Who are brand advocates and how to build a winning brand advocacy program

Sanjana Ahuja

August 4, 20237 min read

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Social media ads are everywhere. There's no escaping these random pop-ups, and they can be quite overwhelming for the average social media user.

This could explain why people tend to prefer genuine reviews from existing customers of a business over never-ending social media ads. 

Word-of-mouth recommendations from a trusted source can cut through social media clutter with remarkable efficiency. That's where brand advocates can help you. 

Brand advocates are the champions who amplify a brand's voice beyond traditional marketing boundaries. They are not mere customers. They are ardent fans who enthusiastically endorse your products or services. .

In this article, we will decode who brand advocates are, how to spot them and how to nurture them into powerful allies for your brand.

Table of Contents

What is brand advocacy?

Brand advocacy is the act of a customer actively promoting and supporting a brand, product or service within their personal or professional networks. This is typically achieved organically, driven by their positive experiences and profound satisfaction with the brand.

A brand advocate goes above and beyond the traditional role of a customer. They express their enthusiasm for the brand by sharing positive reviews, recommending products and passionately endorsing it across various platforms.

Here are its primary components:

  • Customer satisfaction: The foundation is customer satisfaction. Advocates are often those customers who have had excellent experiences with the products or services and are genuinely happy to recommend them to others.

  • Customer loyalty: Loyalty is a key component of advocacy. Brand advocates are usually loyal customers who stick with the brand through thick and thin, and their advocacy stems from this unwavering loyalty.

  • Word-of-mouth marketing: One of the most influential tools in a brand advocate's arsenal is word-of-mouth marketing. This involves sharing positive reviews and experiences with their networks, both online and offline.

  • Social media advocacy: Many brand advocates use social media platforms to voice their support for a brand. They may post positive reviews, share the brand's content and participate in online discussions about the brand.

How brand advocacy helps businesses to grow

Brand advocacy can be a game-changer for enterprises, paving the way for sustainable business growth.

Advocates significantly amplify your brand’s reach and visibility. Their recommendations, driven by a genuine appreciation for the brand, cultivate trust and credibility in a way traditional marketing tactics cannot match.

This increased trust, coupled with wider exposure, results in higher customer acquisition rates. Moreover, such customers tend to have a higher lifetime value. They are more likely to remain loyal, aiding customer retention and stability.

However, the benefits are not limited to sales and customer metrics alone. Advocates often provide valuable feedback and insights, helping to improve products or services, enhancing customer experience and steering the brand's strategic decisions.

During a crisis, they protect the brand's reputation by defending it and sharing their positive experiences. They help offset negative sentiments, effectively contributing to brand crisis management.

Lastly, it is a cost-effective marketing strategy. Customers-turned-promoters voluntarily advocate for the brand, leading to dynamic, yet free, marketing. It is beneficial and efficient for enterprises aiming for long-term success.

Also Read: What is employee advocacy?

What are the key benefits of brand advocacy?

Brand advocacy offers a wealth of advantages that can help drive a brand's success. These range from increasing exposure and trust to driving customer acquisition and retention, boosting sales and more.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits.

  • Increased brand exposure: When brand advocates share their positive experiences with their networks, your brand's reach extends beyond your immediate customer base. For instance, a brand advocate might share their favorite product on social media and introduce the brand to their followers and friends.

A collage of positive customer reviews.
  • Enhanced trust and credibility: Recommendations from brand advocates carry more weight because they are seen as genuine and unbiased.

  • Improved customer retention: Advocates inspire loyalty not only in themselves but also among other customers.

  • Boosted sales and revenue: The increased exposure and uptick in customers driven by brand advocates often translate into increased sales and revenue.

  • Valuable feedback and insights: Advocates, being highly engaged and invested in the brand, provide valuable feedback. Their suggestions can guide the brand toward improvement in its offerings. Lego's Ideas platform, where fans can submit ideas for new sets, is a perfect example.

How to build an engaging brand advocacy program

Here is our five-step guide to building an effective advocacy program.

Step 1: Understand your target audience

Every effective advocacy program begins with a clear understanding of your target audience. This involves conducting thorough market research, employing data-driven insights and identifying audience needs, preferences and pain points.

It is essential to know who your customers are, what they value and what motivates them to become advocates. An audience intelligence tool can be helpful in identifying your target audience, saving a lot of time and effort.

