92% of consumers around the world said they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends over all other forms of advertising. Compare this to bloggers / influencers, whose recommendations are trusted by only 18% of consumers. Influencers (bloggers, celebrity endorsements and pundits) may have a much wider network and reach, but their impact and influence on their audience is much lower.
What are advocates?
Advocates are defined as “satisfied customers”. These are people who have bought from you and had such a great experience that they want to tell their friends and family about it.
The main difference is authenticity. An advocate promotes your product because they truly love your brand, not financial benefit. This makes their recommendation much more trustworthy than endorsements and blogger promotions.
How advocate marketing works
Your business likely already has customers who support and talk about you. But more often than not, their activity isn’t tracked or optimized. In order to get the most out of your advocates, it’s important to have an advocate marketing system. At its core, this generally involves 3 main components:
- Identifying the people who love your brand the most
- Mobilizing and encouraging them to spread the word about you
- Providing a meaningful reward to your advocates
Identifying the people who love your brand the most
The first step of an advocate marketing strategy is identifying who your advocates will be. There are a few different types of customers who generally make for good advocates. Here are three.
1. Socially active customers
These are the customers who engage with you online. They share your blog posts, like and comment on your Facebook page, engage with you in conversations. These customers are already sharing your message publicly, and as such make great potential advocates.
2. Peer problem solvers
These are the customers who love helping their friends. They want to help others get the most out of your product or service. They are often found answering questions and participating in your support community.
3. Customer references
These are the customers you turn to when you need a customer story or reference. They have experienced your product, they love it, and they want to share their experience with others. Your sales reps probably have some such customers who they turn to as references.
These aren’t the only types of customers you can target, but they provide a good starting point to build your advocate marketing program.
Mobilizing and encouraging your advocates to spread the word
Once you’ve identified your advocates, you want to mobilize them to increase your word of mouth. You want to engage with them on a regular and personal basis, and get them involved. Ask them to take small, quick actions such as following you on Twitter, posting a photo on Instagram or sharing your latest Facebook post. By keeping your asks small, your advocates are more likely to take action.
While you plan out these asks, keep in mind what your end goals for your marketing program are. For example, if your current goal is to grow your Facebook audience and brand awareness, you could ask your advocates to share your Facebook posts. If your goal is to increase your ratings on online review sites, it might be more useful to ask your advocates to post positive reviews.
Whatever you ask your advocates to do, try and make the process enjoyable. Make sure to engage with them as individuals – be personal and engaging. Keep your asks regular, personal, varied and interesting in order to increase participation.
Providing a meaningful reward
Your advocates already love your brand. They don’t need financial incentives to talk about you. In fact, financial rewards can often backfire. By offering discounts and special offers, you’re more likely to attract people looking for a deal – and not your true advocates.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reward your advocates though. Your advocates do want to know that their efforts are appreciated. As people, we all have a desire to belong, and be part of a community. That’s how you show appreciation to your advocates. Invite them into your tribe – provide them exclusive behind the scenes access to your business, send them personal hand-written notes, offer sneak peeks at upcoming products.
You wouldn’t give your best friend an envelope of cash for their birthday. You’d look for a unique gift that makes him/her feel special. Advocates are your business’ best friends. Treat them that way, and make them feel special. Doing so will not only validate why they love you, but also gives them even more reason to tell others about you more
Having a defined, planned advocate marketing strategy in place will help you systemize and increase the word of mouth around your business. It takes effort and time, but it’ll be worthwhile. Your advocates will stand by you, support you, and help take your business to the next level.