4 steps to growing your advocacy marketing strategy

Advocacy Marketing



Female consumer window shoppingNearly every brand on the planet has the same goal: to sell more products. And nearly every brand on the planet knows that in order to do so, they need to influence consumer purchasing behavior. The key to doing this is to tap into the people consumers believe, trust, and take recommendations from. And that means you need a killer advocacy marketing strategy.

On average — for better or worse — people spend close to two hours a day on social media. So even though influencers are a dime a dozen (especially if they’re the fashion and lifestyle type), brands use them because eyeballs are bound to land on a product ad. But every so often, a different kind of influencer comes into play, and magic is made.


Let’s look at an example.

In September 2017, Chip and Joanna Gaines announced a new product line — Hearth and Hand — in partnership with Target. The home makeover duo have a massive empire with a real estate business, home decor products, a print magazine, and even a B&B they renovated on their popular show Fixer Upper. There’s also the Silos in Waco, Texas, a market which houses a bakery and a restaurant and gardens and summer night concerts. With Hearth and Hand, every aficionado can bring home a piece of JoJo’s signature farmhouse style at an affordable price. It further solidifies the Gaines name as a household one, and contributes to the perception that of all the big box retailers out there, Target is the chicest.

Target is no stranger to partnerships — Missoni, Lilly Pulitzer, and Jason Wu are other best-selling partnerships — but Chip and Jo aren’t high fashion designers providing a few items for a low-priced mainstream. Although their Magnolia Market conglomerate is enormous, they are the Texas-forever type, who seem to have heart eye emojis for each other, and a surprisingly unaffected way of communicating their gosh-darn-wholesomeness. They also have 13 million Instagram followers between them (Joanna, unsurprisingly, has more than double the amount of followers). Perform this little experiment: open up Google, type in Joanna Gaines, and then pick a noun. Hair, curls, shirt, jeans, makeup, flip flops…virtually anything she has worn  has been sought after.

Joanna Gaines is more than just an influencer, and Target knows it.

Not every brand is lucky enough to have the literal one in a million expert who becomes the most trusted brand advocate in home design and décor. But every brand has experts out there who are just as passionate, just as knowledgeable, and just as excited about sharing what they love with those around them. And the brands who stop worrying about follower count, and start worrying about who the followers trust are the brands who grow experts into advocates.

But first…

What in the world is an expert?

Male standing at a grill with a girlThink back to the summer you finally decided to get an outdoor grill. You started researching the different options — charcoal, gas and propane, pellet — and weighed which would be right for your grilling needs. You entered search terms into Google. You read up on the latest technologies. You even crowdsourced by asking your Facebook friends for recommendations. And then you took those recommendations into consideration with the reviews you found online. Ultimately you went with the grill your friend Mark swears by. After all, Mark is the guy frying up baby back ribs in the dead of winter — he even makes his own rub. It’s not that the online recommendations weren’t helpful; they led you in the direction you were looking for. But you know Mark, you trust him, you’ve eaten the food he’s made on the grill, and you know he has your best interests in mind.

There’s another reason you went with Mark’s recommendation: He isn’t being paid for it.

Want to grow your sales? Grow your advocates.

Mark is an expert. He’s also an advocate. A powerful advocate. How do you ensure experts like Mark are telling your story, and recommending your products to their friends?

  1. Target them. You can’t inform Mark’s product recommendations (beyond traditional advertising) without first developing a relationship. How do you identify people like Mark? Start with the obvious, like retail sales associates and category professionals. It turns out Mark moonlights at his brother’s specialty retailer store on the weekends, and if you begin to build a relationship with Mark and others like him, your ability to influence recommendations just increased at least 4 times according to this research study.
  2. Make them feel special. Anyone who claims they don’t want to be wooed in one way or another is probably lying. A recent survey found that experts (category professionals and retail sales associates) care very little about financial compensation. They like knowing that their advice and recommendations helped someone else. In other words, while many of them work because making money is important, many of them work in their field because they love helping others. Pay them back not with financial rewards, but with cool experiences, extra rewards, and access to discounted products.
  3.  Keep them engaged. Experts like Mark aren’t just run-of-the-mill consumers, they want to dig deeper. Give them the innovation and technological information that nobody else has. Educate them on exactly what makes your new product line better than others on the market. Provide them with ways to learn about your brand, from values to history to product offerings. When armed with this kind of information, their recommendations grow significantly in frequency and quality. In fact, if they work in a retail environment, they’re going to see a 9.5% increase in their sales 
  4. When it comes to service, be extra. “We aren’t worried about giving good service,” said no brand ever. And yet few brands treat their recommenders with that extra oomph that leads to serious loyalty. What does that mean in the context of advocates? If you have a product seeding program, accept returns. Have a dedicated person to help nurture those advocate relationships. Open up the curtain a little and give your top tier advocates a peek into what happens behind-the-scenes. The old adage is true: it can take just minutes to destroy a lifelong relationship, and while every experience matters, your advocates are especially important. Treat them as such.


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