We're all familiar with traditional marketing tactics: print, TV, radio, social, display ads, and even retargeting. These channels can be effective, but they aren't enough in today's digital age. The reality is that customers are savvier than ever before: they don't want to be sold to—they want to participate. So, how do you create meaningful engagement with your customers? A customer advocacy program—a group of people who represent your brand beyond the traditional marketing campaign—is a great solution. But how do you get started?
Create a traditional and digital customer advocacy marketing plan
Create a traditional and digital customer advocacy marketing plan to support your efforts. The plan helps you determine which activities best suit your customers' needs, how long each activity should last, and who should be involved in executing them. The objective of your plan is to create an atmosphere where advocates can engage with each other, share valuable content, and ultimately provide value back to the organization through recommendations or referrals ("closing the loop"). When creating this plan, consider addressing these questions:
- What are our ideal advocacy partners? Do they have access to large networks? Do we need influencers or individuals willing to do social media outreach?
- How frequently do we want our advocates engaging at scale? This depends on how much time they want or can commit and how much engagement they're able to generate through their own personal networks.
- Are there specific events that will help us build momentum around our initiative? Consider things like conferences or trade shows where attendees might be more receptive than others because of their positions within their companies (eg., "I'm looking for solutions like yours"). These events also offer opportunities for speakers who may inspire others with stories about how they've implemented solutions similar enough in nature so that it's clear why yours would work well too.)
Build a team of advocates to leverage
Building an advocate team is the first step to scaling your advocacy program. The team can be composed of internal advocates and/or external influencers you have identified as possible partners.
The different roles that advocates can play are:
- Internal advocates: People who work in your organization and are passionate about what you do. These people can be part of a core team or may offer their personal support by sharing on social media, signing petitions, or attending events.
- External influencers: Individuals outside your organization who have influence over key target audiences within your market space and are willing to engage with them on behalf of the cause (e.g., customers, potential donors).
Give back to your customers
Sometimes, the best way to build advocacy is to give back to those who already love you and support you. It can be as simple as providing special offers for repeat customers or creating an online community where your advocates can discuss topics that are important to them.
You may also want to consider creating opportunities for employees and fans of your product (whether they're customers or not) to interact with each other in person—for example, through a conference or annual meeting where ambassadors from different regions come together for a weekend full of activities like panel discussions, workshops, and networking events.
In addition, some companies offer incentives for referring new customers by offering discounts on future purchases after someone has been referred by an existing customer (known as a referral bonus). This type of incentive helps ensure that advocates have something tangible they can point people towards when they recommend something on social media or elsewhere online; it also encourages them not just ask but actually share information about their favorite products/services/organizations with friends via word-of-mouth marketing campaigns because there's an immediate reward waiting at the end!
Recognize advocates publicly
You shouldn't just recognize your advocates publicly—you should do it frequently. Recognition can be a quick thank-you or a shout-out on social media, or it could be an award given at a company event.
Recognition can also be done privately through handwritten notes, emails, or phone calls. If your company is large enough to have multiple teams working on advocacy programs, consider recognizing advocates from one team with another team's time and resources (e.g., sending them to an event). Ensure that the recognition is meaningful for both parties involved and reflects their relationship with each other within the organization.
Create a customer-centric, user-friendly platform
With a customer-centric and user-friendly platform in place, your advocates will be excited to share their experiences with the product. It will help you build a brand that customers associate with positive experiences. The next step is making it easier for them to share these experiences.
A successful advocacy program needs an intuitive platform that encourages customers to capture, organize, and schedule their content easily. Make it easy for customers to find the content they need and easily share it on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (and beyond).
Make the most of your content assets
The good news is that you already have the content assets you need to do this. Not only do you have a wealth of product information and customer testimonials, but you likely also have access to a large amount of customer feedback on your website and social media channels.
You can use this content to build relationships with your customers. For example, if someone leaves a review on Amazon or Yelp, respond! Thank them for their feedback and ask if they'd be willing to talk about their experience with others in person or online. If they give permission, add their review (or any other mention) to your website's FAQ page. It will help make customers feel like they're being heard by the company itself—a feeling that builds trust and increases retention rates as well as advocacy rates.
Never stop innovating
It is an important point. You can't be afraid to try new things because there are no guarantees. You have to be willing to fail and pivot quickly, if necessary. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for advocacy programs, so don't be afraid to experiment with different tactics until you find the ones that work best for your organization and its audience.
Finally, don't forget that an effective advocacy program will require ongoing efforts from people who aren't marketers or public relations professionals: your staff members! A strong team effort is needed for your advocacy campaign to succeed—and it's crucial that everyone on your team feels like they're part of the process.
Monitor, measure, and refine your efforts.
You can't manage what you don't measure, so it's essential to take the time to track your progress. The best way to do this is by creating a process for measuring and refining your advocacy program.
An excellent place to start is with an evaluation form. This will help you organize your thoughts and goals and identify areas for improvement. You should also make sure that all of the information shared through this form is timely and accurate. It can be easily analyzed to produce actionable insights into how best to move forward with scaling up your efforts.
After developing an evaluation checklist or survey tool, distribute it among those interested in helping out with the effort. When possible, include questions about what went well during previous campaigns or initiatives and what could be improved upon moving forward — this will provide valuable insight into areas where improvements need making (e.g., communication strategy) while also providing positive reinforcement for any successes achieved thus far!
Building a successful advocacy program is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and effort, and it's important to know what you're getting into before you embark on this journey. You'll need to be prepared to commit your resources and energy over the long term and make some mistakes along the way.
It's a lot of work and a continuous journey, and it takes perseverance, determination, and patience. However, the way business is done today is changing fast. And customers can quickly adapt to new ways of interacting with brands if it makes their lives easier or more efficient. The uprising of customer experience is here and will only get stronger over time for those willing to engage in it. It doesn't matter whether you are making B2B or B2C products. Consumers have become very savvy at cutting through the noise and making purchase decisions based on word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources.