During our most recent weekly CXOTalk video series, Michael Krigsman and I were joined by special guest Ekaterina Walter, a social media innovator at Intel and author of the WSJ bestselling book "Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg". A recognized business and marketing thought leader; Walter is a sought-after speaker and a regular contributor to leading-edge print and online publications including Mashable, FastCompany and Huffington Post. Walter is the chief marketing officer (CMO) at Branderati, she sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), and was recently named Social Media Marketer of the year for 2013.
I highly encourage you to watch our video interview with Ekaterina - she is simply awesome! Her passion and incredibly insightful wisdom is totally contagious and energizing. I promise you that after the video, you will be inspired and motivated to serve with a passion.
In her best-selling book, Walters talks about the 5 P's of Passion, Purpose, People, Products and Partnerships. We couldn't resist challenging Walter to tell us which she feels is the most important to a CEO or business executive. While she was quick to point out that it is a combination of things, she says that basically it all comes down to people. A big question that companies ask is how do they find and attract the right people and how do they get the wrong people off the bus. A key lesson on this topic that Walter addresses in her new book and spoke to us at length about is culture. One of her favorite quotes from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com sums it up perfectly, "For individuals character is destiny, but for companies culture is destiny."
Companies need to embrace a culture of innovation by creating their definition of what the culture should be and using that as a map to drive business success. She claims culture as a key to the success of Facebook, who ensures that every single person they hire shares their vision and purpose. When hiring, she says that a good rule of thumb is to hire based on attitude not aptitude. Skills can be taught, passion and vision cannot.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com believes that their company culture is built on the belief that customer service shouldn't just be a department; it should be the entire company. He talks about their unique hiring process which he says is where building the culture starts. "At the end of the first week of training, we make an offer to the entire class. We offer everyone $2,000 to quit (in addition to paying them for the time they've already worked), and it's a standing offer until the end of the fourth week of training. We want to make sure that employees are here for more than just a paycheck. We want employees that believe in our long-term vision and want to be a part of our culture. As it turns out, on average, less than one percent of people end up taking the offer." Talk about putting your money where your mouth is!
The idea is that getting the culture right naturally creates a positive brand, but then the question begs, how do you turn mere fans of your brand into passionate advocates of your brand? According to Walter it's all about "giving a damn". She says it all boils down to one person building a relationship with another person - it takes time and love. Walter recommends that companies figure out who the top 3-5% of advocates who love your brand are and engage with them in a meaningful and sustainable way. Sorry, no short cuts here. It's all about caring, identifying the right people and continuously engaging them. The Beetles had is right when they sang, "all you need is love"!
Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) defines a brand advocate as a highly-satisfied customer who recommends your company or product without pay or incentives. According to "2013: The Year of Advocacy," a study conducted by Zunerance and UBM Tech, 89% of marketers say advocacy is very important or important in 2013. "There is no magic core competency that companies need in order to turn fans into advocates, it's a mind-set," said Walter. Cultivating that mind-set internally goes back to culture. Walter points to the fact that studies show that 10% of the population holding an unshaken belief about something can influence the entire population. It's up to companies to find that 10% and engage with them.
So, practically speaking, how do you go about building brand advocates? Brian Honigman recommends "10 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business". Treating customers genuinely, showing them respect, listening, being honest when mistakes are made, being true to your word and saying thank you make his list. Sounds like getting back to the basics to me! Walter adds that building advocates happens one customer and one conversation at a time. Every time you make a difference you build advocates. When you listen to Walter, it is clear that her passion for service is unparalleled.
The bottom line: Building customer advocates takes time and patience. If you are passionate about doing what it takes to create a culture that drives brand advocacy then you will get others to be passionate. "Be that 10% and you will get others to join you. No matter how long it takes, don't run out of passion, passion is what sells!" advises Walter. To build advocacy, we simply must care more.