Everyone has a ridiculous hill they’d die on. For some, it might be pineapple on pizza; others might go to battle for the Oxford comma. 

Mine is that “The Phantom Menace” is the best Star Wars movie.

via GIPHY

I realize this is controversial. Some may even call it sacrilege. Regardless, this movie — for all its flaws (and trust me, there are plenty) — has my unending loyalty. That’s the job of an advocate — and the same is true when it comes to your customers.

Customer advocacy means putting the customer at the center of your brand culture. It means protecting, celebrating and supporting that customer no matter what. Perhaps most importantly, it means making people feel like your people.

Here’s how to build a customer advocacy program through marketing, brand positioning and a whole lot of loyalty.

What Does It Mean to Be an Advocate?

There’s more to advocacy than defending one of the most questionable artistic endeavors in sci-fi history. You have to understand what it really means to be an advocate — especially in a field as multifaceted as marketing.

To do that, let’s start with a few examples from everyday life:

Advocacy in the Real World

When you’re an advocate, you’re fiercely and unflinchingly devoted to someone else’s welfare. This often comes in the form of social advocacy — an important part of life and marketing.

Just look at patient advocacy, where nurses protect individual rights and work hard to create safe, equitable environments for all. Another example is legal advocates — lawyers who carve new definitions of justice into the legal system. Then, of course, there’s me, defending Jar-Jar Binks from legions of Star Wars fans who’d like to personally fistfight him for the crime of being annoying.

The point is that advocacy comes in many forms, but it’s always driven by things like compassion and loyalty. Your goal as an advocate is to stand up for someone, make their needs known and ensure they get the treatment they deserve.

Customer Advocacy 

How does this translate to your marketing program? It all starts by addressing the complicated, often-unpleasant tangle of things that stand in the way of potential customer success.

Think about the last time a brand left you feeling dissatisfied. Here are a few things that might have caused this problem:

  • Money: The company decided their need to make money was more important than your need to save money, thereby choosing themselves over you.
  • Inconvenience: What’s good for a business is not necessarily convenient for the customer. When managed poorly, this imbalance leads to frustration and miscommunication.
  • Personal feelings: Maybe the person on the other end of the phone was having a bad day, leading to a less-than-stellar customer experience for you.

Chances are, this brand wasn’t using customer advocacy programs. If they were, they would have anticipated potential obstacles and worked to overcome them before you even showed up. Better yet, they would have trained their representatives to protect current customer relationships at all costs, even if issues did arise.

After all, the reality is that customers and companies don’t always have the same goals — not as participants in a financial transaction and probably not as individuals. An advocacy program helps your brand shift the focus from your own needs to your audience’s. It silences the part of your “lizard brain” that clamors for self-preservation and survival, shifting you into a more evolved, altruistic mindset. 

Brand Advocacy

Let’s flip the narrative here: When was the last time a brand fully succeeded at creating a positive experience and turning you into a success story? They probably went the extra mile to put you at the center of everything. Maybe they even integrated your customer feedback to make visible improvements.

If you told a friend about this company, even just in passing, congratulations — you’re not just a satisfied customer. You’re a brand advocate.

In many ways, customer advocacy efforts and a solid customer advocacy program turns loyalty into something tangible. It gives people the opportunity to get excited, talk about their customer experience and do some of your marketing for you.

Uncovering the Secret of Customer Advocacy

A lot of work goes into real advocacy. Take me, for example. Do you think it’s easy having a Star Wars opinion so terrible that the entire fandom collectively yells when they see you coming? No way! Advocacy is a great power, and it comes with great responsibility.

That’s especially true when it comes to marketing, customer service and brand loyalty. Luckily, if advocacy really is a power, you’re the best one to wield it. Why? Well, you did the customer acquisition and customer journey research necessary to get this far. Maybe you created content with a purpose and won their attention, or perhaps you built a landing page experience they thought was unforgettable. Regardless of how they got to you, they’re here, and they’ve chosen to stick with you thus far — and that’s what matters.

These are already your people. You just need to make them feel that way.

Here’s what that can look like:

#1: Understanding Their Needs

A big part of any customer advocacy strategy — and, indeed, any customer service activity in general — is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. What do you need when you’re on the other side of the cash register?

  • Simplicity: A process may be complicated for the business, but you should never feel this complexity as a customer.
  • Efficiency: You probably don’t like wasting time, so you want your customer experience to be quick, well organized and user-friendly.
  • Empathy: When you have a question or issue, you want to be treated like an actual person — not an inconvenience.
  • Engagement: As a customer, you have a lot of options. If you’re going to choose one brand over another, you likely expect something fun, entertaining and memorable.
  • Budget-friendliness: All the customer advocacy in the world isn’t going to mean much if the company is asking you to pay ridiculously high prices for “special treatment.” 

#2: Embracing Their Values

Remember, customers don’t exist just to enjoy your marketing content or buy your products. They also lead rich, varied personal lives that can indirectly or even unconsciously influence their brand expectations.

Take, for example, cause-related marketing. The key is to find something your audience really cares about — like social justice or animal welfare — and make it obvious that you care, too. After all, a real advocate doesn’t speak for themselves, but works to broadcast the voices and opinions of the people they’re supporting. 

Keep in mind that embracing customer values shouldn’t be performative. You’re not just finding the topic of your next digital marketing campaign — you’re learning how to talk to your people, meet them where they are and provide products or services that matter to them.

#3: Showing Your Human Side

Just like your customers, your company itself has a more personal side. Often, that’s best demonstrated by your employees. 

Employee advocacy can and should be a big part of building customer satisfaction. While your marketing content might do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to brand personality, it’s your employees who bring that personality to life in real, everyday interactions with customers — so let workers speak on your behalf. 

