Customers develop brand affinity and loyalty over time through positive experiences, satisfaction with products and services, and a feeling of connection with a brand or product. More and more, brands are looking for ways to empower the voice of their consumers, and consumers are looking to their peers for insights on their purchase considerations. This is where advocacy marketing can play a significant role for brands and consumers alike.
When the term ‘advocacy’ is used, it can carry slightly different meanings depending on the context. Speaking broadly, however, advocacy is the act of publicly demonstrating support of (or on behalf of) another person, place, or thing. While most tend to think of advocacy in relation to political issues or causes, it can also be a powerful tool to leverage within marketing, advertising, and generally demonstrating the value of a product or service.
Advocacy marketing is a form of marketing that encourages existing customers of a business to share their experiences with (and opinions of) the company and/or its products and services. This feedback may be publicly available in the form of reviews, leveraged by the business itself within marketing materials and content, or simply peer to peer by word-of-mouth. Regardless of the format the customer feedback is presented in, it serves as social proof for prospective customers.
When customers begin to promote or vouch for a business, through any method, they transition from the primary role of a customer to a brand advocate. While brand advocates are generally not officially affiliated with the business, they can be highly influential in sharing their authentic experiences with others. Since brand advocates are often loyal customers themselves, they likely have knowledge around the business’ products and services, personal experiences, and can offer informed recommendations to others.
The process of generating advocacy marketing may look different depending on a business’ strategic approach. However, effective advocacy marketing is rooted in the development of relationships with customers and clients and the value that they perceive in doing business with a given company.
Advocacy marketing is important for a number of reasons, but when done well it is a reflection of a healthy business and happy customers. Brand advocates are incredibly valuable for any consumer-facing business through the sheer influence and trust that is tied to their recommendations. One report from Nielsen suggests that 83 percent of consumers trust recommendations from their friends and family the most. So while advertising and marketing from brands themselves is crucial for awareness, peer groups that include customer advocates actually have more influence when it comes to making decisions on purchases.
Advocacy marketing can show up in many forms and channels, but here are some common instances where feedback from advocates are commonly found or leveraged for marketing purposes:
Positive ratings and reviews are crucial for any consumer-focused business. Reviews allow prospective customers to obtain unbiased recommendations, and compare and contrast customer feedback amongst competitors. The common consumer practice of checking for customer reviews undoubtedly plays into purchase decisions.
By displaying positive customer testimonials on their website and other forms of outbound communication, businesses can appeal to their audience with higher effectiveness. When the content is genuine and reflects how good a typical experience that customers have with a product, it can make a meaningful difference in where potential customers bring their business.
Word-of-mouth marketing occurs when businesses have delivered an experience, product, or service that their customers deem worthy of recommending to others. This is extremely valuable as consumers have higher levels of trust in their peers, and it has been reported that those who have been referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate. Word of mouth can happen directly through in-person social interactions as well as digitally via social media, articles, videos, comments, reviews, ratings, and more. Regardless of the medium, feedback from peers can influence purchase decisions.
When considering how to enhance advocacy marketing efforts for a business, it is essential to have a defined strategy behind it. An advocacy marketing strategy may be multi-faceted and often identifies areas of focus and general principles for generating advocacy marketing activity. This can be broken down into two pillars: customer experience and tactical strategies.
A key component in creating customer advocates is through general improvement of the business in ways that serve the customers. By improving the customer experience, businesses improve the likelihood of customers recommending a product or service to others or leaving an online review.
Before all else, businesses should make the products and/or services they are offering as good as possible. Without a product that delivers value or meets expectations, there is no foundation for advocacy marketing to thrive. A business should also find ways to put the customer first, make the sales process as seamless and rewarding as possible, and commit to having stellar customer service. When these fundamental aspects of the business are established, tactical strategies can be implemented to help make their advocacy-marketing efforts thrive.
Should a business do enough to exceed customer expectations, the customer will have even more reason to share positive feedback about their experience with others and advocate on behalf of the brand. Businesses should continuously look for ways to rise above the industry standard to elevate the customer experience in memorable ways. When the customer feels truly valued and appreciated they will have a meaningful connection with the brand and be willing to promote it when given the opportunity.
There are many ways that a business can facilitate more engagement from advocates to promote their marketing efforts. One of the primary ways to do this is to create brand advocacy opportunities for their loyal customers. This can include following up with customers for reviews after they have received or purchased a product, creating in-store attractions and environments that beckon to be photographed and shared on social media, or simply creating digital content that addresses customer questions or is inherently sharable. These tactics all serve the purpose of providing opportunities for customers to share their love, voice, or opinion in relation to the brand.
More direct marketing efforts can be made by actively seeking out influential brand advocates, or using social media to highlight user-generated content that demonstrates affinity for the brand. Loyalty or reward programs can also be established to promote a more significant relationship between the business and its most passionate advocates and reach new customers at the same time.
Referral and loyalty programs are a natural extension of advocacy marketing efforts when a passionate consumer-base has been established. If customers are already serving as advocates for the brand through word-of-mouth, reviews, and other methods, the implementation of referral or loyalty programs will further strengthen their relationship with the brand and reward them for their advocacy efforts.
By creating an ecosystem of incentives (points, tiers, early access, VIP access, etc.), loyal customers become marketing advocates for the brand, continue to shop within the business, and have more reason to tell others about their positive experiences.
In order to attract more advocates and customer engagement in reviews, businesses need to solidify their offering and customer experience. After all, delivering value and exceeding customer expectations are things that will develop lifelong brand advocates. A few things to consider:
Advocacy advertising involves brands leveraging instances of advocacy marketing within their outbound content, social media, or advertisements for the sake of promotion. This could involve pulling quotes from reviews, testimonials, social media posts, or case studies to demonstrate customer satisfaction or excitement about a product or service. This could also take the form of social media contests where sharing images of a product alongside a brand hashtag are encouraged. Advocacy advertising provides customers the opportunity to be featured within high-profile channels and campaigns in recognition of their commitment to a brand.
Customer advocacy is not the same as advocacy marketing, but the two are highly complementary. Customer advocacy is an approach to customer service where the business focuses on what is best for the customer. Broadly, customer advocacy reframes customer service in a way that reinforces a positive relationship between the business and customer through meaningful assistance. This may include:
By using customer service interactions to create positive experiences for customers, a business can build trust, loyalty, and overall satisfaction with the brand. In fact, according to HubSpot Research, 93% of consumers are likely to become repeat customers at companies with excellent customer service. Customer advocacy is especially important when the customer has had a negative experience. However, by truly working on behalf of the customer to solve their problems, there is an opportunity for these customers to ultimately become advocates for the brand.
Advocacy marketing starts with having a great product or service and crafting an exceptional customer experience around it. By building a brand that people can genuinely be passionate about, a concerted effort to amplify advocacy marketing can yield substantial business results and keep customers happy and engaged. Talkable can further empower and reward advocates by helping brands seamlessly integrate referral and loyalty programs. Our insight-driven approach helps these programs serve as an integral part (and welcome addition to) the customer experience.
Contact us today for a free demonstration of Talkable’s capabilities and allow your customers to champion your brand.