Marketing is Dead and Customers are in Control: Mobilize Your Advocates!

brand advocatesWhen it comes to influencing purchases, the need for mobilizing brand advocates is fast outpacing the use for traditional approaches to marketing … at least according to two brand advocacy experts, Bill Lee, president of the Customer Reference Forum, Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, and author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset, and Rob Fuggetta, CEO and Founder of Zuberance, and author of Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force.

“Marketing is Dead” According to Bill Lee

I listened to a very thought-provoking podcast on Mitch Joel’s blog recently with Bill Lee, who wrote the very popular Harvard Business Review article at the end of 2012 entitled, “Marketing is Dead.” The claim is that traditional marketing—including advertising, public relations, branding, and corporate communications—is dead. (To be clear, the focus is not on the channels themselves being ineffective so much as the reasons behind why and how they’re currently being utilized.)

According to Lee, there is a very convincing shift that traditional marketing is becoming increasingly less relevant. CEOs far and wide have expressed their dismay with marketing’s return on investment, often citing the fact that marketing departments are not meeting the basic business objectives of the company or being able to clearly articulate efforts in terms of business value. And therein lies the need for identifying and mobilizing brand advocates.

Lee notes the following research, which strongly suggests a shift away from the need for traditional marketing:

  • According to Nielsen’s 2012 report on Global Trust in Advertising, the most trusted advertising source at 92% was “recommendations from peers.” The report found that traditional ads in magazines and on television were only half as trusted, and that ads on social networks ranked even lower.
  • Per a recent Gallup report on social media and marketing, the advice given on acquiring new customers was “to get your existing customers to engage their social networks on your behalf.”
  • A McKinsey report noted that a recommendation from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than some other low impact, non-peer recommendation.

Rather than trying to persuade buyers, Lee suggests that the focus should be on how to motivate your customers to persuade and influence your buyers by utilizing these four pillars of new marketing, as identified in the “Marketing is Dead” article:

  • Restore community marketing
  • Find customer influencers
  • Help them build social capital
  • Get Advocates involved in the solution

Out With the Old, In With the New: Advocates Are Your Most Valuable Customers

In a similar vein, I also recently listened to a podcast with Rob Fuggetta, who is not only the CEO and founder of the leading brand advocate platform company Zuberance, but who recently wrote the book, Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force. In this 2012 podcast with Douglas Carr from the Marketing Technology Blog, Fuggetta suggested first identifying, then finding, energizing, and mobilizing brand advocates to operate as a marketing force for your company.

Fuggetta cites the example of Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, which identified over 75,000 advocates by asking the question “how likely are you to recommend Rubio’s on a scale of 1-10?” For those who answered a 9 or 10, these customers were asked to do things like rate and review Rubio’s, share content etc. Based on this objective, there have been over 200,000 recommendations generated by Rubio’s advocates leading to thousands of referral clicks to their web site, sales from downloading coupons, etc.  leading to clearly measurable results for the business.

Similarly, below is a case study from Zuberance’s web site about how Intuit successfully identified and utilized their brand advocates as a sales force:

Specifically, Fuggetta notes that 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.

Tying it all together, Fuggetta recently hosted a webinar with none other than Robert Lee and Mitch Joel (which I ironically came across long after listening to these two separate podcasts) to discuss the question of whether or not marketing is dead. For more depth and background surrounding this topic, you can listen to that discussion and download the corresponding presentation here.

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