Throughout history, people have made important decisions based on their trust in their friends, families, and colleagues. It started with villagers relying on local information from their neighbors to find the best blacksmiths or carpenters around. Marketers were accountable for the reputation they could build amongst their customers and needed to provide the highest possible level of service to compete.
After the industrial revolution, which created mass media and a slew of product and service options, the control of a business’s reputation moved into the hands of the businesses themselves. Companies could use public relations, radio, television, and other advertising channels to reach potential customers and deliver their messages.
But the internet has changed everything as the information travels between customers in a blink of an eye. Now, the control of reputation and trust rests in a people’s hands even more than ever before. Brands have to transform customers into passionate advocates and maintain authentic and supportive relationships. Every brand wants to encourage its audience to engage in brand advocacy actively. In today’s technological world, this is more important than ever.
Brand advocacy is any behavior that involves a customer supporting or recommending the brand that they love. It can include anything from personal recommendations and referrals to creating unique content for a brand to use or providing customer support.
According to Smarp, the four most common groups of brand advocates include:
Employees: Your employees have the most knowledge about your existing products and services and, therefore, can be your best brand advocates. Moreover, large organizations can reach a much wider audience by encouraging their employees to join the advocacy programs.
Business partners: Strong partnerships and affiliate programs can also be an excellent source for widening the customer base and brand awareness.
Influencers: Influencers are famous people with many followers on different online platforms such as social media. Many organizations hire influencers to help them drive more visibility and sales.
Customers: Having customers as brand advocates can be a beneficial and influential marketing tactic. As many prospects rely on existing customers’ reviews and word-of-mouth, customer advocacy is a powerful way to attract and close new clients.
The concept of brand advocacy is not new because advocates have always existed under different labels like superfans, ambassadors, enthusiasts, evangelists, etc. However, their impact is now even more significant because of the collapsing trust between many brands and the average customer. That’sThat’s why brand advocacy is becoming more prominent.
Recommending and supporting behavior can be quite a vague concept, and that’s why there are specific examples of customer actions that marketers can encourage to help drive sales and build a long-lasting relationship between brands and customers. But what is the difference between loyal customers and brand advocates? Loyal customers keep buying from one brand, but advocates are also actively champion their favorite brand and influence other people’s buying habits. That’sThat’s why advocates are the most valuable customers of all.
A brand advocate is worth at least five average customers in terms of ROI. This is the value of an individual advocate without considering their influence on other potential or existing customers.
How exactly do brand advocates help their favorite companies to grow? For example, a sharing economy inspired locals to open their homes to travelers on Airbnb looking for a more personal way to experience new destinations. Based on mutual trust and respect principles, Airbnb struck an emotional chord with customers, growing from a $100-million venture to $31 billion in just six years.
Starbucks Corporation ranks near the top at #3 following Amazon and Alphabet Inc. (Google’sGoogle’s parent company). It ranks so high because they offer an excellent customer experience by putting their team members first to inspire employee advocacy, which influences customer brand advocacy. Starbucks had over 11% annual growth in 2017 and over $84B in market value. Brand advocacy not only delights customers, it heavily impacts an organization’s bottom-line growth.