The video below is part of a recent Silicon Valley American Marketing Association (SVAMA) panel where author of Brand Advocates, Rob Fuggetta discusses the challenges faced by businesses when exploring how to use social media to identify and activate Brand Advocates.
Lauren McCadney is all about passion.
Smart, articulate, and always striving to make a difference, McCadney is the social media guru at CDW, a $9.2 billion provider of technology solutions for businesses, government, education and healthcare based in Vernon Hills, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.
McCadney is an accomplished, visionary marketer who joined CDW in 2005 after a lengthy career at telecoms company SBC (which later became AT&T after it acquired AT&T.) The Enterprise Council of Small Business, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, recently named McCadney the 2010 “Small Business Marketer of the Year.”
McCadney is passionate about photography and considers it her gift. She specializes in portraits and events. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories and I also LOVED pictures,” says McCadney. “After much soul searching I realized that photography is my means of expression,” she says.
McCadney is also passionate about kids. “I believe that every child deserves a chance. Unfortunately, not every child receives one. Therefore, you’ll find me doing what I can to make a difference whether it’s sitting on a board, throwing a fundraiser, or volunteering my time,” says, this graduate of Howard University and the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University who lives in Chicago.
And McCadney is also passionate about customer relationships, social media, and brand advocacy. She’s championing and driving CDW’s Brand Advocate program, which in only a few months is quickly approaching nearly 1,000 CDW Advocates.
Energizing Passionate Customers
Unlike other companies, McCadney and CDW didn’t have a compelling marketing problem like negative Word of Mouth they were hoping to solve by leveraging Brand Advocates. Instead, with the skilled eye of a talented photographer, McCadney saw an opportunity that others hadn’t recognized yet: turn CDW’s enthusiastic customers into a powerful marketing force. “Research shows that three out of four people no longer trust what advertisers say. But nine out of ten are going to trust what a peer says,” points out McCadney.
McCadney knew CDW had passionate customers she could leverage. From her early work in social media she saw them support, promote, and defend CDW on Spiceworks, an online community for small business IT professionals. “I realized there were people who were passionate about CDW to the extent that if an issue came up about CDW, they would rush to my (CDW’s) defense. They could actually get in there and kind of diffuse things before I could get to it. So my thinking was already, “How do I start to identify these folks on a larger scale?”
And she knew CDW had a large number of customers willing to recommend the company. But until recently, CDW wasn’t leveraging these enthusiastic customers.
“We would look at the (customer loyalty) report and collectively say, “Look, our number went up again. This is great.” But we weren’t doing anything with this group that was rating us a 9 or 10 when asked “How likely are you to recommend CDW”. Ultimately, I asked myself ‘Why aren’t we asking them (Advocates) to do something? Why aren’t we doing something to recognize them, thank them, ask them to act on our behalf. I think they would.’ “
She was right.
Working with Zuberance, McCadney has begun systematically identifying and energizing CDW Advocates. McCadney and CDW started energizing its Advocates by inviting them to rate and review their CDW experience. Within just a few months, CDW Advocates have created nearly 700 positive reviews, a valuable content asset that CDW is publishing on its website plus in its catalog and email marketing campaigns. “They (CDW Advocates) tell the CDW story better than any copywriter could because they are relating our story from a personal perspective. They know what’s important to IT Professionals and do an amazing job of clearly explaining why you should shop at CDW or the value that we bring,” says McCadney.
Beyond Ratings & Reviews
McCadney is taking CDW’s Advocate program beyond ratings and reviews. “Reviews are just the most tangible manifestation that this individual is an Advocate of our brand,” she says. So CDW is looking to implement user generated content in the form of Success Stories and they’re exploring Customers Building Customers. “For me, I view energizing our Advocates as an entirely new and relevant way of marketing. And that’s something I’m very passionate about,” says McCadney.
Three Key Tips
Here are the three key lessons from the CDW case study:
1. Go beyond Net Promoter. Asking customers how likely they are to recommend your brand or product and measuring your Net Promoter Score is important. Get more value from Net Promoter by making it easy for Promoters to actually recommend you.
2. Give Advocates multiple advocacy tools. Advocate are willing and eager to recommend you in lots of different ways. Go beyond Advocate ratings and reviews. Give your Advocates ways to create and share or publish testimonials, offers, plus answer prospects’ questions, and more.
3. Evangelize evangelism. Energizing Brand Advocates represents a different marketing approach for many marketing organizations. Be prepared to champion the cause of advocacy including educating your colleagues about the benefits of leveraging Brand Advocates continually.
Melody Overton of Seattle is such a passionate Starbucks Advocate that her moniker is “Starbucks Melody.”
“I’ve been called Starbucks Melody even when I’m in the courtroom,” laughs Overton, an attorney who works in downtown Seattle, not far from where Starbucks was founded at Pike Place Market in March 1971.
