Advocate Programs: From “The Voice” Contestants To Nicaraguan Ecolodges

Another season of The Voice is over and I think Season 7 was the best one yet.  It is the only show on television that I watch live. I love seeing the complex gamesmanship of the coaches, the personal growth of the contestants, and the innovation that goes into each show.  And of course, the voices. The passion and talent that emanates from those lungs each night The Voice airs is incredible.  It is a completely unique and captivating experience.

Last night, Team Blake’s country rocker Craig Wayne Boyd won the grand prize.  I’m not normally a big country music fan, but Craig’s confident stage presence, resonant lower register and remarkable range won me over. He deserved the win.

This season finale also had a fascinating innovation: The finalists recorded original songs for the first time, whereas every other song performed this season and in previous seasons was a cover.

These original songs were available on iTunes with the sales of these singles contributing to contestants’ final scores.  In the span of just a few days, the contenders needed to generate as many sales as possible.

The show has generated an incredible amount of fan enthusiasm and advocacy, especially on Twitter. In 2013, a single episode of The Voice generated more than 2.5 million tweets from viewers casting social votes to save their favorite contestant. I would imagine that there was even more buzz around this season, however it’s largely organic, undirected and not part of any NBC- or contestant-run advocate program.

That got me thinking.  If I was, god forbid, a contender on The Voice and wanted to win by pumping up the sales of my single on iTunes, how would I do it?

Would I put up an SEO-optimized web page? No, that would only catch those people specifically looking for me.

Could I send messages to fans who subscribed to my YouTube channel? Sure, but that would just get my fan base. It wouldn’t help me tap into the broader market that I would need to win.

How about some content marketing: write a blog post or put out an eBook? That might work for building relationships, but I need sales and I need them fast. Viral sales.

All of these conventional marketing methods would fail to achieve the goal. The tactic that would work best is an advocate program.

I would need my fans to help me get more fans by:

  • Advocating for me and influencing their networks in ways that I couldn’t even predict.
  • Downloading the song on multiple accounts, giving it a 5-star rating, and getting all their friends and family to download as well.
  • Writing supportive blog posts and extending ‘my voice’ by commenting on the dozens of other websites out there dedicated to analyzing The Voice.
  • Getting creative and having fun by organizing viewing and listening parties.
  • Influencing tastemakers who, in turn, influence tens of thousands of potential purchasers.

Clearly, my success as a pop crooner would rest squarely with my fans, and there would be no better way to engage them than through an advocate program.

Right now, it is mostly companies with over 50 employees that can make the economics work to administer their own an advocate programs.  But the revelation that contenders on The Voice could use one has me convinced that, in the next few years, we will see the democratization of this approach to marketing, and eventually the ubiquity of advocate programs of many different flavors.

Here is another example from my experience: I recently went to Nicaragua on holiday and stayed at the fantastic Jicaro Island Ecolodge, located on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  The experience was phenomenal, anchored by customer service that was second to none.  It was really a whole different category of “customer service”. The staff, who probably outnumbered guests 4 to 1, loved and appreciated the guests in a way that I’ve never experienced before.

Advocate programs for The Voice contestants and Ecolodges   Google DocsThe guests in turn showed their appreciation by writing in a large, fancy guestbook.  They didn’t just sign their names.  They wrote poetry, and some even drew original art.

Unfortunately, all of this customer love just stayed in the fancy guestbook, to be seen only by other guests upon leaving the Jicaro.  All of that enthusiasm and satisfaction – that potential to influence other guests to experience the lodge – is trapped in that guestbook.

The poems and art have no way of effectively enlisting new vacationers so that the ratio of staff to guests might dip, or ensuring that the ecolodge would not be dependent on Groupon for customer acquisition (the source of at least two of the four other guests staying with me at the same time). The lodge has a capacity of nine casitas, so they had just 44% occupancy with half of that being Groupon customers representing minimal profit. A powerful, organized, outbound advocate program would make the difference between subsistence operations and the opportunity to open up more lodges and employ more incredible Nicaraguans who are hungry for work.

Whether you run a large company or a tiny nine-room lodge, or are looking to become the next global singing sensation, delighting your customers and making them raving fans should be the top priority. Without those advocates, the opportunity for growth and profit will be highly limited in this social buying era. I expect that advocate programs will be as ubiquitous in the years to come as email and web marketing is today.

Where else do you see advocate programs offering the opportunity for transformation today?