Think about the last big purchase you made. Did you begin your buying journey by reaching out to a salesperson, or by doing your own research online and asking others for their opinions?
I’m going to guess the latter. You probably also chose the product that came with a personal recommendation from a peer, had the best online reputation.
Well, a lot of companies feel uncomfortable asking their customers for favors. Some also believe that encouraging customers to talk about their brand will seem disingenuous.
That’s why organizations need to walk the fine line between inspiring and incentivizing their customers to advocate on their behalf.
The right way to generate customer advocacy
So, here’s the tricky part: in order to harness the power of social proof marketing, you’re going to have to ask your customers to confess their love for your brand. And getting the results you want requires a tactful approach.
The key is making the advocacy process fun and beneficial for all parties involved. That’s why launching an advocate marketing program to mobilize and engage your top customers is the best approach.
A successful advocate marketing program does two things: first, it gives advocates multiple ways to interact with and advocate for your brand; then it rewards and recognizes them for their actions.
Here’s a bit more detail about how this works:
Step 1. Build a strong connection with your customers
An advocate marketing program requires that you frequently engage with customers to keep your brand top of mind. You can stay connected by sharing useful blogs or whitepapers about their industry or interests. You can also make their life easier—and turn them into a power user—by regularly providing them with useful tips about your product.
Knowing what content they crave most means getting personal with your customers. Ask them for their feedback and opinions, and let them interact with the real people behind your program. It will make them feel closer to your brand, and much more inclined to advocate on your behalf. B2B customers are regular people, so they also appreciate entertaining content that gives them a break from their day. The bonus? It will also help show off your brand’s personality.
Once they’re engaged, you can ask them to share their passion for your products online. But you’ll need to give them something in return.
Step 2. Give back to your advocates
In order to motivate your customers to generate genuine social proof for your brand, it’s important to thank them appropriately. Start by recognizing them in a blog or social media post for their efforts, and be sure that your own social media profile carries weight by purchasing likes on your Instagram posts. While prizes like gift cards and branded swag can work, your advocates will appreciate more creative rewards. Offer to make a donation to their favorite charity, give them a free product upgrade, or invite them to try an exclusive beta release.
Every advocate is motivated by something different. Find out what really drives your customers to act, and your brand will reap the rewards. You’ll likely find that physical gifts mean less than professional development opportunities or access to your brand’s C-suite.
5 ways advocates can help surround prospects with social proof
Once you’ve primed your advocates, you can ask them to do lots of different things to boost your brand’s online reputation.
1. Online reviews and testimonials
If one of your best customers tells you that they love working with you, it’s the perfect time to encourage them to write a review for a 3rd party website (like G2Crowd, Spiceworks, etc.) or a testimonial for your website.
Since everyone is strapped for time these days, share an example of a great online review or testimonial so they have an idea of how to structure one. If you stress that you want genuine and honest feedback about how your product has worked for your advocates, they’ll be eager to share their opinion.
2. Blog posts and comments
Has a customer been raving about your product or service? Why not ask them to write a blog about it? If they aren’t in charge of content at their organization, feature their story on your blog.
If they don’t have a blog, you could request that they post a helpful comment about your product on a related article. Just make sure you’re constantly sharing relevant content with them so you aren’t only reaching out when you want something.
In 2016, an estimated 2.13 billion people will use social networks worldwide. With that many people posting their opinions on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s important to ask your customers to share what they love about your business with their personal networks. Your advocates may also come to your rescue if someone posts something negative about you online.
If you actively interact with them by liking their posts, helping them get followers, and recognizing them for sharing your content, they’ll be happy to spread your messages among their networks.
If some of your customers do a lot of public speaking, or attend a lot of conferences, you could ask them to refer your product to other professionals that they meet, or encourage them to share insights about your product in one of their presentations.
Better yet, help them secure a speaking slot at an industry event so they can increase their professional profile. They’ll be grateful, and much more likely to talk positively about your brand.
Your top users can be a great resource for prospects seeking information about your products in online communities. If you find a forum discussion about your product—or a competitor’s—point your advocates to it so they can share their expertise. Giving them the chance to increase their cachet among their peers will turn them into life-long advocates for your brand.
Nobody trusts your marketing copy. But everybody trusts their peers. By surrounding prospective buyers with social proof from your best customers, you’ll find yourself closing more deals—and building an even bigger army of brand advocates.
Download this study to learn how companies that utilize advocate marketing have successfully harnessed the power of their advocates and influencers to maximize the potential of their product reviews.