A Guest Post by Tyler Echevarria
Amplifinity Account Manager
Before working for Amplifinity, I worked in appliance sales. I quickly became a brand advocate for LG’s line of products. LG’s products boast a modern style and top-of-the-line features. I promoted their appliances to many customers, and referred friends to the brand when they asked.
At that time, a friend of mine was moving into her first home and needed to buy new appliances. I quickly recommended a top load LG washer and dryer set. Several months later, a family member asked me for recommendations for a refrigerator because theirs had gone on the fritz. Guess what brand I recommended?
I became a long-term brand advocate for LG, and to this day I recommend their products and services -- but here's the caveat: I make recommendations only when I know a friend or family member is about to purchase an appliance. In other words, I know what LG probably doesn't: I know when their prospective customers are in-market or ready to purchase. At Amplifinity, our clients who see the highest percentages of new customer acquisition, tend to view referral programs as a long-term piece of their marketing and advertising mix. Here's what we know:
1. Brand advocates who make multiple successful referrals, do so about every 3 months. When brands run Amplifinity’s software as short-term campaigns (1-3 months), advocates who would normally and eventually make successful referrals do not get a chance to do so as they would in a long-term program. And the brand loses out.
2. Friends know when friends are in-market. Just like my days in appliance sales, I knew when my friends and family were looking for new appliances long before the brand ever would have known; same applies to your B2B and B2C current customers and employees.
3. Friends' Referrals = Benefit for the Brand. Research, including that which comes from Amplifinity’s clients' referral programs, consistently proves that customers acquired through referrals from their friends spend more and are more loyal to your brand.
Short campaigns will increase traffic or encourage advocates to come back, but those campaigns need to be pieces of a larger, ongoing program. Brand advocacy solutions are faster, cheaper, and more effective than traditional customer acquisition methods, and our results prove it. So does the fact that when I see my old customers from my sales days, they thank me for their refrigerator that is still running as well today as the day they bought it.
As I was sitting in the locker room last week getting ready for my daily swim, the conversation turned to the inevitable at this time of year – the best and most conversation-worthy holiday gifts that my swimming mates and I received. There was talk about the new Galaxy Note, a PS3 video game, a multi-functional kitchen range from GE, and even a hot-off-the-line electric lawnmower. This same conversation was, and is, occurring between friends and acquaintances in every living room, every restaurant and on every social network at this time of year. Although social volume peaks during the holiday, it happens all year long; smart brands know it and are building strategic plans to harness it. They know they can’t leave it to chance anymore.
What strikes me most, though, is the palpability of these conversations and endorsements. My friends seemed to love the gifts they received – and they instinctively wanted to talk about them -- a lot. I became so intrigued by their endorsements of the Galaxy Note, that I had to go check it out (incidentally, The Note was very cool and it made me question the new Galaxy 3 my wife just bought me – but I didn’t tell her). These kinds of conversations – online and offline - are marketing gold.
We give this kind of marketing many names: brand advocacy, word-of-mouth, social advocacy, earned media, etc. Whatever we choose to call it, it is undeniable that the consumer decision-making process has changed and consumers, more often than not, are basing their purchases on what other consumers say. In a recent study almost 80% of potential buyers said that user generated content from existing customers had some influence on their decision to buy a specific product. Another cites that 41% of US adults consult online reviews as their source of ideas for holiday gifts*. Brands are coming to realize that they need to harness the power of their happy customers and proactively drive social advocacy – it is becoming critical to their success or failure as a company. Social marketing platforms that make it simple to generate, track and manage social behaviors are absolutely critical to a business - so conversations like the one I had in the locker room don’t become missed opportunities to build their brand, drive revenue, and create lasting customer relationships.
And they need to do it throughout the year - not just during the holiday season.
Richard Beedon is the Founder and CEO of Amplifinity
A hamster, a kind man with a very large vacuum, and a lost opportunity to generate a stellar company referral and some positive Word of Mouth (and all for free, no less). Take a look at Amplifinity's latest post on the totally revamped "All Things WOMM" blog (as well as website!).
We would like to hear whether you, as a consumer or brand, have ever missed out on a referral or endorsement opportunity. Tell us about it.
Amplifinity is proud to announce that we won the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's WOMMY People's Choice Award for our American Laser Skincare Case Study. Take a few minutes to read about our successful referral program, and view our video. Thank you to all who voted for our case study!
