Advocacy marketing has become a popular buzzword in the marketing community over the last few years. Many companies are starting to realize that their brand advocates are one of their most valuable assets. It shouldn’t come as a surprise either. Many reports coming out of the marketing world has shown that advocacy marketing can have a positive impact on conversion rates, client retention and revenue. By empowering your customers and having them play an integral role in your marketing strategy, you can create new business opportunities, increase social reach, boost brand awareness and reduce marketing costs.

But isn’t advocacy marketing the same thing as brand advocacy? While strongly related, they focus on different key constructs that have different end objectives. In this article, we will go over what advocacy marketing is, how it ties to employee advocacy, and how it can connect your brand to more people than just traditional marketing alone.

What Is Advocacy Marketing?

Advocacy marketing is a marketing strategy that emphasizes getting your brand advocates and existing customers to talk about your company and its services or products. Research shows that most shoppers do their research online before buying a product, with some studies putting that number as high as 81%.

This is why it’s important to get your brand message in front of your potential customers while they’re doing research. This can be accomplished by having your brand champions publicly advocate on behalf of your brand. This will get your message out on as many platforms as possible. By having engaged brand advocates, it makes it easier to reach your ideal customer and market directly to them.

Why Is Advocacy Marketing So Effective?

A buyer’s trust relies upon their peers. They search social networks and discuss the pros and cons of what they want to purchase before ever going to your sales page. Because of the seismic shift that’s occurred from the rise of digital and social media networks, consumers now place less trust in brands. Instead, consumers look to recommendations from their loved ones and close friends when researching a product or service. In fact, a 2015 report by Nielsen found 83% of consumers placed the most trust in friends and family members. Additionally, 66% trusted opinions of consumers they found online.

The above study by itself illustrates the sheer importance of advocacy marketing. People trust people–not brands. So how can you get your message in front of the 83% of the population that trusts friends or family members? Through your brand advocates. The people you consider your target demographic are most likely consuming content through digital media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. By having your brand advocates engage with them online, your business is able to push potential buyers further down the sales funnel and closer to making a purchase.

Advocacy marketing is also one of the lowest cost forms of marketing out there. Because you are leveraging individuals (consumers, partners or employees) that already have first-hand experience with your product or service, they will be more than happy to engage with your brand and share content that you produce for them. This can turn your brand advocates into powerful marketers that help you increase your social reach and boost brand awareness at a little to no cost.

Why Should You Create Content Specifically for Your Advocates?

Large and small brands alike utilize content marketing for years and for good reason. It can help you rank higher on search engine result pages (SERP), increase online engagement, provide more earned media opportunities and increase both referral traffic to your website and to your social media pages.

While content marketing is a very effective form or marketing, many organizations aren’t creating content specifically meant for their brand advocates. By creating advocacy-specific content, you can substantially increase engagement and better develop customer relationships.

Here are four more reasons why creating advocacy content is critical:

1. It Establishes Credibility

If you are creating content in collaboration with your advocates, it can have a longer shelf-life and outperform content that is produced internally. According to Marketing Charts, brand advocates are 50% more likely to influence purchases of other consumers. By creating content specifically for your advocates and having them share it, it’s much likelier your message will resonate with your target demographic as it is coming from their peers.

2. It Adds Diversity to Your Message

With the sheer amount of content created every minute on social media, it’s important to realize that you are always competing for your audience’s attention. By offering a variety of different content formats, you can help break through the noise and reach the audience that your content is meant for.

Allow your advocates to add their own message to the content you curate for them. Then you bring another layer of diversity to your content marketing strategy. Other great forms of advocacy content can include guest blogs, case studies, testimonials and co-authored white papers. By using highly diversified types of content, you better your chances that it will appeal to the various buyer personas you are trying to reach.

3. Advocacy Content Nurtures Relationships With Current Advocates

When content is created with or specifically for your advocates, you achieve much more than just creating new content for content’s sake. You send out a message to your advocates that you recognize them as a thought leader in their field and that they’re credible sources of information. By continually nurturing these relationships, you acknowledge your advocates as a valued partnership. This makes them even more excited to generate exposure for you and build buzz around your brand.

