“Excuse me,” the man said.
Act3 Principal Eric Ratinoff was at a Starbucks in Jacksonville, Florida, working quietly on his laptop, earbuds in, when the gray-haired man politely approached his table. He looked up.
“I’m sorry to bother you. I just have one question and then I’ll let you get back to work.”
Perhaps because he was in the South, or perhaps because he was being approached by a kindly stranger in a public place, Eric mentally prepared himself for an invitation to a non-denominational church.
“How do you like your Mac?”
It was a question for Eric. But it was an opportunity for Apple.
Here was someone who was, or would soon be, in the market for a new computer. Perhaps he was unsatisfied with his PC, or maybe it was just time for a new machine. Like most consumers, he had probably done some research, enough to spark his curiosity about switching to a Mac. Maybe he’d even checked out a Mac at the Apple Store.
Yet despite all that, despite what he had read in his research or heard from the sales people at the Apple Store, he wanted first-person insight. He wanted to know about a Mac from someone who lived with one every day.
He wanted to know if Eric was a Mac advocate.
What is an advocate?
An advocate is more than a customer. It’s more than a loyal customer, in fact. An advocate is someone with a story to tell, about a product, a service, an experience, an idea, a place, a person.
And because advocates speak from personal experience, they deliver an unvarnished, authentic credibility that no advertising or marketing or branding effort can buy.
This was a critical moment for Apple. Everything the man had heard about Apple up to this point was important, but what he was about to hear from Eric had the potential to trump all of it.
If Eric had shrugged and said, “Eh, it’s okay,” would it have convinced the man that making the switch wasn’t worth the risk? What if he had said, “It’s not bad, but I’ll probably go back to a PC for my next computer”? Justin Long may be a lot more clever than John Hodgman in all those commercials—but that’s an ad campaign. This was real life.
In real life, Eric said, “I love it. I switched to a Mac about four years ago, and I’ll never go back.”
In that moment, Eric was an Apple advocate—an unofficial, unpaid, uncensored representative of the company and its products—and his story carried a trustworthiness and integrity beyond anything that Apple could deliver itself.
Apple never asked Eric to be an advocate, yet there he was, doing their most vital marketing work in a Jacksonville Starbucks. It’s work he does on a regular basis, gladly, because he genuinely loves his Mac. And Apple has made it easy for him to be an advocate, because they tell a coherent, consistent story about Macs—a story about thoughtful, intuitive, and elegant design, and how that leads to a simplicity and ease of use that inspires both empowerment and joy—that advocates like him can easily share.
And though he is a total stranger to the people who randomly approach him in coffee shops—this man in Jacksonville was not the first, nor the last—they want to know what he thinks, because he’s a real person, just like them.
We understand traditional efforts to get customers, and turn to those customers into loyal customers.
But we believe that aiming higher—aspiring to advocates—fundamentally changes your approach to your audience. And we believe that fundamental change is a commitment to telling a coherent, consistent story.
No matter what you have to sell or who your audience may be, everyone that you want to reach exists somewhere along what we call the Advocacy Continuum.
This continuum has four stages: See It, Get It, Love It, and Share It. Members of your audience may be at one of these stages, or stuck between two of them.
At the far left of the continuum is See It. Until someone sees your “it,” whatever it may be, they are only a theoretical prospect.
Once they see it, you have an actual prospect, and the next step is for them to Get It—to understand what you have to offer. Do they understand its value? How it can benefit them? The difference it might make to them?
Just because they get it doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. They may get it and shrug, deciding it’s not for them. They may get it and try it, and like it, or not. But if they are to become advocates, the next step must be for them to Love It—to appreciate it the way you appreciate it, if not more.
If they love it, you now have an opportunity to turn this person—who once was only a theoretical prospect—into an advocate. To complete this transformation, they must Share It: they must tell your story for you, to someone who trusts them more than they trust you.
When we approach the challenge of telling your story, we work to identify where your audience is along this continuum, and analyze the gaps between the stages on your specific continuum so we can bridge them. Whether your challenge is getting people to see it, get it, love it, or share it, we’ll craft a story and construct a strategy that will help move the members of your audience across the continuum towards advocacy.
Like you, we too seek advocates. That’s why we only take on projects where we believe in our client, and believe we can be a persuasive advocate for them. It’s also why we work every day to practice what we preach and earn your allegiance as an advocate for Act3, because we know there is no better business strategy than cultivating a strong network of loyal, passionate, articulate advocates who can tell our story to the world.