When it comes to marketing, there are different channels that you can resort to. While all these channels are driven by companies with the only motive of promoting their products and acquiring new customers, there is one method that is the “cleanest” and most effective of all. That is called brand advocacy and every company aspires to have as many brand advocates as possible.
To understand it, you must look into your own life’s examples and examine the different ways you have come to know about a new product. You would have either seen its ads on a TV, or on the internet, or even on social media or may have just heard about it through word of mouth.
Which of those methods do you think is most effective in your decision to buy a product? Yes, it is the word-of-mouth channel. When you hear about a product in a normal social conversation, then that is the most neutralized and organic marketing of the product which you will ever come across. In this article, we are going to discuss this method in detail.
What is a brand advocate?
Brand advocates can be anyone who likes your product and wants to share about it in their social circle. They can be anyone from your employees, to business partners, your family, to your customers or even the people who are not related to you in any sense but are fans of your product. Since they like your product and speak positively about it to others, it results in a natural word-of-mouth marketing of the product.
When it comes to marketing, the most important factor is to earn the trust of your audience. Paid advertisements would never be able to earn as much trust of the audience as what is generated through brand advocacy. According to a study by Convince & Convert, 92% of the customers they surveyed reported to trust recommendations from brand advocates. These advocates are the sources of creating natural conversations around your brand that result in awareness and organic traffic.
What are the benefits of brand advocates?
Reading through the introduction and the definition of brand advocacy above, you would have got a brief idea of its benefits. But if you will look at it deeply and holistically, you will discover more benefits of it. Let us look at them individually.
People would be ready to advocate your brand only when they find real value in your product. Having the first-hand experience with it, they share their natural views about the product to others. Since their listeners are listening to it from an unbiased angle, they are more likely to get converted.
Companies do not have to pay to build advocacy. It comes out of the natural passion and sentiments people hold for a brand. And it spreads from one person to another without any investment.
Real life experience
Advertisements people see through paid channels often give the best glimpse of the product and are mostly biased. But through advocacy marketing, people get to hear about real life experiences of users. That is anytime more effective in generating trust and converting a customer than paid ads. By sharing real life experiences, people transform it to a breathing and alive marketing strategy.
Companies should no way assume that since brand advocacy is free, it wouldn’t have a wider reach than paid advertising. An average social media account holder has 400 connections in their network. When it becomes a chain of promotion in multi-level networks, it reaches a much larger audience than paid marketing.
How to create brand advocates?
Brand advocacy is a customer’s choice which is a part of consumer’s behavior. When it comes to consumer behavior, you don’t have much control on it. You can only give your best attempts and hope for the best outcome. Hence, advocacy marketing strategy is not as structured as other marketing strategies. Yet, there are some areas you can focus on when you think of how to start an advocacy program.
Offer an exceptional product or service
Before you even think of how to turn customers into brand advocates, you need to give them an exceptional service or product. Before marketing, you must analyze the efficacy of what you sell. Your product success comes before customer success. Only through a splendid product you would be able to win their hearts. It should be so amazing that your customers can’t resist sharing their experience with it in their social circle.
Give flawless customer experience
As you expand outwards from the core (exceptional product), the customer experience comes next. Your brand should give memorable experiences to its customers. Every interaction they had with you, right from purchasing the product to interacting with your support team, should be flawless. There should be no hassle in your service, and their concerns, queries or issues should be resolved smoothly with a great expertise and customer-centric attitude.
Educate your customers
For them to talk about your product in detail, they should possess the knowledge in and around the product. You must ensure that you provide them enough education through webinar, newsletter or blogs to gain knowledge on how to use the product and how it solves the real world problems. Only then, they would have effective content to talk about to their peers.
Keep your online content accessible
For them to share their experiences with your brand, you should keep the supporting content easily accessible for them. Create brand hashtags, online blogs, video tutorials, high-quality shareable images, etc., in your social media pages. This will make it easier for them to link to the right resources that will support their advocacy campaign.
Brand advocacy examples
Having understood the benefits and how to implement brand advocacy, let us now move forward to look into a few advocacy marketing examples.
Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign
In 2019, Apple launched one of their brand advocacy programs. They asked all their iPhone users to submit a photo clicked from their phones. Out of all the entries, they would select the best 10 photos which would be featured on billboards in a few cities, Apple stores and online.
It naturally flooded their social media pages with this campaign hashtags and drove a huge marketing by itself. This is one of the best examples on how to create advocacy.
Cisco Champion Program
Cisco runs this program to help their brand advocates reach a wider audience all across the globe. Through this program they engage and nurture technical influencers and promote dialogues on Cisco solutions. This drives a huge promotion all across the globe and in return, the members get exposure to wider technical communities and enhance their skills and knowledge.
In 2019, they were able to gather champions from 47 countries who have worked at over 200 companies.
It needs a refined mindset for creating brand advocates. You must be able to connect with your customers and identify what motivates them to talk about your brand. You need to make them feel that they are a part of your mission to bring a positive change in the world. And the solution you provide is of greater value to them when they correlate it with solving real world problems.
Through brand advocacy programs, you can include them in your growth journey and build a positive relationship with them. This positivity is contagious and it spreads as naturally as any viral content. Social media has made it easier to harness the power of advocacy. Hence, you must leverage it along with the strategies that I have mentioned above to build an effective long-term strategy for marketing your brand.