The Complete Guide to Customer Advocacy Marketing (Start an Advocacy Program in 8 Steps)

Alan VanToai

September 17, 2021

Have you ever purchased from a brand, and the whole purchasing experience was so great, you had to tell your friends, family, and maybe even your followers about it?

What did this brand do differently? And what inclined you to share your story and give unsolicited praise to this brand?

The brand likely focused on customer experience to turn first-time purchasers into faithful brand advocates. 

Many DTC brands aim to define their offer and provide so much value to their customers that they eventually convert to advocates. 

Customer advocacy marketing works. Brands that want to promote their products to the masses in an authentic way have enlisted the help of their most loyal customers to do so. These customers take to social media and create user-generated content that highlights the brand, their product, and the value they create.

So today, we will discuss customer advocacy marketing and show you how to start an advocacy program in 8 simple steps.

What Is Customer Advocacy Marketing?

Customer advocacy is an all-encompassing and highly effective marketing strategy. It is cost-effective, profitable, and rewarding.

The premise is to generate user-generated content created by real customers and fans to position your product authentically to your target audience.

Customer advocacy takes many forms, from brand ambassadors to affiliates, all the way to influencers. Anytime a person generates content for a specific brand that they love and trust, they're an advocate.

Why Is Customer Advocacy Important?

Customer advocacy is crucial because tapping into your audience and getting them to create genuine content for you will help you appeal to a larger audience.

Not only that, but advocates help build social proof. When advocates give honest reviews and highlight your products in a way that appeals to the masses, your brand will generate more customers. 

Advocates can help instill trust in your brand, which is a dominating factor in the decision-making process of the modern-day consumer. People are looking to get the most out of their money. Consumers today are actively looking to support brands that won't doop them.

Customer advocates can help you achieve this, as they will make content showing your products in real-time.

Consumers scour the internet, reading reviews and trying to find the best products that fit within their budget and speak to their ethos. Customer advocates will help your brand cut the time to search for reviews in half, as the consumer can find your product highlighted on their favorite social media platform(s).

Justbe.Mandy customer advocate for Love Wellness

Best Types of Brands for a Customer Advocacy Program

Ideally, any brand can benefit from working with customer advocates. Advocates will vouch for the value your brand provides, something almost any brand can benefit from. 

But, there are some types of brands that do better with advocates. Many direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are harnessing the power of advocacy marketing and have seen incredible results. 

DTC brands and advocates go together like avocado and toast because direct-to-consumer products are super marketable. Beauty, apparel, fitness, food, and wellness brands (to name a few) all have the distinct advantage when working with advocates because creating content around these types of products is extremely easy.

Advocates can use their creativity and make unique content that speaks to their audience, and your brand's products being the principal focus.

How to Find Advocates

First things first, your brand needs to create value and an unmatched offer.

If your offer is solid and your value is unmatched, you will have a much easier time recruiting advocates. 

If you just launched your business and are still trying to grow your customer base, you might have a bit of a difficult time finding advocates to work with.

Alice Farella customer advocate for Tally Weijl

If this sounds like your brand, keep growing your customer base and improving your buyer's purchasing experience. You want to create an experience that's so good first-time buyers will feel energized to do it again as soon as possible! 

But if you are a medium to large DTC brand with loyal customers raving about you already to their friends, family, and followers, you will have a much easier time finding advocates.

Reach out to your customer base or recruit where you can find advocates. Many brands have a lot of success recruiting via social media. Look for customers that are already creating content about your products and ask them if they would like to work with you.

Who Is Considered an Advocate

Advocates can take many forms. Influencers can be advocates, brand ambassadors, affiliates, and any other type of person that creates content around your brand.

It doesn't matter if they have 100 followers or 100,000 followers. Advocates come in all forms and will help your brand immensely. 

Lean into all of your separate groups that use social influence to help your brand grow and tap into new audiences.

How to Start an Advocacy Program

Starting a customer advocacy program can mean big things for your brand.

Brands that start an advocacy program or campaign can receive a lot of positive benefits, including:

  • Increased sales and website traffic
  • User-generated content
  • Engagement, impressions, and reach on social media
  • More word-of-mouth influence 
  • Generate more buzz

There are so many benefits to starting an advocacy program. So, if your brand has considered starting an advocacy program, use the following steps to go from zero to launch!

