Tag Archives: Brand Advocates

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.

How to solve the content creation and reach problem?

This is crazy, he said. I could see the frustration on his face, that one thick vein which pulsated especially when he was stressed – How do we keep generating so much content, how do we make sure we’re on top of Google searches, how do we ensure that our content is relevant and is reaching the right audiences? Oh! One other thing, how do we ensure that this content marketing is done globally at low or no cost? He finally breathed after that really long non-stop barrage of questions…

The problem with content marketing is real and getting bigger by the day

There was 1 website in 1991 online and today we’re close to a billion. Note: This is just the number of websites not the content. The Indexed Web contains at least 3.32 billion pages (Thursday, 10 July, 2014).

There is upwards of 1.5 Billion pieces of content created on Facebook daily, Million plus videos added on YouTube daily.

Social media doesn’t make it easier

If you have a Facebook page you’ve got some interesting challenges less than 3% of your content is visible to people who have liked your page (3 percent reach is still better than nothing) and we know how difficult it is to create content which people like.

Summary of the content marketing problem

1. Create loads of relevant content

2. Ensure the content is found

3. Ensure that the content is relevant

4. Ensure it is reaching the right audiences

5. Deliver it at a low or no cost?

 

Is there a magic bullet?

You want it don’t you. Well, yes and no. It’s a technique which was in use from cave man times and is relevant even today. But it’s not a magic bullet, one shot doesn’t solve it. You need to work at it. If you’re willing? All the above five problems are easily solvable.

Yes that includes the low or no cost.

Brand Advocates

Brand advocates are your passionate customers. They are passionate about your brand and it’s products. They typically have a deep commitment to helping others, voluntarily sharing their passion.

Prepare to be amazed at what they can do for you.

Here is an example from Microsoft

imageFigure 1 Source Microsoft MVP Awards Program

The above is just a small snapshot of content created at low or no cost.

Do they do more?

What else do the brand advocates do?

Help improve your products – by participating as early adopters and sharing feedback.

Organizing community events around your products (Nearly 200 MVPs ran almost 10,000 events on SQL Server 2008 and virtualization around the world.)

Online Promotion and Virtual events – Proving the popularity of social media, U.S. MVPs used new social media spaces such as Facebook and Twitter to deliver 22 virtual sessions reaching thousands of people. In a tough economy, MVPs created an online, global version of PDC (Professional Developer Conference), enabling more people to attend virtually.

Customer Support – Together, they answer more than 10 million questions a year!

A variety of forms of relevant content

From content for offline events in terms of presentations, demos, to online events, across social media and directly reaching out and providing answers to other customer problems. Millions of pieces of content are being created by brand advocates.

It’s not just written content. It’s presentations, videos, demos, all possible types of content.

The best part is that the content usually has extremely high relevance. Most brand advocates create content about your product about areas that they might have expertise in, or on areas they find other customers are struggling with etc.

Reaching relevant audiences – The perfect referral engine

clip_image002The most important advantage of working with your brand advocates is the reach they provide. They’re already your customers and they are reaching out via their activities to other customers. It’s the perfect referral engine.

It’s not dependent on Google, or the ways it changes its search algorithms.

It’s not wasteful advertising.

 

Multiply your reach – The Network Effect

Leverage brand advocates networks 2

Each brand advocate who engages with you has their own independent network of connections and followers.

Each brand advocate you add to your network, multiples the reach of your content.

When you involve brand advocates in creating content for you or sharing your content, you have potential access to their networks.

The advantage is that their audiences are typically relevant and share the same interest as that of the brand advocate and helps increases your reach to relevant audiences.

Well these are big brand tactics it’s not relevant for the small biz, or is it?

Brand advocates are leveraged by not just big corporations but even small ones. You don’t have to have thousands of brand advocates, begin with one. Yes I’m serious, that’s how most of these large corporate brand advocacy programs began.

They didn’t at the outset have 1000s of brand advocates. For e.g. I remember when Microsoft started their Cloud offering of Azure, they initially had less than 50 brand advocates who were interested in it.

You could begin with just one. That one brand advocate can help reach out to their network thereby multiplying your reach tremendously.

What about the cost?

The benefits of content created and promoted by brand advocates far outweighs the costs of managing a brand advocacy program. As the above examples showed, brand advocate contributions benefit the organization in a lot of ways – Content creation, helping it reach relevant customers, helping support other customers etc. The low cost high benefit of having a brand advocacy program is just phenomenal.

The stress on his brow had reduced. He could now see how leveraging brand advocates could help in his content marketing goals. He smiled and was breathing easily, he did have more questions… about how to setup a brand advocacy program etc. (That might just be another article).

To Summarize

Content marketing is tough, you need to create a lot of content and ensure it reaches relevant audiences and this can be expensive. Brand advocates, your most passionate customers are the best way to enhance your content marketing efforts at low or no cost.

3 core concepts for a successful Digital content strategy

Have you ever sat on a chair with 2 legs, it’s going to be a quick crash boom landing if anything. Three legs is a minimum and ideal is four.

Your successful digital content strategy similarly depends on 3 crucial concepts, four if you consider the business objective.

Concept 1: The Customer Journey

Customers go through three different journeys with you. Attraction, Conversion and Consumption. And your content needs to address the customer needs in these stages.

Customer Journey v2.1

Attraction

In the attraction stage the content helps to get them know a little about your product or service.

Conversion

In conversion they either purchase or sign up to a list or subscribe for more information, the content enables them to undertake some kind of transaction not necessarily monetary with you.

Consumption

The consumption content on the other hand is designed to help them consume your product or service better.

Each of these 3 kinds of content is very different and serves a very definite purpose. One to enable awareness, the other to aid a transaction and the last to aid consumption.

You need to make sure that your content enables the customer journey.

Concept 2: Content Stickiness

Content Stickiness

We’re faced with a deluge of content each day. Most of it is boring, exhaustive and at times difficult to consume and remember. We typically forget 80% of a presentation in less than 24 hours.

Making content stick, memorable is critical. Without this even though your content might be good, it’s not really going to stick around in people’s minds. Creating sticky content is a planned activity.

Content stickiness can be achieved in a number of ways. One of the common ways is by creating a unique mascot which provides a distinct voice to your content and enables it to stick in people’s minds. The other is to provide content which directly address people’s problems. There are 7 different ways in which content can be created to make it more effective. By far visual content is the most effective in terms of making it easy to consume and remember.

Concept 3: Network Effect

The challenge with content production is that everyone is doing it, and standing out in the midst of all that content with your content is difficult. More so customer belief in corporate content tends to be low compared to recommendations by friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, others customers and even strangers (e.g. book reviews which one reads on sites like Amazon).

Moreover, you can’t do it alone, not all businesses are designed to be content production factories, and you’re never going to have enough budgets to produce the kind and volume of content you need.

Leverage Influencer and Partner Networks

Leveraging Social Media and Digital networks the right way – Brand Advocates, Partners (and their networks) – User Generated Content.

You need to leverage your brand advocates to create content. Brand Advocates, your most vocal customers and partners can not only create content for you also help you promote that content across their social networks. User generated content is by far the most powerful content. You truly leverage social networks when you leverage content created by corporate teams, employees, partners and brand advocates.

Leveraging other networks also means repurposing content in different formats (text, audio, images) and across different social networks.

Summary

In today’s landscape it’s necessary to create content which targets the different customer journey, is sticky and at the same time leverages user generated content with brand advocates, partners and employees and uses their networks to promote the content.

Like the 3 legs which are needed for a chair these 3 core concepts along with a clear business objective provide the solid base for a successful content strategy.