors go out of their way to criticize you, damaging your reputation and revenues.

Ask the Ultimate Question Often

Your company may be asking the Ultimate question now in annual or quarterly customer satisfaction surveys. I recommend you ask the Ultimate Question often and at every customer touch point. Here's why:

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 10.00.04 AM

  • The more you ask, the more Advocates you identify. Asking the ultimate question often enables you to build a large Advocate Army. When it comes to advocacy, size matters. 
  • Advocacy is dynamic. For example, you may be a jet Blue Advocate now, but if you're stranded on the tarmac at JFK for eight hours without food or water, you can quickly become a JetBlue Detractor. When JetBlue issued its passenger bill of rights, becoming the first airline to do so, they may have won back some of those lost Advocates.
  • Advocacy feedback is valuable. Knowing whether customers recommend you and why, and who your Advocates, Passives, and Detractors are, is vital to building your brand and business. {tweet this}

When marketers discover the power of the Ultimate Question, they're like kids in a candy store. they want to start adding all sorts of questions to online surveys featuring the Ultimate Question.

Resist the temptation.

I recommend that you limit online surveys aimed at finding Brand Advocates to no more than three questions: the Ultimate Question, plus two others. Here's why: the overarching purpose of this type of online survey is to identify your advocates so you can turn them into a marketing force. this is not customer research. It is the first step in energizing your Advocate Army. {tweet this}

You can always capture more profile data about Advocates later as you engage them.

What are you waiting for? Go ask the Ultimate Question!

Resources for You:

Zuberance: The leaders in Brand Advocacy

ZuberRants: Zuberance's blog full of ideas as to why you should invest in earned media & content to  help you build your Brand Advocacy program


This is an excerpt from the book, Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force (Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-1183-3603-8; July 2012; Hardcover & E-book) - See more at: http://brandadvocatebook.com/about-the-book/#sthash.x8yth0oN.dpuf

‘Brand Advocates’: Chronicling the revolution in fans & supporters

Thank you, JD Lasica for this excellent review of Brand Advocates.    brand-advocatesBrand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Force By Rob Fuggetta 276 pages, John Wiley & Sons (hardcover)

One of the most important changes in the relationship between businesses and customers in the past few years has been the move by forward-looking companies to harness the power of the crowd. Rob Fuggetta’s “Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Voice” is the ultimate guidebook that explains the hows, whys and what-not-to-dos of this powerful phenomenon. (And yes, that harnessing thing is a big part of what we do here at Socialmedia.biz.)

I met Fuggetta, founder and CEO of the brand marketing platform Zuberance, at a “Brands and Word of Mouth” event in San Francisco two years ago. Now he’s taken his and his team’s learnings about brand advocates and compiled it into a smart, timely, jargon-free book that covers the basics of listening, “activating power advocates” and launching a full-fledged brand ambassadors program, as many businesses have begun to do.

Brand advocates go by many terms: customer advocates, word-of-mouth champions, customer champions, customer evangelists. Companies that largely relied on their fans for the bulk of their marketing include Zappos, Trader Joe’s, Method, The Body Shop and SodaStream.

For the uninitiated, here’s a sampling from “Brand Advocates”:

Top 10 Things Advocates Will Do For You
  1. Give you referral leads and help sell your products and services, serving as a virtual sales force.
  2. Write highly positive reviews of your products or services, boosting your online ratings.
  3. Create glowing testimonials about their experiences with your company or products.
  4. Answer prospects’ questions, overcoming buyers’ objections and reducing shopping cart abandonment rates.
  5. Share your content and offers with their social networks, driving referral leads, clicks, and sales.
  6. Help you launch new products.
  7. Create better ads than your high-priced ad agency and more compelling copy than your most skilled wordsmith.
  8. Defend your cherished company and brand reputation from detractors.
  9. Alert you to competitive threats and market opportunities.
  10. Give you profitable ideas and product feedback.
Symantec’s Norton doubled its product rating on Amazon and increased sales by 200 percent through an advocates program

Accessible, engaging and crisply paced, “Brand Advocates” is at its best when it chronicles some of the successes that businesses have already seen thanks to their advocates — brands such as Norton, the consumer brand of Symantec, which doubled its product rating on Amazon and increased sales by 200 percent through an advocates program; a San Diego restaurant whose supporters organically shared over 75,000 offers with friends; a consumer electronics company that unleashed a small legion of advocates to recommend the company’s VoIP service and convert one out of three targeted customers; and GMC, where more than 25,000 GMC truck owners created authentic testimonials and posted them to Facebook and Twitter.

