Advocacy Marketing is based on the principle that you are far more likely to be influenced by someone you trust than someone you don’t. This is commonsense logic, to the point of being obvious.
Like everything that digital has touched, marketing has changed dramatically. Consumers now have way more outlets to find out about a company, its mission, and its products. We used to get this information from the company itself, in the form of ads. We didn’t trust marketers to be impartial, but it was the primary source of information about a product.
Retailers helped with that. A good salesperson could help you decide between two or more similar products. We didn’t fully trust the salesperson either, because she was not exactly impartial. After all, she was paid to sell you something, often with incentives to influence what and even how she sold.
Spokespersons were effective. Actors and athletes traded some of their trust capital to convince you that if it was good enough for them, then certainly it was good enough for you, too. These folks are paid for the power of their trust capital, so while we might pay attention, we certainly don’t trust them fully either. We understand that it’s a transaction.
None of these strategies are as effective as they once were. Easy access to information changed everything. Platforms connected consumers with one another. The result? We turned a large portion of our attention to our peers, and stopped listening to those we don’t trust.
This is a huge shift. Old methods are no longer effective. You’re shouting at an audience that’s no longer listening. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort.
Enter Advocacy Marketing. How do you encourage and empower people to influence their peers? How do you make them do it because they want to, not because they are paid to?
- Create a remarkable product. If you haven’t done that, forget about advocacy marketing right now. It will never work.
- Tell a story. People buy stories from you, sometimes more so than the product or service itself.
- Create sharable content. If people are going to share your story for you, help them with good content.
- Reduce friction. Make it easy to share. Provide lots of outlets, remove barriers, and shorten the decision path.
Advocacy Marketing can be difficult. You have to influence people to take an action on your behalf—because they want to, not because they have to. You can’t pay for this; you have to earn it by doing all the things above.
Advocacy Marketing comes from a genuine place. It involves an activity that would have happened even if you weren’t there. All you can do is help shape the message and guide its flow. Try to control it, and it will fall apart.
Advocacy Marketing requires trust. You have to cede control to your audience, which runs contrary to the instincts instilled from a century of industrialized business.
If you succeed, your army of marketers will spend their own trust capital on you—because it “buys” them an association with you and your brand. Remember that they do it for themselves—not for you. You make them look better. If you do that really well, they will help you not just willingly, but enthusiastically.