Organizations long for brand advocates.
Advocates love their products, provide valuable feedback, and want to spread the news about their favorite company to others!
Yet many companies don’t really do much for or with the advocates they have. I myself have been invited into special VIP or customer councils that do little else except flood my inbox! How can you activate your advocates?
Make sure you have a goal, a plan and a way to sustain their enthusiasm. These are some of your best customers. They amplify your marketing reach, and they deserve your attention and care in return!
Know your goals. Know their goals, too.
What’s the big idea here? Inviting your advocates to join a special group, offer feedback and refer customers is clearly beneficial to the company.
But what goals do you want to achieve with your advocates? And what is it in for them? Advocates want to participate to gain access to early releases, gain more loyalty benefits and be part of a community. But based on who they are, they want things differently than the advocate sitting next to them.
Personas can help you make the most of understanding your advocates. Make sure you examine and understand your advocate’s goals and your organization’s goals before launching into too much activity.
Identify the best ways to find your advocates.
Ask the people closest to customers, like front-line reps and account managers. Don’t just rely on numbers or sales or revenue per customer.
Some of your best advocates, those who can passionately and authentically spread the word about your company, aren’t the biggest spenders with your organization…yet. Don’t ignore the up-and-comers who have a lot to offer if just asked to do so.
Social media is another great source to find potential advocates.
If you respond to a raving fan on Twitter or Facebook, publicly inviting them to an advocacy program is often met with enthusiasm. Other potential advocates may see that invitation and want more information, too. Don’t ignore those people. They may be potential customers who could become advocates before the sale.
Celebrate their commitment!
I’ve seen lots of communications aimed at advocates that has the desperate feel of “look what’s it in for us!” without really directing any benefits at the advocate.
Don’t confuse advocacy with blind loyalty. These advocates have higher expectations than many of your customers. Disappoint them and they won’t be shy about letting you and many others know! Look for ways to celebrate them as individuals.
For example, create a communications program around their tenure with your advocacy program. After they join, send a small token of appreciation. After 6 months, celebrate them publicly within the group. After one year? It’s time to really reward them with program perks or product discounts or freebies or a charitable donation in their name.
Make it a big deal to be included.
Use their feedback. Then share the success with them!
As customer advisory groups or advocate communities share feedback, it’s important to actually listen, use it and then tell them how it was used.
Again, celebrate those successes publicly and share frequently, including what didn’t work and why. They want that inside access to your organization, so give it to them! If something is really innovative, offer a tour or virtual “behind the scenes” look at how their suggestions helped you innovate. Always always always close the loop!
Activating your brand advocates can be a wonderful way to increase marketing reach and grow your business. They can offer an outside-in perspective otherwise difficult to get. Let them give it to you!
Treat these customers as the VIP’s they are and the rewards will be endless.