Advocacy is a hot topic in marketing circles not least because social networks have increased the speed and spread of advocacy effects. Company reputations are built more rapidly and eroded even faster. Pockets of ignorance, which buffered companies in the past, are dwindling. A whole new branch of marketing is emerging – social media marketing. At its core are well understood principles of advocacy and loyalty.
Advocacy is so powerful, it can be used as a leading indicator of sales, as shown in Marsden, Samson & Upton’s 2005 paper, “Advocacy Drives Growth“. Using a survey of UK adult consumers, they found that a 2% reduction in negative word of mouth correlated with just under 1% growth in sales, whilst a 7% increase in word of mouth advocacy correlated with a 1% growth in sales. Perhaps companies should put over 3 times the resource in trying to satisfy the unhappy as they do in making those who are satisfied, happier. The squeaky wheel gets the oil should be the operative phrase.
With social networks, squeaky wheels are amplified, but only heard by corporates if their ears are tuned to multiple frequencies. A watchful ear to social media wires isn’t enough. Honest conversation over a variety of media is required. In B2B, that often means frequent, in depth, probing conversations with channel partners, something that can’t be derived from a web survey that bounds and stifles conversation. Ask the question, pioneered by Fred Reichheld, “How likely would you be to recommend…?” in such a way that you get an honest answer from a partner. Then ask them why they said that.