4 Levels Of Advocate Rewards And Recognition

Chris Newton

A successful advocate marketing program recognizes and rewards people for participating (and not just during the holidays!), which is why you need the ability to track advocate participation.

Having predetermined milestones that an advocate will be recognized for is a good starting point. You may choose to recognize advocates for participating in specific “asks” or for milestones against their overall advocate activity.

Not all recognition and rewards are created equal, though. While it may be some marketers’ first instinct to give away prizes such as gift cards or iPads to reward advocates, your advocate marketing program will not be sustainable if you rely on “stuff” alone.

After all, your customers don’t advocate for you because they want free stuff. They love your company and, in many cases, they feel like they are part of your team. The ways you recognize and reward your advocates should bring them even closer, essentially dissolving the walls between you and them, giving them a seat of honor at your table.

Borrowing from gamification expert Gabe Zichermann’s “SAPS” model, there are four levels of recognition and rewards you should build into your program, from most desired to least desired: Status, Access, Power and Stuff.


Advocates want to be publicly recognized for their efforts. Within your advocate marketing program, advocates should be able to continually increase their status by participating in specific campaigns, or after participating in a number of campaigns and accumulating points.

Status may designate why, when and how much of the other types of rewards your advocates will get. The higher their status, the better the rewards.

You can reward them by announcing high-achieving advocates on your website, recognizing them at customer events or featuring them in content. Status can come in the form of a virtual title, level or badge within the program itself, for example. Advocates may compete against each other (or challenge themselves) to attain that next status level, keeping them engaged in the program on an ongoing basis.


Sometimes, an advocate’s status may allow them to participate in a unique initiative as part of or outside of the advocate marketing program. In other words, it gives them special access to something, such as a new feature or version of your product before it’s released to the general public, the opportunity to buy tickets to your next event before anyone else or special reserved seating at your user conference.

Access can also be something neither they nor anyone else would normally get, such as a dinner with your CEO or a personal tour of your office.


For B2B customers and other advocates, “power” means having a voice in building your products, crafting your messaging or even organizing your events.

A step above simply providing feedback, a reward in this category may be a one-on-one consultation with your product development team or a trusted advisor role called upon by the leaders of your company.

Advocates may also consider having the opportunity to be a peer mentor to new customers, which is rewarding as they will be able to teach and shape other professionals as they use your product.


While many organizations want advocates to promote their brand and offerings out of the goodness of their heart, the reality is that incentives with monetary value can drive high participation rates (for a short period of time, anyway).

Dropbox provides the best example of an incentive that works. Dropbox’s top customer acquisition strategy was their referral program where their customers were able to earn extra storage space for successful referrals.

Dropbox understood exactly what their customers wanted – more free space – and built their advocate program around this. This type of reward has significant value, but it also deepens the relationship with customers at the same time – an ideal “stuff” reward.

Other companies heavily leverage swag – especially custom-designed giveaways – to drive engagement. Monogrammed shirts, hats and office supplies can help draw in advocates while supporting larger branding efforts. Gift cards, discounts and giveaways are other rewards that can work. These rewards should be used in moderation and, whenever possible, should be exclusive, personal or one-of-a-kind.

Note that marketers need to be aware of emerging guidelines and recommendations concerning disclosure of paid relationships for advocates that are being published by organizations like WOMMA and the FTC. These should be carefully understood and incorporated into advocacy programs to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

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