Customer advocacy is a powerful tool. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust earned media above all other advertising. Building, engaging, and capturing customer advocacy through a customer advocacy or loyalty program can help companies not only sell more to their loyal fan bases but also to capture new audiences with advocacy content.

Unfortunately, once companies decide to build a customer advocacy program, they often jump straight to tactics to build programs, like implementing a sampling program, launching a blogger outreach campaign, creating gamification, or starting a social media page on a new platform. Taking a step back to consider the three points below can help you choose tactics that work best for your advocates and your company—and build a successful program from the start.

1. Why do customers buy your product or shop in your stores?

Often, the answer to this question will be based on research you have already done or insights gained through social media monitoring. As you build your advocacy program, you will start to clarify why customers shop with you, but it is important to have an idea in the beginning to see how to best interact with your consumers.

For example, advocacy programs for a company that knows that people buy its products to belong to a group versus one that knows customers choose its products because of convenience will be completely different, with different messaging and tactics.

2. What motivates customers to be advocates? Why would they talk about my product?

This is key for your program. Step into your customers’ shoes and ask why they would want to interact with you. Understanding this will help you bring what’s valuable to your customer to your program.

For example, if you look at what Sharpie has done to engage with its fans online, you can see that Sharpie knows that its customers want to show off their creativity. So Sharpie provides a place for advocates to receive recognition for their creative powers. Sister company Prismacolor engages its audience in a slightly different way: Prismacolor loyalists define themselves as artists who want to give advice and learn from other artists, so the Prismacolor studio provides an avenue for artists to collaborate. The tactics are similar, but the messaging and interactions are different, based on differences in their advocates.

3. How do I make it easy for customers to advocate?

The easier you make it for advocates to talk about your products or services, the more volume you will see. Consider how customers interact with you today and where you could easily add a new touchpoint to encourage them to advocate. Or, how are they already advocating? Are they using particular hashtags or sites more than others? These behaviors might be ones you can noninvasively participate in, too.

Diving down into these three areas can help you get the most of your advocacy program and help you decide on your next steps. The answers to these questions can help you decide which tactics would be most effective—and which to avoid. So, what will your advocacy program look like?

  • Anthony Rodgers

    Making business advocates is not easy. Especially on social media. You can pitch your ideas all you want, but in the end, it is customer’s choice and feasibility that counts. One tactic is to ask the customer for some advice. For example you can send him/her an invoice template and ask which design of our online invoice would be good enough and authentic. These kind of things will make them feel special and important and they’ll surely advocate for your brand.

  • Jim Deitzel

    Thanks for the reminder to step back from the tactic and look at the bigger picture. So often the objectives and strategies are left out and programs / projects fail because of this.