We all have that brand...the one we love, follow, and cherish. Nowadays, with everything that technology gives us, you’re probably also following that brand on social media to stay on track of their new releases, discounts, and possibly just because you like their social media aesthetic. That is a real-life example of brand advocacy or good customer experience, at the minimum.
According to study.com, the term brand advocacy or customer advocacy can be defined as "getting things right for the customer by focusing on what's best for them as opposed to focusing on what's best for the company. It's sending a handwritten note with a purchase, alerting a customer of a cheaper fare, or offering weekend hours to accommodate consumers who work during the week."
Brand advocacy is not limited just to companies, but in fact, many associations, singers, actors, actresses, and thought leaders build their personal brands with advocacy strategies. Without this concept, we wouldn't know Gandhi, Malala, or even Michael Jackson as the public figures they are.
Don't make the usual mistake of confusing fans with advocates, because even though they share some kind of higher level of love towards something or someone, there are some key differences between these. The key difference is that fans will probably bail on you when things go wrong, whereas advocates will stand still and defend you through thick and thin.
But how is brand advocacy built? What comes into play? Who can build brand advocacy? Is brand advocacy something that I can control, or does it just happen?
All of these are excellent questions, and that's the reason why I decided to write this article. In the following paragraphs, we'll go through the best questions to ask yourself to start building a brand advocacy strategy. This strategy will help you bring back your customers every time, and at the same time, these loyal customers will help you bring more new customers to your business by acting as brand ambassadors.
Every time I embark myself on a new project, it is extremely easy to get overwhelmed. Personally, I'm one of those people that have a tough time turning words into action because of thinking on all the possible outcomes an effort may have.
Something that works wonders for me is dividing the project into small pieces and set small milestones that will add up over time to help me reach my desired goals.
Why do I mention this?
Well... it is necessary to mention that this is no easy thing. It is not by any means, something that will take 1 week or 1 month. It is an ongoing effort that will take over all of your channels, your website, your social media, and any other generated content from your brand as well as aspects such as the level of customer service you offer to your customers, or the small, well-thought out details you consider in order to make their experience wonderful.
Something else you can do is asking yourself questions. Watch out for those crucial questions that will drive action towards your goal. That's precisely the way I'll write this blog, by asking those crucial questions you want answers to! So let's start off!
A customer usually falls in love with your brand because you're doing something different than the rest of the brands offering the same thing out there. To be completely effective in this, it is crucial to know what is working and then figure out ways to magnify what works in a way that will have even the most loyal of our customers craving for more!
A great example of this is at the supermarket.
Anywhere you live, you probably have 4 or 5 choices of supermarkets, if not more. However, you probably visit the same one almost every time it's time to get the groceries. Have you ever asked yourself why? Is it because they post regularly on social media about their offers? Is it because they keep their space sparkling clean? Is it because of the product choice? Or maybe because of small and simple details such as their late closing time on week-days! Brand advocacy is not about changing your brand from head to toe, it is about identifying how can you make the buyer's journey a smooth and enjoyable one.
By experience, I've seen most companies, most marketers and most marketing strategies focus solely on customer conversion, it's like they're throwing all these ads, all these social media posts, all these offers out to the world for a customer to make a decision, but once someone has paid and become a customer, what happens?
Typically, nothing happens.
The company who is only focussed on getting a buyer to become a customer is forgetting the importance of nurturing that customer even after they have made a purchase.
A monthly newsletter won't do it, and no, a weekly one won't do it either!
Once someone has become a customer, it is a crucial moment to win them forever.
Usually, right after someone buys something, they experience what is called "buyer's remorse" which is a relatively simple concept in which a newly acquired customer feels guilty about having made that purchase.
Don't take it personally. If you haven't set up the proper steps before and after the sale, this is quite common.
Once again, let's ask ourselves the right questions.
How am I going to nurture this customer in a way to prevent their buyer's remorse?
How am I going to get this customer to fall in love with my brand so much that they do not regret for one second giving me their money and keep coming back for more?
That's the difference between a simple marketing strategy and a winning marketing strategy, including an advocacy program! It's not about getting more and more customers, it's about making your existing customers happy by helping them avoid their buyer's remorse. By doing that, they will bring more customers to your business by saying good things to their friends, family members, or leaving reviews in your product pages.
Keep in mind: Despite all advancements in digital marketing and e-commerce. Word of mouth is by far the strongest form of advertising at the lowest cost per acquisition.
