Customer Experience News & Trends

Why you need customer advocates – and how to make advocacy work

Advocates love your company and what you do. They’re your cheerleaders, and they’re probably ready to tell others about it. You just might need to help them get the word out.

With an advocacy plan, you can boost loyalty of current customers and gain new customers with less effort than if you launched a new marketing promotion or sales discount.

People are more likely to buy – and like what they buy – when they hear about a company, product or service from others who already use and tout it.

Here are four keys to starting or enhancing a customer advocacy plan.

Make advocacy ‘a thing’

Many companies already have and use advocates – their super fans, the customers who praise what they do and refer their friends, family and colleagues. But most don’t organize advocacy. For instance, in many cases, Sales might ask for referrals. Marketing might request, gather and publish case studies. And Service might keep tabs on positive feedback from formal surveys and informal interactions.

Pulling all that positive information together helps teams avoid annoying customers with repeated requests for feedback and keeps the quality and variety of stories high.

Tip: Make customer advocacy part of the responsibility for someone involved in the customer experience to keep communication consistent and flowing. Create a cross-functional team that looks at, assesses and distributes customer feedback to maximize what you hear and see.

Help advocates tell their story

“Customer advocacy is good storytelling,” says Nancy Porte, Vice President of Global Customer Experience for Verint. “Some … customers are doing their jobs day-to-day and don’t realize what a powerful story they have. Help them develop their stories. Sometimes it’s simply acting as a sounding board to discover their best nuggets about how (your) solutions deliver value. Sometimes it involves some gentle nudging to go beyond the ROI story and tell how they met their mission and vision as a company by partnering with (you).”

Point is, you’ll almost always have to nudge customers – even those who love you – for their feedback. They’re busy and they won’t say or write exactly what you expect.

Tip: You can help customers share great stories and quotes by inviting them to join in online or in-person round tables. Or call and talk to them. Email questions. Check social media for their positive rants. (And, of course, fix issues if you see negative rants!) When you get unprompted praise, ask if you can talk more and use their words and ideas.

Give them a platform

When possible, let advocates speak for you directly to others. You usually can’t portray their passion for your organization or products as well as they can. Customers can add the human side of the story – whether it’s on a podcast, video testimonial, at a conference or in a press interview – to what you pull together.

Tip: Porte suggests giving customers some sample questions before you talk with them. You don’t want them to rehearse, but you don’t want to catch them off-guard either. “The key is to make them comfortable,” Porte says.

Let advocates be where they want to be

Being on camera or behind a microphone isn’t every advocate’s cup of tea. Some prefer more subtle, behind-the-scenes approaches such as social media shares and printed quotes. The key is let advocates do what they’re comfortable doing.

Tip: Give advocates options for promoting you. You can ask them to retweet blogs – and offer a recommended tweet to accompany it. Some might like speaking for your company at conferences. Others might agree to have their words on a written survey used in your demand generation content. Some may like to join in on a podcast with a company executive. Let them be where they like to be.

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