How To Build A Community of Brand Advocates

B2B marketers can learn a thing or two about mobilizing advocates from our B2C cousins.

Think about the products that you use every day. For me, it’s my iPhone, Sennheiser headphones and Altra running shoes.

I didn’t go straight to a store or the vendor’s website to buy these products. Instead, I decided to purchase them thanks to a combination of word-of-mouth marketing, trustworthy recommendations and online reviews.

And since I love these products, I spread the word without any incentive.

Just like in the consumer world, B2B buyers are increasingly basing their buying decisions on peer recommendations. According to Google research, 60 percent of business technology customers search for peer testimonials during the decision-making process.

That’s why it’s important for B2B marketers to include brand advocates in every aspect of their business. Your advocates hold amazing power. If you can guide their passion, you’ll get more high-quality referrals and drive sales.

How to motivate customers to advocate for you

Creating an advocate marketing program that motivates your happiest customers to promote your brand doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply follow these three steps:

  1. Pull a list of customers from your CRM, prioritizing those who’ve expressed positive feelings for your brand in the past.
  2. Email them and ask them to complete an act of advocacy, such as providing a referral or leaving an online review.
  3. Recognize them for their efforts. For example, you can send them a sincere thank-you note,  a gift card or some cool swag.

However, you can’t email the same people all the time, continually asking them to do things for you. This will create “advocate fatigue” and they’ll become less willing to help you out.

So, how can you keep your top advocates engaged between your requests? How can you motivate them to advocate for you in the long run?

The Advocate Marketing Playbook
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Here are the five keys to building a thriving advocate community:

1. Set goals for your community

Without goals, you’ll be walking around in the dark, blindly trying to engage your advocates. Before you get started, it’s important to know what you want to achieve from your advocate marketing program.

Choose advocacy goals that align with your overall business objectives. For example, if one of your top business goals is to increase your sales, one of your top advocacy goals can be to get more high-quality referrals. If you want to get more brand awareness, one of your goals could be getting your advocates to share more content on social media.

(Learn how to track the ROI of an advocate marketing program with this guide.)

2. Get to know your customers

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Your advocates won’t take action unless you engage them. To capture their attention, you need to understand what makes them tick. Are your customers busy, talkative sales pros? Or are they focused, calm IT experts? This can impact the type of advocacy activities they’re likely to complete.

It’s also important to learn as much as you can about their needs, goals and challenges. What is a typical day like for them at work? What are their personal interests? Do they prefer Star Wars or Star Trek? Bacon or kale?

3. Make it fun

Your advocates will lose interest if you only ask them to share your content and send you referrals. It’s important to make things fun so they’ll look forward to your emails.

For example, you can send them links to fun quizzes and games. Think about what would give your advocates a laugh and break up their workday. The better you engage them with interesting activities, the more likely they are to perform some serious acts of advocacy when you ask.

4. Involve your entire team

Your advocate marketing efforts can benefit all aspects of your business, so it’s vital to get buy-in from other teams.

Think of all the people who interact with your customers, such as:

  • Customer marketing
  • Customer success
  • Support
  • Sales
  • Product development

What needs do they have that your advocates can help with? For example, can your product development team use new beta testers? Can your sales team use advocates to get more referral leads and customer references?

Educate these teams about the benefits of advocate marketing so you can get quick buy-in and bring results to your entire business.

5. Give your advocates a place to hang out

Advocacy isn’t just between you and a customer. You’ll multiply your results if you build a community where your advocates can hang out, trade ideas and learn from each other. You can also offer them VIP training, so they can learn how to get the most value from your product.

Many advocates are motivated by competition. Make advocating for you a game, in which you give them points when they complete a task for you. For example, they can get 10 points for tweeting your latest blog post and 500 points for sending you a referral—the bigger the ask, the higher the point value.

To motivate them even more, put their points on a leaderboard to show them how they stack up against their peers. Using gamification to turn advocacy into a contest will inspire them to do more for you.

Building an advocate community puts the power in your advocates’ hands. Since they choose how and when they want to advocate for you, you don’t have to worry about them getting “advocate fatigue”—and you might even discover advocates you didn’t even know you had.

More helpful advocate marketing resources

This blog was originally published August 10th, 2015 and was updated March 10th, 2017.

82 Responses to How To Build A Community of Brand Advocates

  1. […] Brightpearl launched an advocate marketing program, called The Commerce Acceleration Zone, using Influitive’s AdvocateHub software. Their goal was […]

  2. […] staying abreast of all the latest changes and was able to use my skill set to communicate with and attract the attention of super fans that mattered wherever I […]

  3. […] however, must invest in programs that will foster this level of fandom. “Do you have a plan in place for those [zealots] that […]

  4. […] them on board. The key is to build a strong relationship first. A great way to do this is through advocate marketing. The more you engage with advocates, the more they will benefit from your relationship. For […]

  5. […] harness the power of their customer advocates to fuel their content marketing strategy? By starting an exclusive advocate marketing program that rewards and engages their top […]

  6. […] content and professional development opportunities). We also offer customers the options to advocate for us by writing reviews, sharing our content and—when they’re ready—submitting […]

  7. […] But first, you need to understand why these buyers do what they do and how to motivate them to advocate for your brand.   […]

  8. […] with them regularly and offering them valuable resources, they’ll be more likely to become an advocate for your brand. (Email blasts about release notes don’t count.) Find other ways to stay close to your customers […]

  9. […] have been necessary for someone – though perhaps not necessarily these specific individuals – to advocate for these companies in order for them to blossom. Such is the power of advocate marketing, an emerging discipline that […]

  10. […] will trust who can speak on your behalf: your current customers. By engaging these power users, and turning them into vocal advocates for your brand, you can improve what is being said in third-party channels about your […]

  11. […] and engaging your advocate community takes time—unless you know how to kick your program into overdrive from the […]

  12. […] Most referral marketing programs don’t work because companies haven’t laid the groundwork for meaningful customer relationships. Before you can ask customers for referrals (which is kind of a big deal), you’ll need to consistently engage them, and turn them into brand advocates. […]

  13. […] great referral program has one special ingredient: people who love your product. (If you don’t have any of these, you have a whole other […]

  14. […] B2B customers tend to be very informed about the products and services they use – more so than in their lives as consumers. After all, their jobs are on the line. As a result, reputation and word-of-mouth hold significant weight. And both are easily nurtured and spread through social media channels. These channels can help build a company’s profile, position you as a leader in your respective market, and encourage others to weigh in and become your advocates. […]

  15. […] customers. Instead of filling the sales funnel, marketers need to create a virtuous circle that turns new customers into happy brand advocates. These happy advocates can then influence and refer new customers and continue the cycle […]

  16. […] customers rooting for you than you even thought. And there is nothing more powerful than an army of brand advocates to boost your sales & marketing […]

  17. […] who share your articles, click on every email, and recommend your product to their peers. These advocates aren’t shy about declaring their love for your brand, and they’ll attract a like-minded […]

  18. […] However, there is a way for companies to maximize their event marketing investments—and stand out among competing sponsors: by leveraging customer advocates. […]

  19. […] best way to do this is by creating an exclusive hub for your happiest customers—known as an advocate marketing program. Through the program, you’ll provide your customers with access to useful resources, fun content […]

  20. […] This approach is a good starting point, but it’s very reactive when it comes to identifying and growing your advocate base. A better approach is to build the habits of advocacy early on in the customer life cycle through your advocate marketing program. […]

  21. […] differentiating your brand means creating a customer advocacy program that is internally supported by every department. “You have to invest in it. It’s not something […]

  22. […] a simple page where your brand advocates can submit names to you. Don’t rely on informal email channels or overly complicated forms (which […]

  23. […] Instead of fearing empowered customers, welcome them. Use customer feedback and reviews to improve your products and services. Leverage your customers’ social media pull and turn them into advocates for your business. […]

  24. […] However, there is a way to spread holiday cheer amongst your colleagues (aside from spiking the water cooler): by tapping into your customer advocates. […]

  25. […] her biggest fans is genius. These “Swifties” (as they’re affectionately dubbed) will remain loyal advocates for her long after it’s no longer trendy to like her music because they feel a deep connection […]

  26. […] your customer advocates in your content and e-mails is another great way to create that human connection. Highlight their […]

  27. […] more & see the results We decided to marry our paid advertising and advocate marketing by featuring our top advocates’ success stories in our paid ads. We put out a challenge in our […]

