Advocate Marketing, Disruption & Trends to Watch [Interview]

by 1 05/06/2014

In the first part of this interview, Mark Organ, CEO of Influitive, introduced us to the company and advocate marketing. Today, he talks more about marketing in general.

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Mark, what’s the difference between advocate marketing and influencer marketing?

They are sometimes used interchangeably and I think that’s a real mistake. There’s more than a shade of difference between them.

[Advocating is being] very clear that you like a product. That’s different from being an influencer, which is where reputation and impartiality are considered to be important.

An industry analyst would be a classic influencer. That analyst is not going to want to shill for any company. They do want to appear to be quite intelligent and well rounded and considered about the kinds of products that they recommend, but they are careful not to go completely overboard on a particular product or company.

[Advocates and influencers] are both important. One of my sayings is that you need both intellectuals and partisans to cause a revolution.

Think about the American Revolution. You had all those people in the Tea Party throwing tea overboard—those people were absolutely partisan—but you also had writers like Thomas Paine who were very influential and were able to really mobilize the masses with the power of their pen. You need both, and they’re actually quite synergistic.

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We found that influencers are very much influenceable, so if you were to get a few advocates to go and comment on an influencer’s blog, I think you’d find that you could influence that influencer quite effectively through those blog comments.

Influencers want to understand what the masses are doing and thinking. At the same time, advocates often get their direction from intellectuals, from the influencers. When someone who is known to be very knowledgeable writes powerfully about an idea and that idea carries some weight, then they increase their fervor.

We do a lot of both and we advocate for our customers to do both. You need to understand who’s influential in your space but that’s not enough. If you don’t mobilize the masses, you simply don’t get the volume of materials that you need in order to be effective.

How does disruptive technology affect marketing?

The notion of disruption is when you have technology that is often perceived as a toy in the beginning and is only relevant to a subset of the market or a population—but, because of underlying trends, eventually the whole market ends up taking it over.

Can you give some examples?

The blog itself was quite disruptive—the idea that you could publish anything you wanted whenever you wanted and didn’t need to be an accredited member of the Royal Society of Writers was a remarkable thing. Then Twitter came along and that took off too; now you’ve got Snapchat where you can write things that disappear in nine seconds.

My last big company, Eloqua, was born out of the disruption that the Web was creating for marketers who were used to working with direct mail, the telephone, billboards and television. We just surfed this wave of disruption that was caused by the move of buyers to the Web and of email as the primary place where they wanted to hang out.

At Influitive we’re surfing another wave along the social Web.

The social Web is changing buying habits and buyers are not responding to email anywhere like they used to. There are much better and more interesting places for them to spend time than the home page of some company. They want to interact with their social peers and have people who really know what they’re doing recommend products and services to them.

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Image: Yoel Ben Avraham

How does understanding this process help marketers?

Marketers need to understand what’s happening with technology disruption if they want to have outsized returns, if they want to be great marketers.

The key thing is to understand how technology is changing the way buyers are behaving because ultimately marketers need to be where the buyers are and to be using those channels that are influential on buyers.

By understanding technology disruption, marketers may be able to access new markets much less expensively and with much less risk than they have ever done before.

What trends should marketers be watching?

If I were a marketer today, I’d be looking at the social Web; I’d be trying to understand how big data is going to change buyer behavior. When you have richer data about customers and prospects and users the ability to use that effectively is going to be very important in the way that we go to market in ways that we may not even fully understand right now.

There will be another change as well. It’s still early in respect to mobile marketing, but you are going to see more changes as that fully plays out. [With mobile] your customers and prospects are walking around with a digital version of themselves. This needs to change the way we go to market, particularly for us as software companies.

[In addition], some of the most disruptive trends in consumer marketing in the past two or three years are coming from marketers that are owning the experience from end to end.

Think about Uber and how they have redesigned the experience of hailing a cab. I’m a customer of Kiwi Crate, which delivers these amazing arts and crafts for me to play with my daughter and that’s some of the best father-daughter time that we have. Kiwi crate has completely redesigned from end to end the experience of playing with your child, and they don’t leave anything to chance.

From top to bottom, the entire purchasing experience, the entire user experience, is being managed. You’re going to see that more and more in B2B, where marketers will need to speak the language of user experience and need to understand the tools of user and customer experience.

I think that those trends will decide who are going to be the big winners in the next few years. Those on the right side of those trends are going to do very well.

What are the main issues with marketing strategies now?

There are a couple of big trends right now in marketing. Probably the biggest one is content marketing. That has been well articulated as the thing that’s going to save us from all this interruption marketing.

I find this interesting because Hubspot has done a great job of branding themselves as the inbound marketing company—I think a lot of their business actually comes from interrupting people with email. I’m not sure how they’re dealing with that dichotomy.

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Image: Ingrid Archer

I think the biggest problem with a lot of inbound marketing and content marketing is that most of the content created is really a bunch of garbage. And there are so many companies doing [this, and] there’s so much noise out there created by crap content and even by good content, it’s very difficult to get past the relevance filter of buyers.

I’m just inundated with stuff: not just email; even my social feeds are cluttered. I think that’s true of a lot of people. A lot of people are feeling stressed out over social media, and the way that they’re dealing with that is by trying to identify what is relevant to them.

How do marketing strategies need to change?

The way to fix the inbound problem is to marry it with an advocate program, so you use the power of advocates to your advantage to get through that filter, so prospective buyers really pay attention.

I think you’ll see a lot of companies that are investing in inbound marketing are also going to marry that up with a more organized advocate program and not leave it to chance, which is what’s largely happening today.

Almost every company that we know of, even the local coffee shop, has some sort of an advocate program. They are not going to call it that, but they may have a “refer a friend” sort of thing.

Most companies have some way to go and get customer stories and referrals and set up reference calls to take business. It’s just a matter of how organized they are at it and how seriously they take that process. Do they need analytics to make it all work if it’s a serious process? Do they have integrated with the processes in customer success.

Our theory is that companies are going to start taking this sort of thing a lot more seriously because this is the way the buyers want to buy now. They want to be surrounded by their peers, not by messages from marketing. That’s the big thing on inbound.

There’s still a lot of outbound marketing going on. Those are increasingly being ignored. A lot of email nurturing is really marketing department nurturing which is increasingly less effective.

On the outbound side I think advocates can provide a better experience as well. A number of customers are putting a button in their emails that says, “Do you want to interact with one of your knowledgeable peers? Click here and we’ll connect you with one of our happy customers that are just like you.” This provides a much better experience for those prospects.

Read other Crazy Egg posts by Sharon Hurley Hall.

About 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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