We hate to break it to you, but your potential customers – new and returning – trust each other much more than they trust you. This means they much prefer to hear about your product from people who are actually buying and using them, and certainly not from Fred in Sales, or even Joanne in Marketing.

Savvy business owners, such as Clean Treat’s Charle de Haas, are one step ahead of the pack on this and are concentrating their marketing efforts on creating ‘customer advocates’. In other words, encouraging existing, loyal customers to actively tell their peers about how great your business is.

Your customer advocates have a lot more influence when it comes to swaying purchasing decisions (sorry Fred and Joanne) and can quickly, effectively and with minimal spend, become your single, biggest selling tool.

Before we dive into how to create advocates, we need to clear one thing up; customer advocacy is not to be mistaken for customer loyalty; both make up a part of the post-purchase cycle and, although are linked, are two very different concepts.

See, you can’t create an advocate, without having first made sure the customer is loyal, and a loyal customer won’t necessarily become an advocate. In fact, the post-purchase cycle goes a little something like this: satisfaction leads to loyalty, which in turn (if you’re strategic) then develops into advocacy.  

On that note, actions speak louder than words, so here are our top tips for building advocacy, whatever stage of the cycle your customer is in:

Stage 1 – Satisfaction

How to reassure your customers that they made the right buying decision:

  1. Delight with some personalised shout outs. Get Social media usernames for your customers and thank them online for their purchase. Trust us they’ll love it, share it and tell their friends about it. Which is exactly what you want
  2. Next level customer service. Deliver what you promise, over deliver when you can and fix what goes wrong. This article explains more and reveals that over 60% of customers rate excellent customer service, as the most important influence on repeat purchase  
  3. Connect new customers with returning or loyal ones. Having an online forum where customers at every stage of the pre and post purchase cycle can communicate, is sales and marketing gold.

Stage 2 – Loyalty

How to keep them returning to you over any of your competitors:

  1. Offer free shipping, even if it’s for a limited period. Customers love free shipping. A lot.
  2. Set up a referral programme. In order to benefit from this tactic, the customer is forced to tell a friend. And never underestimate how much people love telling others about how they’ve discovered the hottest new product on the market. Incentives could come in the form of loyalty points, discounts, rewards or freebies.
  3. Embark on some social entrepreneurship. If your cause is authentic and comes from an honest place your customers will return; happy in the knowledge that they are contributing creating positive change

Stage 3 – Advocacy

How to ensure they’re telling everyone else about how great your product or service is:

  1. Firstly pick your brand advocates wisely. They need to be active and fairly influential on Social Media, otherwise, all your other tactics are going to be in vain, quite frankly. And give them access to a platform, from which they can endorse until their heart’s content
  2. VIP clubs. Everyone wants to feel special, but your loyal customers do especially. Offer them product testers or exclusive offers, ask them to leave reviews and whatever you do make sure you (and them) are telling your audience all about it
  3. Better yet, get them involved in your R&D. Thinking of making a change? Adding a new vertical or product range? Ask your loyal customers for their thoughts. Aaron Kay from The Swank Store sends out surveys to find out exactly what items are on his customer’s wish lists. The customer feels important and you get invaluable insight into the exact audience you want to target. Winning all round.
  4. Use data to look for patterns and trends. What do your loyal customers all have in common? What engagement most resonates with them? Which touch points of the brand can be adapted or enhanced to play on these consistencies? Nail this and you can shift them up a stage, from loyalty to advocacy, in no time

Remember that potential customers, new customers and returning customers trust each other much more than they trust you. So it makes sense that brand advocacy, in the form of word of mouth, is one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools you can ever leverage (this encompasses Social Media). If content is king, customer advocacy is most definitely Queen.

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Author Elena Clarke

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