Starbucks has more than 24 million fans on Facebook and 1.6 million Twitter followers, as of August 2011. But it’s hard to imagine any Starbucks customer more knowledgeable or passionate about Starbucks than Starbucks Melody.
Overton probably knows more about Starbucks than most Starbucks employees including their baristas (not unusual for Advocates of Starbucks and other brands.) When Overton talks about Starbucks, you can hear the excitement in her voice, like she’s had a few too many lattes.
Overton is the author of a popular blog all about Starbucks entitled “StarbucksMelody.com.” She also tweets about Starbucks (@SbuxMel), where she has about 4,000 followers. Overton is not a Starbucks employee or paid consultant. “I’m not on Starbucks’ payroll. They’ve never even given me a gift card,” she points out. Instead, like millions of other Advocates of other brands, Overton recommends Starbucks because she wants to share her authentic enthusiasm for Starbucks with others.
A Passion for Coffee
“I have a passion for coffee,” says Overton, who visits her local Starbucks “ritualistically twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.” Her favorite Starbucks coffees are the reserve blends prepared in Starbucks Clover® brewing system, found in some Starbucks stores. On those rare warm summer afternoons in Seattle – for Seattle, that means anything over 70 degrees – Overton likes drinking Starbucks iced passion tea or iced green tea.
“I like the way it (coffee) really has the ability to bring people together,” writes Overton in her blog. “I like the conversations around it. I like being able to have a common ground to connect with people about. Most of all, I fall in love with those moments when you can see some deep joy in a person’s eyes over discovering a new coffee, learning about coffee, or just hanging around the coffee – even if not drinking it.”
Her favorite Starbucks store? “Oooh, that’s a tough question. But like I’ve said on my blog, very high up there would be the store at First & Pike in Seattle, at the entrance to the Pike Place Market. It has beautiful design. The customer service is good. And it was the first Starbucks store to get two Clovers,” Overton says.
Melody Gets “Totally Sucked In”
Overton’s love affair with Starbucks began when she moved to Seattle in 1989 from nearby Tacoma, Washington, where she was in the air force. Overton’s attraction to Starbucks was as strong as Starbuck’s Italian roast.
Overton’s passion for Starbucks kicked into high gear in 2008, when Howard Shultz came out of retirement to the revive the faltering company, which he said had lost some of its “romance” and “soul” as it became a global behemoth. In a highly unusual move, Starbucks actually closed down all of its stores on February 26, 2008 for one evening to train its baristas.
“2008 just rattled me. What an insane year that was for me, as a Starbucks lover. I said to myself: ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ I just got totally sucked in. I became so excited about Starbucks,” says Overton. She was particularly impressed by the launch in April 2008 of MyStarbucksidea.com, Starbucks’s first online community. “I loved it! I felt like I really had a voice; that I could connect with Starbucks and with other people like me and make a difference,” she says.
Melody’s Most Memorable Starbucks Moment
Overton’s most memorable Starbucks moment occurred three years later in January 2011, when she attended the official unveiling of Starbucks’s updated logo. “That was amazing,” says Overton, one of only three consumers Starbucks invited to the event, held at the company’s headquarters in Seattle. “Oh my God, I even got my picture taken with (Starbucks CEO) Howard Shultz. When I walked out of there I was on cloud nine. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven,” she gushes.
Rampant Starbucks Advocacy
Overton continues advocating Starbucks today to readers of her blog, Twitter followers, family, friends, colleagues, and just about anyone who’ll listen. “I’ve been known to randomly bring up Starbucks in all sorts of places, even when I’m sitting in a hair salon,” laughs Overton.
“The hardest people to sell Starbucks to aren’t in Seattle,” says Overton. “People here are hugely over-caffeinated,” she states. “My biggest accomplishment was when I got my sister-in-law, who lives in southern California, to drink a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte,” says Overton.
Exactly how many people has Overton converted to the Starbucks religion as a result of her rampant advocacy? “Hmmm, I’m not sure. It’s probably in the hundreds, or more.”
“I’ll have to ponder that over a French press,” she chuckles.
Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories
Most people assume that advocacy is limited only to sexy or cool brands like Apple, Starbucks, or Porsche. Not true. Advocates of business brands can also be just as enthusiastic.
Hard-Core CDW Advocate: Justin Dorfman
Justin Dorfman is a self-described “hard-core CDW Advocate.” (CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education, and healthcare. Ranked No. 38 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies, CDW features dedicated account managers who help customers choose the right technology products and services to meet their needs.)
Dorfman, 26, is a support engineer for NetDNA, a content delivery network based in Los Angeles. Dorfman’s passion for CDW was ignited back in 2004 when he bought his first product – a RAID controller, a device that manages physical disk drives – from CDW while working for Western Costume Company, a costume warehouse in Hollywood. He was so impressed with CDW’s responsiveness and customer service that he said: “Oh my God, I’m in love with this company.”
