In today’s always-on culture, word literally travels instantly. Whatever your customers are saying about you can spread beyond their friends and family, across the world, with just a few clicks. That’s why customer advocacy is so important, especially for knowledge brands that largely rely on their reputation as experts to find new customers and grow revenue. Online communities are a powerful way to bring customers together in a trusted space so they have the opportunity to recommend to others.
What is customer advocacy?
Customer advocacy describes the act of building and nurturing relationships with loyal customers, who then become champions of your brand and products. Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to attract potential customers, as its highly trusted by consumers. In fact, 88% of people have the highest level of trust in a brand when a friend or family member recommends it. Referrals are up to four times more effective than other marketing and advertising efforts.
Learning from B2C
It’s a tactic that B2C brands have been doing for a while now. Beauty and fashion brands in particular have built communities of loyal customers who swap beauty and outfit ideas. Sephora’s beauty insiders is one such example, where customers discuss their favorite makeup products, show off selfies, and join beauty challenges. How can those tactics translate to your brand?
The role of online communities
Online communities are powerful customer advocacy tools as they:
- Put the most dedicated customers front and center
- Bring them together with prospective ones
- Provides a platform for loyal customers to endorse and advocate on a brand’s behalf
How to create customer advocates
1. Identify your champions
The process of bringing customer advocacy to life starts by knowing your champions. Having an online community simplifies this process because you can identify who often attends events, engages most regularly with discussions, and who generates their own content for it.
2. Invite them to engage
Invite those customers to become advocates, either by spotlighting their contributions to the community (like case studies or articles), or by providing them with speaking opportunities, both within the community and at external events. They could even become part of an exclusive ‘room’ in your community for advocates, where they can see the latest products, get early access to products, attend events, or get perks and discounts.
3. Share their stories
Customer stories are an effective way to convince prospects to convert. These can be shared in the community, but also repurposed for other marketing efforts like your website blog, PR, or on social media.
4. Get their feedback
As well as providing a trusted space for customers to advocate for your brand, they can also contribute feedback on your product and communications ideas. Giving them a voice and steer in your brand direction can boost loyalty and encourage them to refer others.
As Ben Johnson, Magazine Editor at Nature Medicine at Nature Portfolio explains, “Zapnito has given us a platform for community discussion around our journals, with little development time needed from us, helping to raise our visibility and strengthen our relationship with the research community. I would highly recommend them.”
5. Diversify your revenue
A key part of business growth comes when you diversify your revenue streams. Knowledge brands can achieve this through sponsored content and brand placement, events, membership tiers, and private rooms, courses, and advertising. And all of this can be tested beforehand with your customer advocates to understand how best to position it, or if it works for your target market in the first place.
Better still, if your beta testers like your new products, they can then champion it as part of your launch and encourage other customers to consider it.
Set apart from traditional tactics
What sets a community apart from traditional customer advocacy tactics is the two-way engagement it creates. The community provides value for your members in the form of networking, learning, and exclusive content. By getting this value upfront, their subsequent advocacy is not forced. Your community members feel like they are a part of your brand and want to share their positive experiences naturally. This gives their advocacy a greater sense of authenticity that will encourage others to take a closer look at your brand. You create a win-win situation.
Creating exponential growth
Once you’ve acquired a new customer through advocacy, you can create a virtuous cycle by nurturing them through their customer journey. As they gain more value from your community, they will feel encouraged to invite others to join. In doing so, you don’t just get a new customer through your community, but you gain a new customer advocate. In that way, the word about your brand will spread exponentially.
This kind of community-led growth is a powerful, and sustainable, way to spread the word about your brand among a target audience, increase stickiness and retention, and boost customer lifetime value. To find out more about community-led growth, read our latest ebook.