What is brand advocacy? How do I leverage brand advocates? | Steph Taylor | Small Business Marketing Resources

What is brand advocacy? How do I leverage brand advocates?

Because… Who doesn’t like free marketing?

We live in a funny world. A friend recently pointed out that we now highly value candlelit dinners and handwritten letters, when once upon a time they were the norm. I chalk it up to the personal touch. And, you know what? Marketing is heading that way too. Mass marketing tools will still have their place, but customers want that personal touch. Of course, word-of-mouth is the OG of marketing. Back in 1923, if Gertrude wanted to know which seamstress would mend her mittens best, she’d ask Ethel next door. Since then, everything has changed in the marketing world. But, at the same time, not much has actually changed.

People value their friends' opinions over advertising and even social media. Groundbreaking.

The other upside? Unlike influencer marketing, brand advocacy doesn’t have to cost a cent. Brand advocates are the people who love your brand so much, they’re willing to shout it to the world for free. You know how people get tattoos of the Harley Davidson logo? Yeah, it's something like that. Only, slightly less drastic and you won't regret it in 40 years' time.

If you're already writing off brand advocacy as something for the Apples of the world, don't. Sure, it's a lot easier to get people to camp out in front of your store when you're launching the latest $3,000 Facebook machine, but that's not to mean you can't get brand advocacy happening on a smaller scale for your own brand.

How can you get the ball rolling? Easy.

1. Ask your customers for testimonials/reviews

This should be something that is built into your customer journey. Regardless of whether you feel like collecting feedback, it’s something you should do. Automate it. It means that on those days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed, you’ll still be sending requests for feedback to your customers.

And, you know what? They will usually oblige. But you need to make it so simple that they could do it in their sleep. A 10-page instruction booklet on how they can leave you a review on Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor and Tinder is going to scare them off a little. Put together a nice survey form. Typeform is a good, free option. Don’t ask a hundred questions. You’re better off asking a few, highly relevant questions that allow your customers to write as much or as little as they like.

You’ve got the feedback, now leverage it. Display it on your homepage and on your product pages. Use it on quote tiles for social media and in paid ads. Rent a billboard and blast it to the poor suckers stuck on the Bruce Highway on a Sunday arvo. Whatever floats your boat. Just don’t let your feedback sit there and gather dust. Good feedback is social proof. When a potential customer is umming and ahhing on your product page, it can be the difference between clicking buy and hitting the back button.


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2. Incentivise them to share a photo of the product on social media

You know what? People generally like sharing stuff on social media. They like to show off that they’ve got the latest cool product. This does depend on your target customer, but most will share if you incentivise them somehow.

Incentivising them is one thing. Making your product shareable is another. What do I mean by shareable? Make your product look nice. Use nice packaging. Tie a satin ribbon on it and have it hand-delivered by photogenic elves.

If your business is location-based, how can you make it more ‘grammable? Could it be simply adding a few pot plants and a nice fluffy cushion in the corner? Could it be a chalk sign asking customers to tag #notahomeowner when they snap your smashed avo dish? Could it be getting a puppy to man the store?

It’s a bit trickier when you’re running a service-based business, but even then you can still find a way to make it shareable. Maybe you could deliver a pretty gift pack to every client on your 1-year businessiversary. Maybe you could give them a badge to display on their website. It depends on what your business does, but there is always a solution. If you can’t think of one, you’re not thinking hard enough.

3. Refer a friend

Ah, the old referral program. They’re a great way to reward your loyal customers for referring their friends. People trust their friends’ recommendations a helluva lot more than they trust Facebook ads. But, the thing is, we’re all human and sometimes we simply forget to tell our friends. Don’t let your customers forget. Automate a follow-up email 3 days after their purchase is delivered giving them a unique URL to share with their friends.

I might regret admitting it, but I’m somewhat motivated by money. Before I quit corporate-land, I didn’t really care much about money. However, after 12 months on a start-up budget, I’ve come to realise that money is pretty important if you want to, you know, eat or have a social life. If your target customer is a cheapskate (like myself), give them an incentive form of cash back. If your brand is a bit more on the luxury side, a free gift might be a better fit. I’m usually averse to offering a discount as it can reduce the value of your product in your customer’s eyes.

Setting up a referral program shouldn’t be in the “too hard” basket. There are a bunch of apps out there now that make it super easy. I really enjoy Referral Candy.

4. Encourage customers to reuse the packaging

So much beautiful packaging just goes straight into the bin. When we were choosing packaging for The Sugarfree Box, it was a $3 difference between plain, boring boxes or beautiful, glossy, foil stamped ones. Naturally, I picked the plain, el cheapo ones and then spent months wondering why nobody was sharing them on Instagram. Learn from my mistake. When I finally decided to splash out and upgrade to the foil-printed ones, I knew people were likely to just toss them straight into the bin as soon as they opened them. So we stuck a sticker on each box asking people to reuse the boxes to create a healthy care package for a friend.

It had two benefits: firstly, the packaging didn’t go to waste. But, it also spread the word about the business to people who might not have otherwise heard about it.

If you’ve got a physical product, think about your current packaging. Is there something cool you could do with it? Could you ask your customers to reuse your wooden boxes to grow a herb garden or build a coffee table? Could you show them how to make an origami crane from your tissue paper?


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5. Partake in social media listening to find any other brand mentions

If a post falls on Instagram, but no one is around to hear it…

Sometimes people will share content without you even asking them to. Without even tagging you in it. These people are your best brand advocates – don’t let them get away! You need to find this content and use it. And, if you’re feeling particularly generous, send them a little thank you gift with a handwritten note.

There are so many websites and apps that make social media listening really simples. Actually, don’t limit it to social media. Bloggers might post reviews without you even realising it. People might mention your product in online forums.

So, there you have it – 5 ways to leverage your brand advocates (and stop leaving money on the proverbial table!)


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