If you would like to find out more about how Amplifinity's platform is helping our clients build their brand advocate base, drive brand awareness, and increase revenue, contact us for a quick demo.
Brad Allan; Sales Associate at Amplifinity
The Woodward Dream Cruise: the largest one-day automotive event in the world, just outside of Detroit. Participants include 1.5+ million attendees and 40,000+ cars. Today’s cell phone technology with built-in cameras and mobile apps makes the Dream Cruise an ideal environment for auto marketers in the performance segments to connect with brand advocates and generate customers.
If you are a car person, you are most likely aware of this event. My lovely wife and I like cars, admittedly me more than her. We decided we needed to go to the last night of the “pre-cruise.” The pre-cruise is generally defined as the Tuesday-Friday nights before the actual cruise on Saturday morning. The Friday night pre-cruise has maybe half the cars and a tenth of the crowd. Not a bad combination.
As we were walking through the Chrysler display at the corner of 13 Mile and Woodward, I watched the cars driving by on Woodward and I heard my wife say (with feeling),” I want this!” “What is it?” I tell her that the object of her affection is the new Viper. The 2013 Viper SRT is sitting under a little tent partially surrounded by admirers.
I have some connection to this car’s earliest ancestors as my uncle was one of the managers in Chrysler’s prototype shop when this beast was first developed. My favorite story concerned the design of an EPA legal side exhaust that didn’t vaporize the skin on your calf when you tried to get out of the car! That took a few attempts to perfect.
The pre-cruise was a missed opportunity for Chrysler to connect with potential customers and brand advocates. It would have been easy for a Chrysler event marketer to give people a chance to have their picture taken with the car or to gather reactions to the new re-design. There were many Chrysler staff people on site as the display took up most of the shopping center-sized parking lot. This was also just 4 months after the re-designed Vipers’ debut at the New York Auto Show. At that point, not many people had seen this car up close. Chrysler could have offered a free app to incent people to share pictures and comments with friends and encourage them to stop by the display to see it themselves. It would have been easy to track them through to the purchase of a Viper or any Chrysler vehicle.
One-and-a-half million gear heads, all in the same place, on the same day. Missed opportunity!
Brad Allen; Sales Associate at Amplifinity
Most have what I refer to as a favorite "toy" (cars, boats, power tools, those lucky few with airplanes, motorcycles, etc.). This toy is the one thing you had to have, love to show off, and must talk about. For me, I love my lawn mower. This is a man/machine love all the way. Many of you get what I’m saying without explanation (all you John Deere fans), but for those that don’t, I’ll provide a little more detail.
My mower came to me from a friend, who I would describe as a car guy, who replaced the mower with a newer model. I referred to my old mower as the “Ferrari of Lawn Mowers,” although my sons did not agree. After consistent, tender loving care it would soldier on for 23 years. I witnessed its demise, and since there was no hope in repairing it due to the age and hours on the motor, it was time to go shopping.
I consulted many trusted sources like Consumer Reports, read online reviews, and talked to friends and family. After weeding through all my options, I finally found want I wanted! Less than $200 later, I was the proud owner of my new mower.
Of course, I had to try it out immediately. It started on the first pull. It weighed seemingly half of my old mower. The wheels easily adjusted. It was everything the brand promised and more. I was totally happy with my new “Ferrari.”
As a new brand advocate, I wanted to let all those out there know about this amazing lawnmower. Unfortunately, the manufacturer did not have any way for a customer to provide a customer review on their web site. Companies, just like this one, can create greater brand awareness by simply asking customers to write reviews and testimonials, and refer friends (who knows once someone sees your new toy they may want one of their own). A recent study from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy, found that online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising.
Why wouldn't every company ask their customers to write reviews? It just makes sense. It's also free marketing and advertising of the most trusted kind.
Did I get your attention? I hope so, because I loved this article in The Atlantic this month! Short and to the point, Frank Rose reports on a recent Harvard study that explores why people like to talk about themselves so damn much these days. Turns out, our brains really dig disclosing personal thoughts and opinions about, well, pretty much anything. We like it so much, in fact, that the act of sharing activates and engages our "mesolimbic dopamine system." Who knew?
Why does this matter to what we do at Amplifinity? Well, if people like to talk and share as much as this study suggests, (and as long as humans still get happy from eating and having sex), they're still going to be sharing thoughts about your brand and referring you business. And that means I have more job security than I thought.
