In a previous article, “Advocacy: The Third Step of the Customer Engagement Triad,” the importance of developing and promoting advocacy among customers was addressed. As a quick review, advocacy is, “the act of pleading for, supporting or recommending.” The key to promoting this advocacy is creating the best experience possible for your customers – the type of experience they are compelled to tell others about. If an organization can foster the development of advocacy among even a small portion of its consumers, the return on investment could be exponential.
Not only are advocates of your organization likely to remain long-term customers, thus personally providing revenue to your business, they also serve to increase brand awareness, improve brand reputation, speed new-product adoption and can influence a large population.
Advocates are the best salespeople any organization could wish for, and they are extremely cost-effective since word-of-mouth marketing is free. Their importance and impact cannot be overstated. Nielsen’s latest research on “Global Trust in Advertising” reports that 92% of people trust recommendations from family and friends above all other forms of advertising. Furthermore, 70% trust consumer opinions that are posted online.
In order to leverage the benefits of your advocates, you must first develop a well-defined business strategy. Organizations have implemented many customer-focused programs during the past decade such as voice-of-the-customer programs, customer feedback programs and customer engagement programs. Now is the time to take customer-focus to the next level and develop a customer brand advocacy program – one that will focus on the advocates, continue to build the relationship with the advocates and increase the benefits to the organization that the advocates can provide.
The first step of the program should involve identifying your advocates. There are a number of ways to accomplish this task. The most direct means would be to ask your customers (almost all brand advocates are current customers) how likely they would be to recommend your organization. Those that report they would be willing should be considered advocates. Another method of identification would be through researching social media to locate individuals who are posting positive comments about your organization and their experiences doing business with you. The latter approach is rather time consuming, but can provide another way to reach advocates who can not necessarily be reached via a survey method.
Once the advocates are identified, your organization should work to further develop a relationship with them. A few ways in which this can be accomplished is by continually providing the advocates with new and updated information about your organization, providing them with first access to new products or services, keeping them engaged by requesting their feedback and making it easy for them to share their recommendations. Furthermore, your organization should actively invite advocates to share their opinions and their experiences with your organization on social media or directly to their friends and family. It would also be beneficial to request testimonials from them that can be published on the organization’s website.
A common way to promote advocacy is to develope some sort of loyalty program that would reward advocates such as “referral” points, free offers, rewards or even just a simple “Thank you” note or email. If the satisfaction and loyalty among your advocates remains high, and their expectations in dealing with your organization continue to be met, they are likely to continue their advocacy leading to more potential advocates.