In this article, we’ll delve into the power of customer advocacy and its profound impact on your brand's success. You'll gain insights into the strategies and techniques that can transform satisfied customers into passionate advocates, driving word-of-mouth marketing and customer loyalty.
- Overcoming Challenges in Customer Advocacy
All brands have one goal in mind when dealing with their customers, and that is to ensure their complete satisfaction.
But your efforts should not stop there. There should be more to the customer journey.
Yes, satisfied customers are the lifeblood of successful businesses. However, sustained growth and expansion depend on proactive strategies that turn happy customers into advocates. These strategies foster customer loyalty and support your acquisition efforts as well.
When executed properly, a customer advocacy programme can transform your most devoted clients into enthusiastic brand marketers. Despite the fact that these programmes are both cheap and effective, they are often overlooked in marketing plans.
Before we discuss how to set up your advocacy programme, let’s understand the concept of customer advocacy and its importance for businesses.
What is Customer Advocacy?
Successful customer advocacy turns happy customers into passionate advocates who promote your brand’s products and services to others. Advocates aren’t just satisfied customers who passively engage with your brand. They freely share their experiences, recommend your brand, and defend your reputation. They champion your brand instead of being passive consumers.
Differences between Satisfied Customers and Advocates
These customers may not go out of their way to tell others about their positive experience with your brand
They might not recommend your product to others or participate in any form of word-of-mouth marketing.
You probably only interact with your satisfied customers on a transactional basis.
Advocates are not just satisfied with your brand; they are also fiercely loyal
They actively tell their friends, family, and coworkers about your brand.
Advocates are people who interact with your brand online, spread the word about your products and services, and provide positive feedback.
They feel strongly about your company and want to see it succeed.
What are the Types of Customer Advocacy?
There are many ways to use customer advocacy to leverage customer relationships and positive experiences.
Social sharing. Customers promote your brand by sharing your website or social media content.
Testimonials. Reference statements and testimonials allow customers to share their product or service experience. Use this statement in pitch decks, social media, and your website.
References. References, also known as case studies, display customer success stories like testimonials. Your sales team can use case studies to support a pitch.
Reviews. Customer reviews are feedback on your product or service. You can promote positive customer service experiences by posting them online.
Referrals. A referral occurs when an existing customer suggests your business to a friend or colleague.
Presentations. Inviting customers to speak at conferences or webinars can boost advocacy.
Customer panels. Customer panels or advisory boards meet regularly to provide feedback to an organisation. They are typically high-level executives at their companies who provide market insight that shapes your brand’s priorities and strategies.
Online communities. People can discuss, share knowledge, and talk about many topics, including products and services, in a community forum.
How Customer Advocacy Programmes Contribute to Long-Term Success
A customer advocacy programme is a marketing and customer success strategy that intentionally converts loyal customers into vocal advocates for a brand. They allow companies to formalise and scale the process of asking customers to speak about products they love.
Here are some benefits of investing in customer advocacy:
Credibility and trust: Since advocates are generally regarded as objective and reliable, their advice carries considerable weight. This trust can encourage customers to choose your brand.
Cost-effective marketing: Advocacy-driven marketing is often cheaper than traditional advertising. Organic growth from word-of-mouth and user-generated content requires minimal advertising costs.
Customer retention: Advocates are more likely to continue using your service. This lowers your churn rate and guarantees a steady flow of income.
Valuable feedback: Advocates' feedback and insights are invaluable to your company. You can use it to enhance your products, services, and customers' overall experiences.
Brand resilience: Advocates defend your brand in times of crisis or negative press. This limits the amount of damage to your brand’s reputation.
Sustainable growth: The community of loyal supporters created by customer advocacy supports long-term brand growth.
Strategies for Cultivating Brand Advocates
Advocacy increases credibility, reach, and conversions for your marketing strategy. The question is, how can you recruit brand advocates? Try these best practises.
1) Identify Potential Advocates
Monitor social media: Look for customers who interact with and praise your brand on social media.
Track customer feedback: Look for customers who consistently express satisfaction and loyalty in surveys and feedback.
Analyse purchase and engagement history: Track customers that make repeat purchases and engage with your brand. These customers are more likely to become advocates.
2) Personalise Interactions and Engagement
Customer segmentation: Customise communications and offers based on customer preferences and behaviours.
