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Customer Retention

Dec 06, 2023

A Guide to Brand Advocacy

Learn how to turn loyal customers into brand advocates and boost your business with Feefo's guide to brand advocacy. Discover the benefits and strategies today.

In today's highly competitive marketplace, building a loyal customer base is essential for the success of any business. But what if you could go one step further and turn those loyal customers who love your products or services into brand advocates and actively promote them to others? They can influence new business and build your brand's reputation.

There are a number of different types of brand advocates and ways to execute brand advocacy effectively, so in this guide, we're going to take you through everything you need to know.

 

What is Brand Advocacy?

Advocacy is the act of promoting or supporting a cause or idea. An advocate can be an individual or an organisation that works on behalf of another to promote their interests and get their voice heard.

For businesses, advocacy is promoting a brand, product, or service through word-of-mouth marketing. Advocates are usually customers who are passionate about a brand - both positively and negatively - and are willing to share their experiences with others.

When it comes to brand advocacy, there are several stages a customer needs to go through before they become an advocate, and it is essential to bear this in mind.

At its simplest, the loyalty ladder theory is that as a brand exceeds customer expectations at every interaction, a customer will move up the ladder — gradually becoming more loyal and engaged.

It forms the basis of customer loyalty strategies, such as reward programmes, and customer retention communications, such as newsletters and information about special offers or new products or services. Advocates are at the top of the ladder as the most engaged and loyal customers a brand can have.

Feefo CEO, Tony Wheble agrees: "Loyal and satisfied customers are your biggest advocates. Peer recommendation from advocates carries more weight than any other form of advertising. Their genuine and authentic reviews lead prospective customers to trust the brand they advocate for."

You can learn more about this in our Power of Advocacy report, which looks further into how to turn customers into loyal advocates and measure customer loyalty throughout the ladder.

 

Types of Brand Advocates

Customer referrals are the most common type of brand advocate.

Organic customer referrals are precious as they don't cost anything to acquire but are highly effective. A recent study found that referred customers have a 30% higher conversion rate, a 16% higher lifetime value rate, and a 37% higher retention rate than leads generated from other marketing channels.

However, you can rely on something other than organic referrals to achieve these figures.

Another way to generate brand advocacy is by creating customer referral programmes, where individuals can benefit by introducing others.

London-based fintech Revolut executed this with great success in 2018 - 2019. Offering up to a £50 cash reward for every referral, they reported a 700% increase in the number of customers acquired over the same period.

However, customer brand advocates are just one type of advocate you can have for your business.

Employees

Done well, employee advocacy can be compelling. For larger organisations, there are potentially hundreds of individuals working towards common goals whose authority you can harness to promote the products and services that they are working on via their own social media channels, individual networks, and word-of-mouth interactions.

Your employees should already be invested in your values and your product. If this is the case, they are likely already positively talking about your brand in everyday conversations. They are powerful advocates you have on your side who will need little direction or guidance.

Partners

Whether working with an agency to support your marketing efforts or partnering with a charity to improve your CSR initiatives, you will have partners across your business who advocate for your brand. They can be essential in sharing positive experiences and insights into your company and product, which will help differentiate you from your competitors.

Note: It is important to be selective about which partners you want to harness as advocates. Make sure you are partnering with businesses and charities that align with your values and culture and that they have a genuine passion for your brand and what you stand for.

Influencers

Some companies employ brand ambassadors who actively reach out to others. Social media has encouraged this with the rise of 'influencers' who are paid to promote goods and services to their followers, and has become a popular marketing tactic in recent years. By partnering with advocates, brands can leverage their reach and influence to promote their products or services.

Although this route for brand advocacy can be expensive, it can also be highly effective. A recent study showed that 61% of consumers trust influencer recommendations, whilst only 38% trust branded social media content.

Unpaid brand advocates will always have a more powerful impact than paid influencers because their feedback is altruistic, prompted by a genuine connection with the brand — the strongest form of social proof and resonates widely with other potential buyers.

 

Building a Brand Advocate Strategy

Ensure you fully understand your audience

The first step to developing a compelling brand advocate strategy is to ensure you fully understand your audience. Consider their values, needs, and pain points, and you will be halfway there.

Developing a product, creating a strategy, and streamlining your communications to answer these questions effectively will enable your customers to identify with your brand and feel like you genuinely understand them.

This, in turn, will drive the engagement you are looking for. If you aren't sure of the impact your strategy is making, then you can also run surveys over an extended period to get a better idea of the impact you are making.

