Reference Point:
December 2014 Gray

We're all in the business of motivating customers to take action. Specifically, we want customers to advocate and influence for us--to tell their stories about the value and enjoyment of working with us to their peers, and the world.

There is still much confusion and consternation surrounding this topic. Just recently we had a spirited discussion about this on the (click >) CRF LinkedIn Forum.
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But there's no need for confusion. We're talking about human motivation
--a topic about which we know a great deal, based on solid research over the last several decades. And unlike say, technology, fundamental human drives don't change much over time.

We humans have two basic sets of motivational drivers. One set includes social drivers. The second contains individual drivers. We'll cover social drivers in this issue, and the individual drivers in the next.

As you build relationships with your rock star and potential rock star customer advocates, and you develop strategies to get them not just to agree to advocate but to get pumped about advocating, keep this list in front of you.

But First, What About Incentives and Rewards?

Short answer: they don't work. Incentives and rewards don't motivate people to do the action you desire--in this case, advocate. They primarily motivate people to ... seek more incentives and rewards. This is well established by solid research (Google "motivation" and "Dan Pink" as well as "Frederick Herzberg," who have excellent information about this). So you wind up with advocates committed at best to getting your rewards, and who aren't that excited about actually advocating for you.

Further, incentives undermine the credibility of your references and advocates. So why do it?

5 Social Influences That Motivate Powerful Customer Advocacy

So what social factors motivate behavior? Following are five that smart companies use to motivate powerful advocacy. Taken together, they can be thought of as helping rock star customers build something they value far more than monetary rewards or incentives--they help them build their "social capital."

1. Expand rock stars' affiliation networks.
Offer to expose your rock stars to new people, new audiences, new forums, new colleagues. They love this. Invite them to speak at industry events, to participate in your advisory boards, your user groups, and your customer forums. Invite them to develop relationships with your other customers. Social media can help with this, but live interaction-human-to-human (H2H)-is the most compelling. If you think about it, you've seen it in your own life interactions with people you want to affiliate with. In-person contact versus online? There's no comparison.

2. Build their status.
Do this with special designations, recognition, leadership positions, awards and the like. Even what you call rock stars matters a lot to them. That's why and Microsoft call their rock stars MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals). It's why SAS calls its rock stars Customer Champions. It's why Amazon has a Hall of Fame for its top reviewers. A select group of's MVPs is accorded the honor of highly coveted front-row seats when Marc Benioff delivers his keynote to the company's annual customer conference, Dreamforce. It's about status. Rock stars love this. And when you give it to them, they'll talk about you as a result.

3. Help them build their reputations.
Do this by focusing on their success, as they define it. This is the information your buyers want most. And of course, it's information that your rock stars will most love to share with your--and their--networks. So get them on stage, and before Internet audiences of their peers. Tout them to industry pundits or analysts to be interviewed and written up. Develop "ROI case studies" in which you help them determine the impact of the work they've done (with your help, of course) on their firms' financials--information that your buyers want and that will make the rock stars who provide it look good to their employers.

4. Help them learn and grow.
Rock stars crave this. Many of my client marketing departments don't realize that they're in a far better position to provide exceptionally valuable information to their potential rock stars than bloggers, analysts or even experts in their field. That's because they have 1) industry experts working for them in their engineering, product development or other technical areas, and 2) successful customers whose stories and expertise they can also mine.

Rock stars desire this information and will happily pass it along to your buyers. Doing so increases their social capital-their value to their peer group. So give them knowledge to share. Microsoft, SAS, and many others do this happily for their rock stars by including them in important industry information flows, giving them advance news about product releases, access to their engineers, even their senior management. Provide these things to your rock stars. They'll flock to you in a heartbeat. And then they'll tell your customers and buyers.

5. Give rock stars a say.
Giving customers a say in the products and services you sell them binds them to you. You're conferring power on them. This creates buy-in. And this is another aspect of social capital. If they have genuine influence with you, they'll talk about you. Marc Benioff did this from the get-go when he was building Even before his first sale, he invited prospects to show his developers what they hated about existing enterprise software.

And he incorporated their input. He asked prospects to test and try to break his new releases, and to tell him about anything that made their usability less than great. And he incorporated that information. In such ways he bound them to the products he built and turned prospects into customers and then into rock stars. He gave them a say. And as a result, they talked about In these ways, companies like, SAS and Microsoft are building passion in their rock stars. They don't suffer from reference burnout and inability to find new advocates. Not when they're putting extroverted rock stars on stage, in the spotlight and in the know. Further, rather than just relying on others' stages and spotlights, they're also creating their own for their rock stars, as we'll see next.

All the best,

Bill Lee

Center for Customer Engagement | 469.726.2651 | |
3225 Turtle Creek Blvd
Suite 1801
Dallas, TX 75219

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