Ad·vo·cate: to speak or write in support of; be in favor of.
As an aesthetic professional, you are, of course, an advocate for cosmetic surgery but there’s no reason you have to be a voice crying in the wilderness.
In fact, you may have dozens or scores of advocates without even realizing it: They’re the satisfied patients who are ready, willing and happy to share their aesthetic experiences with others through social media and other word-of-mouth (WOM) channels. In marketing parlance, they’re “brand advocates” and they represent some of the most powerful resources you can tap to promote your practice.
Industry experts and big-time social media influencers may seem attractive to marketers. But often, the regular Joe [or Jane] is the most powerful type of advocate out there and can have the greatest effect on friends and family, says Kimberly Maul, author of the new eMarketer report, “Brand Advocates: Scaling Social Media Word-of-Mouth.” By leveraging connections with these everyday influencers, brands can amplify word-of-mouth online and increase engagement.
Why do they do it? According to eMarketer, the top two reasons are good experiences with a product or service (50%) and because they want to help others make smarter purchasing decisions (37%).
And, according to the social-recommendation experts at Zuberance, encouraging those efforts can be an incredibly powerful tool for doctors for several reasons:
- Consumers trust WOM at least five times more than advertising, paid search, email, and other marketing tools. As a result, conversion rates for programs that energize brand advocates are substantially higher than for other forms of marketing.
- Brand advocates represent a form of earned media, which, compared to the alternatives — paid media (e.g., advertising) and owned media (e.g., your practice website) — offers a low-cost/high value ROI.
- As brand advocates share their insights via social media, they generate the kind of “social signals” that the major search engines are giving increasing weight to when calculating page ranks. The more social signals — comments, retweets, online reviews — your brand advocates produce, the higher your practice website is likely to rank.
Brand advocates are not just your biggest fans, say the folks at Zuberance. They are your most satisfied customers who are the most likely to recommend your brand without being paid to do so.
It’s worth the time to get to know who they are and to help them help you.
1. Determine who your brand advocates are
You probably already know who some of them are but you can uncover new ones by asking them “How likely are you to recommend our practice to others?” Ask as part of a larger Facebook poll, as a stand-alone tweet or via a link on your practice website. Positive reviews on sites like RealSelf.com are another valuable resource for identifying brand advocates.
2. Generate new brand advocates by asking patients to post online reviews
While some practitioners still resist online reviews, forward-thinking doctors recognize that asking satisfied patients to post about their experience pays off in positive reviews and new business. “Once a patient has gone through the healing process, we ask if that’s something they’d like to do,” says Seattle-based plastic surgeon Shahram Salemy, M.D. “The overwhelming majority say they’d be happy to because that’s how they found us in the first place, too.”
3. Reward them for their recommendations
Just because brand advocates aren’t paid spokespeople doesn’t mean you can’t reward them for their good work. Special offers, exclusive discounts, invitations to events, etc., can help foster an even deeper relationship — and additional rounds of brand advocacy.