Ten years into his marketing career, Mark Organ made a startling discovery: companies were marketing to prospects completely wrong.
It no longer worked to force-feed customers a narrative as you nurtured them through your sales cycle. Instead, you needed customers to share their story.
When customers opened up, companies could generate referrals, close deals on references, and gather valuable feedback.
But Mark knew this kind of openness wouldn’t come easy. To unleash the value locked inside customers, a new approach was needed.
Mark got to work, interviewing 800 “super advocates” and asking them a simple question: What would it take for you to do three times as much advocacy work as you’re doing now?
“What I discovered is, if you give people the feelings that they want, which are being valued and appreciated, and combine that with social capital and recognition, they will return the favor by doing a lot more of this customer advocacy work.”
With those answers in hand, Mark founded Influitive in 2010 and assembled a team capable of building software that gave advocates what they wanted. The result was AdvocateHub.
Today, Mark and his team are dedicated to advocate marketing because they know building a community around your product or service is not only best for customers—it’s the single most effective way for entrepreneurs to build a scalable, profitable businesses in today’s world.
When a book came out that botched the promise of advocate marketing, Mark knew it was time to write his book.
Mark wanted to be a writer long before he discovered the power of advocate marketing. Growing up, he won competitions for his poetry and short stories, so a book seemed inevitable. That is, until he told his dad about his dreams of being a writer. His dad’s response?
Don’t expect me to support you.
Although he shifted career paths, Mark found plenty of opportunities to write as an entrepreneur, yet he yearned to write something more substantial than the occasional blog post or eBook. He also found himself wishing he had something to leave behind after important meetings.
Mark got serious about writing a book when he saw another book published about advocate marketing that totally missed the mark. Worried that the industry he loved was being defined by the wrong terms, Mark knew it was time to share his ideas with the world through a book.
“If people use the vocabulary in someone else’s work, you might end up being defined as opposed to being a definer. I think there’s a lot of value in creating the right vocabulary to tell these iconic stories. That’s the essence of good branding. You want to be the person doing the creating. It felt like it was the right time to do that.”
The traditional publishing route didn’t fit Mark’s goals for the book.
Before the other book came out and prompted Mark to act, he’d been toying with the idea of writing a book for three years. What held him back was the belief he didn’t have enough big ideas or experiences to make a truly great book. And with his name on it, it had to be great.
But that’s not the only reason Mark never wrote the book. Having been pursued for years by Wiley Publishing, Mark couldn’t bring himself to go the traditional publishing route.
Setting aside the name recognition of a big publisher, the value proposition of a traditional publisher never appealed to Mark. Their goals for his book didn’t match his own.
“I’m not interested in selling millions of copies. I want to inspire people and build a community around the book. I don’t want restrictions on what I can and can’t say during public appearances. Also, I want to do innovative things with my book, like give away PDF chapters for free to entice readers. I should have the freedom to do that.”
Mark also researched self-writing options, but never pursued one for an important reason.
“I just felt like I would never get off the ground writing it myself. There would always be something urgent that, while not as important, would take my focus away from what’s really important, which was codifying these ideas into a book.”
Mark was referred to Scribe by one of its most successful authors.
Mark needed the right kind of help to write his book, so he sought out advice from his executive coach: Cameron Herold, bestselling author of five books. Cameron recommended Scribe, which had helped him write and publish Vivid Vision, Meetings Suck, and Free PR.
The more Mark researched Scribe, the more he saw that the company’s value proposition aligned with his goals for the book: making an impact, not selling millions of copies.
He also knew that having a team alongside him every step of the way would keep him on track to actually finish the book instead of getting distracted and kicking it down the road.
“I’ve joked it’s like having a personal trainer. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 13, so I know my way around a gym, but I still work out with a personal trainer. Paying a trainer gets me out of bed when I’d rather sleep in, and it guarantees that I’ll have a good workout. That’s what I knew Scribe could do: push me to write a better book.”
Still, Mark worried that a book written with Scribe’s help wouldn’t sound like it came from him and his co-author, Deena Zenyk. And what if he forgot his ideas during the process?
