Marketers mobilize 'advocate armies'


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Aon calls its NPS program the Customer Promise Initiative. This granular approach aims to have each customer contract evaluated against certain goals, such as timely service and claim assistance. When Aon identifies promoters through this system, it does not currently encourage them to post positive content about the company. Instead, Camerieri said, Aon approaches some promoters to take part in case studies and testimonials, which it then uses as fodder for its own content marketing. Fuggetta said his experience at Zuberance indicates that about half of a typical b-to-b company's customers will answer the ultimate question as promoters. “This is a stunning finding,” Fuggetta said. “[Marketers] have an untapped source of advocates.” Fuggetta said the starting point to building an “advocate army” is simple. A marketer should email its customers the ultimate question and put those answering nine or 10 to work. Among Zuberance's clients that have put NPS into action is Parallels, a software company with about 10 million end users. Kim Johnston, Parallels' VP-marketing, started an email campaign that quickly identified 30,000 promoters. The company then encouraged them—with no incentive included, Fuggetta emphasized—to review Parallels' products on Amazon. In less than a month, Parallels' average product rating on Amazon increased from 3½ stars to 4½ stars. Next, Parallels asked its promoters to pass along a 10% discount to their social connections. In a three-week period, the offer produced a 30% conversion rate, Fuggetta said. “Most companies are thrilled with 2%-to-3% response rates,” he said. Not every company employing NPS focuses on its promoters. Rackspace, a hosting and cloud computing company, is a big believer in NPS. It uses social media not to empower its advocates but to address its detractors. Rob La Gesse, director-customer development, leads this effort. Rackspace built a platform that tracks activity across the social Web to locate detractors anywhere online. La Gesse said his social media team consists of engineers, who typically can address a customer problem immediately. The first step, La Gesse said, is to engage the disappointed customer with an email or phone call addressing the problem. In addition to solving the customer's problem, this approach also takes the discussion offline and removes it from the social Web. La Gesse said Rackspace plans to double the size of its social media team to six this year. The squad monitors the social Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “When you have 180,000 customers and 80,000 servers,” La Gesse said, “there's going to be a problem somewhere. There's no avoiding it.”

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