How often do you check online reviews before dining out or booking a hotel room? If your answer is never, you’re probably 75 or older and think, “yelp!” is a sound a dog makes in anguish. As for the rest of us, we know that reviews are critical in influencing purchase decisions. So critical that a man even started a business around writing favorable book reviews called GettingBookReviews.com and charged $99 a pop. If you’ve ever thought about paying for inauthentic endorsements like this, you better pump the breaks because third party review sites are now making it as obvious as Snooki’s spray tan that you’ve invested in fake reviews.
Yelp recently created consumer alerts for business pages that remain for 90 days when they sniff out phony reviews. The alert reads the following: “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business. We weren’t fooled, but wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules.”
Similarly, TripAdvisor says they have “zero tolerance for fake reviews.” If they believe that a hotel review is contrived, they will remove the review, ensure that the property is penalized in the site’s rankings, and possibly even post a message alerting millions of travelers on what they’ve found.
Considering the clout online reviews hold in purchase behavior, it’s no surprise that some business owners feel compelled to invest in sham reviews:
70% of global consumers trust online reviews, an increase of 15 percent in four years (source: Nielsen).
80% of consumers change their mind after reading a single bad review (source: Cone Communications).
One negative review can cost you 30 customers (source: Convergys).
7 in 10 who read reviews share them with friends, family & colleagues thus amplifying their impact (Deloitte & Touche).
But here’s the bottom line: A few “positive” reviews won’t stop customers from continuing to complain about your crappy service or overcooked food. Instead of taking the easy (and sleazy) way out, listen to the concerns your customers are voicing and improve your business. Social media and third party review sites have put the power in the hands of the consumer. Forever. If companies don’t become customer-focused, customer-centric, customer-obsessed, they risk tarnishing their brand reputation and ultimately, losing their business.
How to Improve Online Ratings The Honest Way
The problem that many business owners face is that reviews on third party review sites might not legitimately reflect the satisfaction of their customers. Many know they have happy diners or guests; but as the saying goes, “Haters gonna hate.” Pissed off customers are sometimes more inclined to write a damaging review while the satisfied customers will recommend the restaurant or hotel at a cocktail party instead of putting their praise online.
Here’s the solution: Find those customers who are enthusiastic about your brand, product, or service (AKA your authentic Brand Advocates), and make it drop dead easy for them to write raving reviews.
Ask your customers via email, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, website, or elsewhere: “On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our brand to your friends?” Those who answer 9 or 10 are your Advocates.
Give Advocates online tools to rate and review your product or property and direct them to the relevant third party review site where they can publish their glowing review.
Whatever you do, don’t pay for reviews or recommendations of any sort. There is no longer room for businesses that don’t understand the importance of authenticity and transparency in the era of social media. Instead, tap into the enthusiasm of your highly satisfied customers and empower them to spread positive and/or fight negative word of mouth for you.
Facebook announced a new update this week called ”Nearby,” accessed via the Facebook mobile app: now, in addition to showing which friends have checked in at a particular place, Nearby helps people discover places near them based on their friends’ recommendations.
Seventy percent of consumers prefer to hear about new products from Facebook friends rather than brands, according to a new report by 8thBridge. Therefore, online retailers should incorporate social sharing into the commerce experience.
Facebook’s new privacy tools will make it easier for you to pick which of your friends or subscribers can view your personal info, status updates and photos, according to Reuters. It also makes it simpler for you to request that a photograph of yourself be taken down by the uploader.
A day after confirming it had lost the ability to display Instagram images, Twitter has rolled out its own library of retro filters for its Android and iPhone apps. The eight filters are the usual suspects we’ve come to expect from mobile photo apps, including desaturated, black and white and high contrast.
Everyone agrees that content is vital to marketing. But “feeding the content beast” is expensive and time consuming. According to a recent study from Curata, the top three challenges of content marketing are:
1. Creating original content
2. Having time to create content
3. Finding high-quality content
Well, here’s the good news: You have a secret content marketing weapon that will help you overcome all three of these obstacles. That weapon is your highly-satisfied customers, AKA your “Brand Advocates.”
Your Advocates will gladly create compelling content such as:
Highly positive reviews
Answers to prospects’ questions
Positive tweets, posts, and comments
Videos, photos, and other multimedia content
Advocate-generated content provides powerful benefits to your company and brand:
Amplify positive Word of Mouth and/or combat negative Word of Mouth
Increase online ratings on third party review sites such as Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.
