Build Brand Advocates and Response with These 5 Steps

Marketers love their brand advocates as much as (maybe more than) their brand advocates love their company. What’s not to love? These customers sing your praises without being asked to, like a doting parent or best friend. But unlike a doting parent or best friend, they’re not obligated to do so. They just honest-to-goodness do.

For the direct response marketer, this means they “take action” without a specific offer from you. They’re so far into their customer journey there’s no looking back—they’re already sold and still buying. Not only will they “click here,” but they’ll recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues. Is the brand advocate the holy grail of the direct response marketer?

Before we can look at the relationship between brand advocacy and direct response marketing, let’s explore what brand advocates are what they are not.

Unconditional Love?
Brand advocates have had such phenomenal experiences with a brand that they’re willing to pledge their loyalty. They don’t just give your company a “thumbs-up” or a high star rating; they don’t necessarily pass along a referral or write a glowing review. (But it’s great if they do!) Brand advocacy is bigger than these things: it’s more organic.

Brand advocacy platform Zuberance collected these sound bites defining a brand advocate:

· “…takes (a) sense of ownership and seeing it succeed”
· “…willing to speak positively about a brand without much or any direct incentive”
· “…will act to protect, promote, and help it (a brand)”
· “…loyal to company in good times and bad times”

In other words, brand advocates have the conviction and commitment to simply support your brand—with no expectations for a payment, loyalty point, or even a pat on the back.

Quick caveat: What about brand influencers? Endorsement by a well-known individual has its place—and influencers indeed support both branding and sales. But Nielsen research finds that customers trust earned media (recommendations from friends and family) the most, suggesting brand advocates are, well, more trustworthy and can make a bigger impact on sales.

Putting Direct Response Marketing to Work to Create Brand Advocates
Now we’re ready to look at direct response marketing through the lens of brand advocacy. What can you do to make sure your direct response marketing efforts help create and support brand advocates? In a way, their strategies are at odds.

Brand advocacy is, well, part of a branding strategy. The advantage of building your brand through customer advocates is you don’t have to pay for it (branding campaigns notwithstanding). You’re also building brand awareness, interest, and engagement without an expiration date—they build and build over time, culminating in sales results that can be hard to measure.

On the other hand, direct response campaigns are all about “results now!” They have budgets. They’re measured in terms of ROI. Offers are generally time-sensitive and say, “take action now, not a year from now.” Direct response essentially capitalizes off of brand awareness, interest, and engagement.

But direct response brings in new customers—customers that can become brand advocates. You don’t have to choose between driving awareness or action when you can tackle both. Here’s our simple formula to create a brand advocate with help from direct response marketing:

1. Offer People Something to Love. People become customers after purchasing your product or service. They become “believers” when they use your product or service and have an excellent—can we say extraordinary?—experience, and keep engaging with you as a result. So get them in the door by offering true value in your direct response campaigns.

2. Deliver the Goods. Make sure that their offer conversion experience is smooth, intuitive, and hassle-free, from the lead magnet to the landing page to the thank-you page to the final deliverable. Now’s your chance to show them what you’re made of!

3. Press Repeat. What’s not to love about a company whose direct response offers are irresistible? Is there a better way to turn customers into advocates than by providing exactly what they’re looking for (e.g. the latest insights, free products, value-added services) and delighting them every time? Once a customer is won over, you can consider them a brand advocate.

4. Make it Easy to Advocate. While we already established that true brand advocates don’t expect anything in return for their support, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build a customer referral program or ask for customer reviews to formalize their status, right? Engage with them via email, social media, and even out in the community at special events like trade shows.

5. Keep Listening. Just because a brand advocate is already a super-fan doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a great deal or special offer. Like all good relationships, you’ve got to keep working at it. Listen to your customers to make sure you’re continually providing what they need and expect from you. Make them fall in love with you over and over again.

Contact us to learn more.