These questions are some of the reasons why I love inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing does not stop once a customer has bought something from a company; instead, that's when their customer journey begins. Through strong content and a defined customer journey, your customers will be nurtured and keep coming back for more.
Which channels work best to build brand advocates?
As you may understand by now, brand advocacy is built over constantly surprising and delighting your customers.
This is a complicated question because it depends on who your buyer persona is and what they are expecting from your brand.
Let's go back to the supermarket examples.
What do I value most about the supermarket I always visit? Is it the fact that they have a delivery service for my home? Because I have no time to go and get the groceries myself.
Is it that their spaces are sparkling clean, and it makes me feel safe to buy my food there? Is it that their staff makes me feel right at home because of their friendly service? Or maybe the fact that their offers are unbeatable.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors, and you won't know until you take the time to build your buyer persona and identify the key elements that your buyer persona is expecting from your brand.
If you are an online game shop owner, maybe your clients are expecting a 1-hour trial of new releases. If you are an ice cream shop owner, maybe your customers are hoping to be able to get samples of the flavors before making a decision.
All these small details will make them think about your brand next time they're looking for your product or service.
All of these small details will also help you develop your word-of-mouth marketing, which is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to get more clients in your business.
The final outcome is, do your research, find out what may work, test it out, and iterate.
Ask them! Resources such as hotjar, survey monkey or the service hub from Hubspot may help you gain more insights from your customers experiences with your company through forms or interactive survey content.
If you already have your buyer persona defined, but you can't seem to understand what are they expecting, maybe it is time to change your approach and iterate as you go.
Like everything in marketing, this is not a static process. Things will change, and you must be flexible enough to go with the flow.
If you're not sure about what your customers are expecting, get them involved!
User-generated content is a great way to form meaningful, long-term relationships with your customers as they will feel valued and heard by your brand, and who doesn't like to feel that a company is taking in customers' opinions?
One of my favorite singers ever did this when she released her latest album.
Marina Diamandis, better known by her stage name MARINA, released her Album LOVE + FEAR back in early 2019. She has a special relationship with her fanbase, making it a priority to interact with them.
In an aim to increase her visibility when releasing the first single of the album, Marina released the first official video of this album, and later on, she opened up a request to her fans to send her fan made videos to recreate a new version of the music video. The original title of the song and video is "Handmade Heaven" which later on changed for the fanmade music video to "Fanmade Heaven" making fans go crazy with happiness and emotion as their favorite singer was engaging with them on such a deep level.
Marina has a substantial fanbase not based specifically on her popularity or number of magazine covers but based on online interaction and user-generated content strategies, which ultimately created a more positive image and authority of her name online.
Other things to consider when thinking about what your customers expect out of your brand are things such as: what times are my customers most active online? If you're preparing this for a physical location, what time is my place the most full? How can I measure if a customer is satisfied with their purchase or not? Do I have enough brand awareness on social media and online overall?
These questions will not always have the most beautiful answers but will surely make you take a step forward in the right direction.
This is a weird question to think about, and I always like to refer back to one of my favorite quotes ever for this:
"Take care of your employees, and they'll take care of your business," Says Richard Branson
I am explicitly referring to employee advocacy, and while this concept is a topic for an entirely new article, I couldn't just leave it off this list.
I'm a big believer that if an employee feels safe, happy, and comes to work everyday with at least some enthusiasm, they will for sure perform a thousand times better than someone who comes to work drained and to a crappy boss.
This puts the customer service department right in the spotlight, but also managers and employees from other departments because at the end of the day a company is like a machine (cliché, I know, just keep on reading), every small piece works with the rest to make a machine work properly.
Customer advocacy is built from the inside of the company; generating employee advocacy will cause a chain reaction that will for sure have a positive effect on the outcome that your customer receives, and just as we mentioned before, a person might keep coming to your business just because the staff smiles! I know I do.
To wrap it all up, customer advocacy is no easy thing, but I'm happy I could walk you through a lot of the elements and important questions that you may want to consider when talking about this topic. Every small effort you make will results in huge rewards in the long run, and it may be that not all of them are effective, but with patience, dedication, and the right targeting, your customers will keep coming back every time!
Having issues keeping your customers craving for more? At Gray Group International we focus on creating assets and strategies that will drive and promote advocacy and loyalty to your brand. Let's talk and figure out a tailored solution for your business!