‘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