4 Keys to Unlock Customer Advocacy

By: Max Kenkel
customer advocate posting on social media

Let’s face it—competition is fierce. Businesses are becoming more customer-oriented, causing competition to grow even fiercer. To make a lasting impression on customers, you need to do more than provide excellent service and create a stellar product. You need to turn those customers into your marketing machines.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 75% of customers have switched brands or changed buying behaviors during the pandemic.

When everyone is fighting for share, brand advocates can help deliver warmer leads, promote your brand to people who have never heard of it, and even passively sell for your brand.

Who Are My Brand Advocates?

Brand advocates are customers who are passionate about your product or service. So much so that they happily spread the word about it. Studies show brand advocates spend twice as much as regular customers on favorite brands, and loyal customers are worth up to 10 times the value of their first purchase. Due to social media and countless review sites, customers have more power than ever before to impact your company’s online reputation.
Turning customers into brand advocates is important. They’ll voluntarily do much of your advertising for you, which is ideal since most consumers trust other consumers more than they trust brands.
Personalizing the impersonal goes a long way toward building brand attachment and breeding advocacy, which can have an exponential impact to your bottom line. Unlocking effective customer advocacy isn't easy, but the following four keys will help get you in the door.

1. Relate to the Customer

According to a CMO study conducted by Designit, user experience, personalization and brand connection continue to be paramount in relating to customers.

Emotionally connected customers are twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. —Harvard Business Review

Relating starts with understanding what motivates, which, in turn, helps brands target the right customers and create more advocates.
  • Identity Benefits: What should you communicate about who your customers are?
  • Emotional Benefits: How do you want people to feel about your brand? 
  • Functional Benefits: What will people get from your products/services?
  • Social Benefits: Where do customers want to belong?
Related: Customers aren’t conducting business as usual and brands can’t afford to either. Check out our comprehensive approach to consumer-powered brand measurement: BrandFx.
Maybe your customers want to stand out from the crowd. Maybe they want to be a part of a team. Motivations change depending on the industry, brand, touchpoint, and the customer’s current position in the buying journey. Once you’ve determined what makes your customer tick, offer a clear path that'll attract those who are a strong fit for your brand. Be genuine at all times, and make sure your messaging and interactions consistently align with your brand’s value proposition. You might be surprised by your customers’ motivations. Rely on data insights and analytics rather than blindly guessing.

2. Find Your Promoters

Identifying your promoters through an NPS-type question (e.g., “How likely are you to recommend us on a scale from 0 to 10?”) can help quickly create an audience of your biggest fans.
A strong community is a well-connected community—its members are allied with each other and share common goals and ideologies. As Seth Godin explains in his book Tribes, membership should be voluntary, dynamic, partisan and noisy. Mutual respect is essential.

More than 8 out of 10 online customers say they trust recommendations from friends and family members more than any type of advertising. —Nielsen

One powerful thing you can do is create a term to refer to all your customers. Tie it back to your brand and promote the idea they are joining an exclusive club of likeminded individuals. Go on to create a special celebration or recognition to praise them for joining, and to get them excited about being part of something bigger than a transaction.
Provide your advocates with unique ways to communicate with you as well as each other. Online forums, polls and apps work great, but also consider organizing live gatherings and other experiential events. Proximity helps strengthen your fan base’s bond. Continuously engaging your brand community helps strengthen sense of ownership. When you listen and respect your customers, they’ll reciprocate.
Smart brands understand customers’ concerns and seek to identify and resolve issues that create barriers and cause frustration, but the best brands also make sure to serve their customers beyond their stated needs.

3. Employee Access Breeds Advocacy

Most customer issues are the result of problems further upstream, usually in the employee or channel partner areas.
As Dr. Tracy Maylett, co-author of The Employee Experience, states, “The customer experience is a direct result of the engagement and the behaviors of your employees.”
As a result, employee experience efforts are a win for a marketing team’s customer initiatives, too.

55% of people see employees as “credible” or “very credible” sources of information about a business. —Edelman

Exclusive employee access helps generate excitement and empowers employees to be brand advocates.
Many employees are likely already brand advocates or have significant potential to become advocates. Maximize employee impact by creating opportunities for them to spread advocacy to customers as well. You won’t nurture advocacy by force-feeding your tired marketing message. Instead, make it worth their while to talk about your brand.

4. Make It an Experience

Experiential marketing helps cut through the clutter that defines the digital age. Design creative event experiences that attract and delight attendees, then encourage brand interaction and social sharing. Though live experiences require more resources and their impact can be tough to measure, they literally bring people together. Human connection alone is valuable. Creating a space where advocates can network and connect helps establish trust and strengthens their bond with the brand.

74% of customers have a better opinion about a brand after attending an experiential marketing event. —EMI and Mosaic

Enlisting social media influencers is also a great way to create an experience, and it’s not always the celebrities who drive your brand. A recent study conducted by Designit shows that everyday social media users who promote a product can influence others over 30% of the time. Find ways to encourage customers who have demonstrated they are big fans of your brand to tell everyone about their experiences.
chart showing social media users' preferred influencers

Build Relationships That Last

Increased brand advocacy translates to less price sensitivity, more recommendations and a louder voice in the marketplace. It’s a great way to generate new business and diversify the people you reach and how you reach them.
Once you’ve carved out your identity in the marketplace, be vigilant about your communication. Back up your claims with tangible actions. Just like the real world, being kind and helpful are precisely what builds positive relationships and improves reputations. If a customer gets the impression that you care, then it’s a safe bet that they’ll care enough to become advocates of your brand. Trust is a byproduct of a commitment to quality and excellence. If you can deliver results over the long haul, customers will come to believe and trust in your product and/or service offerings.
Learn more about our strategies for driving authentic, lasting emotional connections in this ebook.
Max Kenkel
Max Kenkel

As Customer Solutions Manager, Max leads our Customer Solutions line, ensuring all six components of a successful loyalty program deliver for our clients. With more than ten years of experience in strategy across customer, channel and employee loyalty programs, he’s seen a lot. You’ll often hear him talk about how important data is to brands. In his words, “It’s easy to make decisions on intuition, but it’s a lot easier to justify to shareholders when you can back it up with data.” Beyond his professional passions, Max plays bass in a pop punk band, visits as many national parks as he can and is an aspiring poet, publishing his first book in 2023.