For as long as there have been products and services offered for sale, there have been “brand advocates” who would recommend them to others.
Once upon a time, such recommendations came only in the most literal form of word of mouth—advocates who physically told their circle of family and friends about their favorite brands. Now, there are a myriad of different channels that consumers use to make recommendations, and it’s up to companies to figure out how to effectively navigate through these new channels.
Brand advocacy automation has emerged as one way to make digital recommendations efficient. Beginning with campaigns based on referring a friend to a product or service, often with the promise of a mutual reward, these programs typically show positive short-term results. However, brands often struggled to track and quantify the downstream referrals, sales or customer acquisitions over the long haul. Refer-a-friend promotions also have shown to have a limited effective lifespan and aren’t appropriate for long-term advocacy management.
At the same time, direct advertising and more traditional media are losing their hold on buyers. Consumers now gather recommendations for the best and most relevant products and services from their family and friends through social networks and mobile devices, tapping into a massive network of trusted sources for advice.
For example, posting a query on Facebook, such as “what’s the best hotel in Seattle?” will quickly generate response from a wide range of trusted connections, whereas gathering this information may have taken weeks before the social revolution. Brand managers know that these online conversations contain very persuasive and powerful recommendations, but participating in them—without interrupting or forcing their way in—has proven quite difficult.
To address the challenge, the savviest brands are building new sales and marketing models focused on the needs of various stakeholders, such as customers and staff. These channels allow brands to naturally become part of the conversation within these groups in an easy and organic way that does not feel forced or contrived. For example, with this method, one enterprise brand was able to build a database of more than 100,000 engaged customers and then extract more than 300,000 high-value referrals from just this one group.
As consumer habits continue to evolve, brands that quickly adopt the right approach to these new channels through the use of automation will be able to establish tighter bonds with their most valued brand advocates to drive a self-sustaining stream of quality referrals.
By Richard Beedon, Founder & CEO of Amplifinity