Improve search engine rankings by putting fresh, relevant content on your site
And since Advocates are your most passionate and enthusiastic customers, you don’t have to motivate them with perks, coupons, or cash. So what’s the secret to getting Advocates to create compelling content for your brand? Download the whitepaper now to find out.
You’ll learn how to:
Find your Brand Advocates
Turn Advocates into content creating machines to support marketing initiatives
Leverage the authentic and compelling content your Advocates create
Watch the recordingby clicking the orange “Play” button in the player below.
You have a secret content marketing weapon: Brand Advocates. As your most loyal, engaged, and enthusiastic customers, they’ll gladly create positive reviews, glowing testimonials, and more. Unlike your high paid agency or in-house copywriter, you don’t have to pay them thousands or hundreds of thousands or dollars to create compelling content. Simply make it easy for Advocates and they will happily create fantastic and authentic content.
The top three content marketing challenges are creating original content, having time to create content, and creating high quality content. By turning Advocates into content creators, marketers can overcome all three of these obstacles.
Brand Advocates are highly satisfied customers who recommend a brand or product without pay or incentives. They recommend because they’ve had good experiences with a product or service and they want to help others.
Advocates will create various types of content including reviews, testimonials (stories), answers to prospects’ questions, positive tweets and posts, plus multimedia content such as pictures and videos.
Compared to brand content, Advocate content is more trusted and credible, more influential, and less expensive.
Advocate content sells products by boosting conversion rates, increasing time on websites and average order size, and influencing purchase decisions of prospective customers.
A critical part of a content marketing strategy that involves Brand Advocates is to leverage the content they create smartly. Brands should post Advocate-generated content on their websites, put it in the consumer purchase path, on social channels, on third party review sites, and more.
Rob Fuggetta is the world’s leading expert on brand advocacy. Fuggetta is the author of the ground-breaking new book, “Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force.”Published by John H. Wiley & Sons, Inc., a major business publisher, Brand Advocates shows how companies are leveraging Brand Advocates to build their brands and businesses – and how you can too! Fuggetta is the Founder & CEO of Zuberance, a social media marketing company that powers Brand Advocate programs for top consumer and business brands. Prior to founding Zuberance in 2008, Fuggetta was the Chief Marketing Officer at Genuity, a Verizon spin-out. He also was formerly a partner at Regis McKenna, Inc., the legendary high tech marketing and communications firm in Palo Alto, where he co-led the global Apple account.
No one wants coal in their stocking from their CEO. That’s why marketers spend vast time, money, and effort making Black Friday a great success. Approaching the holidays, brands typically pump up advertising, push promotions, discount products, etc. But if you want to hear a more innovative and cost-effective way to boost Black Friday sales, check out this sweet success story that leverages content marketing and brand advocacy.
After releasing a new version of their product, a software company wanted to get their customers to upgrade. Knowing that their customers are more effective salespeople, they got their Brand Advocates to create stories about the benefits of upgrading. These stories were sent to customers who hadn’t yet upgraded, coupled with an exclusive promotional offer. The result? A whopping68% sales conversion rate – about 50X higher than traditional online marketing conversion rates. (I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw up off the floor….)
It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. This is the mantra that leadership expert Simon Sinek has been spreading since 2009 when he released his book, “Start With Why.” Simon inspires business leaders to hire, sell to, and work with people who believe in what your business stands for, not what you sell. (If you haven’t watched his TedX talk yet, watch it now. It’s incredibly powerful.)
The concept of brand advocacy is heating up in social marketing arena. There are plenty of early adopters that have already implemented advocacy programs for their organizations. At Zuberance, brand advocacy is in our DNA. It’s our religion. It’s what we believe in. Here’s why we, and fellow marketing revolutionaries, believe in brand advocacy:
1. Creating and leveraging Advocates should be the #1 mission for every company. Marketing is no longer about impressions and clicks. It’s about building a movement around your brand and company, spearheaded by your Advocates. In short, advocacy is strategic.
2. People trust Advocates, not ads. Ninety-twopercent of people trust Word of Mouth. Only 53% trust companies’ websites and 33% trust online ads, says Nielsen. What customers say about you is much more important and influential than what you say about yourself.
3. Advocates are different than fans and followers. Most people like or follow a brand to get discounts or freebies, studies show. Advocates recommend because they want to help others, not because they’re getting coupons, cash, or points. Advocates are your most engaged, enthusiastic, and loyal customers.
