What is Advocacy Marketing?
Advocacy marketing is a discipline for activating a brand’s advocates with unprecedented scale over the social Web. When advocacy marketing is enabled with digital techniques and advocate stories, then endorsements and recommendations are amplified to potentially millions of people, given the exponential nature of social networks. Advocacy marketing has been used effectively to acquire new customers but is now actively being used in loyalty and retention initiatives.
While often used interchangeably with the term advocate marketing, advocacy marketing tends to focus on the results generated from this type of marketing strategy — the advocacy. Advocacy marketing emphasizes the accumulated voice of as many advocates as possible.
source: Takashi Yamaoka
The use of Marketing used to support a particular message or cause. Unlike commercial advertising, advocacy advertising is considered to be undertaken in the interest of a group or the public, and typically does not promote a product or service. Funding for advocacy advertising can be through non-profit organizations, by corporations or private advocacy groups. Some governments require that organizations engaging in advocacy advertising clearly state how the funding is provided. An example of advocacy advertising is funding for cancer research. An organization may run paid advertisements on television in order to raise money through donations, and state that donations will be used to pay for drugs and treatments to combat cancer. This type of advertising is prevalent during major political elections, as various corporations and interest groups campaign for or against candidates.
How to position your business to attract advocates
These simple strategies can help any company encourage advocacy (and improve their business at the same time).
- Be Consistent: The company should strive to be as consistent as possible in all of its dealings. Customer support should answer questions within a set period of time. Products should be shipped within a certain number of days. The website should be available as much as possible. When customers know they can rely on a company to do things in a certain way, they're more likely to advocate for it—customers don't want to suggest things they believe other people won't like.
- Offer An Outstanding Experience: Customers make purchases and expect to get a certain degree of value from that purchase—and they ultimately judge companies by how well the product they get matches their expectations. By making them feel like they received more than they paid for, it's possible to create a better experience for the customer—and satisfied customers are inherently more likely to advocate for the company in the future.
- Build a Brand Narrative: Customers rarely advocate for companies they've forgotten. A strong brand narrative can help the customer remember who the company is and how it helped them—and making customers a part of the narrative encourages them to show loyalty to the brand.
What Makes a Successful Advocate Marketing Program?
Organizations need to build and operationalize a portfolio of best practices to create a successful advocate marketing program. Begin by including value drivers, such as recognition, personal causes, and rewards, for your advocates to motivate them and ensuring that your advocate marketing program delivers on those value points. Based on proven value drivers, develop your program with these components:
- Strategic plan—Specify the program’s objectives and goals, processes, and resources, including employees and budget, technology, and metrics.
- Program process and policies—Define recruitment and engagement strategies for the organization, recognition, and rewards for your advocates.
- Internal team organization—Identify an executive sponsor and two or more marketing team members who are accountable for specific activities.
- Technology and tools—Procure and install software to help grow and manage the program efficiently and communicate with advocates.
- Key performance metrics—Identify, capture, and track the data points that will help you measure what you manage to determine the business impact of your program. Track the number of advocates who are engaged; how they are engaged; and how their engagement impacts company revenue, influences search engine optimization (SEO), or expands visibility in the media.
Why Is Advocate Marketing Important? 
There are a number of reasons not to ignore potential of Advocate Marketing.
- Branding is becoming more critical: But the cost of achieving branding through traditional means – primarily image advertising – is prohibitive for most direct marketers. In Advocate Marketing, effective branding is done at virtually no cost on a one-to-one basis.
- To combat overwhelming clutter: There are 30,000 products on grocery shelves. Every medium carries advertising messages. The average person gets 600 pieces of promotional direct mail a year. And that’s the average person. Upscale targets are asked to wade through even more clutter. E-mail inboxes may be 10-12 times more cluttered than their snail mail counterparts.
- To overcome suspicion and cynicism: Even if you break through clutter, consumers are more and more suspicious of advertisers’ claims. As Kirshenbaum & Bond put it, consumers have developed highly sophisticated hype-detecting radar. Almost no advertising can get through it.
- Focus: Frederick F. Reichheld, author of the seminal The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits and Lasting Value, says “Building a highly loyal customer base cannot be done as an add-on. It must be integral to a company’s basic business strategy.” Another way to say this is: “Giving your customers something to brag about” is an objective that can carry your company a long way.
- Profits: Reichheld also says “The companies with the best retention rates also earn the best profits.” It generally costs 4-6 times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Advocates can outspend average customers 4:1. Multiply that out and you come to the conclusion that begetting Advocates can engender 16-24 times the profit of acquiring new customers.