In (a beautiful) conclusion to our 2017 pre-conference speaker interviews series, I sat down to interview Deena Zenyk – a speaker who will tackle the subject of advocacy marketing at this year’s Influencer Marketing Days. Enjoy her insight below…

Question: In a few words, could you please tell the IMD’s community about yourself and what you do?

Deena: I am the head of the Advocate Marketing Center of Excellence at Influitive. In this role, I develop, test, refine, evangelize and educate on new approaches and best practices in advocate marketing. I work closely with the Customer Success team to assist with success planning and maturity modelling, and collaborate across the organization to ensure we are all working with a common point of view in mind. I also act as our Principal Strategic Consultant primarily for large enterprise customers globally. I am based in a home office off the beaten track in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada where I spend my downtime hiking or biking with my husband and daughter.

Question: Influencer marketing has been around for a few years and has already had its share of ups and downs. What are the biggest challenges that you see it face now?

Deena: Although not exactly Influencer Marketing, Advocate Marketing does share with IM a pain point around authenticity. The question arises in advocate marketing: Why would a happy customer want to do things for a company, especially without monetary compensation? What’s in it for them?

Question: How can marketers overcome these?

Deena: In today’s day and age, transparency is key. Customers are seeking more transparency from the companies they do business with; Businesses are looking to be more transparent with their customers. For businesses which are less transparent, online review sites open the inner door anyhow. It’s in a business’ – and marketer’s – best interest to maintain a level of transparency around their practices (IM and AM) to avoid any perception of inauthenticity.

Question: What, in your opinion, is the biggest advantage of getting into advocacy marketing?

Deena: Asking customer advocates to champion your product or brand on your behalf is a powerful way to cut through the clutter. Peer to peer recommendations, positive social sentiment, co-created content, relatable success stories – these are all ways to rise above the noise and be noticed.

Question: When operating on a tight budget, but wanting to hop on the influencer marketing bandwagon, where would you recommend a company to focus their efforts, how, and why?

Deena: I would recommend they meet their customers where they are at. If there is a large industry event, plan a presence at that event. If there is a happening social channel, make yourself known there. The key is be a part of the conversations that are already happening “out there”, sometimes directly and sometimes by proxy of your engaged customer advocates.

Question: On September 26, 2017 you’re speaking at Influencer Marketing Days. Why should marketers want attend your session?

Deena: The practice of advocate marketing is related to, yet very different from influencer marketing. I would encourage attendees to attend my session to learn more about this emerging practice and explore some of the intersections between advocate and influencer marketing. Engaging with customers on a relational level instead of a transactional one takes time, finesse and deep strategy. Motivating people to actively advocate on your behalf with no monetary benefit requires you to double-down on what influences us in the first place: social capital, a sense of belonging or tribe, status, access and power. These are themes that practitioners of influencer and advocate marketing have in common.

Question: If you were to give one influencer marketing advice to brands/advertisers, and one to influencers, what would they be?

Deena: For brands and influencers: Focus on trust, transparency and authenticity in your marketing efforts. Break down the walls between us and them and embrace an advocate-first approach to doing business.

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