4. Advocates are a large segment of your customer base. On average about 50 percent of customers are potential Advocates, according to research by Zuberance and others. If your company has one million end users, you may have 500,000 potential Advocates, a large, highly influential, and under-leveraged marketing force.
5. Advocates are your most valuable customers. Advocates are even more valuable than loyal customers. Many frequent fliers don’t recommend the airlines they fly. Advocates, on the other hand, boost your sales, help you keep customers, and defend your cherished brand reputation.
6. Advocate marketing should be authentic. True advocacy cannot be paid for or manufactured. It can only be earned. In fact, studies show paying people for recommendations actually decreases the likelihood that prospects will buy.
7. Advocates are more influential than “Influencers.”Influencers (professional bloggers, media, industry analysts, celebrities) have large audiences. But only 22% of people trust bloggers compared to 92% for Word of Mouth, says Nielsen. A positive blog post may cause a temporary spike in awareness or social chatter, but nothing is more influential, trusted, or lasting than authentic advocacy.
8. Advocate Marketing is more cost-effective than traditional marketing. Traditional online marketing programs generate less than 1% conversions. On average, Zuberance Advocate Marketing programs deliver 10% or higher conversion rates. A company could fund an ongoing Advocate Marketing program for an entire year for about the cost of two full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal.
9. Advocate Marketing should be an ongoing program. Advocate marketing isn’t a short-term promotion or campaign. Most marketers would never abandon efforts to build and cultivate relationships with influencers after a few weeks or months. The same should apply to Advocates.
10. Advocate Marketing is not only for “passion brands.” Advocate marketing programs are delivering compelling results in low-passion categories like anti-virus software, windshield repair services, file transfer and collaboration services, and more. Every company has Advocates. The key is making it easy for Advocates to recommend your company, brand, and products.
Are you a believer in the power of advocacy? If so, share your thoughts here.
First, what do we mean by an “energized Advocate?” This is a highly-satisfied customer that authentically recommends your brand, product, or service, whether it’s face-to-face, on social networks or third party review sites, via email, etc.
Advocates Deliver $567 Million for an Enterprise Software Company
In their book, Answering the Ultimate Question, How Net Promoter Can Transform Your Business, authors Richard Owen and Dr. Laura L. Brooks stated that, on average, each Advocate for an enterprise software company will bring in about one-half of a customer via referrals (the actual number was .54). The average customer spend within this industry is $1.05 million. In other words, 1,000 Advocates would bring in 540 new customers, generating a whopping $567 million for the company.
Each Advocate Brings You 3 New Customers
Using .54 as the base case for advocacy, we add 2.5 new customers. Why? There are four additional factors that were not accounted for in Owen and Brooks’ original estimate.
1. Advocates are highly effective “sales people.”
Living in the era of social media, we all know that people trust their peers more than advertising (92% vs 24% in fact, according to Nielsen). Plus, 89% of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions, according to the eTailing Group. Parallels, a desktop virtualization software company, got a stunning 30% sales conversion rate – about 60X higher than traditional online conversion rates – when Advocates shared offers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and via email.
2. Advocates are frequent recommenders.
In many high-interest categories like restaurants, travel and tourism, and media and entertainment, Advocates refer many more than four prospects. (This was the assumption in the Owen and Brooks analysis.) For example, think about the incredible hotel you stayed at during your recent trip to New York and how many friends and colleagues you raved to afterwards. In fact, 28% of Brand Advocates recommend their favorite brands and products once weekly (source: Three Surprising Facts About Brand Advocates, Zuberance).
4. Empowered by social media, Advocates reach thousands of prospects.
Since Owen and Brooks conducted their study in 2008, the adoption and use of social media has skyrocketed. Facebook’s Paul Adams states in his book, Grouped, that one Advocate recommendation reaches 10,000 people if it’s passed along only three times.
Depending on the size of your Advocate army and customer lifetime value, energizing your brand’s Advocates may boost several millions of dollars in sales. And since you don’t need to pay authentic advocates, the cost of acquiring customers via advocacy is dramatically less – about 50 percent less in many cases – compared to traditional marketing programs like paid media advertising. Now is the time to turn your Advocates into powerful and inexpensive customer acquisition machines.
Watch the recordingby clicking the orange “Play” button in the player below.
Marketing author Bill Lee triggered a firestorm of controversy when he declared recently in a provocative Harvard Business Review blog post that traditional marketing – including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications – is dead.
What do you think? Is it time to sound the death knell for traditional marketing? Is traditional marketing still alive and well? Are paid, owned, and earned media merging?
