Brands tend to get all starry-eyed about influencers, vying to get the attention of celebrities and Instagram stars for our 15 minutes of social media fame. But sometimes it’s the little guy, or thousands of little guys, who have the strongest influence on your brand’s identity, and revenue.
As outdoor and resort marketers, we’re acutely aware of how powerful brand advocates can be when they sing our praises. These are the people who post online reviews, provide product advice and discuss your brand with other enthusiasts online communities — not because you pay them to, but because they believe in your product or service.
What motivates a brand advocate?
But just because an advocate mentions you doesn’t mean he or she is a loyal consumer of your brand. So why do advocates go out of their way to talk about a product or experience? Their motivations are complex. They may be loyal customers. Others like to appear as authorities; they like to share information with their community. Or they may advocate for your brand because it represents their values or a cause they support.
That said, many advocates are also your best customers. Research summarized by BarnRaisers notes that advocates spend three times more than average customers during their lifetime relationship with a brand. Every time an advocate promotes a product or service, he or she reaches an average of 150 people. And 92% of consumers are inclined to trust brand advocates. Those are some pretty convincing metrics.
How advocates are central to the consumer decision journey
In case you’re new to this blog, the consumer decision journey describes the seven phases a potential customer goes through before and after making a purchase. At almost every phase of this journey, your brand advocates are key to facilitating the decision making process.
The consumer decision journey is not necessarily linear. Thanks in part to user behaviour on mobile devices, consumers tend to jump from phase to phase, consuming content, engaging with one another, and triggering micro conversions as they go along. This means your advocates are also your consumers at various stages in the journey; the same person jumps in a non-linear fashion, from consideration, to sharing, purchasing to advocating.
Let’s take a closer look at how consumers as advocates can can influence each step of the consumer decision journey as it relates to the resort and outdoor industry.
Dreaming: consumers imagine themselves enjoying a new product or experience.
Advocates facilitate the Dreaming phase by telling stories, sharing videos and photos of their vacations or purchases. For example, a traveller may post an instagram photo of a new piece of outdoor gear and explain how this product made her vacation better.
Researching: a consumer wants to know if his or her dream is realistic
Advocates are central to the researching phase, when a consumer is gathering logistical information about a purchase decision. Depending on the product or service, some advocates (for example, gearheads) can post a considerable amount of helpful information about a product’s features and functionality.
Validating: consumers verify that they are making the right decision
The Validation phase is all about consuming advocate content. This is when potential customers ask their friends for opinions and seek out reviews on third-party websites. For example, prior to booking a vacation at a resort, a potential guest will read reviews or ask questions on an online forum. Advocates provide the answers.
Booking/ Buying: consumers make a purchase
The conversion — a booking or purchase — is by no means the end of this journey. After the purchase, the consumer continues to influence other potential consumers based on the quality of his or her experience.
Experiencing: a consumer is in the midst of enjoying your product or service.
Advocates are forming impressions and generating content during this phase. From exploring a resort to testing out new gear and apparel, advocates like to create and share content while they’re in the midst of a new experience.
Advocating: consumers share content and post productive reviews.
After the experience, true advocates get to work telling their stories and making suggestions on review sites and forums. Advocate feedback can come at any time after an experience, randomly in response to content and questions posted in an advocate’s community.
Bonding: Consumers make repeat purchases and consistently engage with a brand.
This is where fans, loyalists and advocates bond with a brand, each in their own way. A fan will simply engage and follow; a loyalist will engage and make repeat purchases; and an advocate will create and share content. Inspired advocacy will result in more consumers bonding with your brand.
The astonishing power of advocacy.
Regardless of what motivates an advocate, it’s a good idea to nurture and keep your community happy. Not only is advocacy free publicity, it’s the best kind of publicity — people are endorsing your brand for the simple reason that they find it beneficial to themselves and their community. Everybody wins.