Eric Jacobson; President and CFO at Amplifinity
There is a scene in Woody Allen’s classic film “Take The Money and Run” that always cracks me up. A prisoner working on a chain gang complains to the guards, and as punishment, he is locked up in the hole with an insurance salesman. The scene is funny because there was a time when the public perception of insurance agents was something painful -- that they maximize their revenue by telling clients all the awful things that might happen to them. Times have changed. I have referred a number of friends to my insurance agent, Matt, not because he feeds my paranoia, but because he offers excellent service and doesn’t sell me policies I don’t need. It’s all about trust.
Lately, we have been having more and more conversations here at Amplifinity with folks in the insurance industry. This is an exciting development for an industry that has been helping people to protect their assets and families for a long time. However, if you’ve seen any ads by insurance companies in the last decade, they seem to have a new problem on their hands. Ads are almost always about having the cheapest rates. This kind of price war erodes margins. And aggressive insurance agents, like Woody Allen’s cell mate, aren’t a good solution either.
But this is where word-of-mouth software can save the day. Software like the kind we sell here at Amplifinity lets happy customers at good companies create testimonials and referrals online. These good companies can now differentiate themselves by their service, not just their prices. Customer referral programs and testimonials, where customers share stories about agents who gave trustworthy service, or helped them with a claim amidst tragedy, aren’t just avoiding the industry’s price war… they are priceless.
Dan Pasick; Director of Corporate Sales at Amplifinity
If most companies today took a sample of 200 of their customers, it's probable that at least 10-20% percent of those customers would already be considered brand advocates. BUT, this pool of people has a lot of different swimmers in it, and it's important that companies know who they are.
Let me give you an overview. These people probably sound pretty familiar to you already...
Advocate Type #1 : Jack Spendal.
Jack is what we would call an uber-connecter. As a child, Jack was one of those kids who you really wanted to be friends with regardless of your gender, race, ethnicity or personality. Everyone knows a "Jack" (and probably knows him through some sort of '6 degrees of Jack Spendal separation’). It takes twice as long to get to your destination when accompanied by Jack because he is constantly running into people he knows, and he loves to talk about anything with them (work, clothes, sports etc). One of Jack's favorite topics is great deals...especially when there are incentives involved for both him and his friends. Jack doesn’t just limit his interactions to run-ins on the street; he likes to connect with friends via social media, text, email and any other form of communication. Even though Jack might be annoying to some, but he makes a pretty awesome brand advocate.
Advocate #2 : Kara Kowalski
Now, Kara is what we call a rave reviewer. As a child, Kara was that classmate who took 2 hours to fill out the teacher evaluation at the end of the year. Unlike Jack, Kara doesn’t like to refer deals to her friends, especially if she happens to be getting something out of it. Kara is the first person to write a thorough review about all the good and bad experiences she has had on sites such as Yelp, Consumer Reports, Twitter, and even a company’s Facebook fan page. For example, Kara recently went to a new restaurant that opened up in her home town. She had heard positive and negative things about this place but wanted to check it out on her own; she even brought her iPad along to take some notes. At first, the menu seemed a lot different than what she was used to, but she tried to keep an open mind. By the end of the meal Kara was raving about this restaurant. The food was unique but tasty, and the service was impeccable. As soon as she got home, she started writing reviews on her favorite social media sites. Since a lot of people were used to seeing and following Kara’s reviews, which were often more negative than positive, they were very interested in checking out the new restaurant that Kara actually
Advocate #3: James Jandeliker
James, on the other hand, is what we call a rapid re-poster. As a child, James was that kid who would let you play with his new toy before he'd even had a turn. As James grew older and technology was advancing, he began to realize all the different ways he could share cool things with his network. As an intern for GQ Magazine, James came across a lot of new styles of clothing and technology. His 2,000 Facebook friends and 10,000 Twitter followers were the (sometimes unwilling) recipients of every worthy re-post of an article, video, song or link James found interesting.
While every one of these types can give your brand a brand advocacy boost, the point is that you need to know them. You need to integrate a technology that makes it possible for you to know who your brand advocates are, where they talk about you, and what will make them talk even more. And then you need to nurture your relationship with them by thanking them for what they do and providing motivation for them to do more. They're as unique as your products, and they can make or break your brand, so take the time to get to know all your Jacks, Karas and James'.
Check out Dick Beedon's (Founder and CEO at Amplifinity) newest blog in All Things WOMM.
In Today's blog, Beedon digs a little deeper into just one of the ways a company can leverage their brand advocates to drive sales and marketing inititatives: Referrals.