How to leverage your brand advocates to grow your customer base

The goal of achieving customer satisfaction is not enough in a highly competitive market. After all, what is a satisfied customer? Generally, these are customers who have done little more than given themselves permission to switch brands. This begs the question “Why do they switch brands?”

Imagine this scenario:  a new customer buys and enjoys your product, which works well and has received good service experience, and that’s about it. However, a friend who has purchased your competitor’s product/service, raves about their experience. So the satisfied customer thinks – “Hey, they must have something I’m missing, it has to be better right?” In reality the product may be technically inferior, the service a little less responsive, but the consumer advocate feels as though they are part of something. Perhaps the consumer advocate has been given some special access to the company or is part of larger group that is well organized and energized. The consumer advocate encourages brand switchers and attracts new customers to the brand. Therefore, nurturing consumer advocates is the cornerstone to great brands.

Harley-Davidson and Sea Ray, two of the world’s more well know “lifestyle brands” focus on understanding and growing advocacy. The strategies employed move beyond simple loyalty programs. Newsletters, calendars, magazines and point-based programs do little to build loyalty and even less to encourage advocacy. So how do we, as marketers, create and nurture advocates (see attached).

  1. Leverage membership higher up in the in the customer journey (purchase funnel)
  2. Move from benefits to “access”, the notion of “in the know” is appealing to many buyers
  3. Enable members to take ownership of their brand experience
  4. Provide greater opportunities to socialize and connect. Not an organization but a collection of like-minded enthusiasts

By understanding what energizes your consumer base and focusing their passion outward you can begin building a world-class advocacy program.