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What is Customer Advocacy? Turning Loyal Customers into Fervent Crusaders for Your Brand

Customer advocacy is a new strategy for companies that truly want to understand their customers. An optimized customer experience is more important than ever. Many businesses have gone to great lengths to improve their customer service, and for good reason. 

According to an Intercom report, 87% of customer support teams said that customer service expectations have increased in the past year. That’s why brands that focus on building a loyal user base as a cultural mindset within their organization will thrive in this current economy.

Read on to learn the foundations of driving customer advocacy, how customer advocates can boost your bottom line, and strategies for incorporating a customer advocacy program.

What is customer advocacy?

Customer advocacy is when customers are so satisfied with your company’s customer service, product, and nurturing efforts that they actively promote your product, service, or brand to potential customers. Customer advocacy is powerful social proof in an increasingly cynical online environment.

Quite simply, driving customer advocacy is all about laser-focusing on what the customer wants—from understanding what’s best for them to analyzing what they prioritize when purchasing. By truly understanding your customer’s goals, you can drive long-term loyalty and repeat purchases.

Moreover, customer advocacy can create a competitive edge for your brand to stand apart from the competitors. The end goal of driving customer advocacy is to change the overall company culture and make it customer-focused while boosting your inbound lead generation and revenue.

What does a customer advocate do?

In an internet landscape flooded with ads and fantastical claims, customer advocates are your shining beacon for attracting prospects who are on the fence about your product. Customer advocates spread the good news about your brand, and potential customers will find them more credible than your own promotional messages. 

A 2022 report by TINT reveals that 76% of consumers have purchased a product before based on someone else’s recommendation. 

The results of customer advocacy don’t lie and can boost your results when incorporated into your advertising.

That’s why customer advocacy should be a high priority for your customer-facing teams in 2024.


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How you can use the customer advocacy framework to boost your marketing results

So, how do you get started with driving customer advocacy? You can begin by taking a look at the all-important customer advocacy framework—The Hierarchy of Advocate Needs—a prerequisite for organizations who wish to integrate customer advocacy into their business. According to Forrester, “Even an organization sold on the value of customer advocacy may struggle to choose a starting point.

This is where a hierarchical framework is helpful. It can outline exactly what your customer needs and help get a better understanding of their pain points. Here’s an example of The Hierarchy of Advocate needs which divides a customer’s wants into five core areas:

Hierarchy of advocate needs for customer advocacy article

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You can divide these needs into four stages of the buyer’s cycle and map the needs to the customer’s buying journey accordingly. The four stages are:

  • Exploration: In this phase, you need to focus on developing a deeper understanding of your customers by collecting data via surveys and analyzing it.
  • Motivation: This phase involves analyzing your team’s relationships with the user base and motivating the team to provide better support.
  • Activation: Here, the primary focus will be to execute customer-driven solutions to drive a more positive customer experience.
  • Iteration: In the final stage, you should assess what works and what doesn’t to pivot and make iterations accordingly.

The takeaway: Getting the customer advocacy framework right can take some time. Getting the system going will require time, effort, and real-time customer input. This framework can ultimately act as the lifeblood of your business and allow you to execute a rock-solid customer advocacy program within your organization.

Next, let’s look at some of the key customer advocacy strategies that can take your customer program to the next level.

4 strategies to ace your customer advocacy program

After taking a look at the bird’s eye view of customer advocacy, let’s dive into strategies that you can implement in your own customer advocacy program.

Strategy #1: Gather real-time feedback and testimonials

Think of this as the ‘exploration’ stage where you’re getting to know the customer—from understanding their needs and wants to their pain points and challenges. This stage requires businesses to get a pulse of their customers using surveys, polls, and one-on-one interviews, among other things. 

Here are a few questions you can ask your customers:

  • What is it that really matters to them with respect to your product/service?
  • How do they rate the overall experience with your brand/offering?
  • What is it that they like and do not like about your product/service?
  • What is their biggest pain point/challenge?
  • What are the additional features that the customer wants to see in your product/service?

Here’s an excellent example of how you can capture the customer’s pulse by rolling out a personalized and strategic email:

Personalized email marketing example for customer advocacy article

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The takeaway: The more you talk with your customers, the better understanding you will have of who they are and what they need. You can use this data to extract actionable insights and drive a more customized and fulfilling customer experience.

Strategy #2: Provide a stellar customer experience

Delivering a great customer experience today is marked by convenience, speed, and personalization. 

For instance, take this use case: You recently went to an e-commerce store and made a purchase. It’s been a few days, but you didn’t see any updates on the product tracking system.

Instead of writing a formal email and waiting for 24 hours to get a response, you’d prefer to simply visit the website, click on live chat, and get your query resolved. Right?

Personalized live chat example for customer advocacy article

As you can imagine, this adds a personal touch to the user experience and leaves the customer feeling happier and more satisfied as their queries get addressed instantly.

Simple, convenient experiences add cumulative value to your customer’s experience in otherwise inconvenient situations.

The takeaway: Elevating your customer’s experience requires a healthy combination of using intuitive tools such as live chat software and augmenting your human agent’s expertise to the maximum potential. The idea is to deliver a speedy and efficient customer experience that leaves your customers wanting to keep coming back for more.