Traditional marketing- including advertising, public relations, branding, and corporate communications- is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.
The way that marketing is perceived by customers has dramatically changed. Buyers aren’t paying attention. They’re increasingly doing research on their own through online resources and social media before ever engaging with your brand.
According to a Corporate Executive Board study, 57% B2B customers buying decisions are complete before they engage with the supplier. By then, they don’t need to consult with any sales people. Instead they want to know what their peers and other customers think of the company.
CEO’s have lost all patience with CMO’s. 73% say CMO’s lack credibility and ability to generate sufficient business growth. 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it all will generate increased business. 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.
The traditional marketing approach to marketing and sales doesn’t make sense especially in today’s connected world. Employees, consultants, partners, etc don’t come from the buyer’s world and they don’t share the buyer’s interest. This is not a promising arrangement to persuade people. Social media makes it easy for prospects to connect with buyers.
Stop trying to persuade buyers. Get skilled at getting your customers to persuade and influence your buyers using four pillars of new marketing:
Marketing (which encompasses everything from product, price, place, promotion) is not only alive and well, it’s core to a business’ success. In short, marketing isn’t dead. Marketing is everything.
Everything is with, not instead of. While some things might become antiquated or less powerful, they’re still very relevant.
Some brands in the pharmaceutical or finance industry, for example, have to live in the domain of creating a level of persuasion because they’re regulated by law or have products that have incremental difference to their competitors.
Advertising is not dying. In fact, it’s not on life support, it’s not sick, and it probably doesn’t have the sniffles.
Just because you trust your peers more than advertising, doesn’t mean you can’t see an ad. I don’t need peer reviews to decide to switch toilet paper. Some brands need to put the message into the general zeitgeist of the world that their product now has variance on it- it’s now on sale or has a new feature.
Brand advocacy programs are absolutely critical. However, the challenge we face is that if they’re successful, it takes a lot of work. It’s the difference between dropping a bomb and doing hand to hand combat door to door. Brands must be prepared for the success that will come with engaging Advocates.
If you want to inform a large audience about your brand, advertising is still very much alive (as is marketing, thank you very much). Saying that marketing is dead is like saying that product development is dead and that branding is dead. It may get a lot of clicks, but there’s no substance or truth behind it.
Bill is the President of Customer Reference Forum and Executive Director of The Summit on Customer Engagement. For the last nine years, his conferences have drawn leading customer engagement and advocacy practitioners from top global firms as well as dynamic smaller firms. In addition to its widely respected conferences, Bill and his team at Lee Consulting Group provide workshops, consulting, research and other educational and community building services to help clients reinvent customer relationships and achieve dramatic growth. Bill is the author The Hidden Wealth of Customers (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2012), which has been featured in Forbes Online, Fast Company Online, Marketing Magnified (CMO Council), CRM Magazine and other publications.
Mitch Joel is President of Twist Image – an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency (although he prefers the title, Media Hacker) and author of Six Pixels of Separation (Business Plus, 2009). He has been called a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert and community leader. He is also a Blogger, Podcaster, passionate entrepreneur and speaker who connects with people worldwide by sharing his marketing insights on digital marketing and new media. In 2008, Mitch was named Canada’s Most Influential Male in Social Media, one of the top 100 online marketers in the world, and was awarded the highly prestigious Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. Most recently, Mitch was named one of iMedia’s 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators in the world. His next book, CTRL ALT DEL will be published in May 2013.
Rob Fuggetta is the world’s leading expert on brand advocacy. Fuggetta is the author of the ground-breaking new book, Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force. Published by John H. Wiley & Sons, Inc., a major business publisher, Brand Advocates shows how companies are leveraging Brand Advocates to build their brands and businesses – and how you can too! Fuggetta is the Founder & CEO of Zuberance, a social media marketing company that powers Brand Advocate programs for top consumer and business brands. Prior to founding Zuberance in 2008, Fuggetta was the Chief Marketing Officer at Genuity, a Verizon spin-out. He also was formerly a partner at Regis McKenna, Inc., the legendary high tech marketing and communications firm in Palo Alto, where he co-led the global Apple account.
We’re in the era of the connected consumer. Every marketer understands this by now (and if they don’t, their customer base will soon look like a ghost town). However, as we’re running marketing programs day to day, it’s easy to forget just how much consumers rely on each other for purchase advice and the importance of online brand reputation.
Here are 10 facts that are sure to give you a frightening reminder!