In business networking terminology, an advocate is someone who is a dream contact. It is what word-of-mouth marketing is all about.
An advocate will go out into the market place and sing your praises and recommend you whenever they spot a need for your products and services. An advocate will do this without you having to pay them a penny!
I always say that one advocate is worth ten clients and much of my business networking activity is about building up a network of advocates. It’s like having a team of agents but not having to pay them any commission. Indeed, the best advocates would probably be offended if you offered them money for their continued advocacy.
You do need to look after your advocates or they can stop advocating you – or worse still they can become an anti-advocate and advise people not to use your services. And a good advocate knows a lot of people and is very vocal. They can make or break your reputation overnight, especially in an online connected world.
So knowing what I do about the power of advocacy, I am regularly amazed at how badly some people treat their business networking advocates. I had one company who I had been advocating and had referred to them almost £50,000 of business over a couple of months. When I decided to use them for my own business they took advantage of the relationship and gave me a very sloppy service saying they were too busy with other clients. The clients I had referred to them by the way!
Needless to say, I did not recommend them again and actually gave my revised feedback of their service to several people who were interested in using their services. Because my needs were miniscule compared to the clients I referred I was given a second class treatment. As far as an advocate is concerned, the service they receive is the service they recommend so make sure you give them your best service.
Many of my biggest advocates have never paid me a penny for the help I have given them. They are not in my ideal audience and yet they are in a great position to recommend me to their clients who are my ideal audience. A good advocate will possibly want to check you out in some way. Maybe they will want to sample your services. Another option is to introduce them to your clients who hopefully will be happy to advocate you. When selling IT I used to judge the quality of a client relationship based on whether a client would be prepared to share the stage with me at a public seminar. I am pleased to report that many did!
So, if you want to make business networking very time effective then look out for and nurture your advocate relationships and do not take them for granted.