An Interview with Rob Fuggetta of Zuberance

I recently had the chance to sit down with Rob Fuggetta, the CEO and founder of Zuberance and the author of Brand Advocates. Zuberance is combining a more traditional metric – the Net Promoter score – with social media. This is a great example of combining research and internet technology to create something entirely new and valuable. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Dana Stanley: We’re here today with Rob Fuggetta, the founder and CEO of Zuberance. Good afternoon, Rob.

Rob Fuggetta: Hi, Dana. Nice to be here with you.

Glad to have you. So for those who might not be familiar, tell us a little bit about Zuberance and what it is that you guys do.

Zuberance is a social media marketing company that focuses on brand advocates. And we provide a brand advocate platform that makes it easy for companies to identify their brand advocates, energize them to spread positive word of mouth online, and then tracks the results.

And how do you do that? How do you accomplish that way of helping clients?

Well, I mentioned identify, energize, and track, so let me address those three words one at a time and talk about how we identify advocates, how we energize them, and what we track.

So the way that Zuberance’s advocate platform makes it easy to identify advocates is by making it easy for customers to answer the ultimate question for customer loyalty from Net Promoter; how likely are you to recommend this brand or product to a friend? And we serve up that question to a brand’s customers across a variety of different customer touch points. That can be email, web, social, digital, even over mobile devices.

Once a customer answers 9 or 10, i.e. they’re highly likely to recommend the brand or product, so in Net Promoter lingo they’d be considered a promoter, we call them advocates. As soon as a customer answers 9 or 10 then we immediately energize them, and that’s that second word, energized.

And the way we do that is that we give those promoters tools to recommend the brand or product. And those tools make it easy for a brand advocate to recommend. And they include things like making it easy for an advocate to rate and review a company’s products, to write a story about their experience with the brand, to answer prospects’ questions, and also to share content and offers with their friends in their social networks.

So I’ve spoken about how we identify, which through asking the ultimate question, and how we energize. And that third word, track. Everything a brand advocate does, using Zuberance’s advocate applications, we measure and track in real time.

So for example, if you’re Starwood Hotels, and you’re customer of Starwood’s, a guest at Starwood’s, one of their hotel brands, and you say, I’m highly likely to recommend a Starwood Hotel’s brand. And then we give you an opportunity to rate and review a Starwood’s hotel or Starwood’s property. And you write your review using Zuberance’s advocate reviews application, and then you share it with your friends. You post it on your Facebook, you tweet it out, maybe you publish it on Tripadvisor.

Our tracking and analytics will tell Starwood Hotels, number one, that you’re an advocate. It will tell you when that person wrote the review, the star rating they gave it, or when they shared that offer with their social network. And you’ll be able to see all of that in the Zuberance dashboard.

We call it advocate analytics. It’s our version of Google Analytics, but it’s aimed at advocacy instead. And so brands and marketers can see, with great precision, the results that they’re getting from their advocacy programs powered by Zuberance. So the way we do this for brands is we offer this very comprehensive platform that goes from identifying advocates, energizing advocates, to tracking results.

So if I’m a person who uses a brand and I recommend it, what would be my experience? How would I come across one of your Net Promoter questions, and then how would I interact with the Zuberance software?

OK. Well, Dana, let me ask you. Tell me a brand or product that you recommend, whether it’s a car brand, sporting goods, hotel, consumer electronics product, any one of them,

OK, let’s go with Diet Coke.

Diet Coke, OK. Well, if you were a customer of Diet Coke, and typically a consumer brand like Coca Cola probably doesn’t have your name in some kind of an email database, although they could if you had registered to enter some sort of contest. But let’s say they didn’t.

But let’s assume, in that case, that you liked Diet Coke on Diet Coke’s fan page on Facebook. While you’re on Facebook, you might see the ultimate question from Zuberance, and it might say, Dana, how likely are you to recommend Diet Coke to your friends? And right there on Diet Coke’s Facebook page, on a scale of 0 to 10, then you could say 9 or 10, highly likely to recommend Diet Coke.

So now we’ve identified Dana as a Diet Coke advocate. Then we would reach out to you invite you to share your natural enthusiasm, your authentic enthusiasm for Diet Coke, with your friends. We might invite you to share a Diet Coke video. We might invite you to share an offer with your friends. We might invite you to create some content.

And all of that would be a hosted application served up to you by Zuberance. And that interaction, you might access that application over Facebook, might be over email, if Diet Coke has you email address, or if you included one in the Facebook page when you said you were highly likely to recommend Zuberance.

So we just make it easy for you. Wherever you are online, whether it’s on social or digital channels, or even on mobile, as I mentioned earlier, to register a, quote unquote, “vote,” maybe is a better word, vote, that you’re a Diet Coke advocate, and then we give you the tools to recommend.

What types of companies tend to work with you, and what kind of solutions do you help them with? In other words, what’s the experience for your customers, how they get in touch with you and how they work with you?

So we have about 100 brands that are on the Zuberance advocate platform. And interestingly enough, about half of them are B2B companies, and half are B2C. So you used an example of Diet Coke as a brand that you recommend. But interestingly enough, like I said, about half of our customers are actually B2B companies. And in some what you might consider to be very low passion categories.

So some of our B2B customers include companies like Intuit, Symantec, NetApp, Citrix. And these are categories that you would think that there’s not a lot of passion around, but what we’re finding is that among all of these B2B companies, actually significant percentages of their customers are highly likely to recommend them. But these companies just hadn’t been doing anything with them.

The other half of our customers include consumer brands like GMC, Lexus, Buick, Rubio’s, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and many others. TiVo and and many others. So both B2B and B2C brands across multiple verticals and industries.

