What exactly is a customer? This is a question that nearly anyone can answer: A customer is someone who makes a purchase. Of course, for businesses hoping to compete in today’s volatile market, a customer is so much more. Customers determine the direction and values of an organization. They provide a continuous source of feedback to help improve products and services. Their opinions dictate a company’s position in the market. In essence, the customer drives the business.
Unfortunately, too many organizations view customers as little more than transactions. And when the customer relationship becomes completely transactional, businesses miss out.
Alternatively, companies that make customer advocacy their primary focus can turn their buyers into true partners for ongoing success. Here, we discuss customer advocacy—what it is, why it’s important, and how you can apply customer advocacy strategies in your business to put your customers first.
Customer Advocacy: Definition
What is customer advocacy? More than anything, it’s a way of prioritizing. Customer advocacy (sometimes also called client advocacy) is an approach to business where the needs of the customer are placed at higher priority than all other considerations. And what is a customer advocate? A customer advocate is any business or member of a business that follows the philosophy of customer advocacy.
Customer advocacy does not mean that other important business priorities get neglected. Instead, it’s a recognition of the fact that customers are essential elements in all of the most important business success metrics: sales revenue, market share, gross margin, lead conversion, website traffic, retention, year-over-year growth, and more.
Why You Should Prioritize Your Customers
By improving the customer relationship and helping buyers become true brand evangelists, organizations in essentially every industry can improve the KPIs that define their success. More specifically, the right approach to customer advocacy may improve the following areas of your business:
- Boosting brand awareness. Before any lead becomes a customer—and even before they enter your pipeline—they first need to know that your product or service exists. Customer advocacy gives your current customers a reason to want to spread the news. They share their positive experiences with friends, family, coworkers, and others.
This helps your business overcome a major barrier to connecting with new prospects, without significantly increasing acquisition costs. Customer advocacy drives brand awareness, and it does so in a way that is effective as well as cost-effective.
- Creating loyal customers. Is it possible to promote brand loyalty without customer centricity? Yes; top-quality products or services can capture customer attention in a way that builds devotion to the brand even when they are not backed by intentional advocacy programs. But customer advocacy strategies take things further, making customer loyalty a calculated part of the organization by consistently providing clients with more and better reasons to remain.
With customer advocacy, customer retention becomes a natural byproduct of customer interactions, increasing the average customer lifetime value in the process.
- Proactively identifying needs. Customer advocacy is a door that swings both ways; it’s a mutual relationship of trust between a business and its patrons facilitated by improved communication. This open dialogue not only allows organizations to better meet the needs of their clients, but also creates a reliable source of customer insights. Brand ambassadors are emotionally invested in the success of the company. They are more willing to point out areas of concern or potential improvement before those areas can become problems.
With the right system in place, customer advocacy can create and support a customer feedback program that makes it possible to take a more proactive approach to meeting customer needs.
- Increasing engagement. Most customers interact with a business because they have to—the business has a product or offers a service that the customer needs, and making the purchase is a necessary step in fulfilling that need. True customer advocacy begins when that need becomes a want. By making the customer’s positive experience the primary goal, your company can turn the ‘necessary evil’ of a transaction into something the customer actually looks forward to.
When engagement no longer feels like a chore, the customer is free to get excited about your organization. They can make your identity a part of their own, building their own social capital as they promote your brand. Increased customer engagement is at the heart of customer advocacy. As such, it must also be central to any successful customer advocacy strategy.
5 Strategies to Advocate for Your Customers
The importance of customer centricity is not a new idea; Harvard Business Review found that 88 percent of executives say that customer engagement has a significant impact on revenue, and 92 percent consider effective customer engagement to be critical to their organization’s success. Unfortunately, recognizing a need and fulfilling it are two different things—only 36 percent of executives rate their current customer engagement as ‘good’ or better.
Even the most underperforming organizations know that they can’t exist without their customers. What sets successful, customer-advocating businesses apart from others is their plan of action. If you’d like to take a more purposeful approach to customer advocacy, consider the following strategies:
- Double Down on Customer Service. Your customers’ experiences as they buy from your business will do more to inspire loyalty than any other factor. In fact, Salesforce reports that 89 percent of consumers are likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience, and 78 percent of consumers will continue to do business with them even if the company makes a mistake. Naturally, different kinds of businesses have different kinds of customers, but there are certain things that you can do to create a better service experience regardless of your industry.
Similar to customer advocacy, customer service is about more than just making a sale; it’s about understanding and fulfilling customer needs. To do this, service representatives must understand what those needs are. For service agents, practicing active listening and empathizing with the customer while using positive language are all essential aspects, and may be further enhanced with improved technical skills and a clear, in-depth knowledge of the products and services your company offers.
