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What’s a Brand Advocacy Program and Why You Need One Today

Your customers don’t always trust you, despite all the work you do to build an authentic brand. To the customer, your company is just another business trying to sell them something. One of the most effective ways to build trust and drive new business is to implement a brand advocacy program.

Brand advocacy programs incentivize customers for talking positively about your brand. They come in all shapes and sizes, but have the same goal of making it easy to reward customers for promoting your company. Some marketers may worry about implementing a brand advocacy program, because it takes the messaging control away from the company and gives it to the customers. All of the perfectly written copy  to convey your company’s uniqueness might just be thrown out the window. So, why risk it?

It’s simple. Rewarding consumers will help your bottom line. Marketing-induced word of mouth generates more than 2X the sales of paid advertising, according to McKinsey. This means you’ll be  getting more bang for your buck than with traditional advertising. Not only will people who are referred by brand advocates spend more, they will also stay around longer. According to Deloitte, customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate. This increase in spending and retention rate is partially due to the fact that 92% of consumers trust brand advocates. It’s clear that new customers referred by a brand advocate spend more and stay around longer, but what about the advocates that referred them?

The average brand advocate reaches 150 people every time they discuss your company. Since they love your brand so much, brand advocates tend to spend more and have three times the customer lifetime value. This huge uplift in customer acquisition, retention, and lifetime value means companies can offer very compelling incentives for brand advocacy programs.

To create a compelling brand advocacy program, companies need to do three things:

  1. Reward Customers
  2. Foster a Community
  3. Enable Customers to be personal

If you are able to successfully do all three you will have a powerful program that grows, evolves, and inspires both your company and your customers. Lets start with rewards, which do not always involve cash. There are four types of incentives: monetary, personal, social, and product.

Monetary Incentive

Giving cash for referrals is one of the oldest and most well known forms of brand advocacy. This is popular amongst B2B companies that tend to sell higher priced products. I have also seen it with the B2C automated savings company, Digit. For higher priced products, referrals are less frequent and easy to keep track of in a CRM system. Consumer referral programs tend to use a unique referral code to keep track of payouts. When setting up a referral program with monetary incentive make sure to determine:

  • Payout: Percentage of total sale or a flat rate?
  • Method: Check, direct deposit, wire, or electronic?
  • Timeline: Paid immediately or does the customer need to stick around for awhile?

Personal

Loyal customers know your product inside and out. They find bugs, notice weird quirks, and hack together solutions that work for them. These customers have a wealth of knowledge that you can channel by simply providing a forum to discuss. HubSpot uses HubSpot Ideas where users can submit everything from small tweaks to moonshot ideas. This has created a wealth of new enhancements and even helped them to launch an entirely new CRM system.

In 2001, Starbucks launched myStarBucksidea.com, which enables coffee drinkers to submit ideas for new products and coffee concoctions. With over 100,000 new ideas, Starbucks’s program saves executives a lot of time and money. Chris Bruzzo, Vice President Brand, Content, and Online at Starbucks says, “We used to launch a new product and it cost millions of dollars. Now, when we launch a new product, we already have millions of fans.” Letting customers direct how your product evolves, reduces your chance of making a dud, creates an instant fan base, and increases customer retention by allowing their voice to be heard.

Social Incentive

Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help others. Providing a way for people to support causes that align with your company is a great method to generate positive buzz and good karma. Nonprofit, PETA, lets new advocates refer their friends to get involved. It’s a simple method to spread their message.

Social incentives are by no means just for nonprofits. REI has built an amazing grant program that distributes donations, ranging from $5,000-$55,000, to over 300 organizations across the country. The REI Stewardship and Community program supports local causes, has the support of local REI employees, and involves the community. This builds goodwill with REI customers and positions REI as a steward of the environment.

Product Incentive

People love your product, so why not give them more of what they want. One of the best examples of a product incentive brand advocacy program was Dropbox’s onboarding. Dropbox achieved exponential user growth by giving people more online storage space for completing their profile and referring friends.

Each friend referred gave you a little bit more free space, which meant you could upload more files, thereby increasing the stickiness of the product. Product incentives are also very popular in the video game industry. Ubisoft used exclusive in-game items as a reward for players who discussed the game on social media.

Setting up a killer brand advocacy program

Now that you know all the ways you can reward your customers, it’s time to get your program up and running. The benefits of brand advocacy are enormous. Whether you offer people a better product, money, a warm feeling, or let them direct how your products evolve; you will build a more loyal, active, and talkative community that markets for you.

Once someone has completed the intended action such as, donating to charity, submitting an idea, or referring a friend, confirm their action via email or mobile messaging. Make sure to also embed social sharing into the process so that it’s simple for people to spread the word.

Brand advocacy, done right, means building a community. Ensure that you are monitoring the conduct of your community, you are engaging with the community so they know the company is listening, and carefully analyze how the community is helping to drive customer acquisition, reduce product issues, grow sales, and drive traffic.

If you want to learn more about effective marketing strategies like brand advocacy programs, viral sharing, or influencer marketing download our new eBook, Getting your Customers to Market for you. Check out the full eBook here:

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