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Can Brands Manufacture Advocates? A Data-Driven Answer

Sales are the lifeblood for every business. In order to bring these sales in, most Internet marketers use a combination of SEO, content marketing and PPC advertising to get their message in front of the right people.

While it’s incredible to have so many technologies at our disposal, this can cause us to forget about one of the most ancient and powerful forms of marketing: word of mouth.

In a report by Nielsen, it was found that 92 percent of Internet users trust the recommendations of their friends above all other forms of advertising.

As marketers (myself included), it’s easy to develop tunnel vision in regards to acquiring new customers. Split testing landing pages, crafting potent sales copy and running ad campaigns can become an obsession.

However, in the long-term, it’s more profitable to focus on pleasing our existing customers rather than acquiring new ones. A loyal army of brand advocates can bring in far more revenue than a highly optimized Facebook ad campaign.

Brand advocacy is something that every business should prioritize. Here are my tried and tested tactics for manufacturing advocates.

Respond to Social Media Queries

In a study by Jive, 46 percent of American executives stated that brand advocacy was one of the most important benefits of using social media.

When a brand realizes the purpose of social media is to maintain communications with its audience (not to shamelessly spam followers with sales copy and product details), advocacy will naturally follow.

People expect a brand’s social media account to be a point of contact for customer service queries. In an era where the average human has a shorter attention span than a goldfish — people want their queries handled quickly and professionally.

As a consumer, helpfulness (or lack thereof) is my number one trait when deciding to stick with a brand for the long-term. Social media is the ultimate tool for facilitating helpfulness.

With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that 71 percent of consumers who’ve had a positive social media experience with a business go on to recommend it to their friends.

Publish User Generated Content

Publishing user generated content is a great way to build brand loyalty.

By hosting competitions and openly soliciting user generated content to post on official social media accounts, you can establish a great sense of camaraderie with your audience.

Interestingly, 86 percent of millennials believe that user generated content is a clear indicator of a brand’s quality, whereas 51 percent trust user generated content more than any other content on a brand’s site.

In a separate study, it was found that sites with featured user generated content saw a 20 percent increase in return visitors.

People love to feel part of something greater than themselves. When you post user generated content, this shows that you value your customers, but it’s also something that the customer will share far and wide.

Fashion brand Burberry launched a campaign that was heavily focused on user generated content. This campaign resulted in a 50 percent increase in eCommerce sales, year on year.

Create Amazing Memories

Marketer and author, David Meerman Scott, has spoken extensively about newsjacking: the art of inserting your brand into trending news stories for commercial gain.

To take this a step further, you can insert your brand into the personal life stories of your customers and turn them into advocates.

Taco Bell has a wedding chapel in one of its flagship restaurants (yes, seriously). Normally, it costs $600 to get married at Taco Bell, but for a special contest, the brand offered a free wedding package for the couple that created the best audition video.

After being flown to Las Vegas to get married at Taco Bell and being put up at the Planet Hollywood Resort for free — can you imagine this couple choosing a rival fast food chain whenever they’re feeling hungry? Probably not.

In all likelihood, anyone who gets married at Taco Bell will be brand advocates for life. Visiting a local chain isn’t just an opportunity to eat – it’s an opportunity to relive a special moment

Know Your Customers Intimately

In the most simple terms, people make purchases with the intention of moving toward pleasure or away from pain.

If you don’t know the values, desires and most importantly, pain points of your customer base — then it’s impossible to create products, services and content that resonate emotionally.

People become brand advocates when they feel understood and appreciated.

I highly recommend surveying your customers and speaking face-to-face at every opportunity. This will allow you to build an in-depth buyer persona that will inform all of your marketing efforts.

Entrepreneur coach, Timothy Marc, is a great marketer because he’s not selling business success like everyone else. Instead, he’s targeting a searing pain point for his customers: lack of freedom.

Location-independence and financial abundance is the ultimate destination for his customers. A training course that teaches students to build and automate online businesses is merely the vehicle to get there.

As someone who left a good job at Microsoft and got involved in online marketing specifically to travel more, I can definitely relate to this.

The more intimately you know your customers, the more value you can deliver. In the long-term, this results in massive advocacy.

Create a Referral Program

Offering amazing products and customer service is great for building advocates, but you can be far more direct with incentivization if advocacy is your goal.

Companies with formalized referral programs experience 86 percent more revenue growth.

If someone receives a benefit every time they refer a friend, they’ll become hardwired to advocate for your brand – even if their initial impression was lukewarm.

AirBnB provides a famous example for a brand that achieved explosive growth thanks to a carefully crafted double-sided referral program (both the referrer and friend receive benefits).

Another gigantic brand, PayPal, used referral marketing to achieve seven to 10 percent daily growth – which gave the company a user base of more than 100 million people.

If you have a great product that people would be proud to tell their friends about, and you incentivize them to take this action — expect your customers to become evangelists quickly.

Do you have any other tips for turning your customers into advocates? Please let me know in the comments.

About the author


Aaron Agius

Aaron Agius, CEO of worldwide digital agency Louder Online is, according to Forbes, among the world's leading digital marketers. Working with clients such as Salesforce, Coca-Cola, IBM, Intel, and scores of stellar brands, Aaron is a growth marketer - a fusion between search, content, social, and PR. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or on the Louder Online blog.


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