Every marketer worth their salt knows the value of being recommended by a customer. After all, it’s why we always talk about how powerful word of mouth is. Yet my experience is that most marketers don’t know who their brand advocates are let alone how to mobilize them. For example, here’s a typical conversation I have with a senior marketer on this topic:

Me: How important is word of mouth and referrals to your business?
Marketer: Very important

Me: Given that, do you know who your brand advocates are?
Marketer: Uh… not exactly

Me: Okay, but what are you doing to make it easy for brand advocates to promote your brand?
Marketer: Actually, not much…

No matter how you’d answer these questions, there’s no doubt you could be doing more to turn your most satisfied customers into an “advocate salesforce” that you can mobilize to promote your products and services. I recently spoke about this very topic on a DNN Software webinar titled: How to Make Brand Advocacy Really Work for Your Company

During this webinar, I covered a number of topics related to identifying, mobilizing, and tracking your brand advocates. Here are a handful of the highlights:

What are brand advocates?

Let’s kick things off by defining what a brand advocate is. To do that, I turn to Rob Fuggetta, author of Brand Advocates: Turning enthusiastic customers into a powerful marketing force. Yes, the guy that literally wrote the book on brand advocacy. Rob describes brand advocates like this:

“Brand Advocates are your most loyal, passionate, and engaged customers, and your best marketers. They don’t just buy your products – they sell your products for you.”

And just to be clear, brand advocates are not only the lovable “lunatic fringe”. You know, the folks that happily shave an Apple logo onto their head or tattoo an arm with the Harley Davidson brand. Instead, they’re people like you and me.

Don’t believe it?

Think about the last time you (or someone you know) recommended a movie, restaurant, dry cleaner, etc., to a family member, friend, or work colleague. Not that long ago, right? And what about the millions of positive reviews that have been written on sites such as Amazon, Trip Advisor, Yelp, and even B2B review sites like G2 Crowd.

The bottom line: advocacy is happening all the time!

Why are brand advocates so important?

It all comes down to trust. Meaning we trust each other more than brands when it comes to deciding what to buy. For instance, here’s data from the Nielsen Company showing to what extent people will trust and take action on different forms of advertising.

Word of Mouth/Brand Advocates Most Trusted Advertising - Nielsen

You can see from the chart that “recommendations from people I know” are the most trusted and most likely to drive purchase actions when compared to other forms of advertising. What’s the second most trusted? Consumer opinions posted online. No surprise, we trust people more than brand advertising.

Now imagine how much more effective your marketing would be if it included an army of brand advocates pitching your brand and products to their social networks. Yes, that would be WAY more effective than your paid advertising campaigns.

How to make brand advocacy really work for your company

Of course, brand advocacy sounds great in concept but how do you really put it into action? Well, it all boils down to being able to identify and mobilize your brand advocates on a regular basis.

So what’s the best way to identify your brand advocates? Ask them! To do this you can use the Net Promoter Survey as shown here:

Net Promoter Score Ultimate Question

Go ahead and email this one-question survey to your customer database. Those customers that answer with a score of 9 or 10 are “extremely likely to recommend” your brand – they are your brand advocates. And you can use this “ultimate question” to easily identify hundreds if not thousands of advocates… within 48 to 72 hours of mailing out the email survey!

Just make sure and update your CRM system so you can “flag” these advocates as a separate customer segment. That way you can capture who your advocates are when they take the survey, and then use this information to mobilize them on a regular basis. Pretty neat, right?

Want more ways to identify your brand advocates? Check out the full webinar replay.

Once you’ve identified your advocates, it’s time to mobilize them to take action on your behalf. For example, here are some ways to consider:

• Write reviews and testimonials
• Recommend your brand on social media
• Share branded content and offers
• Answer prospect questions
• Battle negative word of mouth
• Generate referrals
• Provide product feedback

Now you can create dedicated advocacy campaigns that mobilize your advocates to take one or more of these specific actions whenever it’s time to rally the troops, so to speak.

And as with your other marketing campaigns, make sure you track the performance of your advocacy campaigns. This means using dedicated tracking links and landing pages to measure the clicks, website traffic, and shared offers generated by your brand advocates.

Also, don’t forget to acknowledge and thank your brand advocates for their efforts. They’re your VIPs so make sure and treat them that way!

See the webinar for even more about brand advocacy…

Want to learn even more about how to make brand advocacy really work for your company? Watch the webinar replay and find out:

• Whether or not you should pay your brand advocates
• An example of a simple brand advocacy campaign that can generate almost immediate results
• How to measure and track the results of your brand advocacy campaigns
• Some hard learned lessons from running brand advocacy campaigns
• How a branded community can help with brand advocacy

Now it’s your turn

Have you identified and mobilized your brand advocates? What lessons have you learned when it comes to brand advocacy?

A version of this post first appeared on the DNN Blog.