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Brand Advocates: an essential part of your marketing strategy

Notes by Julie Furlong

When it comes to your business, there's nothing that matters more than your brand and the people who support you. The strategy of brand advocacy is still new to marketing planning, but may be the marketing solution that is currently missing from your strategy. For me personally, after running a successful boutique agency for over 22 years, I truly do believe, I would not have survived without my trusted and loyal brand advocates (even though I never implemented an official strategy to nurture them all those years ago). These trusted partners, friends, colleagues, employees, customers and clients, recommend your brand to help build positive awareness. These people are brand advocates because they truly believe in your brand and are an integral part of your business growth and survival. They're the ones you can count on for a recommendation or lead when someone asks for advice about your products, or what your company does. Brand advocates complement your marketing strategy, amplifying your brand even further; helping you grow organically and ultimately becoming successful. (Read: 13 Essential tips to remember when starting a business)

Let me ask you this; one of your friends tells you about a great new restaurant that has tasty, delicious food, an ambient atmosphere and pleasant staff. What do you do? You check it out… don’t you? When you share your experience about this new great place with your friends, you're doing the restaurant a huge favour, contributing to their awareness and ultimately, their business. You are becoming a brand advocate – telling people about how special it was face-to-face or on a social media platform, where other people are exposed to your experience.

The truth is that personal recommendations matter, much more than most people realise. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. Even academic research into WOMM has proven its effectiveness in conversion. In the International Journal of Market Research, M. Nick Hajili wrote:

“Trust, encouraged by social media, significantly affects intention to buy. Therefore, trust has a significant role in e-commerce by directly influencing intention to buy and indirectly influencing perceived usefulness.”

And even if a referral doesn't lead directly to a sale, it can still increase visibility, good will and awareness for your brand. Brand advocates are real, genuine people, sharing an authentic experience, who want to see you succeed, because they are loyal and passionate about your brand. When compared to brand ambassadors, brand advocates are informal, real and trusted.

In a world of algorithms, this is an important and essential part of your social media content strategy to spread the word and be seen. The word from a brand advocate is a powerful form of marketing at no cost and are underestimated or overlooked when developing marketing strategies. They need no incentive to share, and only do so as they genuinely love your brand and of course, the experience.

So, how do you integrate brand advocates into your marketing strategy?

  1. Take the time to workshop, identify and find your list of potential brand advocates who are your most loyal and satisfied customers, clients, employees, friends, or family members of your workers. Brand advocates are people from all walks of life, but one thing they share is a passion for your brand and the products or services you provide. The important thing is that they are excited to tell other people all about your brand.
  2. Develop a process/ program that works for your business. That may be some form of personal correspondence that actively encourages your brand advocates to keep your brand top of mind. One thing to remember when developing this strategy is that brand advocates usually choose to share your brand on their own. Simply because they believe in your brand and its products and want others to know about it. So, your program should not be too forceful, but rather simply keep them up to date with the brand along with subtle engagement and rewards.
  3. Ensure they feel valued and make them feel special, listen to their needs and concerns, communicate and provide them with a heart-felt thank you often, reward them with exclusive deals or even freebies and gifts. You can also provide them with perks like discounts or exclusive access on the newest services you might be offering before the general public finds out about it. By making these people feel appreciated and happy to continue recommending your brand to their family, friends, neighbours etc

And why should you?

It is free or close to free - helping to grow organically, your brand advocates powerfully share your news whenever they can, with little or no incentive. Even just one person can make a huge difference. Research shows that those who receive recommendations are significantly more likely to purchase a product or service. When people talk about you online, it means more than just getting more sales: it also improves your search ranking, so you'll pop up higher in SERPs.

It drives traffic to your site - When you only have a few employees and a few clients, it can be difficult to find the time to go out there and attract new customers. And when you're a one or a two-person operation, you can't afford a huge advertising placement budget. That's why having advocates is so important, they help you grow your business without spending a great deal.

Developing brands is not easy, it takes years and sometimes many failures – which is why it's so vital to have a trusted group of people that have your back and are ready to promote your business, spreading the word about what you do. So, it makes sense to use this resource as much as possible in marketing strategies – right?

If you are looking for new ways to grow your business, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas and nurture brand advocates. This can be the best form of marketing; as part of your success and business growth. (Read: 4 thought-provoking insights during COVID) Whilst it might take time to develop a team of brand advocates, along with the essentials like, brand positioning, social content strategy and other relevant touchpoints – it will be worth it. At the end of the day, nurtured advocates will generate leads and that, along with all the essentials, will ensure you hit the right NOTE with your marketing strategy. Need some help with your brand advocate strategy?

Click here to send me a note and together we can work through a 5 step process to ensure your marketing makes sense.

THOUGHTS TO PONDER

1. The biggest failure is not trying

Don't be afraid to fail, the biggest failure is not trying to achieve something that has been on your mind to achieve. All you need is a great product or service and a belief in it, and that is a business.

2. accept the drawbacks and discomforts

My way of thinking now is to accept the drawbacks and discomforts, be aware, acknowledge the change, and get on with it. We all hate change, but change does bring progress eventually and if we don’t change, we don’t grow.

3. appreciate your closest personal brand advocates

Best friends are one of the most wonderful, blessed gifts life can dish out. If you are lucky enough to have a few, a couple or just one ‘bestie’ who will stay with you for life, you are lucky.

Thank you for taking the time to read this inspirational blog about life. I hope this creative blog helps you to be inspired and live your dreams, developing some good life habits and positive thinking. The intention of this creative and light-hearted site is for you to live a better, happier life that enhances your own emotional intelligence skills, based on my own life experiences. Please enjoy!

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