What is Advocacy Marketing? Complete Guide to Setting Up an Advocacy Marketing Campaign

Advocacy Marketing



Advocacy marketing can be a tremendous boost to your brand’s bottom line. Your loyal customers are a huge asset that can work to build word-of-mouth marketing for your business, your brand and its products. But you need to know how to direct and harness the power of your brand loyalists’ enthusiasm and engagement so that they work most effectively to build sales. Keep reading for some tips on how to build an advocacy marketing campaign that lives up to its full potential for your brand.

7 Tips for Setting Up an Advocacy Marketing Campaign

  1. Strategize Your Advocacy Campaigns
  2. Measure What Matters
  3. Identify Your Existing Advocates
  4. Enlist the Support of Your Best Brand Advocates
  5. Set Brand Advocates Up for Success
  6. Take Advice from Influential Advocates
  7. Recognize and Engage Your Advocates

An advocacy marketing strategy is one of the most effective tools you can add to your brand marketing toolbox. It’s often more effective than traditional business advertising. While savvy consumers are hesitant to trust a brand campaigning on its own behalf, they are much more likely to trust a third-party recommendation from a respected expert. 

Some strategists insist that advocacy marketing is the most effective form of marketing strategy. Roughly 50% of consumers ask friends or family or search the internet for product reviews before making a major purchase. Engaging with your loyal fans and harnessing their word of mouth to drive sales is an extremely smart play. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to do so to your brand’s best advantage.

What is Advocacy Marketing?

Advocacy marketing is when you use your happy customers and fans to help build additional sales. After all, consumers are more likely to trust other consumers’ reviews and recommendations than they are to trust what they see as traditional business marketing. A third-party endorsement carries much more credibility than anything your brand can say about itself. That’s why enlisting your satisfied customers to tell their stories about their brand experiences can be a highly effective marketing strategy.

There are a few different types of brand advocates that are often effective:

  • Friends and family
  • Professional experts
  • Retail sales associates
  • Celebrity influencers

Friends and family – 85% of consumers report taking advice from friends or family before making a major purchase. Although their reach isn’t typically very broad, advocates for your brand are highly likely to influence the buying decisions of their own friends and family.

Professional experts – Brand advocates with a particular area of professional expertise are often trusted by consumers, even if not known personally. Firefighters, doctors, police officers, professional chefs and many others are respected for having expertise and their opinions carry a lot of weight.

Retail sales associates – Because of their close proximity to a particular business or brand, those who work in the retail space are respected for their level of knowledge and expertise related to that brand. While their online credibility is somewhat compromised because of their sales role, sales associates have tremendous power to influence sales decisions at the point of transaction.

Celebrity influencers – Professional athletes, celebrities, career bloggers and self-proclaimed social media influencers often have an extremely broad reach, so they can help get your brand in front of a lot of eyes. Statistics are on your side – with many people spending up to two hours a day on social media, chances are high that if you partner with high-profile social media influencers, you can get your brand seen by a high number of their followers. 

This strategy is great for generating short-term buzz or a spike in social media conversations. But don’t let this type of influencer be your only brand advocate. Generally, the credibility associated with celebrity influencers isn’t very high since they aren’t experts. 

This is where it’s important to distinguish between influencer marketing and advocacy marketing. Social media personalities have the power to influence their followers, but rarely do they emerge as true brand advocates since they don’t take the time and effort to deeply know and understand a particular brand or product. By contrast, brand advocates don’t bring the notoriety or glitz of a traditional social media influencer, but they make up for that with their deep product knowledge and air of authenticity. In other words, they can build trust with their social networks more quickly and effectively. Brand advocates are usually more likely to help build longer-lasting relationships with new customers instead of short-term hype.

What are the Benefits of Advocacy Marketing?

Advocacy marketing’s biggest benefit is its credibility. Here are some fun facts about how the strategy associated with advocate marketing can build your brand:

  • 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations – regardless of whether they know the person giving the recommendation.
  • 82% of consumers seek out product reviews and consumer advice before making a major purchase.
  • Some studies show that for every 12% in advocacy a brand achieves, it can expect a 200% growth in revenue.

In addition to increasing the number of conversions, advocacy efforts also tend to increase the average amount per order. Advocacy marketing also helps reduce the number of customer returns due to overall increased customer satisfaction. This, in turn, encourages the continued advocacy of your customers. 

7 Tips for Setting Up an Advocacy Marketing Campaign

To follow are a few basic steps you can follow to set up a successful advocacy campaign for your business.

