If you’ve ever heard a friend gush about a restaurant they love or a colleague proclaim how a product cut the time they spent on a tedious task in half, then you know the power of customer advocacy. Clever taglines and persuasive copy play their part, but one of the most convincing arguments for any product or brand is a current customer who unabashedly adores it.
The people who don’t just like your company, but love it enough to practice long-term brand loyalty and recommend it to friends and colleagues, are called customer advocates. Part of what makes customer advocacy so valuable to brands is that it can’t be bought. Customers won’t talk that way about a product unless it’s genuine.
But while customer advocacy is not something you can buy, it is something you can invest in. You can translate the enthusiasm your most committed customers have into valuable marketing and sales opportunities if you approach it strategically. And your first step is finding your customer advocates.
Make sure your company and products are worth loving
The hard truth is that not every company will have customer advocates—it’s not a given. Before creating a strategy around customer advocates, you have to have a company and products that merit the enthusiasm customer advocacy requires.
That means actively soliciting and listening to customer feedback in order to make sure your products, marketing, and customer service are all satisfactory (or even better, exceptional). It means focusing on your customers in your marketing as much as you do your prospects. And it means developing a company culture that centers the customer experience.
If the five strategies below don’t lead you to some customer advocates, then you may need to take a step back and look for opportunities to improve your products and customer service first.
Five ways to find your customer advocates
The first step to working with customer advocates is finding them. Here are a few steps to help you identify the customers most excited about your brand.
1. Create customer advocate personas
Marketers are already familiar with the concept of customer personas, but Lindsey Boyd, Brand Marketing Specialist at Khoros, says her company started their search for customer ambassadors by applying that same practice to a new purpose.
“We identified different types of personas that we wanted to highlight as engaged customers,” she explains. The personas helped her team clarify how to spot the customers who were “the most enthusiastic because they were engaging with us on that deeper level.”
They focused on two main personas: strategic decision makers and power platform users. Using each persona helped them better match the people they found to the purposes they had in mind.
“The strategic decision makers might not be in our platform every day but they oversee the teams that are and help set the strategy for their teams,” she explains. These are usually the best customers to work with on collaborative content creation and any opportunities that help them build a personal brand.
The power users are the people who use the product every day. They’re great for getting detailed and direct product feedback.
A good customer advocacy strategy will include a number of different plans for working with your customer advocates. Personas help you more strategically find the best advocates for the specific tactics you aim to employ.
2. Share the personas with relevant contacts throughout the company
Marketing shouldn’t try to shoulder the search alone. In fact, your sales and customer support departments are even better situated to identify customer advocates since they have more direct access to customers.
So once you’ve created your personas, make sure you share them with all the departments that have any interaction with your customers. Ask them to be on the lookout for any customers who match the personas and send them your way.
3. Pay attention to your reviews
Reviews are one of the best windows you have into what your customers are thinking. And every glowing review you receive isn’t just a ringing public endorsement of your company, it’s an alert that you have a happy customer.
And since less than a third of consumers say they’re likely to give a review after a good experience, the people who do take the time are likely to be in the top brass of customers who like you. Look for reviews that use superlative language like “love” and “best”—these customers aren’t shy about sharing their passion about you.
A review alone isn’t a guarantee that a happy customer is advocate material. Boyd explains that it can be a great way to spot enthusiastic customers, but her team also works “very closely with our Customer Success team to help determine our candidates for customer advocacy.”
A review can tip you off that it’s worth looking more closely into the customer’s relationship with your company by talking to your customer service team and digging into your data to see if they’re a good fit with one of your personas.
4. Practice social listening
The other big outlet customers use to share their opinions about a company is social media. Tracking hashtags and brand mentions on social media is one of the tactics Boyd and her team used to find potential brand ambassadors.
A number of social listening tools are now available to make it easy for you to cut through the noise on the platforms to quickly find customers talking about your brand and products. Any time you see someone singing your praises, you know to give them a closer look to see if they fit into one of the personas you’ve created.
5. Keep your customer info in one place
All of the customer advocacy tips on this list so far require paying attention to information from a range of channels. Social media, customer service inquiries, sales data, reviews—you can quickly get overwhelmed trying to manage it all.
Boyd recommends finding a centralized place to keep all the customer data you have organized and up-to-date.
“We’ve added an object in Salesforce called ‘advocacy tracking,’” she says. The tag gives representatives in different departments an easy way to flag owners who might match one of the personas, so that everyone can see. And just as importantly, it helps the marketers involved in the brand ambassador program keep track of how often they’ve communicated with each advocate.
Boyd emphasizes that they want to be “mindful of how often we ask them to participate in marketing.” They don’t want to ask too much of any one customer. A well-organized database helps with that.
Finding your best customers is the start
The work of identifying your most enthusiastic customers is an important first step in building a larger strategy around customer advocacy. Next, you need to work out a plan for nurturing your relationships with your customer advocates and amplifying their voices.
Subscribe to RampedUp.us below and be one of the first to read the follow-up blog on how to work with customer advocates.