In our previous post, we talked about the conversion point between the "Action" stage and the "Sold & Serving" stage. When your customer reaches the "Sold & Serving" stage of their decision journey, they've already decided to do business with you, and they've made that first purchase from your company.
Now we come to the sixth and final stage of the cognitive marketing framework: "Advocacy". The conversion point between "Sold & Serving" and "Advocacy" is unique, because there are really no specific techniques that you can use to make the customer an advocate. Advocacy has to spring from within the customer — it should never be forced or manipulated.
Here's a simple example: Remember when your mother told you to eat your vegetables? She may have made you take the action — but she couldn't make you develop a love for those veggies, no matter how hard she tried. But as you got older and realized that vegetables are part of a healthy diet, your view of them changed, right? Maybe you even developed a taste for them. Maybe (and this is where "advocacy" fits into the picture) you even recommended that others try those same vegetables.
The point is, the foundation for advocacy is the customer's appreciation for and belief in your service or product. If they recognize its value and are even passionate about it, then they'll probably recommend it to others in their social circle.
Referral-Based Selling vs Advocacy
It's important to recognize that there's a big difference between referral-based marketing and advocacy.
Don't get me wrong: referral-based selling is great. It certainly has its place in an effective marketing strategy. However, it is most definitely not the same as advocacy. With referral-based selling, you're actually prompting the customer to take action, such as:
- "Please refer your friends and family to our business. We'll provide you with a $25 reward for every referral that becomes a customer."
- "Be sure to leave a positive review of our company on Google/Yelp/Trip Advisor."
- "Would you be willing to give us a brief testimonial about your satisfaction with our brand?"
These are all great ideas, and good ways to expand your business' reach. However, you don't have to prompt a true advocate to give referrals in cognitive marketing. A dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue advocate will sing the praises of your company without any pushing or prodding from your salesforce or marketing team.
One example of this would be if David comes into your company's pipeline as a stage 2 ("Contemplating") prospect. What made him convert from the "Unaware" stage to "Contemplating?" It wasn't one of your ads; rather, he was referred by Chris, one of your clients that has had great experiences working with your firm. That introduction to your business, made by Chris, is what true advocacy looks like. And because advocacy involves a genuine referral without any ulterior motive, you've already earned a measure of trust with David before he even speaks to a member of your sales team.
The Key to Advocacy in Cognitive Marketing
If you can't force or manipulate advocacy, the question becomes: Well then, how do you gain these loyal customers? The answer is simple: You can create advocacy by setting the right expectations and then consistently meeting and surpassing those expectations.
Let's illustrate what we mean by that in terms of cognitive marketing. Think about the times you've had to bring your car in for repairs. Doesn't it feel good when you have that go-to mechanic; you know, the guy that's transparent, reliable, and always gets the job done? It's a great feeling when you have a mechanic that you can trust.
Now imagine that one of your friends has to take their car into the shop, too. But they don't know where to go. They've tried several different mechanics around town, and they've always ended up disappointed. When your friend vents their frustration to you, what's your natural response going to be? "Hey, my mechanic has always done good work for me. His prices are a little higher than average, but he always fixes the problem. And I really like him because he's always honest and upfront about what needs to be done, and how much it will cost. You should try him out!"
That is what advocacy looks like. When you set those realistic expectations for the customer, and then go above and beyond to exceed them, you'll win over your clients for good. You'll start hearing phrases like:
- "Company A is my sole provider."
- "I only work with Company A."
- "Company A is our go-to."
- "We're sticking with Company A; they've never let us down before."
Generate Advocacy in Cognitive Marketing
Granted, you could "generate" advocacy through strong positioning. In other words, if you've cornered the market on a specific service or product (for instance, if you were the only mechanic in town), then advocacy would basically happen by default. After all, you're the only business that can provide customers with what they need!
It's always a great idea to explore ways to strengthen your market position. That being said, the formula of setting expectations + meeting and exceeding those expectations = customer advocacy is something that applies to any business, no matter their positioning.
Learn More About Cognitive Marketing
That wraps up our 5-part series on the conversion points contained within the cognitive marketing framework. Hopefully, you've found the information in this post, and in our previous posts, informative and helpful.
Of course, there's a lot more to learn about how to apply the process of behavior change to your sales cycle. Stay tuned for an upcoming series that will dig into the 9 key processes your clients need to move through their decision-making process. Just to whet your appetite (and by way of review), those 9 processes are:
- Social liberation
- Emotional arousal
- Rational re-evaluation
- Commitment (private & public)
- Helping relationships
- Positive substitution
- Environmental control
- Reward for positive behavior
So, how do you apply all of this "rhetoric" in real life to not only serve your clients better, but to lower your cost of sales and increase your efficiency? We can help.