1. Strategize Your Advocacy Campaigns

Don’t start a brand advocacy program without having a strategy for where you want to go. What is the purpose of your campaign and how will you measure its business success? Are you looking to build buzz and awareness around a new product launch? Boost sales for a lagging product? How long will the campaign run? What are your specific goals around reach, engagement, conversions and sales? Make sure you know where you’re going so you can put appropriate measures in place and communicate them clearly to brand advocates participating in your advocacy program.

One of the historical limitations of traditional word-of-mouth marketing was the inability to effectively measure its true business effect, but the digital world has largely changed that. Now marketers can measure the effectiveness of online brand advocacy and optimize content where necessary, repurposing it on their own social, advertising and e-commerce channels that are proven to drive conversions. According to some experts, defining what success will look like for your program is the single most valuable thing you can do to set up your advocacy marketing strategy for success.

2. Measure What Matters

Once you know what you want to achieve with your advocacy program, you can set up the right measures from the beginning. To measure overall brand awareness, look at brand reach metrics and impressions. Who’s sharing your content the most? How far is it reaching? You want to be able to track the digital traffic and conversions provided by each brand advocate. You can do this by assigning specific tracking codes to each of your enlisted brand advocates. This allows you to measure the traffic they send your way. You can also create special discount codes for their followers to use so that each sale is tracked back to the influencer who sent the consumer your way.

Be sure to measure the overall success of each platform. Where do your advocates perform the best? What are the best times to post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook? By analyzing your performance data, you can determine which social media channel is most effective for your particular brand. 

3. Identify Your Existing Advocates

It’s important to invite the right advocates so you can get the best business results for your brand. Hopefully, you can already identify your most vocal and passionate brand advocates. You see their social media posts using your brand hashtags and can see how they tag your brand in their posts. These are the people whose help and support you can enlist first. As your advocate marketing strategy grows, look for ways to engage with brand advocates at every stage of the consumer buying journey. Start with your own existing fanbase. Organic, authentic and passionate brand love is always better than paid love, so work from the inside out when identifying your most powerful existing advocates.

4. Enlist the Support of Your Best Brand Advocates

Once you’ve identified your potential advocates, reach out to them and invite them to enroll in your advocate marketing program. This is an ideal way to show some of your biggest fans how much you appreciate them and value their expertise. You can put a mechanism in place that invites customers to become part of your advocacy program immediately after they report having a positive experience with your brand – for instance, immediately after submitting a positive review. In addition, you can also put out a call for brand advocates on your website and social networks, driving interested fans to an online form they can submit to be considered for your brand advocacy marketing program.

5. Set Brand Advocates Up for Success

The brand advocates you enlist will have different levels of expertise, experience and skill. Your job is to arm each of them with what they need to be successful at advocate marketing. For example, a 20-year sales veteran will know more about your products and be more likely to drive conversions than someone who is enthusiastic but inexperienced. But your brand can benefit from having both types of advocates on board. And with the right support, beginners can advance their skills quickly.

Most importantly, advocates need the opportunity to interact with your brand and its products on a regular basis. The more authentic experiences they have with your brand, the better able they are to spread the word authoritatively within their spheres of influence. They need to know, understand and be passionate about your brand’s products in order to provide the most powerful kind of recommendation – one that’s personal and authentic. Studies show up to 83% of recommendations are tied to an original, personal experience with a brand or product.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that your customer advocates are basically an unpaid sales force – they’re a team of professionals helping drive sales just because they want to and because they feel passionate about your products. Give them unprecedented access, discounts and pro deals, sneak peeks at new products and behind-the-scenes access to your production facilities. Your customer advocates need access and information unavailable to the general public. Make them feel like part of the team – and that may mean training them as part of the team, too. Make sure they’re well-versed in what makes your products stand out from the pack and give them the knowledge they’ll need to be successful advocates within a crowded marketplace. The sense of exclusivity can reap huge dividends for your brand.

6. Take Advice from Influential Advocates

In addition to driving sales, brand advocates can help improve a brand’s product line. Invite feedback from the very beginning and make sure your advocates feel empowered to communicate with you. Your brand’s access to the knowledgeable, authentic product reviews, recommendations and user-generated content can provide you with important insights. 

Your brand advocates will feel empowered when they know you’re listening. They’ll feel like they’re truly part of the team and their feedback can help improve the products they already love. Don’t be the brand that asks for feedback but then never acts on it – let your advocates see that their opinions and recommendations are valued and worthy of action.

