There is a lot of debate, not just on Social Networks including Ecademy, but also in many of the Business Networks, BNI, BRX, NRG, 4 Networking and so on, about the relative mix of quantity or quality, and how to go about building advocates, and having an active advocate group who promote you and sing your praises at every opportunity.
I'm often asked about how I've built the advocates that I have and I've given this a lot of thought. The journey to advocacy, is not complicated but it is something that cannot be short-circuited. After all, an advocate is someone who provides a continuous stream of referrals for you and your business, and that doesn't happen overnight. Giving referrals is something I discussed in this article... One aspect of that article that is important in this context is this passage...
Understanding how to move through the journey to advocacy should make it easier to advocate, and be advocated. I describe the journey to advocacy as being all about 4 'A''s and a TIP.
The Journey to Advocacy
Nothing can happen until people are aware of you.
Only by building awareness can we hope that others will get to know us and start the journey to advocacy. Most won't stay with us for the whole journey, but none of the people who don't start will be there at the end! Building awareness is about being visible, for the right things when others are around to see your contribution. Here on Ecademy that might arise through a Blog posting, public club thread or Marketplace listing, all of which get visibility in the internet as a whole through the search engines.
Getting the SEO keywords right are important in terms of being found
and getting the right SEO description important in terms of being
clicked through when you are found. In private clubs we build awareness
with a much smaller group, but we'll develop the awareness faster
there, so it's not to be ignored. Far from it in fact, forget this step
of the journey and, as I've said, nothing much else happens.
This is about quantity, whether people link up with you or not, this is about broadcast, big potential audience with a transitory attention span. Be good, be noticeable, or be missed. Some, though, choose to be noticeable for any reason, you still have to be consistent, people will judge you in the first impression you leave. Visibility brings a responsibility for consistency, and taking responsibility for the actions that you take. Joining the Ecademy Life Members community - BlackStar - puts awareness on to you, awareness that you are a committed member of this community means that others can be confident that you are here for the long term, and that's useful for the next phase.
Once people start to become aware all your existence, both as an
individual, and your business then they will start to approach you, to
find out more about you. You'll recognise the success of building
awareness from the fact that individuals, whom you have never heard of,
contact you out of the blue via private message on Ecademy or, through
e-mail, phone calls, and connections at networking events.
What's happening here is that other people are beginning to talk about
They are not yet introducing you to others for business, they are
not promoting you, but there are mentioning you, your business, your
products, and your services at (some of) the appropriate points in
(some of) the conversations that they are having.
Fewer people are doing this that are aware of you, and this is the
first filter in the journey becoming advocates. As people become aware
of you, and approach you, their intention is to learn more about you,
and your business. It's a great time to have a one to one.
In my experience around 10% of my network as a whole approach me, keen
to learn more.
As a BlackStar other BlackStars know that you are committed, and
that means that it's more likely to be profitable to invest time in
There's certainty that you will be here for the long term and so the rate of approach and the depth of desire for learning is higher inside that group than outside. The difference is evidenced by the fact that of the BlackStars many more than 10% - perhaps 50% approach me to learn about my business.
Through the one-to-one meetings, the continued discussions via
e-mail, telephone and more general meetings, and discussions that
others have with their network about you, they'll learn progressively
more about you and your business. As they learn they will start to
understand the way that you work, the people you work with, the needs
that you meet, your target market and the associates that you work
As people really understand your business they will start to
acknowledge it, in their conversations with others. You won't simply be
mentioned, or talked about, but you will be introduced where those who
have reached this stage believe you could provide help or add value.
However, people won't yet be doing this proactively, and your name will
only come up where you are the most obvious person for a particular
need that has been expressed.
Clearly those who take the time and effort to learn about your
business, and to acknowledge it for what it does, only only a subset
all those people who approach you in the first place. however, one
thing that I have learned in the last few years is that I'm lousy at
predicting who chooses to acknowledge me (or my business) from the
people who have become aware of it/me and approached me. Talking to
others I'm fairly sure that it is so difficult to be highly skilled at
selecting the "right" people that, I think, a safe assumption is that
Between 25% and 50% of the people who approach me, acknowledge the
business for what it does.
Within BlackStar, again, this proportion is much higher. As a group there tends to be much more acknowledgment of each other. It's a factor of greater knowledge. The BlackStar Boardrooms, project collaborations, regular meetings, 121's that we participate in ensure that happens, it's here that the value of BlackStar starts to be realised.
Advocacy comes from confidence, deep knowledge, and absolute trust
between the people. it's the last leg of the journey and the longest
Building sufficient trust to ensure true advocacy requires both
people to understand each other on many levels, to be open and to share
a mutual respect.
Once the trust exists it's likely that a small referral will be made,
and the results of making that referral will undoubtedly be checked
with all the parties involved. If the referral is being well handled;
if the person referred feels that they have been extremely well looked
after; and if the approach taken met (in almost all respects) the
expectation then it is possible that they will become an advocate.
As an advocate you can expect them to be thinking about you in many,
even most, conversations that they have with others. You will be
mentioned regularly, promoted to others. Pro-activity is regular, and
referrals are strong, and pre-sold.
The journey to advocacy is complete, but the journey to profitability
over many years is just beginning.
If you are lucky 10% of all of the people who acknowledge you will
become advocates. Here is where I find immense quality, not quantity.
However, without the quantity the likelihood would be remote of having
the quality of referrals that I received from those people kind enough
to advocate me.
Not surprisingly, with much higher levels of knowledge and support within BlackStar, Trust and advocacy rates are also higher in that community.
So, where are you?
If you have a great number of existing advocates then you probably
have more opportunity to do business with annual business can support.
However, if that is not the case then you need to take action to
increase the number of advocates if that is part of your marketing and
networking strategy. The first question is whether you are advocating
enough people rather than are enough people advocating me?
I review my network to identify people who I would wish to advocate
(that currently I can only acknowledge) and I seek proactively to meet
with them. I listen for opportunities to find work for them, by
introduction, rather than referral, reactively not proactively. I seek
testimonials about them from others who know them. I listen to what
they say, and write, about their business and I question and challenge
them until I feel comfortable, trusting, and able to refer them with
I also review my network to decide whom I should approach to learn more so that I can acknowledge a larger group of people.
Finally, I keep making myself visible, making more people aware that
I exist, each day I set a goal to ensure that more people are aware of
me today than were aware of me yesterday. I work in groups and
collections of people where this journey is facilitated, BlackStar is
one of those, perhaps the one where this happens fastest and with
greater depth, but, it's not the only one, but if you haven't got
enough advocates to bring you business, think about finding a group,
like BlackStar, which facilitates this journey.
I sense that this is a journey on which I shall continue to travel from many years to come.