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Creating a lasting relationship with a customer can be challenging. Advocacy marketing (also called advocate marketing) emphasizes this long haul relationship and is effective at building loyalty and bringing in leads.

You probably have heard of brand advocates. You may even see countless advocates talking about specific brands on social media. Perhaps you have even done it yourself—advocated for a brand you love. Advocate marketing usually happens naturally, because people like sharing good things with their friends.

How do you get someone to go the extra mile for you, though? What can you do to plan ahead to keep customers engaged in your business? If you figure out these key steps, you will find that a brand advocate will always have your back, even if you face a bump in the road.

Advocacy marketing enables customers to promote your brand for marketing to occur. They can take a brand’s message and make it their own, amplifying the voice of your business. The challenge is getting to the point where people want to speak on your behalf. There are some tricks you can try that will help you build up a great advocate base to help you kickstart your advocate marketing program.

Advocacy marketing statistics


 

What Is Advocacy Marketing/Advocate Marketing?

Advocacy marketing plays a role in encouraging word of mouth marketing to occur. It gets existing customers to speak on your behalf and create a ‘buzz’ for your company. Think of it as a megaphone for your business. Happy customers choose to brag about you, without you coercing them to do so.

Advocacy marketing uses a brand’s most enthusiastic and loyal customers to spread the word about the brand or its products. Advocates typically choose to share on their own, simply because of how much they like the business, and their enthusiasm and excitement motivates others to check out the brand or product for themselves. Advocacy is a little more difficult to hone in on because it’s not as structured as other marketing types like influencer marketing or ambassador marketing. It’s really more about a brand providing an excellent product or service and then recognizing those who really love the brand. An advocate can really be anyone who loves your brand, who is already a loyal customer.

Why are Brand Advocates Important?

Brand advocates can be awesome for your business. All you have to do is provide them with something they like. Give them some good customer service, and bam… they take care of the rest.

1. They share, without expecting anything in return – Yes, you read that correctly. Most advocates will share you just because they genuinely love your brand or products, and want to see you succeed. So, keep doing your job well, and they won’t expect anything more from you. Awesome, right?

2. They will share everywhere – They have no shame in sharing you wherever they can. If they have a blog, you’ll be on it. They’ll share you on their social sites, and they will share you in person. Whenever it makes sense to bring you up, consider it done.

3. They will provide reviews – Another reason brand advocates are great is that they will happily provide you with some online reviews. Most of the time you won’t even have to ask because a true advocate will have done so already. We all know the importance of a good review, so this one is great news! 

The thing is, people, search for reviews before committing to a product. Whether it be a software program, electronic device, or even a type of beauty cream, people watch and read reviews of the product online, in addition to getting advice from their family and friends. In a study by Nielsen, it was suggested that a whopping 66% of people trust the opinions of consumers found online. Meaning, advocate marketing can definitely drive new customers.

4. They are respected in their networks – Usually, the advocate who is sharing is largely respected in their community or network. This doesn’t necessarily mean the advocate has a large number of followers.  Far more important is that the advocate’s friends and followers trust the advocate’s opinion, so they are intrigued to try the brand or product for themselves. Not only are they intrigued to try the brand, but they may also see how they can benefit from it.

Let’s take a look at this from the perspective of an advocate. Perhaps the person has a blog, social media account, or website that caters to a certain type of individual. Or maybe they just have a close network of friends who respect their advice. Typically the individuals who follow the advocate are of a similar demographic, have similar interests, or seek guidance, ideas, and advice from the advocate. The advocate will mention your product to their friends and followers. Then, their peers will know about the product, and perhaps may try the product, since someone they trust has spoken highly of it.

How Do You Find Brand Advocates?

Because customer advocacy marketing is based on trust, it can seriously benefit a company. The best news is that a customer advocacy program is actually quite inexpensive. It’s not like influencer marketing, which is based on influencers having a vast amount of social media followers. Rather, advocate marketing is more about having someone who actually likes your brand. In fact, advocate marketing is also the easiest to use, because it utilizes the people who are already promoting you. Think of it as peer to peer marketing. You’re having customers engage other customers in buying your products. Buyers simply trust other people in their situation, or in their network. This is the exact reason peer to peer marketing and customer advocate marketing work so well.

To make things even easier, you can use an advocate marketing software to find your perfect match.

Where to Find Brand Advocates?

  1. Social Media – Look at who is talking positively about you on the web, whether it be on social media or a positive rating on a review site. These people are already talking highly of you, so make them advocates.
  2. Recent Conversations – Think of recent phone calls, or face to face interactions, where the customer expressed gratitude or excitement for your brand. These customers are also great advocates.
  3. Email Correspondence – You may have had a few glowing emails come in. Think about it, those who want to provide you with a positive testimonial make great brand advocates.
  4. NPS Scores – Perhaps you sent out a recent NPS survey or other customer satisfaction survey. Turns out these people basically told you that they would recommend your brand to others.

How Do You Create Advocates?

Despite the tips we offered above, it’s actually a lot easier to create advocates than find them. But, you can’t just push a few buttons and expect magic to happen. You have to do a little work, and turn customers into advocates. Here are some ways you can better your business and produce loving advocates.

