How to Turn Customers from Fans to Advocates

How to turn customers from fans to advocates

Customer advocacy isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s essential. Discover the secrets and strategies to leveraging the power of customer advocacy for your business.

Imagine if you had an unlimited marketing budget, with 24/7 efforts driving interest in your products or services. Then imagine that channel outperformed every other. Would you invest in it? You’d be crazy not to, right?

Surprise! You already have that channel, and it’s your customers. Referral-based sales usually close at 50 to 70% (sometimes even higher), while most marketing-generated leads have closing ratios of 10 to 30%. 

Even if you don’t care about higher close rates – although I’m not sure why you wouldn’t – you should care about customer advocacy, because it’s the key to unlocking sustainable growth. To boil it down to its essence, customer advocacy relies on building and nurturing relationships with your most loyal customers, who then champion your brand to their colleagues and professional networks. 

Customer advocacy is like rocket fuel for your growth engine. Your most passionate advocates aren’t just buying from you; they’re bringing their friends along for the ride. That means more sales, higher retention rates, and a nice boost to your bottom line.

Today, customer advocacy isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s essential. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets to harnessing the power of customer advocacy for your business.

Powering the 3 Cs: community, connection, and conversion

Customer advocacy goes beyond mere satisfaction; it involves customers who are so thrilled with you that they are actively promoting and championing your brand. Customer advocacy is everything your customers do for you that isn’t in their job descriptions, like sharing positive experiences one-on-one or in case studies or webinars, recommending your products or services to colleagues, and even wearing your swag around town. 

But the impact of customer advocacy extends far beyond incremental sales; it fosters trust, amplifies reach, and drives long-term brand loyalty. Think of customer advocates as your secret weapon—the ones who not only buy your stuff but can’t stop raving about it to everyone they meet. 

You’ll see the impacts from customer advocacy across your business, including: 

  • Enhanced brand trust and credibility. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over traditional advertising. By leveraging customer advocacy, brands can tap into this trust reservoir, enhancing credibility and differentiation in a crowded marketplace.
  • Amplified reach and engagement. Whether through word-of-mouth recommendations, social media shares, or testimonials, advocates wield significant influence in shaping consumer perceptions and driving purchasing decisions. This organic amplification not only increases brand visibility but also fosters meaningful engagement with potential customers. In fact, research by Deloitte indicates that customers referred by advocates have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • Reduced customer acquisition costs. Acquiring new customers can be costly, making retention and advocacy essential for sustainable growth. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value than non-referred customers – and churn 18% less than non-referred customers. Advocates play a pivotal role in driving customer acquisition through referrals, reducing acquisition costs and increasing overall ROI.

Ultimately, customer advocacy not only powers community and connection but also serves as a catalyst for conversion, propelling your product towards sustained growth and success.

Getting started with customer advocacy

Your customer advocacy plans should start by identifying these potential advocates. But before you can identify your potential advocates, you need to know what a great advocate looks like. Some questions to consider are:

  • Does the customer have a deep understanding of your product? Even better, is this a product you’re trying to grow?
  • Have they gotten fantastic results from using your product?
  • Are they the right advocate type for your business – i.e. are they in an industry, market, or role that you are trying to reach?

Next, dive into your data to find the customers who are singing your praises the loudest. Some potential signals you can find in your CRM or other data sources like your product analytics include high customer satisfaction scores, frequent product usage, positive interactions with your employees, or positive net promoter score (NPS) responses. You can also look for high participation in forums related to your product, positive LinkedIn or other social posts about your product, or frequent engagement (likes, shares, or reposts) of your company’s social content. 

Quantitative data is great, but you can’t forget the qualitative data, which you’ll find by asking your sales and customer success teams to recommend customers who have achieved amazing results with your product. While they won’t know every customer, they likely have some good ideas of who your champions are – the customers who participate in case studies, testimonials, references, or other activities that highlight their success with your product. 

Once you’ve got your most passionate customers identified, it’s time to give them the tools they need to spread the word. Don’t forget to integrate advocacy into your broader marketing strategy. From social media campaigns to referral programs, there are endless ways to amplify the voices of your advocates and reach new audiences. Think about incentivising advocates to leave reviews on sites like G2, share videos or LinkedIn posts about your product, or comment on your brand’s social posts to organically expand your audience. 

And when it comes to incentivising your advocates, think perks, rewards, and exclusive access. Make it worth their while to shout your brand from the rooftops. Social media, online forums, and dedicated advocacy programs offer places for advocates to connect, share stories, and champion your brand. Whether it’s a Facebook group, a private Slack group, or a dedicated forum, building this tribe of loyal fans is key to cultivating brand ambassadors. 

Building a robust customer advocacy strategy is paramount for companies aiming to foster brand loyalty, amplify positive word-of-mouth, and drive sustainable growth. It’s not just about having satisfied customers; it’s about cultivating passionate advocates who champion your brand with unwavering enthusiasm. 

Also Read: Is Your CX Program Falling Short?

Using customer advocacy to fuel your organisation

Today’s consumers are more attuned to marketing than ever. They want clear information from people they trust. The true essence of customer advocacy lies in the art of proactive listening and responsiveness. If you’re listening to your most passionate customers, if you’re showing them you value their feedback by addressing their concerns, you’re moving the customer relationship from transactional into advocacy. 

To get started embedding customer centricity across your organisation, try:

  • Building a customer community. As Ari Hoffman says, you need to “Focus on your ‘capital C Community’ (discussion forums, academies, advocacy hubs, events, and knowledge bases) – over your ‘small c community’ (digital support forums/ticketing center).” Start by creating a platform for engagement, such as a forum or social media group, where customers can connect and share experiences, and encourage participation through exclusive content, events, and rewards. 
  • Getting employees involved. Get all your departments to interact with your customers – and not just sales and customer success, but product, people ops, and services too. Once your employees are regularly engaging with customers, your teams will help promote the customer’s voice and, in turn, create ownership and adoption that will help inspire customers.
  • Helping customers build their personal brands. Whether it’s by helping customers pitch and preset conference presentations, presenting customers as strategists for reporters writing a nearly endless stream of content, or getting customers published in association or industry publications, turning customers into industry thought leaders will help empower your customers to share the good news about your brand. 

Don’t forget product strategy, either. Your advocates know your product inside and out, and they’re not afraid to tell you what they love (or hate) about it. Their insights are motivated by a desire to help you succeed, and ensuring they have an easy path to sharing their insights with your product management team can help ensure a steady stream of ideas keep coming. 

In a world where trust is currency, customer advocacy is your ticket to winning big. So, what are you waiting for? Start nurturing those brand ambassadors, reaping the rewards of advocacy, and watching your business soar to new heights.