Recently, my husband and I were on a rockhounding field trip on a dirt road in the wilds of Idaho. We hit a bad spot in the road and bam! bam! just like that, we had two flat tires.

2-flatsNot to be foiled, we had brought along an electric tire pump for just such occasion. But, when we tried to repair the tires they would not inflate. None of the other tricks we had up our sleeve worked either and it was getting late. Ultimately, we had to be pulled onto a flatbed truck and driven 50 miles into Boise, where we arrived at midnight. Cost: $385.

The silver-lining to this story is that we have towing coverage with USAA. Within one day, the refund for the towing service was in our bank account. I’m a big fan of USAA and a brand advocate; I tell everyone about them.usaa2-150x150

And as I learned at a recent presentation by Rob Fuggetta, CEO of Zuberance, USAA has a lot of brand advocates. USAA’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), a metric for loyalty and brand advocacy, is #1 among brands in the US.

brand-advocate-book-150x150According to Fuggetta, the author of Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force, it’s not just the brand promise’s but the customer’s experience of the brand that builds advocates. Service is what makes the difference. Brand advocates are the people that, when asked “how likely are you to recommend our services?” score your product or service at a 9 or 10, out of a possible 0 – 10.

Word of mouth (WOM) recommendations happen all the time. They are now tweeted, mobile and web-enabled, but they are not new. Fuggetta made this important connection for the audience: WOM advocates have clout – they influence purchasing decisions and because of that, it is important to cultivate as well as mobilize your advocates. He also made the point that right now, the brands with the most recommends and advocates are the winners in the marketplace.

brand-advocates-2-300x225How can you mobilize your brand advocates? Here are the top techniques:

Request reviews and incentivize people to participate in your brand. Did you know that almost every category has review sites for product or service reviews? Interesting!

Give advocates an opportunity to tell their story about your brand. I just did this for USAA in the introduction to this blog post. My husband often does the same for Les Schwab Tires, a regional tire store in the Pacific Northwest that is also top in their category for WOM. That’s where we were towed to that memorable night in Idaho.

And, finally, you have to keep the energy going. Brand advocacy is not a one-time promotion. You have to work it, train on it, and build on it. Gather testimonials, collect stories, and curate the messages. Brands rarely build themselves.

Oh, and please “like”and tweet this post. Thanks!