In the days before digital technology and the myriad of social media outlets, one of marketers’ most effective pathways to brand recognition and acceptance was through word-of-mouth advertising. Seeking recommendations from family, friends and trusted spokespersons has always been at the top of the list when it comes to influencing a purchasing decision. Consumers are looking for assurance that a purchase will be a good and rewarding experience and consistently turn to those individual advocates for a “seal of approval.” In the past, word-of-mouth advertising was often unreliable, hard to measure, inconsistent, and difficult to manage. But the advent of multiple digital communication channels has made consumer advocacy a viable and cost-effective method to spread a brand’s message.
While professional internet influencers are shaping and promoting brands to legions of “followers,” it is important to differentiate influencers from advocates. Internet influencers are more likely than not to receive payment for promoting and recommending a specific product or brand. Advocates, like the historic “word of mouth” purveyors, advocate for a favorite brand voluntarily. Research shows that up to 92% of consumers trust a peer recommendation before making a purchasing decision and a happy customer will, on average, spread the word to eleven people. Performing simple math can awaken the excitement of any marketer.
Brand advocates are real customers who are excited about a brand’s products or services and share that feeling “authentically “with others. Authenticity is a critical element in building an army of credible fans. The best advocates are usually those who are regular, repeat customers who want to share positive brand experiences with others through personal testimonials and endorsements. Testimonials, reviews, and user-generated content carry a lot of weight because they are perceived as unbiased and real. Advocates should be elevated to a higher degree of importance and receive ongoing updates on products and services. Two-way conversations between the brand and loyal followers should be encouraged.
Building long-term relationships with customers requires a focus on building trust and loyalty. Brand advocates are passionate and vocal about brands they love and are consistently communicating on the internet and social media channels with considerable networks of family, friends, and acquaintances. Surveys reveal that more than 70% of consumers are likely to recommend a brand if it has a good loyalty program that rewards the most loyal fans with valuable incentives.
A seamless experience of a simple, user-friendly, and mobile website with familiar, responsive navigation, easy checkout, fast and free shipping, and customer-centric policies are important aspects of building a bevy of customer advocates. In every instance of customer engagement, a brand must remain committed to its stated values and consistently deliver on the brand promise. Increased attention to a brand advocacy strategy will increase brand visibility, reach, engagement, and a marketer’s customer base.