Managers can further promote top-quality service and customer advocacy by setting high standards for their service representatives, establishing a clear escalation pathway, and providing effective training for all scenarios. They can likewise enhance the speed and accuracy of their agents by giving them the right digital tools and automation solutions to allow them to do more with their time and effort. Finally, being open to learning, reviewing, and adapting strategies to better serve clients helps ensure that the entire customer advocacy process continues to move in a positive direction.
- Map Your Customer Advocacy Vision. To be effective, customer advocacy has to be more than just a value listed on the company webpage. Every member of your team, including leadership and management, needs to understand what your customer advocacy strategy consists of and what their role in it will be. You can help facilitate this transition by creating a blueprint or framework describing how customer advocacy will impact your organization.
This framework functions as a map of the company’s customer-experience vision, detailing how teams and individuals at various levels will be expected to fulfill it. The framework should highlight the organization’s strategic priorities and how they align with the company vision, and then define the actionable steps that will need to be taken to execute on those priorities. The blueprints should likewise identify which metrics will need to be tracked to measure the effectiveness of the strategy.
Putting your plans down on paper not only creates a working roadmap you and your teams can follow to promote customer advocacy company-wide; it also helps ensure buy-in from important stakeholders and makes it clear if there are any potential issues before you fully commit. Just remember that for a strategy to be viable amid ongoing disruption and economic uncertainty, it needs to be flexible. Gartner reports that 76 percent of corporate strategy leaders warn that significant pivots to strategic plans now happen with increasing frequency.
- Be Intentional about Collecting Feedback. Sometimes businesses take a ‘wait and see’ approach to customer feedback, believing that if a customer is unhappy then they’ll make the first move to get in touch and report on their experience. But there are some problems with this attitude: It fails to take into account that many unhappy customers will simply take their business elsewhere rather than reach out. It also neglects those valuable customer insights that may not be tied to a negative experience.
Collecting feedback really does mean collecting—it requires intentional effort on the part of your business. This exploration stage of customer advocacy must be performed early and often so that you can operate based on an accurate idea of who your customers are, what they want, and how you can best meet their needs. For many businesses, customer surveys are the most efficient approach to collecting customer feedback. These surveys may be collected over the phone, via email, or through online systems.
Actively seeking feedback gives your business relevant, actionable customer data straight from the hearts and minds of your clients. As a bonus, it also shows your clients that you respect their opinions and are committed to improving; according to Microsoft, 77 percent of customers view brands more favorably when they proactively reach out to collect customer feedback.
- Provide a Customer Advocacy Platform. Customer advocacy is evangelical, sharing the excitement of a customer’s experiences with those around them. With the right platform, your brand ambassadors can have a positive impact on potentially millions. Online review sites are one such area where your satisfied customers can talk about what makes your business and your approach to customer service special. Reviews are so integral to the purchasing process that more than half of US consumers consult reviews before finalizing a purchase.
That said, today’s customers are also much more wary of illegitimate reviews. Rather than taking every positive comment at face value, they demand authentic, real-life customers capable of detailing their own experiences in their own words. Customer video testimonials help bridge this gap, giving your advocates a powerful platform on which to make their endorsements. Viewers see real people sharing real experiences, and are more likely to develop the interest they need to give your business a try.
Video testimonials are becoming ever more central to effective customer advocacy strategies. And given that Hubspot identified video as the number-one media format content marketers relied on through their content strategies in 2021, this is a channel and approach that you don’t want to overlook.
- Dial in on the Right Kind of Content. Not every customer begins their journey with the intention to become a customer. Often, those who will eventually turn into your most dedicated brand advocates are simply looking for a solution to a problem. For them, a high-pressure sales pitch is probably the last thing they’re interested in. But if they can find the right kind of online content that addresses their issues and educates them in a way that is both illuminating and direct, then their interest in the brand behind that content may begin to grow.
Knowing what kind of content your customers need depends heavily on your market research and customer feedback, and may take some trial and error to really dial in on. But once you do so and can consistently produce content your customers value and that speaks to their needs and interests, customer advocacy is the natural next step. 51 percent of customers are more likely to make a purchase and 49 percent are more likely to become loyal to a brand if the content is personalized.
VideoPeel to Boost Your Customer Advocacy
Your customers want to take a more active role in your business. More than just buyers, they want to dictate the direction and level of service while helping you extend your reach and touch more lives for the better. Customer advocacy exists to make this kind of partnership possible.
And VideoPeel, the world’s foremost customer advocacy platform, is here to help.
VideoPeel brings customer advocacy to life and gives your brand ambassadors a platform of unequaled visibility. Our enhanced customer video capabilities empower your business to collect better feedback and capture video at exactly the right moments. Boost engagement, grow conversions, generate insights, and connect your customers to your business (and each other) like never before. VideoPeel makes it all possible.
Get started for free, and put your customers in the driver’s seat.