Sure, this kind of advocacy technically puts you in the spotlight. But by sharing employee perspectives, you indirectly support customers through the development of a more transparent, welcoming company culture. 

Benefits of Being a Customer Advocate

It’s clear that, in some ways, customer advocacy means putting aside tactics that were once viewed as common sense.

Say your company is a band of fire-breathing dragons. If you want to survive, you need to take livestock from nearby villages. You’re on the warpath, ready to burn everything in sight — but then one of your dragons turns around and says, “What if we protected them instead?”

Now, you’re probably not in the business of pillaging and plundering — but it’s safe to say that this complicated “give and take” exists between all companies and customers. So why would you stop doing the thing that has helped you survive? Why would you protect the villagers’ livestock from wolves instead of taking everything for yourself?

The answer can be summed up in 1 word: Loyalty.

If you help the villagers and ask nothing in return, they’ll start to see you as an ally — maybe even an advocate. This means that, when they have extra food, they’ll cheerfully send it your way. They might even cook more just to keep you fed. 

In marketing terms, that’s an improved customer lifetime value. This means nurturing a long-term relationship instead of wasting your resources on interactions with immediate but very low returns. As a result, you’ll get more from every individual customer instead of letting them “burn out” after their first purchase (or before they’ve made a purchase at all).

Here are a few more advantages of real customer advocacy:

  • Relationship management: You’re not just building that connection with customers; you’re fostering it. Advocacy means finding ways to address needs even as they change and grow (and creating potential brand advocates along the way).
  • Reputation: When you take care of people, they take care of you. Villages all over the kingdom — OK, users all over the internet — will hear about how you put the customer first.
  • Marketing support: When you’re driven by a solid customer advocacy program, it’s easy to find marketing messages that resonate with your target audience.
  • Employee morale: Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from advocacy. Employees will enjoy being able to solve problems and help people instead of feeling limited by outdated processes.
  • Resource allocation: Although customer advocacy may require more time and money than other customer service approaches, it wastes fewer resources. You’ll be moving quickly, effectively and accurately, doing the right things at the right times for the right people.

5 Examples of Customer Advocacy in Action

You know what customer advocacy is. You know what it looks like, why it matters and what kind of benefits it can bring.

Now here are a few examples to show you how to do it yourself.

#1: Responding to Customer Feedback

If a customer has taken the time to fill out your feedback form or respond to a rating prompt, they’ve taken a moment out of their day to help you. That’s a big deal. You need to return the favor by addressing their comments right away.

Let’s say you just received feedback that some of the information on your product page is confusing. You could tweak the wording to address future issues, sure — but you could also have a customer service representative ask if they can help answer any questions. This kind of immediate response helps catch customers while they’re still engaged; it also proves that you’re eager to improve through specific, targeted actions.

#2: Creating Sales Collateral That Makes Sense

When your customer base has a question, you’ve got 2 options: Answer in a way that persuades them to buy, or answer in a way that actually helps them understand. Naturally, advocates tend to choose the latter approach.

That’s because creating effective sales collateral allows you to boost customer confidence, solve problems and provide support all at once — and if it includes a well-placed nudging toward a purchase, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

#3: Using Social Media Effectively

Social media is a great way to connect with customers, learn about their needs and stay at the top of their minds. However, when viewed through a customer advocacy lens, social media is even more powerful.

Here are a few ways to advocate for your customers on social media:

  • Engage with customer posts mentioning you, your product or your service.
  • Share customer content such as photos of someone using your product.
  • Respond to questions in the comments section.
  • Provide quick, digestible content addressing customer needs.
  • Answer private messages.

#4: Improving Your Approach

Another element of customer advocacy is to learn from your audience even when they don’t give you direct feedback.

For example, let’s say your customers always seem to have the same question about your services. To simplify their experience, you made an explainer video. Unfortunately, you’ve found that no one is engaging with that video — and worse yet, people are still directing the original question to your customer service team.

You have a few options here, and each reflects a different part of customer advocacy:

  • Make the video easier to access. If your video is buried at the bottom of a landing page or accessible only through a specific link, users might give up before they reach the information they need.
  • Share the video in more places. Do customers know your video exists? Share it on social media, make blog posts promoting it, send an email announcing that it’s live on YouTube — whatever it takes to help bring attention to the right place.
  • Create new content. Maybe your audience would learn more easily if your answers were presented as a blog or infographic. Remember, you need to do what’s best for them — not what’s most convenient for you.

#5: Telling Customer Stories

It’s a big honor to be put in the spotlight. If you can do this for your customers, they’ll feel like you genuinely care about them, their perspectives and what they have to say. 

Depending on the story you’re trying to tell (and what kind of marketing value it might hold), you could:

  • Share customer photos or videos on your social media.
  • Write case studies about customer experiences, including direct quotes.
  • Interview customers for your blog.
  • Post customer reviews and testimonials on your homepage.

Become a Better Customer Advocate

Take it from someone who advocates for one of the most divisive movies ever: Just one voice can do some real good. (Or cause some real trouble, in my case.) Your customers will appreciate you taking the time and effort to speak on their behalf, even in the smallest of interactions.

But how do you wield this power? How do you turn a satisfied customer into a brand advocate just by supporting them? 

The key is to build your brand around your customers. Everything you create — from landing pages and blog posts to web layouts and social campaigns — should focus on advocacy.

And if that sounds like a lot of work, no worries. We’re here to advocate for you so you can do the same for your people. Get in touch today to see how our marketing magic makes it happen.

Ashlee Sierra is a senior writer and editor from Boise, Idaho. When she’s not buried under her giant dogs, she can be found playing video games, telling ghost stories and having passionate discussions about the Oxford comma.