  1. Always be customer-first – Putting your customers first is well worth it, and pretty easy. If you make the customer feel important and meet their needs, they will develop a sense of loyalty for you. A customer-centered culture is key for a unified company. Plus, it probably means internal relationships are thriving too.
  2. Try to be ahead in the field – Think of Apple. The brand has customers practically waiting in lines wrapping around buildings when new phones come out. These people are advocates and stand by the company because it offers something that they feel they can’t get elsewhere. If you provide something that people can’t live without or that is above par from the rest, you have a good chance of having quite a few advocates.
  3. Listen to customer concerns – One of the easiest ways to build an army of happy customers is simply to listen to them. If they feel like their voice is heard, you start tapping into relationship building and their loyalty takes a big jump up. Once this happens, you should start to see some advocates emerge. Then it’s just a matter of time until advocacy marketing will start.
  4. Take action when feedback is given – It’s not just about listening though. You also have to walk the walk. Sure, some feedback you get can roll off your shoulders. However, once you start hearing similar feedback, or see a pattern, it’s time to take action. Your customers use your product, so make sure you are giving them what they want. They are the ones who can help you build something great.
  5. Always be thankful – It never hurts to tell your customers how thankful you are for their feedback and business. Even if they call in to complain about something, take the time to listen, address, and then thank them for their feedback. A thank you can have quite the impact.

How To Run An Advocate Program

Time to put your thinking cap on. What can you do to make the magic happen and spark up an advocacy program? Obviously, you need to consider the customer journey as it will lead your customers to brand loving advocates. So, if you want your customers to effectively share your brand’s message, you need to do a few things to prime the behavior. Here are a few tips on creating a sustainable advocacy program.

1. Figure out the big picture – Do you want to create long-term relationships or is the goal to get a big buzz going?  If you need a quick buzz, you may opt for some higher-ups. Like celeb and athlete endorsements. Of course, you may have to pay a pretty penny. This could also work with paid endorsements of regular people. They will ‘love’ your brand and get the word out, and a buzz will be created relatively quickly.

If you’re searching for the long-term commitment you may want to start providing excellent customer service and building your customer relationships. The more effort you put in, the more effort they will put out. Let your top customers know they are important and give them a little VIP treatment… that should get them talking to you on a consistent basis.

2. Recruit the right people – Decide how you will choose advocates is probably one of the most important aspects of an advocate program. You get what you put in. So, you have to find the right people to share your message. Start by looking at your current customers and choose ones that seem to be most engaged with your brand. They’d be the perfect people to start out with.

3. Figure out your plan for keeping advocates loyal – The same way you made them an advocate is going to be the same way you keep them active in your advocate program. You need to have a relationship with advocates, and let them know you appreciate their help. Remember, people, become advocates because they like your business, not because they have been paid to do so. But, a small incentive may be a good way to show you care, and it helps keep them motivated and loyal to your brand.

Brand advocates deserve to be shown appreciation. Whether you give a physical reward or a little bit of recognition, it can go a long way. For example, you could send the advocate a t-shirt for adding a link to your website, or express how awesome they are through an advocate spotlight on social media. This type of appreciation doesn’t need to occur all the time, but it should occur frequently enough that advocates want to continually promote you. Just remember organic love is always better and more genuine than paid love. So find a balance if you do decide to throw them an incentive.

 4. Advocate program engagement – You need to decide how you want advocates to engage with future prospects. You may want to have some sort of platform where all your advocates can engage with each other and you because which can help build better content. You may only want advocates to engage on their own. Whatever you choose you have got to have the tools in place for your advocates to advocate. Plus, you need some way of tracking engagement. That can be tracking it on a platform, or having them send you snapshots of their engagement on their own.

5. Perhaps choose a software to help –   Advocate marketing software can make your life so much easier. Plus, it can provide you with the perfect platform to keep advocates engaged. In fact, many advocate marketing communities use software because it helps gamify the process. Some popular advocacy marketing software includes…

  • Influitive – which allows your customers to have a voice and build your social proof through telling their stories, sharing their reviews and more.
  • Crowdly – helps you find your true brand advocates who help to spread your business by word of mouth. A great software for running an advocate marketing program.

Advocacy Program Examples

1. Nike

advocate marketing done by Nike

Nike is one of the many great advocacy program examples. Nike+ knows their customers love a good competition. So, they built a community that encourages this behavior and focuses on their other love… sports. The platform keeps advocates engaged by hosting challenges (a great use of gamification). The results of these challenges can then be shared by the customer on their social profiles, hence providing a direct link to Nike and showing off advocacy of its customers. 

2. Naked Wines

naked wines advocacy program

Naked Wines is another advocacy program example. They have a group of super customers that they call ‘Archangels’. They choose their top customers who have used word of mouth or provided some other sort of value to them. Then rewards them with special events and other merchandise. Oh, and it’s a pretty exclusive group, there is apparently a long waitlist… Goes to show Naked Wines has a lot of fans and is doing something right.

Closing

Some of the brands we hear about most are those who make special connections with their customers. They are able to turn their customers into advocates because they motivate brand advocacy to happen. Again, this happens by providing a personal touch to each interaction, listening, and keeping the best interest of the customer in mind.

To add on to that, creating an advocacy program or using similar types of marketing campaigns can further boost these relationships to occur and make organic word of mouth happen.  

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.