The Internal CDW Champion
Since then, he’s purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of computer gear from CDW while serving in IT positions for other companies. For example, when he started a new position as a junior systems engineer in December 2009 at Mahalo, he started buying gear from CDW. “I turned Mahalo into a CDW customer,” says Dorfman. In the 16 months he was at Mahalo, the company purchased about $200,000 in computer gear from CDW, largely as a result of Dorfman’s enthusiastic advocacy.
CDW has never paid Dorfman for his recommendations. “I put my reputation on the line for CDW and they’ve stood by me. They deliver every time,” says Dorfman. He adds: “They’re reliable. They don’t lie. You get your own account manager. There’s no calling and waiting on hold. They care for IT professionals. They know what we’re up against. They really get it.”
Establishing Advocate Relationships
Dorfman has become Facebook friends with CDW Senior Account Manager, Matt Cipolla. Cipolla has even recommended Dorfman on LinkedIn. “We know each other’s girlfriend’s names. We’re on a first-name basis. You’re just not going to get that from other IT companies,” says Dorfman.
In addition to evangelizing CDW to colleagues and friends offline, Dorfman recommends CDW online on Twitter (@jdorfman, where he has 443 followers as of July 2011;) by re-Tweeting CDW’s content and deals; talking them up on his blog (blog.justindorfman.com); his personal website Frugal IT; and on Spiceworks, an online community for IT professionals, where he created a “I love CDW” icon.
Lauren McCadney, Sr. Segment Marketing Manager for CDW, says: “I believe he (Justin) has come to represent the future of marketing: influential Brand Advocates that establish a personal relationship with their favorite brands. I’ve worked him for more years than I can count. And it was only in the last five years that I’ve come to really know customers like Justin as both a source of consumer insight but also as a friend.”
Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories
George Hamma is an owner of a BMW MINI. But there’s nothing small about his passion for his beloved car.
Hamma, a youthful-looking 65, enthusiastically recommends MINI to hundreds of his friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers.
The Sunnyvale, CA resident is an active member of the Northern California chapter of the MINI owner’s club. He also shares his passion for MINI on his Facebook page, Twitter @ghamma, and on his personal website, where Hamma – an avid photographer – posts photos of MINI owners’ rallies.
Hamma is an active participant at NorthAmericanMotoring.com, a site where MINI owners meet to talk about their cars and motoring (about 16,500 members). Hamma has engaged in hundreds of conversations with current and (possibly) future MINI owners.
That’s George in the photo standing proudly next to his MINI, a 2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4, which he named “Fenton” in honor of a local ice cream parlor where his favorite flavor is also black and tan like his MINI.
MINI’s Super Salesperson
As a direct result of his advocacy, six friends have bought MINI’s. At about $35,000 per MINI, Hamma has generated about $200,000 in revenues for BMW, making Hamma one of MINI’s best – and certainly one of its most cost-effective – sales people.
MINI hasn’t given Hamma anything – not even a MINI t-shirt or key chain – in exchange for his advocacy. “I recommend MINI because it’s fun to drive. It’s a great product,” says Hamma. “Every time I drive my MINI, I get a big smile on my face,” he adds.
Hamma says he’s such an effective Advocate of MINI that his local MINI dealership has suggested he join their sales team.
“My local MINI dealership wants me to come in and sell MINIs for them,” laughs Hamma. “Hmmm…wonder how much that pays?” he chuckles.
Singing MINI’s Praises
A while back, Hamma enthusiastically recommended MINI to a fellow member of a professional chorus.
“I’m not kidding. The very next week she shows up at chorus practice in her new MINI. Same model as mine,” Hamma says.
Mad about Motoring
Hamma is a car enthusiast who drove BMW cars in the 1960s and 70s on the rally circuit. He occasionally takes lunch breaks from his job as a senior product tester at a Silicon Valley tech company by driving his MINI “quickly around twisty little roads” near the company.
“The other day I went over there and thrashed it pretty good. I came back to the office with a big smile on my face,” he says.
MAXImum Word of Mouth
MINI is one of those passion brands with millions of Advocates and enthusiasts like Hamma. MINI stokes this passion with the MINI Owner’s Lounge, a private, online community for MINI owners; MINI owner rallies and special events; online reviews and more. Plus, MINI gets plenty of organic positive Word of Mouth from user-created online communities, forums, events, and more.
One of the few drawbacks of owning a MINI, Hamma says, is that it has caused him to have a sore right shoulder.
An occasional sore shoulder is a small price to pay for the fun of driving his black and tan MINI, says Hamma. “I tell all my friends and colleagues: If you want to have fun driving, go get yourself a MINI. You will not regret it,” he says.
Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories