Third party reviews and testimonials have always been a powerful driver of brand credibility, but a business stands to gain the most credibility when a customer is recommended by someone they know. This is customer advocacy that every business needs.
Before the advent of social media, recommendations typically meant word of mouth, but platforms like Facebook enable recommendations (both positive and negative) to reach a wider audience much faster. Customer advocates are natural allies of customer-focused companies seeking more effective social media marketing.
The Benefits of Customer Advocacy
While I normally write on group advocacy, today I’m going to explore customer advocacy, another very important focus for any business.
1. How does customer advocacy grow a business?
One factor is increased credibility. Simply put, prospective customers trust their friends and family more than your company. (Would you like stats with that?) A second factor is scale. Unless you have a massive marketing department and/or marketing budget, it’s likely that your customers have a larger influence. When you put these two factors together, you get scaled credibility and, specifically, the ability to influence the buying decision of prospects you might otherwise never reach. It’s an approach that even the largest companies are adopting.
2. What does a customer advocacy strategy look like?
On the low-tech side, it can be as easy as requesting that customers review your company when they make a purchase. If you take this approach, the best strategy is to pick one or two platforms that you regularly monitor, e.g., Facebook and Yelp, and include direct links inside the order confirmation email you already send. This makes it easy for customers to share their experience with others.
3. What happens if a customer gives a bad review?
Assuming that you are able to reply in a timely manner, it is often possible to change a negative experience into a positive (or at least less negative) one. Sometimes you may actually turn an upset customer into an advocate if they are thrilled with the way you handle the situation. This is why it is important to select review sites to which you actively pay attention.
Selecting a Customer Advocacy Platform
Customer advocacy platforms help to streamline and optimize your customer advocacy efforts. They may provide immediate alerts of negative reviews. They may offer review incentives to help increase the number of customers saying good things about your brand. Most importantly, they frequently provide an inside channel to your most valuable customers.
The customer advocacy platform space is crowded with dozens of providers. Pricing varies considerably between providers, but few would be considered cheap. When evaluating a particular provider, consider how similar their customers are to your business, whether their product is likely to mesh with your existing workflow, and how their platform ranks on sites like G2Crowd.
The lone vendor in the customer advocacy platform space I was able to identify as offering a free account tier is Promoto.co. Their free offering provides support for up to 50 advocates. This may be a very good option for evaluating whether a customer advocacy solution can work for your company or organization.
Finding a free trial amongst the various vendors is also difficult. CustomerAdvocacy.com offers a free trial, although it is unclear on the duration and/or limitations. Once the trial has ended, pricing is also unclear. However, you may take advantage of the free trial offer to gain a better general understanding of how customer advocacy platforms work, even as you negotiate with the vendor or evaluate whether another solution might be a better option.
Vetted List of Customer Advocacy Tools
While it can be difficult to differentiate the offerings of one vendor from another, I’ve made it easier to evaluate the market by selecting the following vendors that offer customer advocacy platforms.
Cultivate Customer Advocacy for a Win-Win
Customer advocacy is more vital than ever in a globally connected, always on, digital world. On social media, where brands are often viewed with skepticism, your customers’ voices bring authenticity and lend credibility to your own marketing efforts.
When it comes to promoting your company on social media, don’t go it alone! Let your own customers help you build your business and brand.
Do you have a favorite customer advocacy platform? Share your thoughts in the comments!