thank you noteWe say thank you in a multitude of ways: Sometimes it’s a simple handshake, hug or note. At other times, we show our gratitude with larger, more extravagant gifts or experiences.

In the world of advocate marketing programs, however, a small thank you can be a big deal to your hardworking advocate army.

Recently, we took an in-depth look at the different ways our customers recognized their advocates through their advocate marketing programs, and we are eager to share our findings. The results may surprise you.

Rewarding customer advocates works

We have always believed that B2B advocates are motivated in different ways. As a result, companies executing advocate marketing programs need to provide a variety of rewards and recognition to account for that.

Sure, some of the information we found in our analysis wasn’t shocking. We knew, for example, that not very many advocates redeem the points they earn for their acts of advocacy. Advocates accumulate points for completing challenges in a company’s AdvocateHub. These challenges include activities such as participating in case studies, following the company on Twitter, referring a prospect, or completing a reference call.

What we didn’t necessarily expect to find, however, is that advocates who redeem their points are actually more likely to return and do even more advocacy.

Within a 30-day period, nearly half of advocates (45%) who had redeemed their points were still happily advocating. In fact, advocates who redeemed their points came back to do so another three to four times. When you consider that most rewards cost thousands of points, that’s a whole lot of advocacy!

Meanwhile, only about one third of the advocates (32%) who did not redeem any rewards were still active. All in all, an advocate who redeems a reward is 13% more likely to return to your advocate marketing program and advocate for you again.

Let’s keep this in perspective, however. These returning advocates who are motivated by rewards typically turn out to be a small proportion of your overall advocate database – only about 12% of all advocates who earn points end up spending them.

Most advocates don’t want rewards – they want recognition

What can account for this low level of reward redemption? This is one of the fundamental differences between B2C and B2B advocacy programs.

There is a large proportion of your fans who don’t need or want to receive rewards with monetary value. They advocate for you because they love you and your product. Or, they know that advocating for you will benefit their career. As we’ve said in the past, advocacy is not just about rewards.

Best practices for advocate rewards

From those advocates who redeem rewards, we did find some interesting information. It’s important to offer rewards that are both achievable and desirable. While you don’t want to make rewards too easy to redeem, making them too difficult or not including any rewards at all may deter their advocacy altogether.

Achieving that balance means offering rewards that are both “easy to achieve” and “easy to long for”. In terms of desirability, the best way to know what advocates want is to ask them.

The top three requested rewards were:

•    Gift cards
•    Swag
•    Experiences (such as training, retreats and event passes)

If you’re going to offer your advocates swag, make sure it matches your branding and is also unique. I may have a pile of t-shirts that I received at a conference, but I’ll only wear the one that is different, cool, and lets my friends and colleagues know I’m part of an exclusive group.

Finally, never forget about the benefits of a perk. Perks are surprise-and-delight rewards that play to advocates’ intrinsic needs – not tit-for-tat rewards that give them X for doing Y. Surprise them by sending cookies to their office, movie passes on their birthday or even event tickets to an upcoming conference.

Keep in mind that advocates are motivated by different factors, such as competition, recognition or the desire to have unique experiences.

Ultimately, don’t discount the power of rewards – there is a percentage of your advocate base that is motivated by this type of carrot. You’re bound to see the reward in giving rewards.

Which types of rewards and recognition are most effective in motivating your advocates? Share your experiences in the comments section below!