The proliferation of digital connections has amplified the role of advocacy in growth. With the rise of the digital ecosystem and the exponential growth in connections, the opportunity for advocacy has exploded.

Advocacy starts with a remarkable product, one that has met, or holds the potential of reaching product market fit. Designing great advocacy requires an understanding of the persona that matches the product market fit segment, including their needs and goals.

The stories the people of these personas tell themselves about the product and how it meets their needs, becomes the content of advocacy. We find our market for our products and advocacy, in the conversations of real world and digital worlds. The conversations that share the themes of our persona’s stories, are our market.

These markets are typically defined as tribes of shared values, where individuals come together around some meaningful connection based on a shared purpose. Advocacy spreads through these markets through their natural opinion leaders and by the influence of their natural trend setters.

Effective opinion leaders and trends setters include close peers and those trusted people who are in archetypal roles such as mother, doctor and financial advisor. When we channel the advocacy stories through these opinion leaders and trendsetters, we generate growth. Effective advocacy and influence is characterised by; affinities with a local identity, relatability, social proximity, social proof and authenticity.

Performance marketing, where advocates are rewarded for the leads they generate, is set to grow dramatically. This includes formats such as contextual advertising, ads placed alongside content, viral loops where customers are rewarded for referrals and micro- influencer affiliates, where natural social networks are used in advocacy.

Social and digital ecosystems, consumer apps, SAAS and networked marketplaces, are opening up opportunities to build ‘communities of customers’. Early curation of these communities to attract in the right people of shared purpose and values, is the foundation for their success.

Increasingly digital ecosystems are evolving into networked marketplaces, where communities transact with product and service providers. To evolve into a marketplace, an ecosystem needs to reach liquidity, a state where people in the community are confident about satisfying transactions. To become a viable marketplace, an ecosystem needs to provide the ability to transact not readily available elsewhere. Advocacy through community user reviews and user generated content, creates this liquidity.

A combination of a cultivated community of ‘shared purpose’ and advocacy in the form of user generated content, is key to driving up liquidity and marketplace value. The bigger the community and higher the liquidity, the more exponential growth in value to the users. When the network reaches a point where, its value grows to users, as it grows, such as Uber and Zoom, it has reached a state of network effect, when the user becomes the salesforce of the network.

Advocacy needs to become part of the strategic intent of an organisation to grow in our connected age. It is to be embraced organisation wide, from product design to ecosystem design. Great advocacy is informed by customer research and validated through testing. To guide organisations, as they navigate their way through the opportunities and threats advocacy brings, Hearts and Minds have created an extensive report, Turning Customers into Advocates.

Get the full report here Turning Customers into Advocates >

Louise Kelly
Hearts and Minds