Customer advocacy is the act of publicly supporting a company or product. In the social media age, this takes the form of a positive online review, social media sharing, or even speaking at an industry event.
There are many benefits to customer advocacy, such as improved customer satisfaction, increased customer loyalty, and even increased sales. In addition, customer advocacy can help to build a company’s reputation and strengthen its brand.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to customer advocacy.
First, make sure you have provided an outstanding customer experience and delivered great ROI to warrant the customer speaking on your company’s behalf. Second, be mindful of your customer’s time. And finally, make sure to measure the results of your advocacy so you can continue to improve.
What is a Customer Advocacy Program?
A Customer Advocacy Program is a formalized way for Customer Success and Marketing Departments to implement strategies to get customers to promote the company, and then to measure the results of these efforts.
Advocates are passionate about the companies they support and can be powerful influencers. Their endorsements carry weight because they are seen as unbiased and authentic. When customers see that someone they trust is happy with a product or service, they are more likely to try it themselves.
Customer advocacy can be a key driver of long-term brand loyalty. Once someone has publicly declared their support for a company, they are more likely to stick with it through thick and thin. Advocates can also help to attract new customers and build positive word-of-mouth.
In order to create advocates, companies need to focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience.
This means delivering value with every interaction and providing swift resolution to any problems. When customers feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to become advocates for your brand.
A dedicated customer advocacy program is made up of marketing and customer success techniques that set up a way for a company’s most loyal customers to become its most vocal supporters. They can help to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty and can lead to increased sales and positive word-of-mouth for the company.
6 Major Benefits of Customer Advocacy
1. Customer Advocacy Builds Long-term Brand Loyalty
Something interesting happens when we make a recommendation… we cement our positive feelings about something. In his book “Influence” Robert Cialdini talks about the principle of consistency:
“Once people make a choice/take a stand, they will encounter interpersonal pressure to behave consistently with what they have previously said or done.
- Consistency is activated by commitments: prior choices or stands.
- Consistency is amplified by commitments that are active, public and voluntary.”
So in one sense, it’s important to us to believe that what we say is true. So once we’ve said something, it cements our belief.
But, more importantly, once we put our name to something, we become even more invested in it because it now represents our credibility to others.
2. Customer Advocacy Reinforces Customer Retention
Given the consistency principle above, it shouldn’t be surprising that those who advocate for a company – even on the smallest scale, are more likely to renew.
3. Customer Advocacy Gives Sales a Boost
Social proof is one of the most important factors in determining whether or not someone will make a purchase – even though the influence is largely unconscious.
It goes back to evolutionary psychology. We look to see what has made others in the community successful and then go with that.
They haven’t been eaten by a lion so far, so whatever it is must be working – right? That’s why you’ll often see pages of testimonials – far more than seem necessary – when buying an online product. While it might seem excessive as you scroll past it – your subconscious definitely takes note!
4. Customer Advocacy Improves Overall Customer Satisfaction
Customer advocacy is a major factor in customer satisfaction. In fact, customers who are highly satisfied with a company are three times more likely to recommend it to others, according to a study by Bain & Company. And those who are promoters of a company (those who would recommend it to others) are nearly nine times more likely to continue doing business with that company.
Advocates are also more likely to try new products and services from the companies they support and are more forgiving when those companies make mistakes. This is due to the fact that advocates feel a sense of ownership for the companies they promote—they want to see them succeed.
5. Customer Advocacy Can Help Minimise Customer Acquisition Costs
Acquiring new customers is essential for businesses to grow, but it can be a costly process. But when you implement a referral program it can drive CAC down significantly, because the customer has now been acquired essentially for free.
By leveraging existing customer relationships, Customer Success Managers are able to incentivize their customers to bring in new business, using rewards such as discounts, additional services, or upgraded service levels.
6. Customer Advocacy Increases Brand Awareness
Whether it’s sharing an article from your company blog, or mentioning your products to a friend or colleague, word-of-mouth marketing is often far more powerful than advertising, as the friend or influencer is already known as a trusted source in their community.
Customer advocacy can be a powerful tool to increase brand awareness for your company. By encouraging your customers to share their positive experiences with your products or services, you can reach a wider audience and build trust with potential new customers. In today’s social media-driven world, a single customer’s advocacy can have a significant impact on your company’s bottom line.
8 Types of Customer Advocacy
You have a lot of choices in terms of what to include in your Customer Advocacy Program. From simply pressing “share” on an interesting article on your website, to speaking at industry-wide events about their experience with your product, there are options for a range of commitment levels. That’s important because, above all, you need to remain customer-focused and be considerate of their time.
Most people do not want to spend hours of their day promoting your company. They have enough to do. If they’re going to advocate for you, there needs to be something in it for them.
In return for their efforts, advocates should receive incentives such as discounts, gift cards, improved service levels, or exclusive access to new products and services.
The chart below shows the importance of recognizing the customer’s engagement and influence.
1. Social Sharing
EXAMPLE: Liking, Commenting on, or re-sharing an article from your company’s website.
BENEFITs: Increases brand awareness. Positions your brand as a thought leader in the industry.
INCENTIVES: Recognition. This isn’t a very heavy lift. Just like and comment back – with a “Thank you”!
2. Testimonials For Your Company Website
EXAMPLE: A customer writes a few glowing compliments in an email thanking one of your CSMs for the difference the product has made at their company. The CSM can then request to use that text as a testimonial.