So we’re finding, for example, companies in travel and hospitality, consumer electronics, health and fitness, consumer brands and consumer products, are all very keen to find their advocates and leverage them to become a marketing force for the brand.

And what are the metrics that you provide to your brand clients?

Well, the number one metric is number of people recommending this brand. So you probably know, on Facebook, if you look on Facebook, they’ll provide a couple metrics. And one of those is number of people that have liked your brand. And by now I think everyone’s pretty aware that the number of fans or likes you have is actually pretty meaningless, unless you do something those fans and followers.

So companies have gone through that phase, now. I would say chapter one of social media marketing was to build a social audience. And for the most part that’s been done. That rapid growth in company’s social audience is starting to plateau.

And so chapter two, now, is, OK, now we have fans and followers, what can we do with them? And the high order bid, the most valuable thing you can do with your fans and followers is to find, among those fans and followers, those super fans, or as we call them, brand advocates, and then give them the tools to recommend you.

And so the key metric, then, is number of people recommending this. And that’s a key metric for Zuberance customers, is how many people from among our customers and others are actually recommending our company, or our brand, or our products?

And the reason why that one ultimate metric for social media, number of people recommending this, is so powerful and so valuable, is that there is a proven correlation between the number of people recommending this and revenue growth rates. And I invite you to take a look at the Bain and Satmetrix research that established a clear link between positive word of mouth and revenue growth rate. So that’s the number one metric that our customers look at each and every day, is how many people are recommending this and are we growing that number.

And are a lot of your customers already using the Net Promoter Score?

Yeah, I would say at least half of our customers are using the Net Promoter Score. And Intuit is a good example. Intuit, which is a customer of ours, was, as you probably know, one of the first companies to adopt Net Promoter. I think Intuit and GE are considered to be the earliest adopters of Net Promoter.

And Intuit has been tracking its Net Promoter. It’s a very important KPI insight into it. And Scott Cook, the former CEO of Intuit, has been quoted as saying that the Net Promoter Score is the ultimate metric that they run their business on.

Now it’s interesting. Although, as I said, about half of our customers are tracking Net Promoter, they really weren’t doing anything with their promoters. And so you take a company like Intuit, or even Symantec. Let’s talk about Symantec, for example. This is a great example.

Symantec has been tracking Net Promoter Scores for about five years now. And consistently, about 60% to 65% of Symantec customers have self identified as promoters. In other words, 9 and 10 in answer to the ultimate question from Net Promoter, highly likely to recommend Symantec.

The big opportunity for Symantec, and for anybody who’s listening to this who’s doing Net Promoter, is to do something with your promoters, is to invite them to recommend you. And that’s why we always say Zuberance picks up where Net Promoter leaves off. And that is, we’re going to take those 9s and 10s, those promoters, and turn them into a powerful marketing force for your company.

And that’s a big missed opportunity, because if you’re a company like Symantec, for example, and you have 50 million consumers worldwide and 60% to 65% of them are highly likely to recommend Symantec, that’s a massive marketing force. And the opportunity that companies have is to enable and mobilize that marketing force, but not to pay them. Because you don’t have to pay your authentic advocates.

Got it, OK. And so you’ve published a book called Brand Advocates. Tell us a little bit about that.

Well, the book is newly published. It’s available on Amazon and other online resellers. And the book is entitled Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force. And here’s what’s different about this book, because it seems like there’s probably a book a week on social media topics, and certainly social media is part of brand advocacy.

I wanted to write a book that was different in two ways. Number one, I read a lot of social media marketing books, and many of them are outstanding books. But you know where they leave me sort of dry is that, I don’t know what to do once I’ve read the book. They don’t provide a how to. So the first thing that’s different about Brand Advocates is that the entire second half of the book is, how do you get this done?

So let’s say you’re a marketer or a business leader, and you have advocates for your business. You know customers are recommending you. You have word of mouth champions. Then it really issues, well, how do I find them and how do I mobilize them, and how do I do this without paying them, or how should I reward them, and what should I track?

So the entire second half of my book is almost like a cookbook for brand advocacy. You can follow it. And, as I say, you can read the book today and tomorrow you can go into the office and you can have a formulaic, programmatic approach to how to find and activate your brand advocates. So that’s number one that’s different.

The second thing that’s different is that, a complaint that I have about books about social media is that there are no people in them. And social media is people media, right? So in Brand Advocates, it’s chock full of stories about real people. People like Starbucks Melody, the Starbucks brand advocate who is a passionate advocate of Starbucks.

So there are profiles of literally hundreds of brand advocates and marketers that are using advocacy to drive sales and leads for their businesses. So it’s really about people. So you’re going to read a lot of really fascinating stories, a lot of profiles about brand advocates and about marketers who are leveraging their advocates.

It sounds like you’re providing, both through your book and through your company, an opportunity for people to think about things that they might not have thought about before.

Well, brand advocacy is a fancy term for word of mouth marketing. And you know it, we all know it, that there is nothing more powerful than a personal recommendation. And that word of mouth has always been the most powerful sales tool.

And of course, it used to be that word of mouth happened around the water cooler. Today it happens online, on places like Yelp and Tripadvisor and and Facebook and Twitter . And so word of mouth, which has always been the most potent form of advertising, is now amplified. And so every company, whether you do this via Zuberance or anyone else, every company ought to be looking for ways to make word of mouth marketing the centerpiece of your marketing. And Brand Advocates the book will tell you how to do that.

Words to live by. Rob Fuggetta, thanks for your time today.

Thank you, Dana. It was a pleasure.

About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.

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