Building Your Customer Advocacy Program: Step-by-Step Guide

When it's time to make a purchase decision, nobody on Earth is more influential than someone who's been in your shoes.
Andrew Parker
18 Dec

When it's time to make a purchase decision, nobody on Earth is more influential than someone who's been in your shoes.

Paid ads and company-sourced content get prospects in the door. But customers won't sign the dotted line without knowing for sure that others have seen success.

Voices championing your brand do more for your sales and marketing than any other asset. 92% of B2B buyers are likelier to make a purchase when they see a positive review, and social proof can increase your conversion rate by 270%.

Companies know all about the value of customer reviews, referrals, and success stories. That's why they invest in customer advocacy programs.

What is a customer advocacy program, exactly?

"Customer advocacy" refers to a customer voluntarily endorsing your brand or its products. A customer advocacy program is an ongoing, intentional effort to encourage this endorsement through reviews and testimonials, or by participating in marketing activities like case studies and customer referral calls.

Creating a successful customer advocacy program means...

  • fostering strong relationships with highly engaged customers
  • encouraging them to speak out for your brand
  • using a customer advocacy platform that makes it easy for them to do so
  • rewarding them for their participation in program activities
  • integrating user-generated content into your sales and marketing efforts

...with the ultimate goal of demonstrating your credibility, driving more sales, and increasing customer loyalty.

Types of customer advocacy

There are multiple ways satisfied customers can become rockstar brand ambassadors.

  • Social media shares
  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Referrals
  • Reference calls
  • Case studies
  • Speaking engagements
  • Customer advisory boards

Your customer advocates come in all shapes and sizes. 

Some will have no problem leaving a review on G2 Crowd or sending you a quick written testimonial. Others are happy to take a hands-on approach and hop on a reference call alongside a sales rep.

The core focus of your customer advocacy strategy should be to play to each customer's strengths and interests.

Setting up your customer advocacy program from scratch

1. Clearly map out your goals.

Your customer advocacy efforts are like every other marketing initiative. To get the most out of this, you have to clearly define...

  • why you're doing it
  • where it fits in your marketing plan
  • how your sales team will use it
  • who your audience is
  • what they're looking for

That way, you can encourage feedback that reinforces your value prop, feels relatable to prospects, and is useful to your overall marketing strategy.

Then, tie it all to KPIs you want to improve — web traffic, conversions, retention, sales cycle time, inbound lead gen.

2. Centralize everything.

For whatever reason, tools seem to be an afterthought for most companies. But, out of all the reasons you can't scale your customer marketing program, software is the solution to pretty much every one.

If you want to turn loyal customers into brand advocates, start by thinking about how they'll interact with your brand and the tools you use to enhance those interactions.

Look for a tool that:

  • Seamlessly integrates with your CRM
  • Onboards customers with zero friction
  • Allows them to choose their preferred activities from a variety of options
  • Makes it easy for them to share content or create reviews/testimonials
  • Uses AI to repurpose their feedback as case studies and dynamic web content
  • Smart-matches prospects with the right customer advocate so your sales team doesn't miss the mark.

Otherwise, you'll get one or two pieces of customer feedback. But you'll struggle to do it again, and again, and again.

Skip the investment now, and you'll end up backtracking later.

3. Choose the best advocates for your program.

You want to avoid turning your brand-advocate relationships into transactional ones. When you launch your customer advocacy initiatives, start with existing customers who:

  • Know your brand
  • Have high product (or service) engagement
  • Genuinely believe in both

Once you've narrowed it down, figure out what motivates these candidates to speak up. 

Forrester analyzed dozens of successful advocacy programs and found four common types of advocates:

  • Educators want to be sources of helpful information because it reinforces their personal brand.
  • Validators are happy to endorse your product, but they prefer private recognition for doing so.
  • Status seekers want to be influencers and thought leaders (if they aren't already).
  • Collaborators are creatives who prefer to be involved in co-creating content.

To create a mutually beneficial relationship between you and your customers, you need to identify which type of person they are. Then, you have to channel their motivations to make their participation fulfilling.

For example, a Collaborator might think a full-fledged case study is the coolest idea in the world (so they'd respond in a timely manner, and it'd actually get done). Meanwhile, Educators are your most likely candidates for reference calls.

4. Reach out with a clear request, offer, and incentive.

This could be something as simple as:

"Leave us a review on G2 Crowd. When you do, we'll give you $20 off your next month."

But...think bigger.

With a customer advocacy platform, you can send a simple invitation email to your most loyal customers. They can onboard themselves through a series of questions, set their preferences, and give their first customer feedback within a few minutes.

5. Personalize the experience as much as possible.

Like I pointed out above, there are several different types of advocates. They'll all have different communication styles and preferences (based on their own motivations).

  • Allow them to share their schedule
  • Give a variety of advocacy tasks for them to choose from (e.g., reviews, case studies, reference calls)
  • Match them with prospects in your sales pipeline who have similar needs and use cases

6. Build a transparent reward system.

Although each loyal customer will have intrinsic motivators, you still have to make things interesting and rewarding for them.

Assign a value to each advocacy activity that's proportional to the customer's input.

  • For customer referral programs, this is normally a % of the contract value.
  • For reviews and testimonials, you might award points or badges they can eventually redeem for product discounts.
  • For user-generated content, you can offer value-based rewards like access to exclusive content or new features.
  • For a case study, it might be public recognition for PR value.

On their end, they should be able to see their progress towards different rewards. On yours, you'll see which customers have contributed what.

7. Scale advocacy across sales and marketing.

Once you've developed a scalable system for gathering customer feedback and UGC, take your goals from Step 1. Then, find out how you can use what you've gathered to achieve them.

  • Placing testimonials on your website to boost web conversions
  • Writing articles that address the most common pain points
  • Repurposing UGC across company socials to create brand awareness
  • Curating customer success stories micro-case studies

Give your sales and marketing team access to your customers' insights, so they can incorporate them into their content, cold outreach, and sales conversations.

8. Keep your customers engaged.

Customer loyalty programs should have some overlap with your advocacy activities. A weekly newsletter and occasional webinar for your most engaged customers can keep them in the loop, while also giving them a sense of exclusivity.

This is where you can talk about new product features, upcoming events and conferences you'll be attending, and company news. You could use these channels to invite them to beta test new features, too.

And, of course, use these messages to shout out your most active and loyal customers and reinforce their value. 

Customer satisfaction is great. It's even better when you know what to do with it. With Deeto, all your advocates are in one place, for your sales and marketing teams to turn into true brand ambassadors. See how it works.