How to Turn Customers Into Advocates for Your Business

August 11, 2021
Contributor: Sierra Rogers

Launch your own advocacy program by engaging loyal customers and using advocacy-infused content to attract new business.

A successful customer advocacy program turns loyal customers into spokespeople for your brand. However, despite these programs’ affordability and effectiveness, they’re often a missing component of marketing strategies.

At their core, customer advocacy programs are a marketing strategy. Advocacy programs encourage your most satisfied customers to proactively recommend your company and its services to other potential customers.

This strategy can be highly effective when you consider that more than 75% of B2B buyers consult three or more sources of advocacy before they make a purchase decision (full research available to Gartner clients only).

Number of sources of advocacy consulted before deciding to make a purchase

What is a customer advocacy program?

There are many different strategies you can use within your customer advocacy program to harness the voice and experience of your customers, but all of them include creating content that appeals to potential buyers.

Types of customer advocacy

The graphic above lists seven common types of customer advocacy. We’ll touch on each of these strategies in greater detail below:

  • Social sharing. Customers act as advocates through sharing content from your website or social media on their own platforms.
  • Customer quotes. Customers may share their experience with your product or service through a reference statement or testimonial. This statement can be shared on social media, your website, or pitch decks.
  • Customer references. Also called case studies, references are similar to quotes in that they share a customer success story, but in more detail. A collection of case studies can be used by your sales team to complement a pitch deck.
  • Reviews. Reviews are customer feedback on a specific product or service you offer. They may include details about your business’s customer service experience, and can be promoted online.
  • Referrals. A referral is when a customer advocate recommends your product or service to a peer directly.
  • Speaking engagements. If your organization hosts events like conferences or webinars, inviting customers to speak can be a powerful form of advocacy. It’s also an opportunity for brand promotion for your customer.
  • Customer advisory boards. Customer advisory boards are made up of 10 to 15 senior executives from customer organizations. Customer advisors provide valuable insight that helps shape the future of your business’s priorities and strategy.

These methods give your team several ways to power your marketing strategy with the voices of your loyal customers.

Amplifying any of these activities at scale typically requires an advocacy marketing solution. And while you don’t need to deploy all of them, you should aim to create a mix of advocacy-driven content that reaches potential customers in both online and offline channels. 

Recruit and incentivize customers to participate in your advocacy efforts

Without willing participants, there can be no customer advocacy program, so recruiting potential advocates should be a top priority for your marketing department.

One strategy for identifying possible participants is to create an ideal advocate profile that can be used as a benchmark for future customer advocates. You can build this profile by evaluating needs within your customer life cycle and analyzing customer details like demographics, transaction history and net promoter scores (NPS).

Once you understand the type of customers you want to recruit, the next step is to invite them to participate. Before you do that, be prepared to articulate what’s in it for them. This is where incentives come in handy — in exchange for your customers’ time and effort, you can offer them perks such as preferential service levels for support issues, opportunities to speak at event or advanced access to (and influence over) product development roadmaps.

You should also highlight the promotional value of becoming an advocate to your customers. For instance, when your customer’s success story is shared on behalf of your product or service, they’ll also benefit from the publicity and recognition of their own accomplishments within their market category. 

Next? Set goals and launch your customer advocacy campaign.

In order to measure the success of your customer advocacy efforts, you’ll need to set some goals. Examples of goals for your program include recruiting a certain number of new advocates or an advocate for each marketing campaign you want to deploy, or to capture a certain number of new customers directly from referrals. 

Once you’ve recruited advocates and set goals for your program, you’re ready to put your customer advocacy program into motion. Assign a point person or group who can spearhead customer advocacy efforts and focus on building and nurturing a balanced group of customer advocates.

When your advocacy program has been live for six months or longer, check in with its progress toward the goals you set by analyzing outcome metrics such as revenue influenced, win rate, sales cycle compression, NPS and customer advocates’ influence rating. Customer advocacy tools can help you prepare and interpret reports with these metrics, as well as suggest areas to focus on improving. 

Curious to learn more about B2B marketing trends? Check out the Gartner Software Industry Report for the latest trends with businesses and buyers. 

Sierra Rogers

Sierra Rogers is a Senior Content Writer for Gartner, where she researches and shares insights for the human resources and eLearning industries. Sierra is a Texas native who earned her bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Baylor University. Connect with Sierra on LinkedIn.

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