  28. […] best advocate marketing programs don’t just benefit the brands behind them—they have a lot to offer their advocates, too. When […]

  29. […] If you want to take brand advocacy to the next level, consider a tool like Influitive. They’ve got a good rundown on how to build a brand advocacy community. […]

  30. […] You might argue that purchasing committees, third-party buying consultants and corporate procurement processes have always distanced the B2B marketer from the purchasing customer. Because of this distance, you may think that as a B2B brand you’re only there to help them fulfill a function in their role. This might have been true in the past, but the distance can now be eliminated by forging a direct relationship with your customers by engaging them in new ways—like through an advocate marketing program. […]

  31. […] realized they need to engage customers throughout their entire lifecycle, and turn them into loyal brand advocates. But many are at a loss for exactly how to do it—aside from beefing up customer […]

  32. […] likes to recognize B2B marketers who engage and mobilize their customers, partners and fans (AKA their advocates) to improve their marketing campaigns and […]

  33. […] likes to recognize B2B marketers who engage and mobilize their customers, partners and fans (AKA their advocates) to improve their marketing campaigns and […]

  34. […] wonder why and how advocacy works? In this fascinating keynote, Duke University Professor, author, and TED speaker Dan Ariely will […]

  35. […] They know how to use their company’s strongest marketing asset—happy customers—and harness customer advocacy like “the force” to hit those revenue targets the marketing department is held accountable […]

  36. […] You might argue that purchasing committees, third-party buying consultants and corporate procurement processes have always distanced the B2B marketer from the purchasing customer. Because of this distance, you may think that as a B2B brand you’re only there to help them fulfill a function in their role. This might have been true in the past, but the distance can now be eliminated by forging a direct relationship with your customers by engaging them in new ways—like through an advocate marketing program. […]

  37. […] Manager, Expert Services at Influitive, walked eager Advocampers through the basic principles of advocate marketing. One of her top golden rules: you won’t see returns until you give your customers something they […]

  38. […] recommends marketers focus on building a program focused on customer advocacy (not one that just asks for references when you desperately need to close a […]

  39. […] decided to marry our paid advertising and advocate marketing efforts by featuring our top advocates’ success stories in our paid ads. We predicted that […]

  40. […] we integrated our referral program into our advocate marketing program (which is run by me, in Customer Marketing!) to automate the referral collection process and make it […]

  41. […] keep your relationship warm and positive. This will ensure positive word of mouth and ultimately help in winning advocates for your brand. Conclusion Creating content for specific phases of buyer’s journey helps amplify the impact […]

  42. […] In recent years, Blackbaud shifted from a one-time payment model to subscription-based services. This opened them up to risk: dissatisfied customers could easily switch to a competitor. To prevent this, Blackbaud decided to invest in delighting customers and turning them into loyal brand advocates by building an advocate community. […]

  43. […] marry your ABM efforts with advocate marketing. (If you want to learn what advocate marketing is, read this primer.) Together, these two strategies deliver a powerful one-two punch that results in higher […]

  44. […] In this new post in our multi-part series on how to communicate with pros from different industries, we’ll reveal how you can turn finance professionals into loyal advocates for your brand. […]

  45. […] Dell KACE has cracked the code. They’ve created an exclusive advocate marketing program, called KACE Konnect, to engage their customers. They’ve tailored the program to their customers’ challenges and interests, and used game mechanics and rewards to encourage customers to share their love for Dell KACE with others. As a result, they’ve generated valuable acts of customer advocacy—like online reviews, in-depth customer feedback and social media shares of their content. (To learn more about how an advocate marketing program works, read this.) […]

  46. […] questions were as simple as “What is advocate marketing?” While others were more complex, like “What kind of resources should we dedicate to this?” […]

  47. […] are Steven’s tips for targeting, identifying, and rewarding your advocates to increase referrals and grow your customer base at […]

  48. […] Advocate marketing also cleverly utilizes the six ingredients necessary for contagious ideas. Advocacy provides social currency and emotional appeal, and it’s a highly public act triggered by bigger events like product launches, events and campaigns. Advocate marketing lets customers pass on practical advice and knowledge typically through personal stories (as an example, note how our customer success stories focus personal achievement as much as business value). […]

