The thought leader. The maverick. The trailblazer. It occurred to me a few years ago that being an early adopter or someone who is pushing the boundaries can be a lonely and sometimes perilous position.
You are looking left, while your colleagues are still looking right. You see a better way, but your org chart or budget does not. It's almost too easy to misstep and be labelled a rabble-rouser by the contented, the status quo. But, for some, change is worth pursuing, at almost all costs. It's not an option; it's a calling. For me, that calling has been Advocate Marketing.The idea that as a marketer I could positively impact the lives of people, instead of blasting out emails and dreaming up catchy tag lines, seemed almost virtuous. Not working for The Man, but rather working for The Hu-man. All those years spent researching communication and culture, and I am still curious about all the reasons why we do the things we do. Ten years on now, and I am still fascinated by the practice of advocacy, even as we enter into a more mainstream era where the voice of the customer is now firmly central to success.
The intersection of relationship and result is the easiest way to sum up what advocate marketing is all about. Let me unpack that a bit. Companies are driven by results. Nothing changes there. Where advocacy does depart from Old Man Marketing is in The How. As in, how do you drive results when your customers are not driven personally by your outcomes?
Think about it: Have you ever bolted out of bed, thrown the sheets on the floor as you pumped your fists in the air whilst wildly proclaiming with the pride of a lion: "I can't WAIT to give Company X a stellar referral or online review this week!" I doubt it, but hey, it takes all sorts, right?
Customers, when reframed as actual people not personas, are driven by highly individualized and varied intrinsic and extrinsic goals. To complicate matters further for modern marketers, these desires span the personal-professional divide, too. Their motivations are endless and can change on a dime. Tricky? Yes. There is one thing, however, that can be approached in a pan-customer sense, and if ignored can derail even the most well-articulated marketing efforts: Relationship.
All of the moving pieces that are working so well to achieve common objectives - references, reviews, referrals, engagement - are fuelled by the it. The customers taking part, thrive on it. I've always taken a genuine, relationship-first approach to marketing. Always. And, it has never let me down. Ever.
Something I've found to be incredibly important when blazing new trails is to find others who are all lit up about the same things that are currently stoking my furnace. For me, that means searching for My People. Back in the day, I pulled together a small collective of very high functioning advocate marketing practitioners [Bo Bandy, Liz Richardson, Jenni Berthiaume, and Truman Tang], and we met virtually whenever we could to talk about big ideas, roadblocks, and to generally shoot the breeze around the emerging advocate marketing practice.
It was time so well spent, that now, years later, Liz and I (now colleagues at Influitive) are leading a series of Master Class events, which aim to be part lecture, part workshop, and part peer-to-peer discussion. In keeping with the spirit of that early collective, Master Class is designed with the advanced advocate marketing professional in mind. These two-day events will elevate practice and grow professional networks. The lectures, workshops and discussions are all deep dives into topics that matter, like: Measuring and Report Value, Making Moments that Matter, Creating Campaigns, and Narrative Marketing, to name a few. They are the start of something great.
Master Class graduates will certainly leave with new skills and best practices aplenty. But, equally as important, they will venture forward with a new cohort of colleagues who, like themselves, are the fearless stewards of every company's most valuable asset: The relationship with the customer. That's a group of people I want to spend more time with.