Category Archives: Brand Advocate

How to build your brand advocacy program?

Can you imagine constructing a 20 storey building without a blueprint?

Who needs a blueprint

Obviously not! However, most people go off building a brand advocacy program which might involve thousands of brand advocates just like that!

What is a framework?

The basic structure of something : a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something

The RIDE Framework

The RIDE framework helps you define a brand advocacy program that is unique to your organization. It contains a set of ideas which will help provide the necessary support for your brand advocacy initiative.

It provides a systematic approach to to creating a brand advocacy program.

Why use the RIDE framework?

Most organizations have their own ways of doing things and culture. The RIDE framework provides a  system that you can use and is flexible allowing you you to prioritize based on your situation and company.

What are the Components of the R.I.D.E framework?

It helps you think about the essential pieces which are needed for any successful brand advocacy program.

  • Rewards and Recognition – What’s in it for the brand advocates how are you going to provide them recognition
  • Impact Measurement – What’s the program doing for you, is it helping the organization
  • Discovery – Where and how do you find and discover your brand advocates
  • The 3 E’s – How to Evangelize, Empower and Engage your brand advocates

The hidden step 1 – Define your business objective?

There is a first step in creating your brand advocacy program. It’s about determining why you need it, how it’s going to help the organization. This is often the most critical part. Having a clear business objective ensures long term success of the advocacy program.

RIDE - The Brand Advocacy Framework

Is there a step 0?

Yes. Listening. Often the best way to think about your program, is to start by first listening to the conversations, and examining the content put out by your brand advocates.

More often that not this will help you to get important nuggets proving the necessity of the program. It gives great insight into the needs and issues faced by your customer and helps you see how your brand advocates are filling in gaps which you might not be addressing correctly.

Just like you can’t go about constructing a 20 storey building without a blueprint, the RIDE framework helps you to think through the essential elements necessary for a successful brand advocacy program.

Get started now

Video: How to build a brand advocacy program – Video covers the RIDE framework
Book: Brand Advocacy Book

How to reduce customer support costs the easy way: Brand Advocates

How to leverage brand advocates to reduce your customer support costs?

Customer Support

Within 48 hours of the Windows 10 launch, he provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10 – he was not an employee of Microsoft, he was a passionate brand advocate part of Microsoft’s Brand Advocacy program. (Source).

It’s mind boggling when you think in terms of the customer support cost savings due to just one of these passionate brand advocates. Microsoft currently has approximately 3000 such brand advocates in just one of their advocacy programs. They have many such brand advocacy programs.

Customer Support

Traditionally it used to be the call center where people dial-in and ask their questions, that’s how customer support was provided. It is still the same way many organizations operate.

To reduce the cost of customer support one needs to really embrace the self-service era.

The Self-Service Era

In the Internet/Digital era, people access online support forums, read blogs, attend webcasts, chat with experts maybe over Twitter, raise questions on community sites or via Q&A sites like Quora etc.

Content to Support Customers

In order to meet the needs of this digital era audience one would need to do some or all of the below items:

  • Create tons of content in a variety of formats (Blogs, Presentations, Podcasts, Webcasts…)
  • Establish Support Forums, User Groups/ Communities
  • Enable interactions with Experts

The hard way

The difficult way of going about creating these interactions is by creating all the content yourself.

The easy way

The easy way is to leverage the power of already existing passionate brand advocates in addition to your corporate initiatives. In fact creating a brand advocacy program which fuels these brand advocates should be a corporate initiative.

Examples

When Microsoft was planning it’s Windows 10 product, it took the path of involving it’s most passionate customers. It publicly launched an advocacy program inviting thousands of it’s customers to participate –

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

– Source blogs.windows.com

They were looking for people who’re vocal in terms of providing feedback to the company. In exchange they provided them early access, this ensured that they got a bunch of motivated experts on the product much before the actual product launch.

What would these experts do? (Besides providing feedback to Microsoft) They would share their expertise with others.

What were the steps they took:

  • Invited people to get early access
  • Took their feedback (Improved their product in the bargain)
  • Got a bunch of motivated experts who naturally evolved to helping solve customer queries

That’s exactly what happened with the person who provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10. He was a passionate brand advocate who was involved with the program, partly due to his passion and interest and because Microsoft created a program and platform enabling him and others like him to participate.

Create a platform for brand advocates to engage with you and your customers

As an organization they provided a platform for brand advocates to actively engage and support other customers. http://answers.microsoft.com/

Here you will find that customer queries are answered by a whole host of enthused brand advocates.

The platform enables Microsoft to highlight the top brand advocates as well, based on other customer feedback.

(Badges are awarded for being an active contributor and awesome community member. Over time, good contributors earn a variety of badges.)

But…Will a third party individual know more about my products than my employed customer support personnel?

Surprisingly yes. More often than not I’ve seen brand advocates who’re passionate about a product sticking around to using that product for a much longer time than the employee sticking around in the company. Their passion and sticking around help them often gain far more mastery of the product than the typical customer support executive.

However, there is an easy fix to this problem, where the community itself helps in regulating inefficient responses which are a reality.

What if these brand advocates provide faulty or incorrect information?

