Who and what are “brand advocates” anyway? These consist of satisfied customers who are more than happy to advocate and even actively promote a company’s products and/or services to those in their influence (i.e., friends, family, social media network, etc.). It is essentially another term for “word of mouth” marketing which is by the way one of the most effective means of marketing that there is. In fact, I’d have to admit that most of our new business comes from word of mouth.

Besides offering a great product or an valuable service, how can a company empower brand advocates that will help increase business? Here are 12 tactics to build brand advocates followed by a handy infographic courtesy of Infographic Design Team.

1. Focus On the Relationship

If you deliver a great product and/or service and provide fantastic customer support, people will fall in your love with your brand. Why do so many people love companies like Amazon, Apple and even Starbucks? Because these companies provide something that is very valuable to the consumers they serve, whether that be fast and free shipping on just about any product one can imagine, innovative technology, or even a great cup of coffee. Focus on the relationship you have with your consumers and you will have brand advocates for life.

Brand Advocate

2. Aim for Ongoing Engagement

Aim to continue to add value to your customers over time and engage them frequently. This will better serve to create the scenario where your advocates promote you again and again and again. Even in situations where a consumer may be a “one time sale,” meaning that you will most likely never see them again, keep in mind that they can continue to be a brand advocate if they find value in the product and/or service you provided and had a great experience with your company.

3. “Give More Than You “Take”

In a world of “take” and “what’s in it for me,” don’t under-estimate the power of “giving.” Simple acts of giving customers what they want, offering discounts and loyalty rewards and even recognizing them, will go a long way in building brand advocates.

I love Pei Wei and have spent way too much money eating there since I first discovered them many, many years ago. As long as they continue to make great food, I’m going to continue to eat there. The fact that they have a pretty good loyalty rewards program and frequently offer email and textual discounts and special offers, is icing on the cake. I find myself not only eating there more often but letting others know what a great place they are.

4. Look in the Mirror

As marketers, we want our brand to be heard, valued and paid attention to. Do the same thing with your brand advocates. Give them your full attention and make them feel valued. Remember the old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? It is still effective in business today. Place yourself in their shoes., especially when a customer is upset, and you will be able to have the empathy and compassion to work with them, keeping them as a valuable brand advocate.

5. Make No Assumptions

While one may assume a brand advocate wants to be valued as well as heard, make no other assumptions. Ask first, listen next, then ask again for clarification and then act and integrate into your learning. Never assume that because they are happy one moment, that they will always feel the same.

For example, once upon a time Hostgator was a great web hosting company. I loved their product and service and refereed others to them regularly. Then they were bought by Endurance International Group and in a matter of no time, their product and customer service went downhill. I began to despise them and we eventually moved all of our hosting away from them. I was turned from a brand advocate to a brand adversary.

6. Ask Brand Advocates “What They Want”

Ask brand advocates what they think of your product or service. Are their needs being met? Is anything missing? Do they have any recommendations for improvement?

Let’s face facts, it can be a frightening thing to ask your customers if they are happy. We fear that a can of worms will be opened. However, asking customers what they want will not only paint a picture that you actually care about what they think and feel, but can also greatly improve your product, service and even customer relations. So, don’t be afraid to ask.

7. Listen To Your Consumers

After you follow the item # 6 above, make sure you listen. Even if you feel your advocates are wrong, remember that what they feel is their perception. Discovering their pain points is foundational to building brand advocacy.

8. Hear Your Consumers

Along with # 6 and # 7 above, hear your advocates. This implies taking some kind of action. They aren’t happy with a product – compensate them. They ask for features not currently present – work to add those. Be ready to act upon what advocates are telling you.

9. Help Your Advocates Be Heard

Do whatever it takes for your advocates to be heard. Be their microphone! Retweet their comments. Post their insights on your web site. Share their ideas on your social networks. Thank them publicly for their loyalty.

I love it when I either have a praise or a complaint regarding a company and they respond publicly. That could mean liking and retweeting a praise made on Twitter. It could mean responding publicly to a negative review on Yelp. What I hate is when I’m not happy with a company and I publicly announce it on Twitter for example, I’m either ignored or I’m asked to file my complaint in private. I want to be heard as a consumer, not brushed under the rug.

10. Be Authentic

Brand advocates are attracted to authenticity. Don’t be fake as they can sniff that out easily. This includes not trying to filter out negative feedback. Allow all public feedback and then respond to negative feedback as opposed to ignoring it or trying to hide it.

As a consumer, I love reading reviews of a company’s product or service. When reading reviews, I don’t want to see ALL positive reviews. I don’t want to see MOSTLY negative either. What I like to see is mostly positive reviews along with an occasional negative review. With negative reviews, I like to see that the brand has responded to the negative reviewer and made some kind of effort to “acknowledge them” and try to “make things right.” There will be times of course where a brand, no matter what they do, fails to convert a pissed consumer into a happy camper, but the fact that they made the attempt goes a long way with me.

11. Use Social Media To Serve, Not Just Sell

Ask your consumers how you can serve them. Address their needs early, often and publicly. Empower your social media team to resolve issues and reward consumers who take the time to advocate for you.

I’ve lost count of how many times I have had an issue with a company and utilized Twitter to reach out to them. Most always they respond with a “we care what you have to say” attitude. As a consumer, I’m acknowledged, heard and listened to. This helps me to be a brand advocate for the company as opposed to the alternative – a pissed consumer.

12. Innovate

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” doesn’t always go well in the marketing world. Doing the same thing over and over again might seem easy. It works for hamburger chain In-and-Out, right? However, just because it works for them doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Be willing to innovate and show yourself to not be stagnant. Even those things which are working can always be tweaked, adjusted and improved.

Building Brand Advocates

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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