One of the first lessons in business school is that it is cheaper to retain an old customer than to acquire a new one. However, the real value of customer retention and loyalty is in creating brand advocacy.
Indeed, 2021 Vesta research suggests that one in three loyal customers would like to be publicly associated with their favorite brands.
These customers are likely to be brand advocates, and by engaging with them, companies can often learn lessons to enhance marketing performance and widen their reach.
What Is a Brand Advocate?
A brand advocate is a customer or employee who shares positive information about the organization with friends and families. The individual receives no compensation but spreads good word-of-mouth due to their genuine passion for the brand.
Therefore, “brand advocacy” is promoting a company’s products and services to new audiences by those who are devoted to the company.
If people select the product or service and trust the business, they will likely become brand advocates – in some industries more than others.
These customers offer the best form of advertisement because people tend to place greater faith in their friends, coworkers, and families than various media forms.
Yet, it is not only customers. If employees consistently share material and endorse their employer, the company can also reach a new audience.
Interestingly, employee advocates help aid recruitment processes too.
Finally, it is worth noting that the term “brand advocate” is often used interchangeably with “brand ambassador”. Yet, the term “brand ambassador” sometimes refers to people the business employs professionally to represent them.
The Importance of Brand Advocates
Friends and followers typically have a high degree of faith in brand advocates. After all, as humans, we tend to express our honest opinion to them – whether that is positive or negative. As such, they are likely to put a high degree of trust into what the brand advocate says.
Yet, brand advocates do not only share positive feedback with family and friends. They often write positive reviews on third-party websites. In the age of consumer reliance on online reviews, such posts – from genuine brand advocates – can generate business momentum.
As such, it is possible to consider advocacy as a marketing tool without an inbuilt cost component. Thanks to enthusiastic brand evangelists, the brand may expand naturally.
Finally, brand advocates have a real passion and purpose. They endorse a company because they like what it does and are happy about its success. Such authenticity shines through as they publicly support marketing campaigns across social media and other platforms.
Types of Brand Advocates
Typically, brand advocates tend to fit into one (or more) of the following four groups:
- Employees: Employees know the most about the company’s current products and services and may serve as the most effective brand ambassadors, especially in supporting recruitment efforts.
- Business partners: Business partners may help draw a new audience, increase brand recognition, and inspire a new customer base – especially in the B2B market.
- Customers: Customers often write reviews, offer recommendations to prospects, and spread word-of-mouth. Ensuring this is positive is often critical to business success.
- Influencers: Influencers have many followers on various digital platforms, such as social media. Influencers count as brand advocates only when they use a product and genuinely advocate for the brand, not when hired to work in paid campaigns.
Advocates of a brand may hold positions of authority where they have considerable influence over others.
Additionally, some individuals may have the most fitting personality, character, temperament, or interests to be regarded as exceptional brand ambassadors.
Yet, perhaps most significantly, a brand advocate is always a devoted consumer first.
How to Foster Brand Advocates
While some people naturally gravitate toward brand advocacy, some businesses choose to establish a successful brand advocacy program.
To fuel such an initiative and inspire brand advocacy, companies can:
Proactively Identify Advocates
Identifying brand-loyal individuals who will serve as brand advocates is tricky. But, by analyzing positive social media posts, businesses can spot their advocates and build on these top-notch relationships.
Also, they may spot trends in what people like about the business and share that information with marketing to inform their upcoming campaigns.
Some brand advocates want to feel like they are a part of a business’s brand narrative. By keeping up regular communication with them – through social media, forums, and personalized offers – companies can build an informalized team of advocates that continuously spread good word of mouth.
Invest In Branded Content
The more engaging a company’s content is, the more engaged its advocates are likely to be. Users of the internet today are becoming more selective. Therefore, creating exciting, entertaining, and relevant material is essential for promoting engagement with brand advocates.
Surprise People Positively
Provide customers with unexpected perks. By doing so, they are more likely to come back and talk to others within their circle about their experiences.
Encourage happy customers to post reviews online. After all, online testimonials and reviews are among the easiest methods to broaden a company’s reach and are often the first step in creating brand advocates.
Brand advocates spread positive word of mouth, enhance brand perceptions, and – ultimately – are an incredibly valuable marketing “resource”.
Competitive prices and an effortless customer experience will help companies create many brand advocates naturally.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. But, through a combination of technology, strategy, and service, companies can build a robust customer base that is both loyal to and vocal about their products.
Learn how to create customer loyalty – and perhaps brand advocates too – by reading our article: ‘Authenticity Fosters Customer Loyalty’