Strategy #3: Nurture your internal customer advocates

Similar to how charity begins at home, so does customer advocacy. In fact, did you know that “89% of C-Suite marketers recognize that employees as influencers hold immense value for their businesses due to the insider knowledge and authentic advocacy that comes from belief in a shared vision?”

Here are some ideas to foster an internal culture of customer advocacy – and employee advocacy – in your organization:

  • Build a customer advocacy team and drive employee advocacy marketing strategies that focus on how teams can be activated to drive brand advocacy.
  • Share the internal relationships to demonstrate your company culture and attract top talent.
  • Strategize about how to get your employees involved in advocacy programs.
  • Collaboratively map your advocacy goals and objectives with the overall business goals and always communicate the same to your employees.
  • Figure out who the internal stakeholders are and make sure to align with them. This includes your sales team, marketing team, brand communications team, etc.
  • Prioritize your technological needs and drive pilot programs to understand their efficacy with the existing technology.
  • Figure out the relevant metrics to map out the performance and progress of your customer advocacy program.

The takeaway: There needs to be a cultural mindset within the employees and the organization at large to drive a successful customer advocacy program, both internally and externally.

Strategy #4: Utilize customer advocacy tools to empower your customers with a robust platform

This stage entails amplifying your customer’s voice across diverse channels and platforms so that it can literally be seen and heard. If your customers have something positive to stay about the brand, they need to be empowered with the right platforms to voice their thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

For instance, you can drive user-generated content on your brand’s Instagram page. Or you can take it one step further by rewarding your customers for their advocacy efforts, as Starbucks demonstrates below:

Starbucks advocacy rewards example for customer advocacy article

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The takeaway: There are numerous ways to encourage customer feedback–from motivating them to provide a video testimonial to featuring them in a webinar. Considering that 91% of consumers read at least one review before buying from a company, arming your customers with the right channels can turn out to be a game-changer for your business.

In the final section, we discuss some top advantages of having a customer advocacy program.


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More than just marketing: The top benefits of customer advocacy programs

1. Increased brand visibility – spreading the good news

Customer advocacy programs encourage positive word-of-mouth publicity for your brand. In fact, a 2022 TINT report found that 72% of consumers rely more on reviews and testimonials submitted by customers than claims made by the brand itself. 

Another study by Invesp reveals that 64% of marketing executives believe word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing. 

Creating brand advocates increases positive brand visibility for your company: both marketers and customers agree. 

2. Improved engagement & loyalty – using the power of AI

AI plays an important part in customer service, and its role will continue to grow. A recent study shows that by 2025, 95% of all customer interactions will be AI-driven.

In this ricing era of automated customer service, it’s vital to build user trust, as it fosters brand loyalty and engagement.

The more your customers have repeat positive experiences with the brand, the more likely they are to stick with your brand. This, in turn, boosts your brand’s bottom line as well as ROI.

3. Powerful social proof  – user-generated content that will boost your online presence and credibility

Getting social proof has become an industry standard. Social proof also drives user-generated content (UGC) on social media and helps instill a sense of confidence within the user. 

According to a Retail TouchPoints survey, 76% of consumers have bought a product or service they saw on social media. Moreover, data claims that UGC-shared posts have a 28% higher engagement rate compared to standard posts. Additionally, they are 2x more likely to be shared.

4. Shorter sales cycle – customer advocacy eases the process of closing

Good customer advocates can make the beginning steps of the sales process shorter. 

The general outreach and discovery steps found in the first part of the typical outbound sales process will be shortened or eliminated by customer advocacy – when prospects are familiar and warm up to your product or service (through customer advocacy), it will naturally reduce the steps it will take your sales team to close.

Since the user already has unshakable trust with the brand, the sales cycle starts becoming shorter and shorter as users do not have to be convinced of the brand’s expertise or USPs–they already know it and, more importantly, have accepted it.

5. Customer retention – advocacy inspires increased loyalty in the advocate

Customer advocacy can improve your lead generation and positively affect your customer retention. 

From the point of view of the customer advocate, the benefits they’ve received from your company include: 

  • The benefits given by the product or service itself
  • Top-quality customer service, with a good amount of follow-up and nurturing
  • A platform to talk about their experience authentically.

With these benefits in mind, it’s likely that your customer advocate is in it for the long haul. 

In fact, according to Robert Cialdini in his bestselling book Persuasion, customer advocacy encourages retention of the advocate by employing the principles of reciprocity and consistency. 

Good customer advocacy programs allow you to achieve two essential tasks in one go: customer generation and customer retention.

The bottom line

As per data, loyal customers are worth up to 10x the value of their first purchase. Needless to say, not engaging in customer advocacy is a gigantic loss of opportunity for the brand.

If you wish to stay ahead of the pack while delivering a superior customer experience, you need to think of turning your prospects into lifelong brand loyalists–much to the likes of die-hard fans who swear by their preferred brands like Starbucks, Apple, Netflix, etc.

So follow the tips and strategies outlined above and give your customer advocacy program a fighting chance.


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