Kiara Maneus Customer Advocate for Vitae Apparel

Evaluate Your Readiness

While every brand can benefit from positive reviews and content that centers their product, not every brand is ready to launch into working with advocates.

Some questions to ask yourself before starting an advocacy program include:

  • Is your audience engaged and tuned in to what you have to say?
  • Do you have a high percentage of repeat buyers? This indicates customer loyalty
  • Are your customers consistently tagging you in UGC?
  • Are your branded hashtags being used frequently?
  • Do you have a healthy social following and a high engagement rate?

If the answer to the following questions is yes, your brand is likely in a great spot to start an advocacy program. If the answer is no, then begin to work on building positive rapport and community. Then, reevaluate your readiness to launch an advocacy program. 

Establish Your Goals, KPIs, and Key Metrics

Before you start to reach out to your current customer base, you must define your goals and how you will measure the success of your program.

What is your larger purpose and goal of starting an advocacy program? Take that goal and turn it into measurable KPIs and metrics that will help keep your vision aligned throughout each campaign you host.

Reach Out to Your Current Customers

Once you have your metrics and overall goals established, it's time to find your loyalist (and loudest) customers.

You will want to find customer advocates that aren't afraid to talk about your products online.

Some ways you can find customers that are willing to become active advocates include:

  • Create a UGC campaign and monitor who participates - give your audience a theme or a challenge. After the campaign ends, reach out to those who participated and ask them to join your program.
  • Incentivize them to join the program - offer perks, exclusive insights or rewards, or discounts to get people to participate in your campaigns.
  • Start an ambassador program  - Advocates can sign up to receive exclusive perks and rewards in exchange for UGC and engaging with your brand on social media.
  • Create an affiliate programOffer your advocates the chance to earn cash on the side as they help promote your product online by providing them with a discount code or affiliate link. 

Train Your Advocates

Once you have found your advocates and defined your program, it is time to start creating various growth campaigns that incorporate your advocates.

To keep everything cohesive and ensure that your advocates know how to represent your brand, you should offer training sessions and documentation that outline your expectations.

You can create training videos, hop on Zoom, or pass around an advocate handbook. Detail your expectations.  Be sure to cover what is and is not allowed and how you will reward your advocates for their efforts.

We advise you not to be too stringent with the type of content or copy your advocates are allowed to create. Your advocates will know their audience best, so let them be creative!

But, you should be clear that there are limits as to what the advocate can post. Anything that goes against your brand's vision or mission will result in removal from the program.

Engage with Your Community

Once you start your program, you will need to engage regularly with your advocates. The most successful customer advocacy programs are built on community. Creating a community of like-minded people needs to be at the forefront. 

You can learn a lot from your advocates. The more you engage with your advocates, the more insight into your ideal customers you will have. 

Customer advocates can help your brand plan your roadmap. 

Evaluate, Improve, and Pivot

If it is your first time starting a customer advocacy program, then you are bound to create campaigns that aren't a huge hit with your advocates.

It's natural. It happens!

But the key to hosting a successful program is to evaluate, improve, and pivot when necessary.

Be sure to monitor your engagement rate for each campaign. Do some testing to see what types of campaigns your advocates enjoy participating in and which ones you should improve. 

Invest in Your Advocates and Be Available

Lastly, if you want to create a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship with your advocates, you need to invest time into the program and be available for feedback.

Your advocates want to help your brand grow. But, they will also want to make sure the program is rewarding and beneficial for them.

Listen to their comments and feedback, and talk with them. Customer advocates will help you reach your next stage of growth. So think about how your brand can help your advocates achieve their goals as well.

Conclusion

Are you ready to harness the power of customer advocacy? Then be sure to evaluate your readiness, find your most passionate customers, and invest time and energy into them.

The more you give, the more you will receive, which will mean substantial growth for your brand and passionate customers for life.

Ready to turn your customers into your team of thriving customer advocates? If so, check out CrewFire's epic demo video to see how you can drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, and user-generated content for your Shopify store.

Get in touch w/ Alan (Founder/CEO - CrewFire):

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WRITTEN BY

Alan VanToai

Co-Founder of CrewFire