Spontaneously delighting your customers and watching customer advocacy unfold in your favor is a wonderful thing, and we’ve seen the positive effect it can have on brand awareness, sales and even recruiting costs.
These stories are short-lived, as they zip through our news streams one day, only to be forgotten the next. Or worse, refuted in the court of public opinion should a negative reaction to your company find its way into those same streams.
But your company has the power to flip the script on which stories (positive vs. negative) have the longest shelf life in the minds of your customers and their audiences by developing and sustaining a formal customer advocacy program. Customer advocates are trusted over brands, spend more than regular customers, refer higher quality customers and lower your marketing spend thanks to the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
In this article we will explore ways to discover your brand’s advocates and list eight ideas on how to show your appreciation in a meaningful manner. We’ll close out with some suggestions to help you get the most from the relationship you are building with your customer advocates as well.
Where to Find Customer Advocates
There are five common channels for finding customers who are already beaming with excitement about your brand. You’ll want to create a plan to identify and segment these people as you determine if they are a good candidate to bring into a customer advocacy program.
- Social listening: Look for instances where your content is shared on social media or where your brand name is mentioned without an @mention or tag. You’re also obviously monitoring the conversations people have directly with your brand on social. However, there are still plenty of brand keywords, URL’s and hashtags used in conversations between users, which could uncover potential advocates.
- Customer segmentation: Internally, you can look to Recency, Frequency, Monetary (RFM) segments within your customer database to pull out your best customers. Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) is another metric, as well as Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey results.
- Email engagement Scoring: Email marketing and marketing automation tools have come a long way in recent years, and engagement scoring assigns point values to interactions subscribers take with your emails. The more engaged they are with your email content, the more likely they are to be a candidate for a customer advocacy program.
- Loyalty programs: The name alone explains why this is a channel for finding potential customer advocates (and is also a big part of why you collect the data in the first place). Look at customer segments who have accrued the highest number of points, or customer segments who consistently cycle through your reward offerings. Both segments prove that the customer segments have an affinity toward your brand because they continue to buy time and again.
- Online communities: Review sites, fan communities, support forums, trade sites and social communities will undoubtedly have users who regularly recommend your company’s products or services as well as provide “power user” level support to newcomers. People on these sites are like “advocacy scouts” and they’re definitely the types of customers you should bring into your advocacy program.
Appreciating Your Advocates
Your customers have different and highly personalized motivations for being an advocate. Those motivations will naturally evolve as the relationship with your brand matures over time. We’ll talk more about that later but for now, let’s dig into why you’re reading this article–to get ideas about how to show you appreciate your customer advocates.
Idea 1: Give them special discount codes
This idea is pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few ways to go about it. Try personalized discount codes with your customer’s name in it (think: “STEPHAN15OFF”). You can also use friends and family coupons, give discounts on a specific day or provide social content customers can share, which links to special packages or pages on your storefront where customers can only get to through one of your advocates.
— WeWork Miami (@WeWorkMIA) May 9, 2016
Idea 2: Use personalized call to actions in their emails
If you’re using brand advocate email segments, then you already know these are highly engaged subscribers. This means you can ask them to do different things than what you’d ask a regular subscriber to do. For example, instead of making your primary call to action to read an article, make it a “Click to Tweet” link about the article that they can then share with their network.
LastPass does a great job at personalizing your CTAs by allowing others to recommend the service to friends or colleagues. This email started out with an invitation to join.
Idea 3: Invite Customers to private feedback channels
This is a great option for companies with community or product managers who can be a liaison between customer advocates and internal teams. Create a Slack channel, private group on social media, or a protected forum, then invite customer advocates to build stronger relationships with your team. Sprout Social does this with their All Stars program.
Idea 4: Send customers swag
Gifts and swag turn into highly shareable content that amplifies brand awareness when a customer advocate shares a photo of it with their network. The more personalized you can get with these gifts, the deeper the meaning for the advocate and the stronger their advocacy.
— Rebekah Radice (@RebekahRadice) March 6, 2016
Idea 5: Send customers advanced notice or preview access
Certain customers will appreciate the exclusivity of being “in the know” or “the first to know” about new products, events or information about your brand. While this can be done without NDA’s, you will want to weigh the type of information you’re previewing to these advocates against the need for formal discretion.
Idea 6: Empower customers to amplify your content
The key to raising brand awareness and driving referral traffic with any of these ideas is to make it easy for the advocate to engage with your information. An advocacy platform like Bambu empowers you to manage the information being communicated to your customer advocates and gives the advocates easy options to spread the word.
Idea 7: Share their content with your network
Advocacy is a fragile thing. While the reward for a customer sharing their experience about your brand is a feel-good moment, or a transaction that benefits you more than them. As such, a certain amount of reciprocity is required on your end to keep the scales balanced and for certain customer advocates who actively publish online, the easiest way to do this is to share their content with your network.
Idea 8: Co-create: Introduce their expertise to your audience
Riffing off the above idea, sometimes your advocate possesses a background or skill set that would actually benefit your customer base. If this is the case, consider co-creating something together like a webinar, case study or interview.
— Sarah Nagel (@sprout_sarah) March 14, 2016
How to Get the Most From the Customer Advocate Relationship
Whatever ideas you implement with your customer advocacy program, remember that they are being implemented out of appreciation for the advocate. You’re creating a win-win environment where customers are empowered to share their delightful experiences with your brand. At the same time, you gain high-trust exposure to a captive audience. It’s a fine line and the relationship needs to stay in balance for it to grow.
Now it’s your turn. What ideas have you used to show your appreciation for customers who shout your praises from the rooftops of buildings? Tell me in the comments.
Stephan Hovnanian is a content solutions architect at Bambu, an advocacy platform by Sprout Social. He has spent most of his professional career as an email marketer and business owner focused on helping companies build stronger relationships with their audiences.Find Stephan Hovnanian on Twitter @stephanhov.
8 Ways to Appreciate Your Customer Advocates
Written by Stephan Hovnanian on May 16, 2016