Making your customers into more than just purchasers - into advocates for your brand and products - is one of the best ways to grow your business. But it’s also very challenging to accomplish. Turning your customers into spokespeople for your business can take many, many forms. But one of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is by offering them the right rewards. You can learn how to drive advocacy actions in this guide - let’s get learning!
What is Customer Advocacy?
It’s a hot buzzword these days - but you might be left wondering what does customer advocacy mean? You’re not alone if you’re feeling a bit confused, as customer advocacy actually comes in two forms.
The first one is internal to your company - it’s a person whose role is to carefully study the needs of your customers and find strategies to satisfy them. They help to create great customer experiences by gathering feedback and implementing policies that proactively delight your customers.
The second form is external - a customer who has become an advocate for your company because they’re part of a customer advocacy program. They spread the word to their network of friends and family about how great your company’s products and services are.
These two kinds of advocacy seem separate, but they really aren’t - they work together. Your internal customer advocacy efforts help create very satisfied and highly loyal customers, who in turn join your program to advocate for your business because they are such big fans of what you do for them.
Why is Customer Advocacy Important?
Let’s be real - we live in an age completely saturated with ads and marketing. Everywhere you go, you’re constantly surrounded by them. As a result, consumers have increasingly learned to tune out traditional marketing most of the time. That means marketers need to find other, more effective ways of reaching new customers as well.
What do people actually turn to these days when they need to make a purchase? It’s the people they already know and trust making recommendations. In fact, 60% of marketers say that referral programs generate a high volume of leads. That’s because consumers trust their peers much more than a slick marketing campaign.
Plus, it’s getting harder for businesses in many industries to stand out just for their products or services alone. If you’re in an industry where your products are pretty similar to competitors, differentiating your brand from others is a challenge. But an excellent customer experience can help you to rise above the other options in your industry.
As the buying process continues to grow more customer-centric, treating your customers extremely well becomes ever more important to your business success. And referrals are a low-cost way to gain new business - you don’t need to create expensive new marketing campaigns or hire new sales teams to gain customers this way.
How to Create a Customer Advocacy Program?
If you’re looking to create a customer advocacy program at your own company, you need to start with some strategic thinking. You may be tempted to begin by thinking about what your business can get out of the program - but that’s the wrong framing. Instead, start by thinking about what your customers will gain from your program.
Too many businesses think about the customer second in their customer advocacy programs, even though the customer is literally in the name. True customer-centricity starts with thinking entirely about the customer and their needs and desires, and not what you can get out of them.
So how can you create a successful customer advocacy program? It doesn’t need to be complicated - you can actually start by just asking your customers to refer you to their friends and family.
Sending out surveys to customers after they complete a transaction with your business, like making a purchase or talking to a customer service rep, is a good practice anyways to get their honest feedback. If they rate your business highly, you can send a follow up email asking them to join your referral program or leave you a review on popular review sites like Yelp and Google Maps.
It’s also important when creating a customer advocacy program to centralize all your efforts. You will want to designate one person or department to run point on your customer advocacy program so that there’s no duplication of effort. This is critical because delighting your customers typically involves many different teams and departments in your business, from your billing people to the front-line sales and customer service reps. Having one central focal point to coordinate efforts will make things easier for your business and better for your customers.
Never forget that customer advocacy is about more than just making referrals directly - it’s also about increasing your general brand awareness. That can mean encouraging program members to post about you on their social media channels to gain access to their network, or giving you testimonials you can use in your advertising or on your website. It’s all about gaining additional social proof that your company makes great products and cares about customers too.
Finally, always remember that the primary goal of your advocacy program should be to drive value for your customer advocates, not for your business. Is being a member of your program delivering real value for your customers? Or are you focusing on your business goals first and foremost? Your program will be much more successful if you focus on the former - and your business will still reap plenty of rewards too.
The Right Rewards Strategy for Driving Customer Advocacy
Speaking of rewards, many customer advocacy programs include a reward element to thank your members. Rewarding your customers for being advocates for your business is a great idea - but it’s also a tricky one to execute well. That’s because simply sending out gift cards or discounts for referrals might work in the short term and gain you some compliant customers who do what you ask, but don’t go above and beyond.
It’s best to design your advocacy rewards program with a highly personalized strategy so that you’re tapping into what your advocates are getting from the program besides just rewards. You can check out Hubspot’s research on the different personality types of customer advocates to gain a deeper understanding of why people are likely to become brand advocates for your business, and tailor your program accordingly.
You can reward customer advocates the right way by making referrals and recommendations easy for them - with software platforms like Xoxoday that allow them to do that with just one click. And you should also set up a program to acknowledge and reward customers for posting about you on social media sites - they’re helping you increase your brand reach, and you’re giving them a lovely thank you gift in return.
Customer Advocacy Examples
There are plenty of successful customer advocacy programs examples out there - here are just a few of the best to get you inspired.
If you’ve ridden with Uber, you’ve probably noticed their referral program. They encourage you to send a free ride to a friend who’s new to Uber, and in return you get a free ride as well. The personalized invite code can be sent with the click of a button, and it’s very rewarding for people who recommend Uber regularly.
Lululemon has created a highly engaged online community. On their social media channels, they encourage their customers to share pictures of themselves in challenging yoga poses wearing their clothing, and tag them with the hashtag #sweatlife. Then Lululemon shares those pictures on their own page, giving potential buyers a look at real people using their athleticwear instead of models.
The beauty brand Lancôme offers a reward system for customers who buy their products online, connect with them, and share on their social media platforms. The points they offer can be redeemed for rewards like products and special experiences like exclusive events. This range of options means customer advocates can pick the rewards that matter most to them.
Starbucks is pretty advanced when it comes to the social media game - they are experts at engaging their customers and turning them into social advocates for the brand. They created the #tweetacoffee campaign to allow people to easily buy a $5 coffee gift card for a friend. While this drove sales, it also helped Starbucks identify potential advocates and new customers as well.
Customer advocacy programs are a powerful way to build your brand and your business based on reviews from real customers. But adding in the right rewards strategy can help your advocacy program become even more successful. If you’re looking for a way to turn your customers into brand advocates with referral rewards seamlessly integrated into your existing tools, try Xoxoday today! Want to know more? Book a demo now.