Nevertheless, Mark was undeterred. He signed on with Scribe and began work on his book.
Mark developed exciting professional relationships and gained newfound clarity with his material while writing his book.
Early on, it seemed like Mark’s fear of forgetting his material was justified. By the third interview, he couldn’t remember what he’d said in the initial interview just a few weeks earlier.
He also worried that the tangents he went on during calls would result in a sloppy draft.
That’s when something remarkable happened: Mark received a draft with his ideas in his words staring up at him from the pages. Sure, he needed to add a few stories and explore some ideas in more detail, but there was no mistaking it—this was the book Mark had always envisioned.
As his fears melted away, Mark began to enjoy the unexpected perks of writing a book.
He relished the opportunity to interview key figures from companies like LEGO and OnePlus that used advocate marketing to build iconic brands. During those calls, he was given nuggets of wisdom he might never have discovered had he not been writing a book.
Mark also appreciated the clarity he got on his ideas as he codified them for the book.
“I’m an expert on advocate marketing, but this process exposed some gaps in my understanding. I wanted to provide a simple, effective framework for my readers, but to come up with that, you have to understand your material really well. This work helped me flesh out my ideas more and strip away everything that wasn’t important.”
Mark’s book brought him new clients, speaking gigs, and gave his company a tool to attract and retain top talent.
When Mark held the first copy of The Messenger is the Message in his hands and saw what his experience and passion had created, it was a moment he can scarcely describe with words.
“It was a career highlight for me. When I opened the box and saw it, it was like oh my God, it’s real. I got to take the book back to my dad and tell him I became a published author. It’s changed the way I think about my life and my business. Now I’m trying to make advocates for myself, and it’s amazing that the book is doing that.”
Mark and his team at Influitive measure everything, so it’s no surprise that he’s ready when authors ask him the ROI he got from the book. The company used the book to land a couple new clients worth about $400,000 combined, so that alone provided a 10x return for Mark.
There’s also the speaking engagements he’s gotten. One such opportunity was with Teradata, a multibillion-dollar software company based in San Diego. The CMO called Mark to tell him he was buying 150 copies of the book for his international marketing team and invited him to come speak at the company.
But it’s not just the hard results that made the experience worth it for Mark. Writing a book has made him more observant. He’s writing down more stories than ever before because he knows he’s got another book inside him. It might take a couple years, but he knows it’s coming.
Mark also loves that he and his team now have a bible that spells out what they believe as a company. It’s accelerated their sales cycle and helps Influitive attract and retain top talent.
“All the amazing things that’ve happened never would’ve been possible had I not put my ideas into a playbook. It’s why I recommend every entrepreneur consider writing a book.”
Mark’s book is poised to have a long-term impact on his industry.
One month after the book was published, Influitive held its annual event called Advocamp. At that event, Mark and Deena decided they’d set up a table for a book signing. The book hadn’t been out that long, so the pair weren’t sure how many people would show up.
When the event started, the line was out the door. People waited in line fifteen minutes just to get a copy of the book signed. It was another pinch-me moment for Mark and reaffirmed to him that the ideas in his book were resonating with people on a deep level.
“This book is helping us define our industry, but it’s more than that. We’re in service to a big idea, which is that the best way for companies to go and be successful is to build and mobilize their customer advocates. We believe it in every cell in our bodies.”
The book even struck a chord with a group that Mark wasn’t necessarily expecting to reach: college students. Those who’ve read it tell Mark it’s eye-opening to learn that you don’t have to interrupt people for your marketing to be effective. You can delight people with a product or a service, build a community around that, and use those advocates to go to market.
That’s when Mark typically hears a question that’s music to his ears: How can I do this as a job?
“I believe some wonderful careers will be built by young marketers who think differently, whose instinct is not to pound prospects with emails driving them to websites or ads. Their instinct will be to make better products and services. That shift will probably provide more lasting value than anything else we’ve done with this book.”
To see what other readers thought of Mark’s book, here are a few of his Amazon reviews: