Advocacy 101: How Happy Customers Can Help Drive Your Marketing Efforts

Your best customers can be your top ambassadors for your brand, products and services. They are in a unique position to support your business—they love what you offer, and they have earned the trust of their friends, family and followers. Many of them will be happy to share testimonials so you can use their experiences to connect with other potential customers.

When you understand how to harness the power of advocacy in your marketing campaigns, your company’s revenues and brand awareness can skyrocket.

When you’re implementing an advocacy marketing campaign, start by considering how to identify your top customers, how to ask for a customer testimonial and how and where to use those testimonials. Improve your understanding of advocacy and how to foster it in this detailed guide.

What is advocacy marketing?

Word of mouth marketing or advocacy marketing Advocacy marketing is the strategy for turning your customers into your spokespeople via word-of-mouth, social sharing, reviews and testimonials. Your customers amplify your brand and help build your business. In an advocacy marketing campaign, your customers become advocates for your products and brand. They feel so much passion for and connection with your company and its products that they become enthusiastic promoters. Advocacy marketing has two main components—building a business and product that inspires passion and creating outlets where your customers can easily share their positive opinions about your company. Your company needs products and services that create organic, authentic enthusiasm among your customers. So, the first step is to ensure your offerings are as great as they can be. That doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect from day one—some of your biggest fans could be customers who had a problem with your product that you solved. But your products and experiences need to be top-notch so your customers have positive stories to share. Once you’re in a strong position, you can make it easier for your customers to advocate for you. For example, you could:
  • Employ a unique and catchy branded hashtag that captures the essence of your company or product.
  • Implement enticing incentives like exclusive referral discounts, interactive contests or engaging affiliate marketing programs.
  • Enhance your website with prominent social sharing links, making it effortless for visitors to spread the word about your brand.
  • Curate photo and video assets that inspire customers to eagerly share them on popular platforms such as Instagram or TikTok.
The magic of advocacy marketing is that it turns your customers into your spokespeople. So, instead of spending money on brand awareness campaigns, your customers promote your products and brand for you.
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Advocacy marketing is the strategy for turning your customers into your spokespeople via word-of-mouth, social sharing, reviews and testimonials.

Why is advocacy marketing important?

Advocacy marketing gives you some crucial benefits that can position your company for growth and profitability:

  • It’s trustworthy. Customers may distrust what they read in ads or sponsored content, but they are likely to trust what they hear from people like themselves. In fact, a 2022 Nielsen report found that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over other types of advertising, and that percentage is on the rise.
  • It’s effective. Forbes reported that word of mouth increases marketing effectiveness by up to 54 percent. Advocacy marketing can help lower customer acquisition cost (CAC) and may increase lifetime value (LTV). Learn more about the relationship between these two metrics.
  • It keeps your customers engaged. Your advocates are likely to stick with you for the long haul and spend more money on your products and services, and you’re also more likely to retain the customers they refer.
  • It promotes your brand. Advocacy marketing isn’t just about increasing sales and revenue from your products and services. When your customers promote your company, they are helping you build brand recognition.

How is a testimonial different from a review?

Selecting the best advocacy reviews

Your advocates might provide testimonials, reviews or both. While they are similar, they are not the same. A testimonial is a customer’s positive opinion about how a brand or product met or exceeded their needs. You’ll often see testimonials structured as challenge/solution/results. A review often simply states a customer’s opinion about a product or service and could be positive, negative or neutral.

Testimonials give your company a stamp of approval from a trusted source. They are valuable, and you can use them as sales and marketing tools in various places, from proposals and sales decks to your website to advertising campaigns. You can use them in both B2C and B2B marketing. (Take a look at how B2B companies can incorporate online reviews into their marketing strategies.)

Who is responsible for collecting testimonials?

Even your most passionate customers might not share their experiences unprompted. So, you’ll need to identify them and ask for their help. In general, the marketing team is responsible for collecting testimonials. Depending on the size of your company, you may want to assign a marketing team member to work with sales to identify potential advocates. That person can also monitor social media for brand and product mentions and reach out to customers who have shared their positive experiences.
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How to get customer testimonials

Don’t be hesitant to ask your top customers for testimonials. People are often happy to provide feedback in an interview or Q&A session. You can collect information in person or virtually and craft written, audio or video testimonials. Try these strategies to identify your best customers and gather good material:

  • Find advocates with user-generated content campaigns and rewards programs.
  • Survey your customers to ask how likely they are to recommend your product or brand, and then reach out to those who replied, “very likely.”
  • Ask for a testimonial soon after a customer has been pleased with your product or service, and ask personally.
  • Focus your efforts on customers who don’t have to go through a complex approval process with their companies to provide testimonials.
  • Identify multiple customers for testimonials. This gives you a range of positive stories to share and eases the risk of burnout if you’re turning to the same customers for repeat testimonials.
  • Choose customers from different market segments so you have a variety of testimonials. Learn more about how to segment your customers.
  • Keep in touch with customers—new opportunities for testimonials might arise.
  • Show your gratitude to customers who provide testimonials.
  • Recognize your salespeople who provide good sources for testimonials.
  • Be sure your customers understand where and how you will use their testimonials.

When you identify good customers who can provide testimonials, work with them to craft strong content. Good testimonials are specific, informative and valuable. For example:

  • “Lyft gets me where I need to be quickly,” is not a strong testimonial. It doesn’t give potential customers much information or convey any passion.
  • “I can count on Lyft to be there any time I need affordable, dependable transportation. Thanks to the Lyft fleet and the company’s courteous team of drivers, my suburban family only needs one car and we’re saving thousands of dollars a year,” is a better testimonial. Potential customers can see the specific challenge, solution and results Lyft provided for this customer.
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Don’t be hesitant to ask your top customers for testimonials. People are often happy to provide feedback in an interview or Q&A session.

How to use customer testimonials in marketing campaigns

Customer testimonials bring power to your marketing messaging, so be sure to incorporate them wherever you have an opportunity. Here are a few to consider:
  • Use quotes from testimonials in ads.
  • Create a testimonials section on your website and add to it regularly.
  • Share testimonials on social media.
  • Use testimonials in your email newsletter.
  • Feature testimonials as guest posts on your blog.
  • Build in-depth case studies from testimonials.
  • Send out testimonials as part of press releases.
  • Use testimonials in your printed marketing materials.

Examples of advocacy marketing

Advocacy translating to positive business outcomes

Advocacy marketing can take a lot of different forms:

  • Refer-a-friend campaigns. Companies that sell anything from clothing to subscription boxes to hotel rooms to online tools use referral programs to entice their customers to share their products with others. For example, online shopping delivery service Instacart gives new customers a credit of up to $20 on their first order, and the person who referred them gets a $10 credit. When customers finish an order, they get a referral code they can share via text, email or social media.
  • User-generated content. Apple’s #shotoniphone is a prime example. In it, Apple asked people to share photos they took on social media sites using that hashtag. They used the top photos in their advertising campaigns. More than 26 million posts have been tagged with #shotoniphone on Instagram.
  • Giveaways. Starbucks ran a “tweet-a-coffee” campaign where customers could give someone a $5 gift card via tweet. For the first 100,000 people to participate, Starbucks added an enticement—a $5 gift card for the donor.

If you have any type of relationship with your advocates beyond business/customer, be sure to disclose it. For example, if you pay influencers to promote your product or offer affiliate marketing links, you should clarify that in a disclosure. And don’t pull reviews from other sites—either get permission from the person who posted the review or link to it. Consult a lawyer if you have any questions about legal issues in advocacy marketing.

Learn more about advocacy marketing

When you understand and implement a solid advocacy marketing program, your customer base, revenues and brand awareness can skyrocket, and you can build your company’s success. Dive into the details of advocacy marketing by registering for Pragmatic Institute’s Market course today.

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