“Nothing accelerates a purchase decision faster than a word-of-mouth endorsement from a peer whose only agenda is to help.” So says Gartner in its What’s Next in Advocacy Marketing? report (subscription required). In that report, authored by Research VP Richard Fouts, Gartner points out that advances in digital marketing now allow sales and marketing leaders to forecast those “bluebird” qualified inbound leads that, in previous ages, we so coveted, but could never count on. Why? Because before the digital age, companies could never be a part of the personal conversations that kickstarted these leads. Now, they take place in public on social media, customer forums, review sites and more.
While this is clearly a good thing for marketers, what’s even more striking is how important these customer advocate conversations are — and how they’re only getting more so. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Study shows that nearly twice as many consumers trust earned media (such as word of mouth and recommendations from family and friends) as compared to paid advertisements. And, while trust in that paid media has declined steadily since 2009, consumers’ trust in earned media has grown by almost 20% since 2007.
So, what motivates customers to advocate for a brand on social media? Gartner recalls Ernest Dichter’s pioneering word-of-mouth studies, which remain startlingly relevant to today’s marketers:
Help your customers become advocates by giving them the tools to refer new customers. Gartner’s report gives you a list of 10 providers that’ll get you going (and yes, we’re one of them).