Lincoln Murphy has a great article on getting testimonials this way, and it works flawlessly.
BENEFIT: Social proof. Consistency principle.
INCENTIVES: Thank you note, a gift card from Amazon/Starbucks, etc. $25 is usually fine. If it was a LOT of effort (e.g. they had to get it through their legal department ) a little something extra wouldn’t hurt.
3. Reviews on G2 and Capterra
EXAMPLE: A customer gives you a positive review on one of the above sites, or something similar.
BENEFITS: Social Proof
INCENTIVES: Gift cards. No, it’s not excessive. You’re paying your marketing department a lot more for similar effects. You can send them promotional material (aka swag) but that’s more of a benefit for you than the customer (brand awareness) so try to keep it to a gift card or small credit towards professional services.
EXAMPLE: A customer agrees to answer calls from prospects your sales department is working with to get assistance in speaking about their experience with your company to other businesses.
BENEFIT: Easier close on sales. HOWEVER – don’t use the same client multiple times for this. They will get annoyed.
INCENTIVES: for one phone call or email, just a heartfelt thank you. If you have a customer that is ok with serving as a reference repeatedly, they should be considered a VIP and given a voice when it comes to roadmap feedback as well as exclusive events/premium memberships.
5. Case Studies
EXAMPLE: A customer provides an in-depth interview on their experience in implementing your product/service. It’s supposed to show prospective customers what it is like to work with your company.
These often show a particular use case or vertical so that it’s clear how your product works in that instance.
BENEFITS: Social proof, targeted marketing
INCENTIVES: They get to increase their brand awareness with your audience. You provide links to their website and talk about their businesses while they talk about yours. Win-win – but a tough sell because of the time commitment, and CSMs hate doing them because of the workload involved.
EXAMPLE: An existing customer likes your product so much that they recommend it to a friend, colleague, or their community. As a result, their connections turn into new customers for your business.
BENEFITS: New customer with $0 customer acquisition cost. Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher customer retention rate. Customer acquisitions through referrals spend 200% more than the average customer. And referred customers are 4x more likely to refer OTHER new clients.
INCENTIVES You need them here — big time. It’s a big ask to leverage your customers’ personal and professional relationships. There’s not a lot of benefit to them and they stand to lose credibility if your company doesn’t deliver.
A popular approach is to offer a 10% discount to both the referring client and the new prospective client. This is typically done upon activation through a specialized form.
Sometimes a 10% discount is not possible for the existing customer because of an existing contract. In this case, you can try offering them an equal amount of professional services or a discount on their next renewal.
Note – once again, you need to incentivize what want. Not just for the customers, but for the CSMs. Just like if you are asking CSMs to sell, they should be given a commission on new business gained through referrals.
7. Speaking engagements
EXAMPLE: A customer agrees to speak at an event your company is hosting such as a webinar or event.
BENEFITS: This kind of advocacy is particularly powerful because the information is seen as much more credible when coming from a live person, rather than something that might have been edited.
It’s also a great strategy to drive customers to your brand by including thought leadership rather than through promotional material created by your marketing department.
INCENTIVES This positions them as a thought leader and exposes your audience to their brand, so there is incentive built in IF your customers are within their target audience as it promotes both your businesses.
8. Customer Advisory Boards
EXAMPLE: Customer advisory boards (CABs) are made up of 10 to 15 senior executives from representative customer organizations. (Gartner)
BENEFITS: So long as they are representative of your ICPs, they can provide valuable product feedback and act as part of your Voice of the Customer initiative. As an added bonus, because of their deep involvement, they’re far less likely to churn and are more likely to buy into your higher-tiered offerings.
INCENTIVES: Being part of a Customer Advisory Board is considered prestigious. The fact that they are influencing the product roadmap is also an incentive. Seeing the integration of their feature requests is rewarding because they see how they are influencing the product.
That said, it’s still a decent time commitment, so make sure your CAB meetings are well planned with a detailed agenda so that they feel their time was well used. A gift basket wouldn’t hurt either.
A word of warning
In the same way that pushing an upsell too soon can frustrate a customer, the same holds true for asking for any form of advocacy before the customer has achieved their goals with your product.
If a customer is going to put their reputation on the line to recommend your company they are only going to do that if they know that your company delivers on its promises.
Advocates are often passionate customers who are willing to go above and beyond to support a company. But there’s a trust level involved. If they feel like they’ve been misled, it’s far worse because you put their reputation at risk. In the worst cases, an advocate can turn into a vocal detractor, warning others about their bad experience.
It’s important to remember that advocates are still customers. You need to stay honest and transparent about your products and services and make sure that you deliver on your promises. If you do that, you’ll keep your advocates happy – and they’ll keep advocating for you.
How to get started:
- Figure out which initiatives make sense for your organization. Generally, testimonials and reviews will be things you can implement right away.
- Don’t try to do this alone. Loop in marketing and make it a joint initiative. The human touch from CS will do a lot to get customers to engage, but they need something professional looking to engage with if they are going to be recommending your company in any way.
- Don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t focus on advocacy before you have nailed your customer journey and onboarding at the very least. It’s pretty hard to ask for referrals when you can’t consistently nail your customer’s desired outcomes.
If you’ve got the basics down, this can be a great initiative to focus on in the next quarter.