Advocacy marketing in 2020: a briefing

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MNFST on how the loss of trust could spell an opportunity for advocacy marketing.

The crisis of trust

The advent of the digital era had a profound impact on the field of marketing. The internet's capacity for brand discovery was a game-changer — e-commerce platforms and social media websites enabled small businesses to compete like never before. But the same changes that allowed brands to become omnipresent had a side effect: they instilled a loss of trust.

According to Forrester, this trend is reflective of greater changes in our society. We are always informed, which renders trust redundant. Why trust if we can know things?

The abundance of choice devalues our commitments, as we face no penalty for switching from brand A to brand B. Besides, social media makes it very easy for an established brand to fall from grace. Things from the past are dug up, childhood heroes and CEOs get 'cancelled', and we are painfully aware that our favourite brands may enjoy the same fate. As a result, the 'brand magic' that keeps customers loyal is very hard to retain.

The Covid-19 crisis did nothing but accelerate this process. Consumer energy is at an all-time low. Customers are even harder than ever to come by, and are still very easy to lose. The uncertainty that permeates every aspect of our lives demands flexibility, not loyalty. That's why businesses that employ a traditional customer acquisition approach hit a growth wall.

Clearly, building your marketing strategy around the process of looking for new customers is no longer enough. But you can't ignore your future, either. Good news is: you can kill two birds with one stone by simply focusing on customer retention. The research conducted by business strategist Rob Markey shows that loyalty leaders grow revenues roughly 2.5 times as fast as their industry peers. Their businesses prosper. Simply put, making sure your customers are happy is your best bet at attracting more happy customers.

Introducing: advocacy marketing

The marketing funnel of any contemporary business should extend beyond sales, and into advocacy. Your customers' positive experiences should motivate them to spread the word about your product, and build relationships on behalf of your company. This delegation of relationship-building activity is called advocacy marketing.

You might not realise it, but your customers are already well-positioned to speak on your behalf. All the tools they need are already present on their smartphones. Business adviser Steve Knox, known for his senior marketing role at Proctor & Gamble, thinks of smartphones as, first and foremost, relationship devices. They are social extensions of ourselves. And brands should take advantage of this fact.

Social media has already been widely utilised for influencer marketing. Businesses regularly look for influential social media users and pay them money to create branded content. However, as this approach becomes more commonplace, it loses its efficacy. People have gotten used to seeing internet celebrities advertise big brands, casually mention their sponsors, and organise branded giveaways. Despite the seemingly native nature of this content, audiences learned to tell it apart. Advocacy marketing is different.

Instead of looking for powerful voices to amplify their company's message, advocacy marketers enable, encourage, and amplify their existing customers' voices. Big influencers are driven by monetary incentives, which makes their fake enthusiasm detectable. Your advocates are already in love with your product and are driven by their desire to share this love. What's more, it's almost certain that your loyal customers have already shared success stories related to your product on social media. All you need to do is to maintain a steady stream of such messages. In the midst of this crisis of trust, word-of-mouth recommendations, which advocacy marketing is designed to encourage, are still considered almost universally trustworthy — ROI rates for advocacy marketing campaigns reach a whopping 650%. There's no reason to overlook this marketing opportunity.

Find your advocates' voices with MNFST

Advocacy marketing will strengthen your customer relationships and ‘offload’ some of the promotional work onto the shoulders of your loyal fans. But, to turn existing customers into brand ambassadors, you need a strategy. And MNFST can be the tool at its heart.

Our product enables real social media users to form lasting connections with the brands they want to support. Any person with a verifiable social media account can sing up for MNFST, have their social stats analysed, and participate in large-scale advertising campaigns of their choosing. As an increasing number of people are turning to our product to monetise their online presence, this is your chance to leverage your customers' loyalty.

We can help your brand find advocates among the millions of people already on our app. You can specifically target people known to have used your product, or extend the advocacy campaign to everyone on MNFST, regardless of your relationship. We can evaluate the social influence of whomever you pick and offer them promotional opportunities relevant to their social media image. For example, a mother of three and a car enthusiast would get different offers with regards to the same brand, to make the interaction more authentic. We also offer a SaaS referral platform that can further expand your targeting options.

What kind of campaign you want to run is up to you. A number of prominent businesses, such as Uber and Revolut, used a very simple referral strategy to achieve tremendous growth. But you don’t have to take the easy road if you don’t want to — MNFST allows you to get creative. Personalise your campaign and make it unique for optimal ROI.

Thankfully, there are many examples to draw inspiration from. Tesla created a referral system for its online advocates. Existing customers would hand out referral codes that qualified both the person using it and the person they got it from for a $1000 discount. Apple took a different approach to this task when creating the now-famous "Shot on iPhone" campaign. They invited iPhone users to show their phone photography skills off on social media and then used this user-generated-content in a large-scale ad campaign.

While MNFST cannot help you put up billboards with your users' photos, it can help you otherwise incentivise your advocates. You can offer to pay a fixed amount of money per post, based on your advocates' social media reach and the kind of content they publish. You can also reward your advocates with gifts, such as discount codes or loyalty program points.

Michael Sokolov is co-founder at MNFST.

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