  49. […] marketers are busy people with growth targets to hit. When are we supposed to find time to develop an advocate community on top of our other […]

  50. […] about your company, engage with you directly, access valuable resources and find opportunities to advocate for your brand—like writing online reviews, sharing your content on their social networks and finally, providing […]

  51. […] constantly nurture our advocates through an online advocate community called Influitive VIP. Every time they introduce us to someone knew, we can track, recognize and […]

  52. […] important to build relationships with your customers if you want to consistently receive high-quality […]

  53. […] on direct contact with sales representatives, says Angela. If you explain to your sales team how engaging your customers and getting them to publicly advocate for your products will help start the buying journey off on […]

  54. […] positive experiences builds loyalty, reduces churn and turns customers into vocal brand advocates. Advocates have a higher LTV than regular customers. This is not only because they spend more, but also because of their potential to refer new […]

  55. […] short-lived reconnection got me thinking about advocate marketing, and more specifically, the typical top-level goal of driving new business through advocate […]

  56. […] short-lived reconnection got me thinking about advocate marketing, and more specifically, the typical top-level goal of driving new business through advocate […]

  57. […] growth targets to hit, right? You don’t have time to delight your customers with something like an advocate community. (Isn’t that someone else’s job […]

  58. […] and products. Just make sure the test group consists of some of your happiest customers—A.K.A. your advocates. They will be more willing to refer you to their networks if they already love […]

  59. […] the social media advocate nurture path—and make the benefit for them, not you. Allow them to be advocates for you, while they boost their own social media presence and grow to be thought leaders in their industry […]

  60. […] of advocate marketing as a customer-focused nurture program that’s goal is increasing social proof for your […]

  61. […] the honeymoon period of your advocate community has come and gone, how do you get new advocates to join your […]

  62. […] top of all of this, Lea also runs the company’s customer advocacy program, Friends of […]

  63. […] employees and customers started interacting in one centralized community, it was easy for Blackbaud to engage its advocates and show them how much they were appreciated. […]

  64. […] tips, new product launches, upcoming events, and more. Influitive allows us to grow and strengthen our community of happy customers, making them feel closer to us and wanting more. And the best part? That community is there for me […]

  65. […] of continually building our team, we’re mobilizing our advocates to act as online customer support, to advocate on our behalf with retailers, and to show the world […]

  66. […] why we asked three top advocate marketers how they fit advocate marketing into their busy schedules: Valerie Hamilton, Digital Marketing Specialist at Klipfolio, Kelly […]

  67. […] We’ve written a guide that explains how marketing can support sales to stop the silent killer and grow revenue through an advocate marketing strategy. […]

  68. […] wanted the team to engage customers through an advocate marketing program that would consistently inspire them to become references and reward them for other kinds of […]

  69. […] as a networking opportunity instead of a sales call. Having a consistent way to engage customers, like through an advocate marketing program, will help uncover new references and build strong […]

  70. […] decided that launching an online community for HR and finance professionals that could bring Namely clients together and provide them with […]

  71. […] making them read long, dry documents about messaging guidelines and branding templates. You need to make it an enjoyable experience they’ll genuinely want to participate […]

  72. […] some mutual friends to intervene on your behalf: your brand advocates. If you uncover these super fans, and treat them right, their genuine enthusiasm and product […]

  73. […] if you don’t have a formal customer advocacy program, your advocates likely influence your sales more than you […]

  74. […] you and refer others so you can attract the right prospects with the power of peer influence. An advocate marketing program can help facilitate all […]

  75. […] sure the whole buying committee knows they’ll be supported once they sign on the dotted line. Your advocate community can also be a great support network for your prospective […]

  76. […] customer reference programs simply couldn’t scale to meet the needs of the business. However, an advocate marketing strategy would allow SimpliVity to discover and cultivate new customer advocates. (Learn about the […]

  77. […] is where your community of advocates — made up of your passionate brand promoters — comes in. Think of them as your […]

  78. […] is where your community of advocates — made up of your passionate brand promoters — comes in. Think of them as your “always-on” […]

  79. […] is where your community of advocates — made up of your passionate brand promoters — comes in. Think of them as your “always-on” […]

  80. […] is where your community of advocates — made up of your passionate brand promoters — comes in. Think of them as your “always-on” […]

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