Advocacy is becoming a priority at organizations of all sizes. Whether it be for in-house employees, a curated group of loyalists or an army of ambassadors, brands are becoming acutely aware that tapping into social media communities can have a major impact on their bottom line.
Reap the benefits of launching an advocacy program at your business by facilitating excitement and allowing creativity to help spread the word. Then, offer a way for members to engage and advocate on your behalf. Beyond this initial guidance, what you specifically offer and ask is entirely dependent on your community. Think of what does or what could motivate potential advocates, and make them feel closer to your organization.
Consider the statistics below and make 2016 the year you scale your organization’s presence.
Word of Mouth Is In
In fact, 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision. This shift is largely a result of the penetration of the Internet. With an overload of information available, people aim to be as informed as possible before making a purchase decision. Part of this research process is customer testimonials and recommendations from peers. Brands must pay attention to what customers are saying in every corner of the Internet. They need to provide customer care online consistently and, through these actions, proactively own their brand identity.
With 58% of consumers actively sharing their positive experiences with a company on social, an advocate program is a great way to engage customers and reward loyalists. Advocates extend the reach of your brand. It is important that, before giving them the responsibility to speak on your behalf, they understand your brand’s voice and messaging.
Find the Right Advocates & Foster a Community
Advocates are customers who assign more value to your product or service than they actually spend. This ratio is important to consider when looking to invite individuals to speak on behalf of your business. Think on a large scale, but start small. Find people who are already passionate and willing to dedicate some of their time to your business mission.
As you build your strategy, remember that the relationships members build with one another are just as important as the one they have with your organization. Foster a community where advocates can interact and engage by hosting online and offline events. Platforms such as Mightybell and Slack are great for streamlining communication and providing a space for advocates to meet. Consider our very own Bambu by Sprout as a central place to add content and announcements for sharing throughout your community. Rather than investing in multiple peer-to-peer tools at once, single out the ones that will resonate with your goals and audience.
Drive Action With Incentives
According to a survey by marketing software review company Software Advice, more than 60% of respondents said they are more likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive such as monetary or material compensation. While paying your advocates is one route to go, it is not the best option if you are seeking long-term engagement. Money is attractive at first, but as time goes on, your once-satisfied advocates will want more and each increase will never be enough. A reputable advocate will also disclose they are being compensated for their feedback; which can undermine your program’s credibility.
Take a multifaceted approach and activate advocates with a combination of incentives such as exclusive swag, social recognition and access to a loyalty program. Test different offerings to see what kind of response you receive and do not be afraid to ask your advocates directly what they are most interested in gaining from your partnership.
As part of its ambassadors program, bourbon brand Maker’s Mark sends members a holiday care package and encourages them to take a photo. The package for 2015 included ear warmers for the ambassador and earmuffs for a bottle of whiskey. Many recipients took photos and paired their 2015 holiday goodies with gifts from the previous year.
Joining Maker’s Mark ambassador program entails downloading its app and filling out minimal personal info. Even with this low barrier to entry, the high-quality incentives portray an exclusive program.
When launching your program, consider your audience. What criteria for entry would be appropriate? Create memorable and valuable incentives and stay top of mind by changing your offerings up or providing multiple rewards over time.
Bottom Line Benefits
The initial investment in setting up your advocacy program will more than pay off for the bottom line of your business. A report by Zuberance showed that brand advocates spend two times more than average customers. This metric can be easily tracked through a CRM or promotional codes and will help prove the value of running an advocate program.
Another crucial factor to keep in mind is that, according to Deloitte, customers referred by advocates have a 37% higher retention rate. This is significant for organizations with a subscription model. We have all heard the phrase that it costs more to acquire a customer than to retain one. Higher retention should have a positive impact on your revenue. Advocates reduce new customer acquisition costs through the recommendations they are giving and the amount of positive online conversations they are generating. They are likely keeping you top of mind for some of your potential customers and thus a driving force to purchase.
Smart brands realize the exponential impact of bringing ambassadors into the fold. Regardless of what type of advocacy program you launch, think through these considerations diligently and secure buy-in from key stakeholders within your organization. Then, roll out your program and watch your brand’s footprint grow.
Sarah Nagel: Sarah Nagel is the Senior Manager, Brand Advocacy & Community at Sprout Social. She heads community building initiatives as well as Sprout’s advocacy program, Sprout All Stars. Sarah is a champion for empowering passionate and enthusiastic customers and believes in the huge impact an engaged community can have on an organization’s bottom line. Outside of work, she loves taking on home renovation projects, spending time with her husband and two rescue dogs and making the best guacamole you’ve ever had.