July 8, 2013

‘Brand Advocates’: How to enlist armies of loyalists

Photo by the Irish Labour Party on Flickr (CC BY ND)

Reviews of 3 new books on social businesses

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, agencies, entrepreneurs, educators.

JD LasicaI‘ve been head down working on a cruise startup for the past few months, but the weather has been so beautiful the past few days that I carved out some time for reading on the back deck. It’s been rewarding — doubly so in that I’m friends with two of the authors and know the third.

So let me line ’em up and offer some brief highlights. If you’ve read any of these books, please share in the comments!

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

brand-advocatesBrand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Voice
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. For more info and to order, see the Brand Advocates website.

‘Attack of the Customers’: Brand management for the social media age

attack of the customers

Attack of the Customers: Why Critics Assault Brands Online and How To Avoid Becoming a Victim
By Paul Gillin with Greg Gianforte
209 pages, self-published paperback

Most businesses don’t put a great deal of thought into how to manage their reputations — until it’s too late. In “Attack of the Customers,” Paul Gillin lays out a set of strategies that go beyond a traditional crisis communications program by showcasing example after example of the new world that companies now find themselves in, and what to do about it.

“You may think you’re immune from customer reviews because you never registered your business on the sites that publish them,” the authors write at one point. “The reality is that anyone can create a profile of your business on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Google+, Facebook and lots of other services without even knowing it.”

Scary, right?

“Attack of the Customers” offers a fast-paced, clear-eyed roadmap to navigate this constantly shifting landscape. It brims with smart, practical advice for brand managers, marketers, PR pros, social media managers, communications department staffers — anyone with a stake in how a brand interacts with its customers.

Paul (whom I’ve known for some years) details scores of examples of social media crises: the customer exasperated with the customer service of Aviva, the UK-based insurance company; the Twitter brouhaha that threatened a black eye for Ford’s Ranger Station; Walgreens’ public rift with Express Scripts; insurance provider FM Global’s name snafu; the beef industry’s “pink slime” fiasco; a popular icon that turned negative for Progressive Insurance, and many others. All of this comes across without judgment

The book describes different kinds of potential attackers, how to respond to each one, which tools and platforms to use and how to lay the groundwork so that you’re not caught flat-footed in an era when a disgruntled customer’s tweet, negative review or blog hit piece can spread across the Internet in minutes. Silence is not an option. Genuine engagement, on the other hand, can neutralize a potential PR disaster and occasionally turn critics into fans.

For anyone involved in the crafting of social media strategy or customer engagement, “Attack of the Customers” should be high on your reading list.

Attack of the Customers on Amazon.com

‘What’s the Future of Business?’: A roadmap for the social business

whats-the-future of business?

What’s the Future of Business?: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences
By Brian Solis
214 pages, John Wiley & Sons (hardcover)

Brian Solis, a longtime friend and colleague, appeared at a Social Media Breakfast I co-hosted last year and wowed the attendees with a slide show and talk about the end of business as usual. Social is far more than a convenient channel for marketers to interact with customers, he said — to survive and thrive in today’s marketplace, companies need to become full-on social businesses.

“What’s the Future of Business?” beautifully lays out Brian’s vision in a stylized, highly visual package that could easily serve as a coffee table book.

Among the topics Brian touches on are branding, business transformation, disruptive technology, influence loops, engaging with empowered customers, four major stages of change, six pillars of social commerce, different strategies for dealing with Generations X, Y and Z, and much more.

For those baffled by the tectonic shifts confronting today’s businesses, “What’s the Future of Business?” offers an elegant primer that’s free of jargon but brimming with ideas, such as his taking us through the “hero’s journey” in becoming a business that engages with the public, informs its products with users’ insights and explores the various touchpoints that an individual might have with a company before becoming a customer. I was especially taken with the Zero Moment of Truth – the minutes just before a person buys, where impressions are shaped and brand affinity is forged.

“WTF” is a fun, chewy read, made doubly so by the original color drawings of Hugh MacLeod (another friend), whose contributions pepper the book from beginning to end. Add it to your summer reading list and take it in at a relaxed, languid, satisfying pace.

What’s the Future of Business? on Amazon.com


5 questions for the author of ‘Engage’ (Socialmedia.biz)

Review: ‘Social Marketing to the Business Customer’ (Socialmedia.biz)

8 books for your Summer Reading List (Socialmedia.biz)

Review of ‘Your Network Is Your Net Worth’ (Socialmedia.biz) JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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One thought on “‘Brand Advocates’: How to enlist armies of loyalists

  1. Thanks for featuring Rob’s book – it’s definitely something to keep on your desk to reference often. 

    Chelsea, Zuberance