Brand advocates are the pinnacle in marketing today. But how do you get your customers, partners, and even employees to rave about your business and essentially sell your products and services spontaneously?

The right incentive

The digital world allows consumers, channel partners AND employees to “shop around.” There’s an endless amount of information online, and the savvy consumer uses it to ensure they’re making the best possible decisions.

Offering incentives to encourage support and commitment requires subtlety and sensitivity to generate a positive response from the target audience.  Incentives to improve performance in business can include merchandise, vouchers, recognition awards, celebration events, corporate hospitality and incentive travel programmes.  The more exclusive awards, especially travel, are designed to appeal to the top achievers, as they reaffirm their status and boost their egos.

When planning an incentive travel programme, the profile of the people you want to impress is central to both the style and substance of the experience.  You will tailor the environment, atmosphere and activities to reflect the participants as well as their:

  • age and work-life experience
  • career role and responsibilities
  • personal interests and tastes
  • achievements and ambitions
  • value and status in your organisation

The most powerful tool

The principles behind creating advocates for your brand or business are basically about the best way to treat people and give them individual recognition.  An excellent article on [1], which you can access by following the link below, contains the thoughts of 17 members of Forbes’ agency council, all experts in the subject.

As the article quite rightly states, word-of-mouth has always been one of the most powerful marketing tools around. When customers actively promote your brand, the individuals in their social circles receive first-hand information from people they know and trust. This type of marketing 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 [2], 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 solid reason to positively spread the word; they need to have such a great experience that they can’t help but tell their friends and family about their experiences, purchases or service.

Creating advocates

According to members of Forbes Agency Council, the key ways to create brand advocates are:

  1. Create value: Understand what is valuable to your clients and employees, help they can be helped to grow or have their problems solved.  You have to give as much as, or more than, you take.
  2. Give ownership: 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.
  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.
  4. Make your message easy to share: Life and time get in the way of conversing with friends and family. Make it easy for customers and employees – the best way we’ve found to do this is through social media. The brand leaders create the messages and broadcast them and then clients and staff share. It works.
  5. Do fun, sharable stuff: Doing fun stuff together encourages employees to share and become advocates for your brand. Equally, flash mobs with dedicated hashtags get new and existing customers involved.
  6. Show them they’re part of something bigger: Dream big, build an outline to reach your goals, hire employees who share your passion, and then share your vision with them. It will filter down.
  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.  They connect with something substantial and real within each individual.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask: Simply ask and make it really easy for them when you do. Never be afraid to ask! The worst they could say is no.
  9. Get to know them better: Take the time to engage in dialogues that help you discover where your company values intersect with the individual values of employees and customers.
  10. Be a ‘Go-Giver’: When we approach everything we do in life from an “others first” perspective, countless and surprising benefits can occur.  Give first, without expectation of receiving anything back in return; then give more than you receive. Who wouldn’t advocate for that?
  11. Share your personality: 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.
  12. Educate them: What does you do for your 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.
  13. Provide top-notch satisfaction: It’s about customer service.  Consumer, employee, executive – people naturally promote what they like. Keep them happy, they’ll advocate for you.
  14. Empower them: 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.
  15. Be remarkable: If something about your brand isn’t truly remarkable, you’ll likely find it difficult to encourage people to serve as advocates.  Find what sets your brand apart and make it obvious to everyone.
  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 recognising their accomplishments.
  17. Create buy-in early on: 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.