Personalised emails: Recommend products or content based on past interactions.
Use customer names: Simple gestures like addressing customers by name in communications add a personal touch.
3) Create Memorable Customer Experiences
- Gamification: Add gamification elements to your customer interactions. This could be prize draws, challenges, or competitions that engage and entertain customers.
Reports suggest that gamification can boost customer engagement by 60%.
- Exclusive loyalty programmes: Create a loyalty programme that offers exclusive rewards, discounts, or event access to loyal customers.
- Surprise and delight: Surprise customers with unexpected perks, gifts, or personalised messages.
- User-generated content contests: Encourage customers to create content for social sharing and reward the best submissions. The UGC could be reviews or social media posts.
4) Engage in Active Listening
Respond to feedback: Take customer complaints and suggestions seriously. Show clients that their opinions matter and that you care about their needs.
Take action: Use feedback to make improvements and involve customers in the process. They'll appreciate being part of the solution.
5) Community Building
Develop online customer communities where advocates can connect, share, and support each other.
Encourage community members to share their knowledge and experiences by rewarding them.
6) Consistent and Transparent Communication
Communicate your brand's values, mission, and positive impact to customers.
Be open about your struggles and how you plan on overcoming them.
7) Advocate Recognition and Rewards
Publicly thank your advocates with social media shoutouts, testimonials, or event access.
Consider loyalty points or referral programmes that reward advocacy.
Over 50% of consumers will recommend others for a reward, recognition, or exclusive loyalty programme membership.
8) Measure and Optimise
- Diligently track referral metrics like Net Promoter Score, customer referral rates, and online community engagement.
- Learn from these insights to improve advocacy and customer experience.
Implementing and Managing Advocacy Programmes
Now that you understand the basics of designing advocacy programmes, let’s discuss implementation. Advocacy programmes need careful execution to succeed.
Here are four key areas that can define success for your advocacy programme:
1) Incentivising and Rewarding Advocates
Consider these incentives and rewards to retain advocates:
- Exclusive access: Give advocates early access to new products, services, and features to make them feel special.
- Discounts or coupons: Offer discounts or coupons to advocates for their loyalty and referrals.
- Recognition: Praise advocates on social media, in testimonials, and in website customer stories.
- Loyalty programmes: Give advocates loyalty points or rewards to encourage continuous engagement.
- Referral bonuses: Give advocates commissions or bonuses for referring new customers.
- VIP events: Invite top advocates to exclusive webinars, events, and company leader Q&As.
2) The Power of User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is a potent tool in advocacy efforts.
25% of top brand search results link back to user-generated content.
Encourage advocates to create and share content like reviews, testimonials, social media posts, and videos.
Builds trust as it comes from real customers, not the brand.
Provides authentic insights into the customer experience.
Expands your brand's reach through customer networks and social media.
Boosts SEO by increasing content and social signals.
Enhances engagement and fosters a sense of community.
3) Referral Marketing Campaigns
In a referral marketing programme, existing customers earn rewards for referring new customers. Building a robust referral structure offers serious growth potential for your business.
Reports suggest that referral programmes can help grow revenue 86% faster.
It typically involves:
Offering rewards or discounts to customers who refer friends or family.
Providing unique referral links or codes to track referrals.
Setting clear guidelines and rewards for successful referrals.
Leveraging the enthusiasm of advocates to expand your customer base.
4) Ongoing Communication and Relationship-Building
A strong advocate-centric culture requires constant communication and relationship-building. This often involves the following:
- Keep advocates informed with newsletters, updates, and personalised messages.
- Seek feedback and act on it, demonstrating that you value their input.
- Invite advocates to beta test or comment on new products or features.
- Always make advocates feel heard, appreciated, and part of your brand's growth.
Creating an Advocate-Centric Culture
Businesses are realising the benefits of creating an environment that recognises and appreciates advocates.
A recent report states that 85% of businesses currently run a customer advocacy programme, with another 82% having online customer communities.
Clearly, advocacy programmes are more than just a trend. Investing in customer advocacy helps you compete in a customer-driven market.
Develop an advocate-centric culture with these tips:
Leadership commitment: Starting at the top is crucial to aligning the company around customer advocacy. Leadership must prioritise customer-centric values and advocacy as strategic goals.