7. Recognize and Engage Your Advocates

At the end of the day, the consumers that have the most positive experiences with your brand will be your most vocal and loyal customer advocates. It’s important to ensure that they continue to have amazing brand experiences – including being recognized when they’re making a difference and doing great work for your brand. 

For many brand advocates, personal recognition and positive engagement with the brand are key motivating factors. In fact, some research shows that financial motivation among brand advocates is nearly non-existent. Instead, they want to engage and form a relationship with the brands they love – they want to be wooed and appreciated for the contributions they’re making. Brand advocates also like knowing they’re helping other people make good buying decisions. 

If you want to take things a step further, encourage your advocates to engage with each other. This sense of teamwork and camaraderie can be an added bonus to your program. Experts often enjoy connecting with other experts around some of their favorite topics and brands.

One of the most important things to remember when you start your advocacy marketing campaign is that you’re playing a long game. You’re developing relationships that can better your brand over the long term, so be prepared to put the right kind of time into nurturing these relationships.

Advocacy Marketing FAQs

What’s the difference between Marketing and Advocacy?

While the two are certainly related, the primary differences are with the source, the intensity and the direction of the message. Most consumers today are familiar with the tactics of traditional marketing. They know it’s fairly easy for a brand to say whatever it wants about itself, so it’s harder to trust the claims that come from traditional marketing or advertising sources. 

Advocate marketing comes from a third party, someone that the consumer typically views as an expert in a particular area. Brand advocates typically aren’t paid to spread the word about your brand, which lends authenticity and increases their credibility in the eyes of the consumer. The most important ingredient in a successful advocacy marketing strategy is trust. True, authentic third party advocates are the most likely to earn that trust.

Since brand advocates are talking about their own authentic experiences, they are more qualified to convey passion and enthusiasm for your brand than even your own internal marketing team. Once again, it comes down to trust. Advocates can shout your praises from the rooftops and still maintain their credibility.

Traditional marketing typically moves in a single direction – from your brand to consumers. But advocacy marketing can move in multiple directions at the same time – from your brand to your advocates, then back to your brand and across to the social networks of each one of your advocates – and then back to the brand again in a continuous feedback loop. It’s more of an ongoing conversation with the marketplace.

How effective is Advocacy Marketing?

Very effective. In fact, some studies show that as much as 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations, and roughly 82% of people look for online reviews and recommendations before they make a major purchase. As far back as 2011, 46% of American brand executives said that an increase in brand advocates was one of the most important benefits associated with social media. 

Some studies show that consumer-to-consumer word of mouth can generate more than two times the sales compared to traditional paid advertising or marketing efforts. According to Deloitte, customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate than the general customer population. That means your efforts toward setting up an effective advocacy marketing strategy are likely to pay off in a big way.

How can I make it easier for my customers to become Advocates?

The first step is to know who your most vocal customers are and reach out to them directly. Just make sure that you have the right kind of monitoring tools so you can identify them. You also can advertise your advocacy marketing program and let people know what steps they need to take to become part of your advocate marketing program. If you let your most vocal fans know you could use their help, chances are they’ll respond positively. Consider partnering with an advocacy marketing company like ExpertVoice to do the heavy lifting for you.

How ExpertVoice Can Help with Advocacy Marketing?

One of the best ways to maintain an effective advocacy marketing strategy is to partner with a company that knows how to gather your most trusted advocates, strengthen their recommendations and put them to work. With the right partner, you can make sure your program both increases brand affinity and boosts the bottom line.

As the world’s largest advocacy marketing company, ExpertVoice can help you achieve your goals. We partner with some of the world’s biggest brands — Purina, Black Diamond, Columbia, Vega and more — to create and execute advocacy marketing campaigns that drive sales. In fact, we’ve developed a robust community of more than a million experts that we can put to work for your brand – and we drive up to 250,000 brand-to-expert interactions every week.

Every brand in existence has the same goal – to sell more products. In order to succeed, you need to build great customer experiences. Encourage your loyal customers to spread the word about your products. Often, the most talked-about brands are those that take the time and effort to build solid relationships with their brand advocates. And while enlisting the support of brand advocates can be a highly effective part of your marketing strategy, it’s important to do it right from the beginning and to clearly articulate and share outcomes. 

We can help. Contact us today to learn more about how ExpertVoice and our community of experts can shape a successful advocacy marketing strategy for your brand.

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