Unlocking Growth Through Customer Advocacy
Co-Founder and CEO
in the Enterprise Thought Leadership podcast,
powered by TechPros.io
We had the pleasure of speaking with Andy Cockburn, Co-Founder and CEO of Mention Me, to discuss customer advocacy and how brands can unlock growth by leveraging their existing customer relationships. Andy has an impressive background, having studied history at Cambridge University before pivoting into business and working as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. He quickly realized his passion for entrepreneurship and co-founded Mention Me in 2013. Since then, the company has experienced tremendous growth, cementing itself as a leader in customer advocacy. In our conversation, Andy provided fascinating insights into consumer psychology, the evolution of marketing over the past decade, and how brands can drive sustainable growth by identifying and engaging their best brand advocates.
Andy, can you start by giving us an overview of Mention Me and what sparked the idea for the company?
The origin story of Mention Me stems from my time working at the world’s largest vacation rentals marketplace, HomeAway. Whilst there, my co-founder and I realized that around 60% of customers were coming to the platform based on recommendations from friends and family. We saw an opportunity to help companies unlock this powerful form of organic growth by making it easy for happy customers to share their experiences.
Mention Me was born out of this insight into the immense value of customer-driven advocacy. Our platform empowers brands across all industries to identify their best advocates, motivate them to share their love for the brand, and track the impact of those referrals. We’ve built an engine for organic growth that delivers higher-quality customers at a lower cost than paid advertising.
How does Mention Me actually work? Can you walk us through the mechanics?
At its core, Mention Me is designed to remove the friction from customer referrals. We make it incredibly easy for happy customers to share a brand with their personal networks through channels like email, text, social media, and more.
When a customer makes a referral, we track that activity so brands gain visibility into the value that individual customer is driving by spreading the word. Our platform leverages AI to score each customer based on their propensity to refer. This allows brands to segment and engage their top advocates in personalized ways.
On the referral recipient side, we incentivize sign-ups by offering a reward for joining. This gives customers a small nudge to take action on a recommendation from a trusted source. Once that new customer is acquired, the original advocate who made the referral gets a thank you reward. Referred customers are then five times more likely to refer a friend and it becomes a virtuous cycle.
Beyond just making referrals happen more easily, how does Mention Me shift the way brands think about their customers?
Traditional marketing has focused heavily on tracking customer value through metrics like customer lifetime value (often called CLV or LTV). Mention Me recognises that this is a very limited perspective of the value of a customer. It basically looks at customers from the perspective of their wallet. But a customer is so much more than their wallet. We get brands to think about the total value a customer can bring both directly, through their purchases, and indirectly through their referrals and advocacy.
Once brands can quantify advocacy, it leads to an entirely new approach to customer segmentation and engagement. Take the example of a customer who has only spent $100 but has referred 10 friends in the last year who've spent over $5,000 combined. That person may not score highly on lifetime value, but they are an incredible advocate who deserves special treatment.
This philosophy of designing the entire customer experience around advocacy has the power to completely transform growth. Brands start to optimize every touch point to increase referrals, which compounds over time into exponential growth.
How has the landscape of marketing and consumer behavior evolved over the 10+ years since you started Mention Me?
The past decade has seen dramatic shifts. When we started, brands were able to acquire customers relatively efficiently through channels like Facebook ads. But costs have ballooned, and both regulations and consumer attitudes have made traditional ads much less effective.
The pandemic accelerated a lot of these trends. Brand loyalty eroded as shopping habits changed virtually overnight. Customers increasingly turned to communities and trusted recommendations to inform their purchases.
This has created both a challenge and an opportunity. Brands can no longer just buy growth. They must earn it by building genuine customer relationships and nurturing true brand advocates. Mention Me enables that process.
Can you share some examples of customers you’ve worked with and the advocacy results they’ve seen?
A great example comes from our client Bloom and Wild, a very successful European online florist who we've had the pleasure of working closely with for much of their history.
I was looking at a customer of theirs who, in her first year, made 3 purchases totaling £84 in spend. On the surface, she wasn't a particularly valuable customer. However, in that same year, she referred 4 new customers to Bloom and Wild. And 2 of those referrals went on to be far more lucrative, generating almost £1,400 in revenue, not even including the initial £84 the original customer spent.
What was interesting was that after that first year this customer stopped engaging and referring. Despite this she ended up introducing over £5,000 in business over 5 years as those referred customers continued to refer. If Bloom and Wild had been looking at her holistically and recognizing her advocacy value, they could have sent her flowers every quarter to build the relationship. Given the revenue she was generating through referrals, they probably could have even sent her flowers each week and it would still make economic sense by keeping her engaged as an advocate over time!
It just goes to show how much impact a single delighted customer can have when they organically share about a brand they love. And it highlights the missed opportunity that can happen when a brand doesn't proactively retain high-value advocacy customers.
Another example is MatchesFashion, there was a customer who spent $216, then kickstarted a referral network worth $430,000 in revenue. You can literally map out the branching connections she ignited through her advocacy.
The key takeaway is that a customer’s true value goes far beyond individual purchase amounts. It's about the network effects of organic word of mouth and introducing new high-value customers. So for brands, cultivating advocacy keeps compounding value over time in ways that are like a work of art unfolding.
As Mention Me continues to grow, what does the future look like? How will you maintain momentum?
Our vision is to become ubiquitous – to establish advocacy the core component of every company’s growth strategy, indeed the initial component that they think about. Our vision is for all brands to think advocacy first. That means when a CMO thinks about how to grow, they first think about how to grow from their customers rather than where they can spend their budget. There is still an enormous untapped opportunity as more brands shift their thinking.
To maintain momentum, we'll continue doing what has made us successful so far: Obsess over customer experience and iterate rapidly based on data and feedback.
The market is also on our side. Consumers are increasingly ignoring interruptive ads and seeking advice from their community. Brands must adapt to this new paradigm or get left behind. Mention Me sits at the forefront of that change, and we are thrilled to lead the way.
It’s an exciting time for our company and the broader shift towards customer-driven growth. The brands that embrace advocacy will gain an unbeatable competitive advantage in this new era.
Mention Me empowers global brands to harness the unrivalled potential of customer advocacy through its trailblazing referral marketing platform. In a landscape where conventional marketing avenues are witnessing diminished efficacy and inflated costs, Mention Me emerges as a champion for an innovative, advocacy-centric approach. They not only assist brands in attracting new, premium customers but also in identifying and nurturing their staunchest advocates, ensuring a trajectory of sustainable, organic expansion.
Mention Me are changing the world of marketing, one customer advocacy programme at a time.
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Mention Me is also the sponsor of the upcoming TechPros.io research, Unlocking Customer Value: The Role of Relationships and Advocacy. This programme delves into the evolving world of CRM, AI's potential and challenges, and the undeniable importance of customer advocacy in today's market.