Customer advocacy programs harness the organic power of word-of-mouth. They build loyalty, help crowdsource new ideas and products, increase renewals and upsells, and help you acquire new customers through referrals. Without a program like this, you risk losing out on a key part of the customer lifecycle.
But first, you have to grow a customer-centric environment that gives your existing and future customer advocates a voice. Building a robust customer community can make that happen.
3 Reasons Why Customer Advocacy and Communities Go Well Together
A branded customer community, at its heart, is meant to be a customer resource. In what ways? Customers have direct access to your company, they can solve problems with other customers, and they get tools for using your product better.
Community in itself is a customer success tool that will help create natural advocates.
And when you have a community, you’re that much further along in your journey to find existing advocates and build new ones.
For an in-depth guide (including common mistakes seen with advocacy programs and 10 ideas for engaging advocates), check out this guide to supercharging your customer advocacy program with community.
Communities built around the customer and the customer journey make it a place where they can engage with your brand — and one another. Whether it’s engaging with other customers, learning more about using your product, providing feedback, or speaking for you on a webinar, communities give you the ability to do three main things when it comes to your customer advocacy program.
1. Earn and Identify Customer Advocates
Advocacy is born from a lifecycle of engagement. It requires consistent positive interactions with a brand or product, creating transparency and trust. Continuous, meaningful interaction with and between your customers builds advocates.
That’s where the community comes into play.
Building a strong community allows you to create those continuous engagements with you and your customers and between your customers. In this way, you can play the long game in advocacy – building advocates, step by step, through:
- Personalized content based on specific and observed interests
- A tailored customer journey by personas
- Customized user experience
Before you can begin to cultivate more customer advocates, you should first understand some of the common traits that they share to recognize the ones you may already have and to be able to identify them in the future.
When you create a community, you’re building a pool of potential advocates with every positive experience. You probably already have customers ready to be advocates if they:
- Actively participate in the community, on a daily or weekly basis
- Defend your brand in the community when something goes wrong
- Display enthusiasm for the product, industry, or your company
- Share great stories of success or lessons learned
- Help answer questions about your products or services for other community members
- Jump at the opportunity to provide feedback to your company
Higher Logic’s Community platform allows you to customize a community journey based on the user’s activities, role, or product (to name a few) For example, you could put a “thanks for being part of the advocacy program” on your advocates’ profile, OR you can say “join the advocacy program” to a new user!
You can easily change and control those community triggers to help guide people along their advocacy journey. Here’s what a sample planned community journey for customer advocates might look like:
- Show customers a personalized community feed based on interests
- Send them a “Have you posted yet?” email
- Surface a targeted ad to complete conference registration
- If they meet your defined criteria, send an invitation to become a customer advocate
- Assign a “most valuable player” or “super user” badge to their profile
- Give them a spot on your community leaderboard
By keeping an eye out for your community members that exhibit these traits, you will quickly become an expert at picking out potential candidates to become customer advocates. You don’t have to do this manually. For example, you can use Higher Logic’s automation rules to move a customer with a certain number of posts into your advocate pool or assign customizable ribbons or badges based on that activity.
Using automation rules, you can easily create:
- A badge like top 25 contributor or other designation and assign it to your most helpful customers
- A “new member” ribbon for someone who joined within the past 3 months, so existing advocates are alerted and can help and welcome them with expertise and advice
- Specific member tiers that designate their level of expertise within your community
Once you have identified the customer advocates that you may already have, it’s time to learn how to cultivate new ones.
2. Lead Other Customers Up the Advocacy Ladder
If you’re familiar with the concept of an advocacy ladder, this is a concept commonly used with online community engagement, too.
Higher Logic’s Community platform parallels this idea with customer advocacy tools that are built to increase a user’s involvement in the community – and as their involvement grows, their investment and loyalty grows.
Advocates in a customer community can engage with your brand and share feedback with you – but they are even more beneficial to those customers earlier in their journey who need help, tips, ideas, and guidance. An online community mobilizes your customer advocates to do just that.
When your champions can help inexperienced users, give product feedback, and share best practices, their excitement spreads through your user base—making everyone more invested and more loyal, helping you increase customer retention and grow your revenue. Make your own customer advocacy ladder by guiding users through an automated journey in your community that walks them from user to advocate.
Build those journeys to bring someone into the community, welcome them, help each other, reward them – and identify clear levels of engagement so you can nurture your advocates, in addition to your community members.
3. Create a Place for Collaboration
The community itself should be impactful to all parts of the organization and ultimately be able to lead toward identifying those advocates that are champions of your company and your product.
An engaged community of peers builds your entire organization’s reputation. By allowing your advocates to shine, prospects can browse discussions and naturally interact or consume advocates’ content. Your community is an open book where customers can hear about the value of all the extra opportunities you offer.
Your customer advocates are more trusted than your salespeople or company employees. The more advocates you have, the more resources you’re providing for upsell, renewals, and referrals that drive growth.
Accelerate Customer Advocacy with an Online Community
A true, long-term customer advocate can’t be bought – their loyalty has to be encouraged and earned. Building a customer community helps you “give first” and then ask later, after you’ve been able to identify existing ones and ideally create more, to then act upon their expertise and desire to help.
Looking for more tips around building a robust, community-led advocacy program? Check out our eBook on Supercharging Your Customer Advocacy Program with Community.
Jenny is a Community Strategist at Higher Logic. She has a strong background in community management, working with customers to implement strategies that would ensure their community produced the most engaged users possible. Prior to Higher Logic, Jenny was ingrained in the nonprofit sector as a grant writer, marketing specialist and—you guessed it—a community manager.
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