Thumbs upAs more buyers today make the Internet their primary tool for researching particular solutions and brands, businesses are afforded unique opportunities to set themselves apart and to speak directly to customers sounding off on the services they receive. One of the most effective ways to capitalize on these opportunities is to ensure that your best customers are also your brand advocates.

The benefits of advocacy platform are legion – increased brand awareness, greater online influence, deeper customer engagement, higher profits, enhanced goodwill, and a better reputation. Additionally, the right plan helps ensure that your users find success with your company and can ultimately shape your offerings in lasting, meaningful ways.

Building and executing this sort of plan, however, is a multi-step process. You’ll need to consider just how you answer questions during the buying process, how you listen to customers’ needs, and how flexible your solutions are. You need to be willing to enable, engage, and communicate. One form of engagement that has worked particularly well for Act-On is its ALUV program, which has seen massive returns since its deployment six months ago. A recent article about the ALUV program from Software Advice, a company that reviews marketing automation systems, has these pointers to offer:

1. Encourage all customers to be advocates. Act-On customers are invited to join ALUV and are encouraged to participate through various gamification strategies. Ongoing engagement is fostered through “challenges,” activities advocates can participate in for points. Architects of ALUV challenges closely monitor the forums members use, to identify potential advocates and opportunities for evangelism. This kind of diligence keeps challenges timely and draws in as many advocates as possible.

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2. Increase the value of your offers to boost engagement. The more effort that an ALUV challenge requires, the greater the reward that advocates ultimately receive. One recent giveaway, for example, was a MacBook Air, awarded to the advocate who referred the most leads over a three-month period.

Past giveaways have included opportunities to author posts for Act-On’s blog and press features – offerings that spoke directly to advocates’ industries and areas of expertise. The benefit here is twofold: customers are given opportunities to be domain experts, while Act-On receives valuable marketing content in terms of testimonials, case studies, and feedback.

3. Be a resource for advocates. When it comes to the rewards you offer advocates, it’s worth your time to consider their needs and pain points as customers. That way, you have something concrete to speak to and can provide them value for their contributions.
For its part, Act-On provides its advocates with eBooks, infographics, and research and analysts’ reports on topics like inbound marketing and demand generation, which are areas of real, on-going concern for its customers.

4. Solicit feedback and craft challenges accordingly. No challenge you issue should ever be set in stone. On the contrary, the challenges that resonate most are those that really account for advocates’ input. It was in surveying ALUV participants, in fact, that managers of the program found that white papers weren’t all that popular, and that the challenges fared better if they required fewer steps to complete. These polls also helped shed light on important aspects of Act-On’s larger platform, and allowed developers to make integral changes, showing just how far the right feedback can travel.

The Internet puts control in the buyer’s hands, and puts your reputation in the virtual street. Galvanizing your advocates to help guard and promote your brand is an important tactic in your overall marketing strategy, and can improve not just how your products get seen, but how your own customers experience your product. A program like ALUV is just one piece of a much larger puzzle, and it’ll be worth your time in the coming year to think about how you can enable your users, keep them engaged, and communicate with them throughout their lifetimes as customers.