Create content you know will resonate with your audience

Secondly, you must create content you know will resonate with your audience. The more you create content that engages them, the more likely they will be to build an emotional connection with your brand, which gets them talking about you.

It is also worth considering how best to communicate with them. It isn't just social media that allows you to build that connection. Think of podcasts, newsletters, video content and blogs that all focus on the needs and values of your customers.

User-generated content (UGC) has become an essential part of marketing for businesses in recent years. By encouraging customers to share their experiences with a brand, companies can also create a library of content that can be used to promote their products or services in a way that comes across less "on-the-nose".

Provide first-rate customer service

When you treat your customers well, they are more likely to stick around and recommend your business to others, so always provide first-rate customer service.

Our research has shown that 44% of people who leave a negative review are happy to use a business again if they receive a satisfactory response, and 40% of consumers post positive comments on social media about companies that handle their complaints well.

This goes to show that unhappy customers can still be turned into advocates.

Make it easy for your customers to share your products

Your customer engagement should continue even after they have purchased and left a review. Make it easy for your customers to share your products or services with others by including social sharing buttons on your website and email newsletters, and consider creating content such as videos or infographics that customers can easily pass on to their peers.

You can continue to drive engagement after they have purchased and motivate them to be loyal customers by offering incentives such as a discount code, free products or a chance to win a prize in exchange for referrals or social shares.

 

The Benefits of Brand Advocacy

Increases Brand Awareness & Engagement

Advocacy creates a virtuous circle of engagement, where the feedback you receive from your advocates supports your brand in improving. Your advocates increase your brand's reach, sharing enthusiasm with their networks. They lead the way in responding to any initiative your brand undertakes, encouraging others to follow their lead - further extending the power of social proof.

Builds Trust & Loyalty

Trust is central to brand success. A 2022 Harvard Business Review study showed that trusted companies outperform their peers by up to 400% in total market value, and 88% of consumers are more likely to buy again from a brand they trust. Customer trust matters because it helps companies both attract and retain loyal customers. Many businesses focus on customer acquisition, but retention is equally important.

Increases Customer Retention & Satisfaction

As we know, brand advocates are happy, passionate customers. Many businesses focus on customer acquisition, but retention is equally important. Acquiring new customers can cost five to seven times more than retaining existing ones, depending on the industry involved. Research by Frederick Bain, the inventor of the Net Promoter Score, found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

Improves Brand Perception

According to John Galpin, Co-Founder of Design by Structure: "Customer perception is about the customers' own experiences of a brand, how it aligns with their own beliefs and values, their interaction with it at every touchpoint, from the awareness, through to purchase-decision to having it in their home. Brands don't hold the reins completely."

It is only natural that people's beliefs and values align with those of their peers. You can read more about this in our Brand Perceptions Report 2021, where we look further into the many changing factors that affect consumer motivation.

Provides Trusted Recommendations

When you have brand advocates, they shout about your brand, not just to their network and peers but also online, on social media and through review sites. With 93% of consumers reading reviews before purchasing, prompting your advocates to provide verified reviews is essential.

Verified reviews are the real window into what people think about a brand following a proven interaction or experience, or after purchasing a product they're reviewing. You can read more about verified reviews and the importance of them here.

Lower Acquisition Costs

Turning to consumer advocacy is a cost-effective method of brand promotion, as once you've won over your customers, many are willing to advocate for a product or service for free. Much as fans of a sports team or musician will leap to the defence of their chosen idols if they receive online criticism, engaged consumer advocates will discuss their preferred products or services, providing fresh content.

Beyond the obvious reviews and star ratings and the impact these can have on sales, advocates are an invaluable source of insight for brands. Insights can improve products, highlight gaps in service, and deliver sustainable, organic growth.

When consumers are vocal about their experiences with a brand or product, businesses can learn from that feedback and improve their offerings. Companies can build stronger customer relationships and ultimately improve their bottom line by paying attention to what consumers say and responding to their concerns.

The perception of your brand and the resulting brand advocacy should be a key focus for your business and an integral part of your strategy going forward. You can learn more about this in our Brand Perceptions report, which reveals several intriguing statistics about how people perceive the brands they buy from and why this data is so important.

Founded in 2010, Feefo is a ratings and reviews platform that collects reliable and constructive reviews for thousands of clients worldwide. We only send invitations to verified customers to ask them to leave a review, so consumers can learn how people like them feel about different products and services. And companies can truly discover what they’re doing right, and where they can improve. This allows Feefo’s clients to create transparent, trusted relationships and deliver exceptional services that their customers can depend on - every time.

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