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 generating leads.
But how can you plan ahead to keep customers engaged in your business? And how do you get someone to go the extra mile for you? If you figure out these key steps, you will find that a brand advocate will always have your back, even if you face challenges.
What is advocacy marketing/advocate marketing?
Advocacy marketing plays a role in encouraging word of mouth marketing to occur. This marketing strategy gets existing customers to speak on your behalf and create a ‘buzz’ for your company. It’s almost like a megaphone for your business. Happy customers choose to brag about you, without you pushing them to do so.
What makes advocacy marketing different from other strategies like influencer marketing or ambassador marketing? Advocacy marketing is a little more difficult to hone in on because it’s not as structured as other marketing types. 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.
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 love the business, and their enthusiasm and excitement motivates others to check out the brand or product for themselves.
Why are brand advocates important?
Brand advocates can be awesome for your business. All you have to do is provide them with a product they love and stellar customer service – they take care of the rest.
Brand advocates are respected among their peers: Usually, advocates are respected in their community or network. This doesn’t always mean an advocate has a large number of followers. Far more important is that the advocate’s friends and followers trust the advocate’s opinion. So, these peers are intrigued to try the brand or product for themselves, and 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. Usually, the people 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.
Advocates will share wherever they can: They have no shame in sharing you everywhere. 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. And if you’ve got a customer referral program, they’ll likely to be one of your top sharers. Whenever it makes sense to bring you up, consider it done.
Advocates will share because they love you, without expecting an incentive: 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?
Advocates will provide reviews: Another reason advocates are great is that they will happily give you stellar 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.
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 are they?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 awesome advocates.
- 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 brand advocates?
It’s 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.
Listen to customer concerns
What’s the biggest secret behind building an army of happy customers? Simply listen to them. If they feel like their voice is heard, you start tapping into relationship building and their loyalty ramps up. As a result, you should start to see some advocates emerge. Then, it’s only a matter of time until advocacy marketing will start. This is one of the easiest ways to boost customer satisfaction and advocacy!
Take action when customers give feedback
Don’t just listen to feedback without acting on it. Instead, walk the walk. Sure, some feedback you get can roll off your shoulders. However, once you start hearing similar feedback, or see a pattern of feedback, it’s time to take action. Your customers use your product, so be sure you give them what they want. They are the ones who can help you build something amazing.
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 who stand by Apple because it offers something that they feel they can’t get elsewhere. Provide a product or service that people can’t live without, or that is clearly a cut above the rest, and you’ll likely gain quite a few advocates.
Always thank your customers
It never hurts to tell your customers how thankful you are for their feedback and business. Whether you thank them personally during a call, shout them out on social media, or write a thank-you note to send with their order, take the time to show your gratitude. Even if they call in to complain about something, take the time to listen, address their concern, and then thank them for their feedback. A small thank you can have a huge impact.
Be customer-centric in everything you do
Putting your customers first is well worth it. If you make the customer feel important and meet their needs, they will develop a sense of loyalty for you. A customer-centric culture is key for a unified company. Plus, it probably means internal relationships are thriving too. So, make all your decisions through the eyes of your customers. (Learn more about creating a customer-centric strategy.)
How to run an advocate marketing program
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 become brand loving advocates. If you want your customers to effectively share your brand’s message, you need to take steps to prime the behavior. Here are a few tips on creating a sustainable advocacy marketing program.
Select the right advocates.
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.
Look at the bigger picture.
Do you want to create long-term relationships or is the goal to get a big buzz going? If you need to spread the word quickly, you may opt for some higher-ups, like celeb and athlete endorsements. Of course, you may have to pay a pretty penny. Of course, this could also work with paid endorsements of regular people with close networks. They will ‘love’ your brand and get the word out, and create a buzz relatively quickly.
Searching for long-term commitment? Start providing excellent customer service and building your customer relationships. The more effort you put in, the more effort your customers 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.
Choose how you want advocates to engage with future prospects.
Will you have some sort of platform where all your advocates can engage with each other and you, which can help you 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.
Plan how you’ll keep advocates loyal.
The way you made them an advocate is going to be the same way you keep them active in your advocate program. Cultivate a relationship with advocates, and let them know you appreciate their help. Yes, people become advocates because they like your business, not because they have been paid to do so. Still, though, a small incentive may be a good way to show you care, which will help keep them motivated and loyal to your brand.
Brand advocates deserve 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, express how awesome they are in a blog spotlight, or give them an advocate shout-out 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 that organic love is always better and more genuine than paid love. So, strike a balance if you do decide to give advocates an incentive.
Decide whether you’ll use advocate marketing software.
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.
Here are some popular advocacy marketing software programs:
- Crowdly – helps you find your true advocates who help to spread your business by word of mouth. A great software for running an advocate marketing program.
- Influitive – which allows your customers to have a voice and build your social proof through telling their stories, sharing their reviews and more.
Advocacy marketing examples: How companies create advocates
How do Naked Wines and Nike run their top-notch advocacy marketing programs? Let’s dive in.
(Source: Naked Wines)
Naked Wines is a solid example of an advocacy marketing program example. They have a group of super customers that they call ‘Archangels’. The company chooses their top customers who have used word of mouth or provided some other sort of value to them, to promote new wines, help out winemakers, and introduce new users to the website. Then, it rewards the Archangels with special events, samples of new wines, and membership into a private group where all the Naked Wines insider info gets released first. Oh, and the Archangels are a pretty exclusive group, since there is apparently a long wait list. This proves that Naked Wines has a lot of fans and is doing something right.
Nike is another great advocacy marketing program example. 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). Customers can then share results of these challenges on their social profiles, hence providing a direct link to Nike and showing off their love for the brand.
Many of the brands we hear the most about are the ones that 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 listening to customers, acting in their best interest, and providing a personal touch to each interaction.
To add on to that, creating an advocacy marketing program or using similar types of marketing campaigns can further boost these relationships and cultivate organic word of mouth.