Advocate marketing for startups

Marketing - Getting Started: Part 8

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How to promote your business with no financial investment – just a savvy use of your time.

What is advocate marketing?

First and foremost, advocate marketing does not involve paid influencers. Instead, your customers are encouraged to reference or endorse your business to their own networks. In many ways it’s the earliest form of marketing, based on reputation and word of mouth.

By contrast, influencer marketing involves paying advocates to promote your product to their own network, often on social media. It’s under increasing scrutiny by regulators and has met with scepticism from consumers recently too.

Advocate marketing can be seen as more authentic. If a person close to you recommends a product because they have genuinely had a good experience of it, you are likely to trust them more than you would a paid influencer.

How does trust come into it?

A recent Edelman Trust Barometer shows that ‘the employer’ is one of the most trusted public figures or entities, even more so than NGOs. The survey concluded that 75% see their employer as a trustworthy source of information.

A business with a strong message can make the most of this. By refining and sharing carefully curated content, which supports your business’ ethos, you will produce a bank of material that both your employees and other stakeholders will share with their own networks.

Social media can be an effective way for startups to build awareness and reach new audiences. A good campaign could be picked up and shared organically no matter the size of the business.

Quality over quantity

Advocate marketing works at its best when the quality of the message is emphasised over the quantity of output. Consider the audience you are looking to reach, understand their needs and interests and remain authentic. The more useful the content, the more likely it will be shared.

Employees as advocates

For startups, employees are key advocates. Talk to your teams about the sort of content they would be willing to share and develop your plans accordingly. Finding the right talent is often a challenge for growing businesses, and your staff are likely to be connected to other people who could be a good fit. Don’t just use employees to share vacancies, help them share stories about what your business is achieving and why it is a great place to work. 

Some of the best advocacy work comes from a sense of familiarity with the business, or its brand. This is where employees are best placed to support your message. Try to remind them of how important it is to share their good experiences of your business. They know it well, and their praise is authentic. Original posts are always more powerful than reposts.

Stakeholder advocates

Next, look beyond your employees. Are there investors, advisers, clients or suppliers who could help share your message? Many of these will have a vested interest in the success of the business, your task is to make it is easy for them to spread the good word. 

Identify which stakeholders have the largest or most important followings across social media. Work out what content they would be happy to share and tag them in to posts. And think beyond social. Perhaps you have a high value report or whitepaper that some stakeholders would be willing to share with individuals in their network. Remember, the focus needs to be on the audience and what is useful to them – not promotion for your business. Help your audience by providing quality content and you will build trust and awareness. Stakeholders will be much more likely to share something practical rather than promotional.

Master your marketing with more advice and information:

  • Part 1: Create a marketing plan.
  • Part 2: Define and refine your brand.
  • Part 3: Improve your marketing with customer personas.
  • Part 4: Use social media to promote your startup.
  • Part 5: Get started on SEO and paid marketing.
  • Part 6: Find the right video approach to meet your needs.
  • Part 7: Use content marketing to build your business.
  • Part 9: Create content efficiently with this marketing hack: founder to founder video.
  • Part 10: How to market your business on a limited budget: founder to founder video.
  • Part 11: Discover how to find and target your market: founder to founder video.
  • Part 12: Use these marketing techniques to boost your ROI: founder to founder video.



Edalman Trust Barometer

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