Growing and engaging your advocate community takes time—unless you know how to kick your program into overdrive from the start.

In a live video discussion (moderated by Forbes contributor Mark Fidelman), Influitive CEO Mark Organ joined experienced advocate marketers Paul Hetherington, CRO at iCompass; and Bo Bandy, Director of Marketing at ReadyTalk, to share their advocate marketing program strategies and best practices. 

Here are five steps from Paul and Bo on launching an engaging advocate marketing program from the start.

Step 1: Define what advocate marketing means to you

Paul suggests identifying what advocate marketing means to your company and your advocates before getting started. He believes in using advocate marketing to connect industry-related customers, and offer them a platform to be showcased as thought leaders. Once advocates see the value, they’ll be ready to promote your brand, act as references and more. “[It’s] having friends sell for you.”

For Bo, advocate marketing is a mutually-beneficial relationship between a company and its customers that tells the story of why their customers love them, and why they will continue to use the company’s product or service.

Take the time to decide what advocate marketing can accomplish for your company. This will help you decide on your success metrics.

Step 2: Set goals

Whether it’s getting more customer stories, referrals, reviews, or social shares, your company needs to decide what goals are the most important—then ask how advocate marketing can help you achieve those goals.

After you have an idea of what you want to accomplish, set up a way to measure results and determine the value of your program. As an example, ReadyTalk saw a 112% increase in customer referrals within the first six months of launching their advocate marketing program, compared to the previous year.

ReadyTalk Case StudyFree eBook: How ReadyTalk Shortened Their Sales Cycle With Advocate Marketing

Download this case study to learn how ReadyTalk used advocate marketing to boost lead generation with customer referrals, build a community of engaged customers, solicit valuable product feedback, and more!

Step 3: Know whenand howto ask your customers to join your advocate community

Bo says the best time to ask your customers to become members of your advocate marketing program is after they have expressed satisfaction with your product or service. For ReadyTalk, that means inviting customers that have given them a Net Promoter Score of 7 or greater; or customers who have been identified by account managers and sales team members for high product usage and positive feedback.

When it comes to sending the invite, Paul stresses the importance of leading with the value of joining the program. You need to show your advocates what’s in it for them, before asking them to help you.

Step 4: Engage advocates right away

Bo and Paul both agree that engagement with your advocates needs to begin as soon as they enter your program. If you don’t, they’ll never come back.

Immediately provide them with a channel to connect with you; ask them why they joined your advocate community, invite them to do beta product testing, or to leave feedback for your product team. These types of advocacy challenges let customers feel like they’re connecting with your brand right off the bat.

Step 5: Mix it up

You can’t ask your advocates for favors all the time. You need to make your advocate marketing program fun so customers return on a regular basis.

Bo advises making one third of your advocacy challenges fun questions or tasks. Something as simple as asking what your advocates’ favorite snack foods are, or what music they like to hear while on hold will help make your advocate marketing community experience more enjoyable overall.

Even if these challenges don’t provide direct value to your company, they will keep your advocates active in your program—making them more likely to complete other advocacy-related tasks while they’re in there.

Advcoate Marketing Playbook CompleteTake your sales & marketing to the next level with The Advocate Marketing Playbook

For more advocate marketing tips and tricks, read The Advocate Marketing Playbook for a blueprint on how to build and manage a successful advocate marketing program. The five-part Playbook is a detailed “how-to” guide based on proven best practices.

Download now