How Do You Define Customer Advocacy?

There is lots of talk about customer advocacy. It’s the end-game for many marketers and customer experience professionals. If you have customers who love your brand SO much they are willing to sing your praises to anyone who will listen, then you’ve done your job well.

When we discuss how to recognize the customers who love your brand, we often see customer advocates as the ultimate customers.

I agree there is a lot of benefit to having advocates. The challenge, I would argue, is understanding advocates are not one group, and how many brands are not paying attention to all of them.

Active Advocates

This is the group marketers conjure up when they discuss advocacy. These are the types – we all know a few – who are constantly verbal and always recommending the next best thing. They are passionate and loud, just the way we want them! They will respond to inquiries about your brand not just to the person who asked, but to as public a group as they can get. Brands will lavish attention on them, which in turn they will discuss publicly, which will earn them more attention. An active advocate sounds like this:

I have been a loyal customer of Threadless for a long time. I have introduced threadless to all my close friends and have many times been complimented on my tshirt collection, thanks to threadless :)

How Do You Define Customer Advocacy? image 402477614 f89ad6f3a9 o 300x223How Do You Define Customer Advocacy?Passive Advocates

This is the group that might still love your brand, but they won’t shout from the rooftops about it. If asked, they’ll offer a measured and fair recommendation. They will respond to inquiries on social media from trusted circles, and they will patiently wait for updates and improvements. They trust the brand, they recommend the brand, but they are often ignored by the brand. They aren’t “loud” enough to be seen as advocates, and yet they are more likely recommending the brand simply because they love it. They aren’t necessarily interested in perks, but they wouldn’t mind receiving them. A passive advocate sounds like this, when they are responding to a question about the category, within their social circle:

Since I switched to Mail Chimp, I couldn’t be happier!

Conditional Advocates

This group likes your brand…by default. They are often experts in their fields and those who others turn to for recommendations. And while they might recommend the brand, they do so conditionally. While the product or service might meet the majority of needs, it’s missing…something. If a competitor came along and offered more or better, this advocate would be quick to jump ship and sing their praises. They often will tell people about their love/hate (or sometimes just hate) relationship, and why they “put up” with the brand. A conditional advocate sounds like this:

I’m with Star Alliance through United. Now I hate United, but that doesn’t matter.

Defining these types of advocates this way highlights the problem with having an “end-game” when discussing customer experience. Experience is a daily, weekly, monthly thing that changes with the times. What works for customers one day may not work for them the next. Keeping count of how many customers have signed up for your loyalty program is not a way to indicate who your best advocates are. Do you know your advocates, really? Do you know how you are defining them?

If you are only treating one small group as your best customers, you are most likely missing opportunities to gain and keep more of them.

Photo credit: ‘smil via Creative Commons license

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