4. Customer Advocacy Content Leads to New Advocates

By using advocacy content to increase social reach and build brand exposure, you not only put your business in a position to gain more qualified leads, but you’ll also likely attract more brand advocates. Through the creation of this type of content, you nurture partnerships with your current advocates and can develop relationships with future ones.

How to Foster Advocacy Marketing

Creating a well-planned advocacy marketing campaign can be challenging. However, if you take the right steps, it can be much easier. Here are a three key items that companies should focus on if they are trying to encourage advocacy marketing:

1. Consistency Is Key

Make sure your organization is consistent in all of its dealings. Your customer service questions and inquiries should be answered in a reasonable amount of time. Your packages should ship promptly and the consumer should get access to your service within a reasonable amount of time. When a customer knows that they can trust you, they are more likely to advocate for you. What they won’t do is advocate for a business where they believe there’s no benefit for people.

2. Provide Something of Value

When a consumer purchases anything, they expect to get their money’s worth. They want their dollars to be reciprocated with something of value from your business. Make your consumers feel they’ve received more. This will create a better consumer experiences and strengthen relationships at the same time. Keeping the majority of your customers pleased is a sure-fire way to engage current customers and retain them so they can advocate for you in the future.

3. Build a Brand Narrative

A strong brand narrative can be key to having your customers remember who you are, what your company is about and how it has helped them. Make sure to make your customers part of this narrative as it encourages them to be loyal to your brand.

Advocacy Marketing Begins With Your Employees

Your employees are your best brand advocates. They live and breathe your brand every day and are the most credible voices in your organization. Because of this, they should be the foundation of your advocacy marketing strategy. There are some key benefits of having your employee advocates speak on behalf of your brand.

1. Increased Social Reach

The average number of social connections that each of your employees has is 846. This may not seem like a lot considering some brand pages have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. But when you calculate the combined reach of all your employees, you get a real sense of how many more people your advocates can connect with and reach on social that would have otherwise likely been missed.

Take Nike for example. They have 24.6 million Facebook fans, 6.17 million Twitter followers, and 1.03 million LinkedIn followers. Their combined audience on these three social networks is a whopping 31.8 million fans. But when you calculate the social reach of Nike’s 62,000 employees, a different picture starts to emerge. If Nike were to use an employee advocacy platform such as Bambu, they could increase their social reach by 167% and connect with nearly 53 million more people than through their brand pages alone.

This dramatic increase in social reach means more potential to reach highly qualified sales prospects, an increase in quality leads and ultimately more revenue.

2. Boosted Brand Awareness

Your employees are the most credible and trusted individuals in your organization, especially within their own social circles. According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 92% of consumers around the world stated that they trust earned media, such as content coming from their family or friends, over any other form of advertising. Because of this, people are more willing to interact with your brand messaging through them. In addition, employee advocates see reshares of your brand content that is 24x higher than through your brand’s channels alone.

By curating a feed of useful content that is related to your brand, such as blog posts, press releases, brand news, customer stories and case studies, you can get your brand message to an untapped audience of people who may not be familiar with your brand. This not only boosts brand awareness but also turns your employees into powerful advocacy marketers who can directly impact your bottom line.

3. Reduced Marketing Costs

Compared to traditional paid social channels, advocacy marketing is one of the most cost-effective forms of advertising. By investing in your employees’ personal brand, you can indirectly impact your bottom line.

The way your employees present themselves on their social channels is a very influential factor in your consumer’s choice to work with your company. Leads developed through advocacy marketing initiatives convert seven times more frequently than other leads. Having your employees use their social media profiles to establish their association with your organization and position themselves as experts in their industry, your brand can benefit from increased exposure and perception of credibility in their audience’s minds. And all of this can be done at little to no cost to your organization.

Employee advocacy and advocacy marketing share a symbiotic relationship. When used properly, both assets assist you in meeting your business goals. By empowering your team with the right tools, you can connect your brand to more people than traditional marketing efforts alone.