Define clear advocacy goals: Set measurable customer advocacy goals. These may include increasing advocates, improving advocacy metrics like Net Promoter Score or customer referral rates, or improving customer satisfaction.
Employee training and education: Train and equip employees to understand customer advocacy and their role. Ensure they know your products and can provide great customer service.
Cross-functional collaboration: Encourage collaboration between departments. Customer advocacy should be a shared effort across the organisation.
Feedback: Collect customer feedback and insights. Share this data across departments to drive new ideas for referrals and improve products, services, and processes.
Role of Different Teams in Advocacy
Customer success: Customer success teams are on the front lines of customer interactions. Providing excellent service, resolving issues quickly, and actively listening to customer feedback are all crucial steps in turning customers into advocates.
Sales: Salespeople can nurture customer advocates from satisfied customers. Their sales pitches can include customer success stories and testimonials.
Marketing: Marketing teams can use advocate-created testimonials, reviews, and case studies in campaigns. They can also set up referral programmes to reward advocates for referring new customers.
Measuring and Analysing Advocacy Impact
Tracking key metrics can reveal the success and impact of your advocacy efforts. These metrics measure how advocates grow and impact your brand. This shows how well your advocacy programme drives business results.
Net promoter score (NPS): NPS monitors the percentage of satisfied and loyal customers by asking if they would recommend your products or services to others.
Ask customers to rate their likelihood of recommending your business, product, or service from 0 to 10. Promoters (those who give a score of 9-10) are potential advocates. Monitoring changes in NPS can reflect the impact of advocacy initiatives.
Referral rate: Tracks new customers gotten from referrals. It measures how well your customer advocacy strategy drives new business.
Advocate conversion rate: Track the percentage of satisfied customers who actively promote your brand. This rate indicates how well you convert satisfied customers into advocates.
Advocate engagement: These include advocate participation in discussions, referral programmes, and sharing user-generated content. High engagement levels imply active advocacy.
Advocate lifetime-value (ALV): Compare the long-term value of advocates to non-advocates. Advocates tend to have higher ALVs due to their loyalty and referral potential.
Customer attrition: Determine how much of an impact advocacy has had on lowering customer churn. An improvement in retention rates is possible as advocates are less likely to leave.
Advocate revenue: Track revenue generated from advocate referrals, purchases, and upsells. This allows you to measure the financial impact of your advocacy efforts.
Overcoming Challenges in Customer Advocacy
Identifying and Recruiting Advocates
Challenge: Finding customers who are willing to become advocates can be difficult because not all happy customers are inclined to promote a brand.
Solution: Analyse customer feedback, monitor social media for brand mentions, and engage loyal customers to find advocates. Offer incentives or rewards for advocacy to boost participation.
Maintaining Advocate Engagement
Challenge: Long-term advocate engagement and motivation can be difficult without ongoing communication and meaningful activities.
Solution: Communicate with advocates, offer exclusive content, opportunities, and rewards, and build community through online forums or events. Ask for feedback and involve advocates in decision-making to make them feel valued.
Negative Feedback and Reputation Management
Challenge: Advocates may receive negative feedback, which could damage your brand's reputation.
Solution: Train advocates to handle negativity professionally. On your side, address negative online comments immediately. Also, it builds trust when advocates share authentic experiences, so encourage them to share challenges or criticisms.
Scaling Advocacy Programmes
Challenge: Scaling advocacy programmes can be difficult and resource-intensive as your business grows.
Solution: Automation and referral management software can help streamline programme management. Establish clear advocate onboarding procedures. Consider creating advocate tiers for customers with different levels of engagement.
Tracking Advocacy ROI
Challenge: Measuring advocacy programmes' ROI is difficult, making it hard to justify ongoing investments.
Solution: Track advocacy impact with customer referral rates, advocate revenue, and advocate engagement. Track these metrics and compare them to programme costs to calculate ROI. Use this data to improve advocacy and show stakeholders its value.
To harness the true power of customer advocacy, businesses need to actively nurture and engage with their advocates. Listen to their feedback, appreciate their efforts, and provide opportunities for them to contribute and be heard. A robust customer advocacy programme should be a cornerstone of every business strategy, nurturing a community of brand evangelists.