“Brand advocacy” is currently a major talking point amongst marketers, but what is it? And how can you turn happy customers into marketing gold?
Paid marketing avenues can be a great source of new business; but free, high quality promotion is always worth pursuing. If you could get your satisfied customers to actively promote your brand for free – that would be ideal, surely?
This is called “brand advocacy,” and it’s currently a big talking point amongst marketers, and for good reason.
What is a Brand Advocate?
Also sometimes known as “brand influencers,” brand advocates are typically very satisfied customers who feel so positively about a brand that they want to recommend it to others. They’re not doing it for monetary gain, they’re just so satisfied with their experience that they willingly encourage others to use that company.
A good example here is Apple. Everyone has a different opinion of them as a company, but those who have had good experiences with their products generally stay loyal and recommend their products to others. This is brand advocacy in action. Apple isn’t paying to have your average person on the street say nice things – the person is just so pleased with their experience that they genuinely want to promote the company.
These clients are absolutely invaluable to any organisation – they literally want to shout your virtues from the proverbial rooftops! And for free!
You may have also heard a related term “brand ambassador.” This term is sometimes used interchangeably with advocates/influencers, but the general consensus is that an “ambassador” is paid or somehow rewarded for their endorsement.
Benefits of Brand Advocates
Turning your happy clients into brand advocates has a number of benefits. Firstly, any company loves free, positive publicity – especially if it’s on an ongoing basis.
There’s an interesting psychological benefit here too. Because these are just regular everyday people recommending your product, their message carries a little more weight than a paid advertisement. A genuine member of the public giving a company their thumbs up comes across as far more genuine than a paid ad that’s been pored over by a marketing team.
If someone likes you enough to promote your brand, chances are that they are strongly loyal, eschewing other companies’ offerings in favour of yours. This means that not only do these clients have a promotional benefit, they’re also likely to have a high customer lifetime value.
How to Build Brand Advocacy
First off, it’s important to state that you can’t force brand advocacy. You can’t isolate a particular client and say “I’m going to make you an advocate!” Pushing people towards a particular type of action typically results in them doing the opposite. However, you can tweak your average customer experience to make it a more welcoming environment for all clients; and once they’re pleased enough, some people will reciprocate.
To begin your brand advocacy journey, you need to focus on what factors people like and don’t like about your product and/or service. Take a look at your previous reviews and social media mentions, and make a note of the things people say you’re doing well and the ways they think you can improve. Act on this feedback to the best of your ability and really hone your offering to what your clients like and want. You might also want to send a survey to previous clients to identify particular preferences.
An important question to ask your clients is “what made you choose us over our competition?” It’s important to know where you might have an edge.
Once you have done a bit of market research and you have a clear picture of your clients’ preferences, you can move on to putting an advocacy plan into action.
Create a Great Experience
It’s important to start with the basics. The best way to create happy customers is of course to provide a great customer experience. Whenever a customer gets in touch with you, your response should be upbeat, professional and consistent. Always respond to queries and complaints quickly and with understanding.
If someone has provided negative feedback, it doesn’t mean they can’t be turned around into a brand advocate. Always try to put things right for them whenever possible, as soon as you can. If they are pleased with their resolution, hopefully they’ll feel more strongly to share their approval of how you turned a bad situation into a good one.
Though you can’t push people towards advocacy, always make it clear to clients where they can leave honest feedback. After providing your product or service, send your client an email asking them for a review on a third party review site (like TrustPilot for example) or asking them for a shoutout on social media. Always monitor the platforms that you ask for feedback through, respond to all reviews professionally (both good and bad), and act on any constructive criticism where you can. If you can’t change a bad situation for someone, they may take solace in knowing it won’t be an issue for others in the future.
Boost Positive Feedback
People always like to know that their voice is being heard, so whenever you respond to reviews, you demonstrate that you listen to your customers and are willing to open up a dialogue regardless of whether the customer had a good or bad experience.
Recognising positive feedback is particularly important over social media. Show those who appreciate you publicly that they are heard and appreciated. Follow back all advocates over the relevant social platform, and provide a shoutout in return. You can also reciprocate by sharing and interacting with the content they post.
If there are some happy customers that particularly stand out and recommend you regularly, you may also want to consider some kind of referral or advocacy reward system, to incentivise and thank the people who consistently support you. Incentives can include discounts, free services or even a few corporate gifts through the mail.
Relationships in Focus
The key to encouraging a positive client relationship is to keep tabs on the interactions you have with your clients over time and on different platforms.
Managing customer relationships can be tricky when you only keep a basic client database or worse – an outdated paper system. Thankfully, customer relationship management (or “CRM”) software is here to help. More than a simple database, CRM tools allow you to monitor interactions between all clients and prospects, and view each person’s case at a glance.
FIVE CRM’s intuitive software platform includes customer database functionality, as well as outbound calling, email marketing, real-time website analytics and prospect analysis and profiling.
When you can easily access all of a given client’s interactions in a single view, you can more easily identify your most valuable customers, as well as pinpointing who is giving you the most exposure. Our unique profiling functionality allows you to segment customers and prospects by a number of useful metrics in order to identify target groups and valuable contacts.
If you’d like to see the system in action for yourself then book a demonstration here.