But Fuggetta does more than simply document. He adroitly takes these examples and builds a scaffolding for this still-evolving movement. His 10-step presciption of how to reward advocates and how to set up an advocacy program are worth the price of the book, if you’re a digital marketer, entrepreneur or consultant.

Fuggetta smartly counsels that the most effective brand advocacy programs take place through genuine passion rather than from payments or rewards, though I think he ignores some successful examples of companies that have used what’s-in-it-for-me to good effect.

There’s much more to explore in “Brand Advocates,” particularly for large, mid-size and small businesses looking to put brand ambassadors at the top of their marketing mix.

Click to read JD's full article,  ‘Brand Advocates’: How to enlist armies of loyalists

Making the Most of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Editor's note: this post was originally published on Wired. I’ll bet Word of Mouth (WOM) is the No. 1 way your company gets business. If so, you’re not alone.

WOM is the leading way customers find out about start-ups and small businesses, study after study has shown. Even search is now driven by Word of Mouth. (Google and other search engines optimize for user reviews, a form of WOM.)

Yet most companies aren’t fully harnessing the power of Word of Mouth.

Here are five ways to turn Word of Mouth into leads and sales now:

Identify WOM Champions or Advocates. - Ask your customers the “Ultimate Question” for loyalty: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our company or product to your friends?” Customers who respond 9 or 10 are Advocates. A simple survey can do the trick.

Encourage advocates to rate and review your products. Seventy percent of consumers trust online reviews, Nielsen says. And 67% of consumers don’t buy after reading only one to three negative reviews, according to Lightspeed Research. Make it easy for Advocates to create and post online reviews by giving them online tools. Here’s an example of online reviews tool Webroot, a security software company, give to its Advocates.

Amplify advocates. - Enable Advocates to rave about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and elsewhere by including social sharing widgets in content creation forms.

Monetize advocates. - Give Advocates promotional offers they can share with their friends and colleague. Here’s a hint: give Advocates special offers to share instead of the same offers you give everyone.

Generate referral leads. - Make it easy for Advocates to generate referral leads and referral traffic to your website and landing pages by including links in the content and offers they share with their friends and colleagues.

Like any marketing program, WOM marketing takes time and effort. But compared to other marketing approaches, WOM marketing is inexpensive and effective. So get started now Read more: http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/making-the-most-of-word-of-mouth-marketing#ixzz2UnTcQ9TE

5 Surprising Facts about Brand Advocates

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on iMediaConnection on May 29, 2013.  Marketers’ interest in Brand Advocates is hot, hot, hot. Driving advocacy and loyalty is the #1 digital priority for CMOs across the world, according to a recent IBM study. (“From Stretched to Strengthened.”)

Here are five surprising facts about Brand Advocates, those consumers who pro-actively recommend brands and products:

1.       Brand Advocates are a large segment. About one in four US online adults frequently recommend brands and products, according to a study published in eMarketer. That means there are about 60 million Brand Advocates in the US alone, enough Advocates to fill 1,200 baseball stadiums.

2.       Brand Advocates recommend often. On average, US consumers talk about brands 56 times per week and 62 percent of these conversations include positive references, according to Word of Mouth researchers Keller Fay.

3.       Brand Advocates aren’t limited to sexy consumer products. Box, a file transfer service used by consumers and businesses, has created an army of over 90,000 enthusiastic Advocates. Box Advocates are touting the service via thousands of positive reviews, stories, tweets, posts, and more.


4.       Brand Advocates are your most valuable customers. Brand Advocates are your true VIPs. They go out of their way to recommend your brand and products, serving as a volunteer marketing force. Our studies show that Advocates are about 5X more valuable than average customers.

5.       Brand Advocates recommend without pay or incentives. Real Brand Advocates don’t ask for cash coupons, points or perks. Advocates recommend because they’ve had a good experience with products or services and want to help others, according to a study conducted by Loyalty Wins for Zuberance. We’ve powered over 30 million Brand Advocates. None of these Advocates have ever benefitted personally from their recommendations.