Step 2: Craft compelling brand stories

People connect with stories, not facts. Therefore, crafting compelling narratives that resonate with your audience is crucial. This storytelling should evoke emotions, establish a connection and clearly communicate your brand's unique selling proposition.

Authentic narratives can effectively convey your brand values and inspire customers to become advocates.

Deep Dive: Master the art of social media messaging

Step 3: Leverage influencer partnerships

Influencers can serve as powerful catalysts for your advocacy program. By identifying influential personalities aligned with your brand values, you can extend its reach through their engaged communities.

Influencer partnerships can help build your brand credibility, as their endorsements can be perceived as more authentic and trustworthy.

Learn More: Influencer marketing strategies to improve engagement

Step 4: Encourage user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC), such as reviews, testimonials and social media posts, can be a potent advocacy tool.

Establish interactive platforms via community management software where your customers can engage and share their content. This not only promotes your brand but also fosters a sense of community among your customers.

Step 5: Provide exceptional customer experiences

Advocacy is often born out of memorable customer service and experiences. Strive to exceed customer expectations through personalized service, prompt support and proactive communication.

Remember, a satisfied customer is more likely to share their positive experiences and become a brand advocate. So, learn the art of expressing empathy in customer service.

Real-world examples of successful brand advocacy programs

The power of brand advocacy can be best understood through real-world examples. Let's explore some success stories highlighting how effectively they can transform a brand's reach, reputation and bottom line.

1. Starbucks

Starbucks is one such prime example. The coffee giant's customer-centric approach and commitment to providing exceptional experiences have resulted in a strong army of brand advocates.

The Starbucks Reward Program is a strategic initiative that has fostered this advocacy. It offers a personalized experience, exclusive rewards and the ability to order and pay directly from the app. This program has turned regular customers into active brand advocates.

Starbucks also excels in social media engagement and creating a sense of community among its customers. Its initiative of encouraging customers to submit designs for the annual holiday cup is a great example of engaging customers and generating user content. The #RedCupContest received tens of thousands of entries, amplifying the brand's reach and presence during the holiday season.

2. Patagonia

Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear brand, is a testament to a successful advocacy program. Patagonia's strong commitment to environmental sustainability resonates deeply with its customer base.

Its mission statement, "We're in business to save our home planet," is not just words, but also actions that drive every aspect of the business, from sustainable supply chains to supporting environmental causes.

Its "Worn Wear" program encourages customers to repair their Patagonia gear rather than replace it, reinforcing their commitment to reduce consumption and waste. This authenticity has won the brand a loyal following of customers who not only consistently purchase its products, but also passionately promote its mission.

Challenges faced with brand advocacy

Understanding the limitations of brand advocacy can help you develop a more effective and balanced program. The potential drawbacks include.

  • Dependency on customer satisfaction: Brand advocacy relies heavily on high customer satisfaction. If customers are unhappy with your products or services, they might speak against your brand, negatively affecting your reputation.

  • Slow to develop: Building a network of brand advocates takes time. It involves cultivating customer relationships, consistently delivering superior customer experiences and earning their trust.

  • Lack of control: Brand advocacy is organic and voluntary, meaning brands cannot control what advocates say or how they represent it.

  • Difficulty in measuring impact: Tracking the direct impact of the program can be challenging. While you can measure things like referrals and reviews, it is hard to quantify the influence of personal recommendations.

  • Requires continuous effort: Brand advocacy is not a one-time effort. It requires continuous investment in customer service, customer engagement and value delivery to keep advocates motivated.

Final Thoughts

Building a successful brand advocacy program is not an overnight endeavor. It requires consistent efforts, unwavering commitment and a keen focus on forging genuine connections with your customers. It involves treating your customers not just as purchasers of your product or service but also as integral partners in your brand's journey.

The benefits of such an approach extend far beyond immediate sales or customer acquisition metrics. A robust program can enhance your brand's online presence, positively impacting search rankings and paving the way for sustained organic growth. It cultivates a community of loyal customers who can be your most credible marketers, lending authenticity and trust to your brand's image.

In an era where customer experience and engagement are more important than ever, tools like Sprinklr can be invaluable in managing and optimizing your advocacy initiatives. It can provide the necessary insights and empower you to create a thriving network of brand advocates.

Talk to us to learn more!

Frequently Asked Questions

No, brand advocacy is not dependent on business size. It is driven by customer satisfaction and positive experiences, which can be cultivated by businesses of all sizes.

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