One simple fix to this problem is to allow the customers to rate the responses.

For instance on the Microsoft Community Support site users can rate if they found a response helpful.

Community Indicates Usefulness

Start Small

If you’ve not yet started down this path i.e. you don’t have an advocacy program in place, start small.

Pick one activity which will help you go down the path to providing support to other customers.

Whether it’s inviting your brand advocates to contribute content(blogs, presentations etc.), or inviting them to test a product, or establish a support forum or a group on social media, and enable interactions with brand advocates. (Simultaneously work on creating your own brand advocacy program.)

The small wins will help you get the necessary corporate support to evolve a larger program resulting in much larger cost savings in customer support.

I would love to hear from you if you have stories on how Brand Advocates have helped other customers. Do share in the comments below.

Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program – New Brand Advocacy program

Learn how Microsoft rolls out it’s largest brand advocacy program ever, the Windows Insider Program. I’ll be sharing lessons from their launch of this new brand advocacy program.

The Announcement

First the announcement itself, it’s a pre-sell:

Microsoft is launching the Windows Insider Program tomorrow.

The Windows Insider Program, where PC experts and IT Pros can get access to a technical preview of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops. Soon after, we’ll also be releasing technical previews of Windows Server and our management tools.

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

The Windows Insider Program is intended for PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality. Insiders will receive a steady stream of early builds from us with the latest features we’re experimenting with.

– Source blogs.windows.com

The barrier

They’ve clearly demarcated the target customers:

For PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality.

 

Learn about why you need barriers for a successful brand advocacy program.

The introduction to the program

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-coming-soon

The Introductory Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84NI5fjTfpQ

In-depth

Let me quickly run you through the main points of the upcoming insider program. I’ve included below a small transcript of the video on the page http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-coming-soon (Words in maroon are my comments.)

Windows Insider Program

We’ve designed the Tech Preview so you can see what we’re building as we’re building it and tell us what you think.

(Here they’re telling the potential brand advocates what they are going to get: A ring side view to how they are building the next version of their software.)

We hope to involve tech enthusiasts like you in our software development process over the next several months so that your feedback becomes part of the next version of Windows.

(You get a chance to see your feedback incorporated into the product, they’re Empowering you and enabling you to co-create with them.)

The tech preview is meant for PC experts who are comfortable downloading unfinished software.

(The are putting in place the requisite barriers to entry to ensure they have appropriate brand advocates.)

The first step which you might have already done is to download and install the Tech Preview…. (abbreviated)

But we’ll be updating it regularly.

As a Windows Insider, you’ll get two benefits.

  • You’ll get more frequent updates with earlier but less polished software and
  • You’ll have access to the Windows Feedback app from which you can send us comments directly.

(Clearly articulated benefits, early access and a way to communicate with the team.)

……… (abbreviated)

But one thing’s for sure: by signing up, you’ll be the first to take all of the new features out for a test drive.

—- followed by demo

And one of the areas where we’re looking for feedback in the Tech Preview is multitasking.

(Specific guidance as to where they need help from brand advocates.)

—- Followed by demo of multitasking features.

Sign up for the Tech preview at http://preview.windows.com

(Distinct microsite for this brand advocacy program which is separate from their other brand advocacy programs. A.k.a. Segmentation.)

Analysis and Comments

This is a perfect example of the RIDE framework in place to create a brand advocacy program.

First the Big O: They’ve identified their objectives:

Business Objective

1. To get early participation from target customers,

2. Get product tested

3. Enable massive word of mouth marketing even before the product is launched.

Rewards and Recognition:

Recognition and Reward

1. They’ve promised early and frequent product updates to the brand advocates.

2. Providing early access ensures their partners and advocates have a lead over the rest of the market. That in itself is a huge reward as they get hands on with the product and a chance to be experts before others.

3. The program name itself is a recognition, if you’re selected you’re in the Windows Insider Program. For some this in itself is a reward and recognition.

Impact

Impact Measurement

The direct impact from this program is going to be multi-fold.

1. Innovation and Testing – Ideas from the field, their very customers giving direct feedback.

2. Word of Mouth Marketing – This brand advocacy program is going to lead to massive amount of word of mouth marketing for Microsoft, with customers speaking on social media, forums, blogs, articles, video demos etc. Each brand advocate in some way or the other whether in person or online is going to be speaking about this to someone else.

Discover  – Identification of Brand Advocates

Discover Brand Advocates

1. PC experts who are comfortable downloading unfinished software

The 3 E’s – Evangelize, Empower and Engage

Engagement

1. They are empowering their brand advocates by promising them early access.

2. They are giving access to the Windows Feedback app from which you can send comments directly to them, thereby empowering and engaging with them.

They’ve beautifully ensured empowering and engaging, and I’m sure they have a plan to evangelize their brand advocates too.

The above is a good example of putting in place the RIDE framework.

You can learn more about it in my brand advocacy book which covers how software product companies can implement a brand advocacy program using RIDE, the 5 step brand advocacy framework.

RIDE Framework - 5 steps to building a brand advocacy program

What do you think about how they are rolling this out?

Do you think they will have a large number of participants?

Do share in the comments below.