UCLA Guest Lecturer Charles Miller on Brand Advocates

Charles Miller– those of you who know him on Twitter know him at @ChasMiller, is one of the amazing guest lecturers that will be joining the line-up at UCLA with me. Here’s more information on the course if you want to attend!

I was honored that Charles offered to do a blog post and I know you are going to want to join us at UCLA and hear Charles live. Until then, below is his point of view on the importance of Brand Advocates. If you come to class you will learn how he has created one of the most powerful online, V.I.P. Advocacy communities for DIRECTV and hear about the success they are having. Nothing like hearing from real practitioner so you can go back to your office the next day and start to implement! And now here’s Charles:

Meet Your New Brand Team – The “Other” 1%    by Charles E. Miller

A select few shape the primary interpretation your brand online, and more often than not these are your most avid and connected customers.

If you’re like most brand leaders, you’re unaware of or turned off by these “super consumers”— people so infatuated with your brand that they spend more than 10% of their lifetime income on it.* But these
users can be your most powerful ally and most effective sales force. They promote your brand via blogs, rating websites, YouTube videos, and word of mouth – and in most every case, for free.

More likely than not, you are among the 80% of brand managers that are unaware or unsure of how these power users in Social Media can grow and affect your brand.

Things could be worse. You may catch yourself among the 10% that are aware of these customers, and intentionally ignore, avoid or ridicule them as “crazy extremists” or not a valid representation of your
brand.  You begin to fear that they are “off message” taken it too far outside your comfort zone or that your brand may be moving toward a niche extreme itself, appealing only to these rabid fans.

It is time to recognize these individuals ARE true manifestations of the brand you create and shape. They fully embody some aspect and persona of the brand. The 1% of your customer base is not only ready and willing to share when you are on message but also when you are riding off track or drifting from your core values.

Are You Brave Enough to Listen?
A select few brand teams have taken the step to get to know these customers better — reaching out to understand their motivations to encourage and inform them. They recognize these customers can evangelize to others and defend your brand in moments of crisis. These few also realize social media is not a fad but an invaluable asset available to locate and encourage them. It is primordial. People’s desire to connect has only been enabled through technology and repeats historical precedents from past technological waves of innovation. A true revolution is happening on a global scale never replicated. Yet this time, global corporations as well as governments are the target and can no longer make their proclamations from their respective mountaintops and expect all to comply. No longer can the same returns be realized without transparency, accountability and engagement. In fact ignoring this trend will only materially benefit your competitors who do so.  Social media is the new Enlightenment. It’s the Reality TV of how your products are used, praised or reviled.

You can’t even spend your way out of this – in fact, doing so may only help your competition.

Without a complementary social strategy, corporations are not only limiting the direct returns they might gain in broadcasting awareness campaigns, that corporate treasure is pulling in leads the competition as savvy brand managers that are socially enabled are leveraging the advantage of the category awareness you are bringing to market.

JetBlue Airlines and shoe retailer, Zappos understand this, counting on customer referrals in the moment they interact with and experience with a brand. They ride the wave of awareness to their product category provided by their competitors and preserve their money for the consideration phase of the purchase funnel. The traditional linear buying funnel is now a spiral that directionally amplifies positive or negative reputations built on the recommendations from past and current customers. Ratings and comments consistent with true experiences resonate, energize and convert those on the fence into your new customers or upselling to your current base. Working in reverse, negative recommendations send buyers running for the exits, back to category and community searches when the relevancy of the brand message and delivery is out of synch.

Who shapes these ratings? More often than not it’s that 1 to 10% of your extreme consumers, checking in, rating your service, posting tens of thousands of posts forming and shaping the opinions of the other 90%. And when wronged, every resource is at their fingertips to dig up SEC filings, organize boycotts, wave the flames of class action suits and encourage poor ratings across all the major touch points your customers visit.

If you find this all overwhelming, its cold comfort to know that the pace is only increasing as innovation and collaborative customer innovative communities are organizing, find loopholes in carefully crafted policies and promotions, and unlock how to use your product or service in ways you may never have imagined.
So while intimidating, it’s vital to recognize and collaborate with these avid customers where possible. When you can invite them to the table and clarify confusion you will find they are the ones closing the deal, referring your new customers, and writing the reviews that drive a large part of your business today and with demographic changes in motion — even more so in the future.

As the philosopher Joseph Campbell encourages, “The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasures you seek”

*Source: Harvard Business Review ‘Hail the Extreme Consumer” June 2010 edition

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