Motivating your customer advocates to take action and spread the word about your business can lead to big benefits, such as increases in referrals, high-quality leads and sales.

That’s because today’s customers rely on word of mouth when they make buying decisions. Research by LinkedIn found that 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral, and McKinsey research revealed that marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.

The good news: most marketers have a solid customer base that’s willing to help them out with case studies, testimonials, referrals, and more.

The bad news: they’re still struggling to get these customer advocates to take action.

Here’s how I see it: your customers won’t take action unless you give them something specific to do, and offer a relevant incentive that will motivate them to do it.

This is why an advocate marketing program—like the one I run here at Influitive—is the perfect way to offer fun and relevant “asks” (or, as we call it them our platform, “challenges”) for your advocates.

How to know what types of asks will appeal to your advocates

First, it’s important to understand your advocates’ motivations. To do this, you should first create advocate personas that outline who they are and what they want from your program. You can then target the right customers with the right kind of asks, create challenges and provide rewards that tap into these motivations.

To figure out how different advocates are motivated, I follow Gabe Zichermann’s SAPS framework based on four powerful motivators: Status, Access, Power and Stuff. I view the SAPS framework as a pyramid, from the most to the least cost to engage advocates. Addressing each piece of the pyramid in your advocate marketing strategy is essential to achieving your goals and engaging all of your advocates.

SAPS-graphicHere’s a breakdown of the four SAPS motivators, starting from the bottom:

1. Stuff

Some of your advocates—particularly new ones—will be motivated by free stuff or opportunities to earn something. Giving them tangible rewards will get them on board quickly and make them more likely to do something for you if you ask. However, it’s important to keep in mind that giving advocates stuff is a short-term strategy, and shouldn’t be the only way you recognize them.

2. Power

Power gives an advocate the ability to have influence over others. If you give them opportunities to influence other advocates or influence the direction of your solutions through feedback, they will feel like you trust them and value their opinions. You can gain valuable insights from advocates when you ask for their opinions in a challenge or grant them decision-making power as a reward.

3. Access

These advocates want the VIP treatment. They may be long-term or high-value customers who don’t want to be treated like just another number on an invoice. If you go the extra mile and give these customers special experiences, such as allowing them to be a fly on the wall in your leadership meetings, they will become your biggest fans.

4. Status

Advocates who are motivated by status want to be recognized by others and known as authorities in their area of expertise. These advocates often have large networks and the power to influence many people. If you provide them with rewards that promote their thought leadership, such as speaking opportunities, they can promote your business and give you instant credibility with a wide audience. This peak is the smallest, as it generally costs nothing  to help advocates gain status. For example, providing them with speaking opportunity usually has no tangible cost to you.

As customers move up the pyramid and become your biggest advocates, you can continue to engage them with a long-term strategy. Once you know where your advocates fall in the SAPS pyramid, you can create challenges and grant rewards that are so irresistible they’ll want to take action right away.

This post was originally published on March 12, 2014 and updated on August 2nd, 2016.

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