An Open Letter to CMO’s (and other marketers)


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I wanted to share an excerpt from Rob Fuggetta’s book, Brand Advocates – Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force. Rob finishes his book with a poignant open letter:

Open Letter

Dear Mr. or Ms. CMO:

Brand Advocates

I have some disturbing news to share with you: your customers and prospects don’t trust your messages.

They don’t trust your ads, billboards, e-mails, blog posts, CEO videos, salespeople, or pretty brochures.

In fact, most prospects simply ignore your messages. They tune you out, TiVo past your commercials, or sign up for the “do not call” list. In the United States, consumers have placed about 200 million numbers on the do not call list.

But the one thing your customers and prospects trust is each other. They trust each other about where to eat, what car to buy, what fitness club to join, and what hotel to stay in. They even trust the advice of friends and others when it comes to whom they should hire, sleep with, or get married to. In short, advocacy-not advertising-is what determines whether people buy your products or services. 

And yet, many marketers don’t seem to get it. Despite overwhelming evidence that advocacy is far more trusted than paid media, they continue spending on marketing tools and tactics that consumers don’t trust or ignore…


It’s time to take a few of the dollars you’re spending now on underperforming tools that don’t work very well, like billboards and ads, and invest in advocacy. Nancy Terry, SVP of marketing of Sport & Health Clubs, “I am one hundred percent convinced that getting our enthusiastic members to help market the club is an approach that will work.” Nancy launched an advocacy program in 2012. “After all, word of mouth is the number one way we get leads today. Why not invest in what’s working?” she asks.

Good question

Advocacy Works

Fuggetta makes the point in Brand Advocates that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and colleagues. Yet, only about 30% trust online advertisements. He admittedly may be a little biased. Fuggetta’s company Zuberance offers a SaaS to help brands leverage recommendations from their advocates. Nevertheless, based on NPS research, over 50% of consumers indicate that they are highly likely to recommend companies they do business with or a product they’ve purchased. Whether or not you use Zuberance, you need to ask, “How are we leveraging our enthused customers?”

Show More Love

True advocacy is not for sale. But you can do the little extra by showing more love to your best customers.

methodFor example, Fuggetta points out how Method, a leader in organic home cleaning products, is leveraging advocacy with its most passionate customers. It has created a group of 5,000 consumers it calls cheerleaders. To qualify, these customers have done something extraordinary to share their love for Method. Things like writing a poem or creating a photograph. One cheerleader Nathan Aaron has even created a blog called Method Lust – One Man’s Surpressed Lust for All Things Method Home. Over a five year period, Aaron penned almost a 1,000 articles about Method. Nathan isn’t paid by Method, although he sometimes receives new products, notes from the team, and even an invite to dinner when the Method team was in town.

Enter Superconsumers

All customers are not created equal. In a recent article in HBR, Eddie Yoon, Steve Carlotti, and Dennis Moore discuss how its important to distinguish what they call “superconsumers” from other segments of buyers. More than just heavy users,

“Superconsumers are defined by both economics and attitude: They are a subset of heavy users who are highly engaged with a category and a brand. They are especially interested in innovative uses for the product and in new variations on it. They aren’t particularly price sensitive. Superconsumers tend to have more occasions and “jobs” for a product. Think about hot dogs: While many consumers view them primarily as a food for backyard barbecues, superconsumers see them as an ideal fast meal or an after-school snack.”

VelveetaLeveraging Pareto’s Law, the whole concept of the Golden Goldfish is based on the idea that 80% of your profitability comes from 20% of your customers. Yoon, Carlotti and Moore bring this to life with the example of Kraft Velveeta cheese. Their research shows that the t0p 10% of Velveeta buyers account for over 50% profit. They worked with the brand to focus on this key segment of 2.4 million superconsumers. The results are anything but cheesy. New product spin-offs totaling over $100 million in additional sales has been game changing. It has shifted a paradigm for Kraft. According to the article, marketing director Greg Gallagher stated,

“The previous thinking was that the quickest, easiest path to growth was to identify light users or lapsed users. But when we talked to superconsumers, we learned that in fact they wanted to use Velveeta more—they were starving for it.” 

TAKEAWAY: All customers are not created equal. Do more for your best ones. In the words of Yoon, Carlotti and Moore, “Show the love to those that love you the most.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want to see another example of a brand leveraging its best customers? Look no further than 400-year old Fiskars and their vibrant community of Fiskateers. These hand picked crafters are literally singing the praises of the brand:

New fiskateers receive a welcome kit with some very special scissors:


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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