Want to Create Real Brand Advocates? Try These 17 Strategies
By Forbes Agency Council
Word-of-mouth has always been one of the most powerful marketing tools around. When employees and customers actively promote your brand, the individuals in their social circles receive first-hand information from real people they know and trust. It creates a degree of authenticity that simply can’t be achieved through other “hard sell” or paid marketing tactics. In fact, according to research by Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust brand advocates over other forms of advertising.
But brand advocacy can’t be faked, forced or bought. As a brand, you have to give people a reason to spread the word; they need to have such a great experience that they can’t help but tell their friends and family about your company.
According to members of Forbes Agency Council, here are 17 ways you can effectively encourage employees and consumers to advocate for your brand.
1. Create Value For Them
Through being a great collaborator, understand what is valuable to your clients and employees. As your engagements with both of them grow, you need to do a great job of aligning outcomes from work with what they find valuable. It’s very easy for a client or an employee to be an advocate of your brand when you’ve helped them grow and problem solve. You have to give as much as, or more than, you take. – Alan Morte, Three Ventures Technology, Inc.
2. Give Employees Ownership Over Their Work
When employees feel invested in your product or service and are given ownership in what they create, they organically become an advocate for your brand. Their enthusiasm for what they do, and who they do it with, begins to show up in casual conversations, on social media and in their interactions with clients. – Abby Downing, ZinePak
3. Show Your Progress
Too often leaders try to change the way people act to get the results they want but forget to change the way people think or what they believe, which is what truly drives results. Adding value never goes out of style. Making progress has been proved to be the greatest motivator at work. Connectivity bridges value you bring with the progress that you have made. – Guillermo Mazier, Atlas Advertising
4. Make Your Message Easy To Share
Most clients and staff want to be brand advocates if they feel good about the company. But time and life get in the way, so you have to make it really simple and easy for them to share. The best way we’ve found to do this is through social sharing tools and social media management systems. The brand leaders create the messages and broadcast them and then clients and staff share. It works. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group
5. Do Fun, Sharable Stuff
I had a realization when our company went bowling on a Tuesday afternoon. As I looked around at our employees at the bowling alley, most of them had their phones out and were creating snaps for SnapChat and posts on Instagram. What I learned? Doing fun stuff encourages employees to share and become advocates for your brand. – Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
6. Show Them They’re Part Of Something Bigger
People want to be a part of something big, and when they are, they are proud of it. Steve Jobs didn’t earn the loyalty of his employees by being charming nor by offering incentives; Jobs earned loyalty because he strived to “make a ding in the universe.” Dream big, build an outline to reach your goals, hire employees who share your passion, and then share your vision with them. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing
7. Be Honest, Consistent And Transparent
Brands with the most loyal advocates are those that are honest, consistent and able to resonate beyond the superficial. Because they’re honest, audiences want to align with their mission and see them succeed. Because they’re consistent, consumers know what they’re going to get. And because they transcend the superficial, they connect with something substantial and real within each individual. – Gretel Going, Channel V Media
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
Simply ask and make it really easy for them when you do. From sending them email reminders to give you a review on Yelp, Google or Facebook, to asking them for simple testimonials that you hope to use in marketing materials, there are so many simple possibilities. Never be afraid to ask! The worst they could say is no. – Nicole Rodrigues, NRPR Group, LLC
9. Get To Know Them Better
When you ask better questions, you get answers worth listening to. Take the time to engage in dialogues that help you discover where your company values intersect with the individual values of employees and customers. Wherever you find alignment, you have discovered those who will naturally advocate for your brand. – Jackie Dryden, Savage Brands
10. Be A ‘Go-Giver’
When we approach everything we do in life from an “others first” perspective, countless and surprising benefits can occur. In his best-selling book, The Go-Giver, author Bob Burg encourages readers to go-give as opposed to go-get. Give first, without expectation of receiving anything back in return; then give more than you receive. Who wouldn’t advocate for that? – Marie Swift, Impact Communications, Inc.
11. Share Your Personality
Your employees and your customers want to be part of an authentic brand. It is critical to ensure that your brand has a unique voice and is relatable to your audience, both internally and externally. People will share your stories, engage with you on social, and recommend you if they feel that your brand is trustworthy, embodies your company culture, and aligns with your mission and vision. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions
12. Educate Them
No one is an advocate for a brand they don’t understand or believe in. It’s not a matter of encouraging employees and consumers to be advocates. It’s a matter of educating them and giving them evidence of the brand’s worthiness. What does it do for the user that makes it special? What does the brand stand for and how does it make the world better? Building advocates requires a constant dialogue. – Brian Sullivan, Sullivan Branding
13. Provide Top-Notch Satisfaction
It’s about customer service. Deliver a strong product that solves a need and does what it says. Provide the support you’d like to receive and satisfied customers will identify with the brand. Plus, employees are not just employees. They come to work to help grow that great company. Consumer, employee, executive – people naturally promote what they like. Keep them happy, they’ll advocate for you. – Bernadette Coleman, Advice Local
14. Empower Them To Create And Execute Solutions
Employees and consumers should have active roles in creating and executing solutions to brand problems and opportunities. If people take an active role participating in a project, they become invested in the overall success. Brand’s should view consumers as partners and brand advocates, rather than just engaging them at the point of sale. – Coltrane Curtis, Team Epiphany
15. Be Remarkable
If you want people to be advocates for your brand, you have to give them a reason (hint: not compensation and gifts). If something about your brand isn’t truly remarkable, you’ll likely find it difficult to encourage people to serve as advocates. Too many brands spend time and money trying to supplement remarkability with gimmicks. Find what sets your brand apart and make it obvious to everyone. – Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync
16. Listen And Adapt To Their Needs
Employees and consumers who feel that they are heard will quickly become eager advocates. You create this with employees by listening to their input, including them in important decisions and recognizing their accomplishments. Similarly, consumers should have a positive interaction every time they engage with your brand and the best way to do that is to listen and adapt to what they want and need. – Jeff Grover, BestCompany.com
17. Create Buy-In Early On
One of the most important ways to turn your employees and consumers into brand advocates is to provide them the opportunity to buy in before launching a new product or initiative to a larger audience. Previews, sneak peaks and exclusive access send the message that you value their participation and that they are essential to success. By bringing employees and consumers in early in the process, it allows them to feel invested in what you’re trying to accomplish and encourages them to become stronger brand advocates. – Jim Dalton, Dalton Agency
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only organization for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Find out if you qualify at forbesagencycouncil.com/qualify.