There are only a few shows on TV that I watch and leave feeling seriously anxious about the world we live in. At night I don’t dream about a Game of Thrones dragon burning me to ash or The Mountain tearing me apart, but instead the frightening scenario of one day being ousted out of your own company by a Board of Directors you trust.

Silicon Valley on HBO is one of those shows that goes beyond the light comedy and puts great detail into every single accurate scenario, down to even the formula on the whiteboard in the background. (Here’s a great article that gives you some insight on the show and how much work is put into each episode, as well as the Silicon Valley giants they have on production to consult.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons you can take away from the show and wanted to focus on customer advocacy given how many early startups make these mistakes…including Pied Piper.

1. Respect your early usersgiphy (16)

Your customers early on were like your friends you still have from middle school. They remember you when you had a goofy and awkward design, and the times when you failed to deliver on their friendship, but they still took a chance on the relationship.

They are the early adopters and, for better or worse, they will love you, but only if you cultivate that relationship. Grant them access to new features, make them a part of the conversation, and activate moments of surprise and delight for them to show you care. They are your strongest advocates in the schoolyard and if they’re not going to support you, you might just get beat up by your competitors.

1-kyfBiS8UFBP44ugbyNLGow (1)2. Ask for feedback

When Richard was testing the Beta product, he tested it with his friends and fellow engineers to get feedback and—to no surprise—everyone loved it. As Monica put it, “You’re trying to sell the platform to regular people, but you never actually put it in the hands of regular people like them.” They spoke the same language and thought like engineers. Therefore, from a UX perspective, it wasn’t pretty but it worked.

When you’re building community, it’s important to speak with a wide scope of your audience and get different perspectives about your product. The easiest way to begin the process is segmenting your audience into different groups and buyer personas, and take sample sizes from each section to test the water. Find out what makes them tick, what they love most about your company and what frustrations they encounter. Help them eliminate roadblocks and think of yourself as more of a concierge or digital sherpa to help them succeed.

1-q7m__iMhjYs7cbW8XX7zhg3. Don’t ignore your biggest fan

When Richard crashes a focus group of laypeople and befuddled users, he meets an older female user named Bernice. She’s everything that falls outside of the Silicon Valley bubble and can’t seem to grasp the platform. Richard takes the time to coach her through the system and she is finally able to understand how the P2P system works, declaring, “That’s awesome!”

What Richard fails to capitalize on is utilizing his #1 advocate as a resource for the company. Certain members of the community are sometimes overlooked because they don’t fit the demographic of the company’s ideal customer. Don’t write them off—embrace them and let them know how much they are valued.

4. Get your schwag on! 1-cCrWKAPcmHySxOuHVo_BgA

Look in your office drawer and count how many branded pens, t-shirts and hand sanitizer bottles you have. The whole point of schwag is to be awesome and memorable so your customers will keep you top of mind. Invest the resources to come up with great giveaways and send your customers custom handwritten thank-you notes when they write a blog post about your brand or share their feedback on Twitter.

Build and measure your advocacy programs on platforms like Influitive to effectively gamify the experience and keep your customers engaged. If you’re marketing to new generation of millennials, it’s important to understand how their loyalties fall and their evolved purchasing power.

5. More important than the blow is knowing when to strikemedium

When Denpok is guiding Gavin to help him retake his own company, he shares a wise piece of advice that is key to reaching your customers: understand when they are listening and make sure you can deliver the message uninhibited by noise and clutter.

Build relationships with customers based on authenticity and find ways when you can proactively reach out to help them in real time. Actively measure when people are opening your email newsletters or find out when your audience is talking about your brand using social insight tools like ForSight by Crimson Hexagon. If you can help them build meaningful connections and see around the corner to solve challenges, you will master customer advocacy.

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