Leveraging Customer Advocates Through Community

Customers eager to share their positive experiences with your company and help other customers with their questions add a unique element that is far more powerful than any marketing strategy you can create. Simply put, advocates add a human and trusting element.

“Customer advocacy can be your secret sauce for success,” states Mark Hopkins, DZone Software Director of Customer Community. In fact, word of mouth and customer testimonials are highly influential in the decision-making process:

  • 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth [USM].
  • 74% of consumers identified word of mouth as a key influencer in their decision process [Oglivy/Google/TNS].
  • 68% of consumers trust the opinions of fellow customers online [Neilsen].
  • 72% say that reading a positive review increases their trust in a business [BrightLocal].

Potential buyers know that your company is attempting to reach them with carefully crafted messages. In fact, 76% of respondents to a survey conducted by Lab 42 and reported by Forbes suggest they believe that all ads are either “very exaggerated” or “somewhat exaggerated.” On the other hand, 72% of respondents to BrightLocal’s survey confirm that reading a positive review increases a buyer’s trust in a business.

How to Find Customer Advocates

Most will turn to social media channels, but they will quickly be lost in a stream of updates. Your customer service team may know of several customer advocates, but there are likely others that they aren’t aware of.

With an online community, you can bring all of your customers, prospects, and advocates together to create a marketing goldmine of success stories, support, and useful feedback.

In an engaged and active community, new posts will often push reviews and helpful answers off the first page. To keep these quality advocacy posts in scope, make dedicated topic tags or spaces or even make your favorite post sticky so that it stays pinned to the top of the page.

Next, engage advocates in your community – ask what they want, how your company is doing or their feedback on a topic. When customers feel like their opinion matters, they are more likely to give it. By creating this rapport with your community, this will entice new members to step up and become advocates too.

Finally, reward and recognize advocates for sharing their knowledge and experiences. AnswerHub’s built-in gamification engine instantly rewards contributors with badges and reputation points. But don’t stop the rewards there. Tie reputation points to real-world rewards like swag, gift cards, or exclusive access to products/programs, to keep advocates engaged, feeling valued, and returning to your community.

Don’t underestimate the power of a brand advocate. An honest review from a customer will have a far greater impact than any amount of marketing dollars. And, the amount of customer insight and feedback that your advocates can provide give you a unique view of the needs and wants of your target audience which allows your business strategy to keep evolving and thriving. It’s in your best interest to find as many brand advocates as you can and keep them engaged and an online community is a perfect tool to help you achieve this goal. Don’t let another advocate go underutilized or overlooked.

For further reading on how to engage your advocates, check out 5 Tips from a Community Engagement Expert.

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