Tactics for Building Loyal Brand Advocates

Last week, I was lucky enough to go to SearchLove down in San Diego and present on how marketers can build brand loyalty and brand advocates. It was a great show, with a ton of great speakers and insights. Below is a quick summary of my presentation, and the full deck for those who want to check it out.

We will be exploring how to build brand loyalty and evangelists in more detail over the coming weeks, but this is a great top-level checklist to help you get started. Enjoy!

Tip #1: Get good at cohort marketing. Today’s marketer needs to understand how to slice and dice their audience and customer segments. I talked through different dimensions to consider, and how sequencing those dimensions to build cohorts can help you more effectively meet the users’ needs.

Specific tactics include ideas like directing users to register for a community and fill out profiles (which BigDoor’s loyalty program can help with), building retargeting audiences, etc. 

Tip #2: Appeal to internal and external motivations. Too often we, as marketers, build branding campaigns, but don’t give enough attention to how we want the customer or user to feel when they digest the campaign. In the slide deck, I stress the importance of appealing to both internal motivations (who does the person aspire to be? how can the campaign help them identify and grow into that aspirational character?) and external motivations (how does the person want to be perceived outwardly? what persona are they playing into when it comes to their social circles?). By identifying the “feeling” you are hoping the campaign delivers, you can better align the campaign with your brand values for maximum impact.

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Specific tactics include surveying customers and employees to hear what words come to mind for your current brand, [doing a brand explore], and making sure those adjectives and values are listed in your campaign specs so no campaign strays too far from your goal message.

Tip #3: Design for the masses. Design is increasingly becoming a huge factor in what resonates with an audience and what doesn’t. When I’m asked, “Who is the first person you’d hire for your marketing team?” I always say, “An amazing designer.” Designers bring the brand to life. Your campaigns need to rise above the noise, and a beautiful, simple, effective design can do that.

Specific tactics include testing new design themes out first, passing around design pieces internally for team feedback, delighting your viewers with unexpected innovations, and making the design easily digestible and shareable to the masses.

Tip #4: Advocacy requires passionate stories. There is a misconception in brand marketing that if a user or customer has a great experience with your brand, they are  likely to advocate on your behalf. News flash: it takes more than that. While customer experience is key, delivering an exceptional one is now the new standard. There needs to be a brilliant story attached to that experience to encourage advocacy. Marketers need to be shaping those stories and wrapping them in their campaigns so happy users and customers can advocate something more than just a good experience review.

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Specific tactics include shaping stories internally with customer advisory boards or you community leaders, wrapping those stories in beautiful design, and amplifying them on social media platforms with advertising dollars. Another great tip is to take the responses to your campaigns and use them to seed your next campaign. It creates a flywheel effect that can be very powerful.

Tip #5: Hit a whole new level of vulnerability. It’s no secret that transparency goes a long way in our hyper-connected, conversational ecosystem. Today’s companies need to be willing to pull back the current and be vulnerable – both about their strengths and their weaknesses. Building a brand takes multiple moments of shared trust along a user’s lifecycle, and trust is built on the back of authenticity and vulnerability.

Specific tactics include showing off your product roadmap publicly and owning up to missed deadlines, showing off your customer service rating on the site somewhere, and blogging about the wins and losses of your everyday operation.

Tip #6: Appreciate early and often. Rewarding users for their activity and time investment is at the heart of building loyalty, and taking the time to say thank you seeds a reciprocal relationship. Companies that do this early in the lifecycle tend to seed loyalty sooner, which helps at every phase of the funnel. 

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Specific tactics include launching loyalty programs and/or campaigns (feel free to contact us to learn more about our product options), building customer appreciation strategies, creating influencer relationship programs, and more. If you have someone supporting your brand, you should be asking yourself how you can give back and say thank you.

Tip #7: Track that sh*t.  Let’s not beat around the bush about it – measuring brand loyalty is hard. Measuring brand advocacy is just as challenging. Are things shifting for the better, or are you losing ground? In my deck, I talk through some basic advice (like tracking for the goal metric, not trying to capture overall “engagement”), and I talk through some commonly accepted models for tracking loyalty.

Specific tactics include nailing down what the specific campaign aims to increase, setting up tracking, running retrospectives after the campaign ends, and adjusting the measurement model as needed.

Tip #8: Multi-channel it up. Mobile. It’s a thing. What is your brand doing to make sure your users and consumers are experiencing multiple touchpoints across their many devices during the phases of of the customer journey? I talk through some companies building brand loyalty well and how they’ve used mobile to target users differently, adding to their overall success.

Specific tactics include putting a team and resources into your mobile and local strategy, rethinking what “value” means on these devices, and starting with your best brand assets when considering your value add cross-device.

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Tip #9: Evangelize internally. This one is so important, and sadly, so many marketers forget about it. If you want to succeed in building brand loyalty and brand advocacy, it will need to be a company-wide initiative. That means the marketing team needs to be working cross-department to keep the user’s experience front of mind. We need to be reporting out where we are and where we want to be with our brands, and openly discussing the necessary steps to build an even better brand.

Specific tactics include building a cross-department team (retention, customer success, growth, or otherwise) that is focused on understand your customers and building loyalty, reporting out company wide metrics, and getting the buy-in from the leadership team to help push brand loyalty initiatives through.

Tip #10: Enable them to market on your behalf. This is so critical. You’ve put in so much time to build a loyal audience; now how can you leverage them to share your brand on your behalf? How can you empower them to introduce your brand (with their endorsement) to their social circles? I talk through a few different ways to leverage your advocates to grow your business.

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Specific tactics include launching a referral program (BigDoor has a great social loyalty campaign product to do this easily; ping us if you want to hear more), making your content easily shareable, rewarding advocacy, and more.

Those are my big tips on how to build loyal brand advocates. The deck also shows off some great brand examples of companies doing all of this well, and lists out specific tactics for you to try.

Again, I’d like to thank the Distilled team for letting me head down to San Diego and talk loyalty. It was a theme that came up in a number of the presentations given over the two-day conference. There is no doubt that brand marketing will become more and more a part of our every day job. No matter what marketing channel you play in, we all need to be asking ourselves: how can we help build brand loyalty and create a community of advocates? Those companies that invest early will be at a huge advantage moving forward.

Do you have tips on how to nurture advocacy and build loyalty? Let’s here them in the comments below!


About Joanna Lord

Joanna is the CMO at BigDoor. She is a lover of coffee, tech, startups and the visual web. She considers herself a growth marketer at heart and loves helping companies create and build beautiful brands. Follow Joanna on Twitter @joannalord.

  • Josh Wilson

    Lots of great info! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how applicable you think social sharing is to companies whose sales model is more “enterprise”-based as opposed to most web companies that focus on volume.

    If you have a very niche/small target market, but each new client means a significant amount of revenue (vs. millions of users at $9.99/month), does building a brand around social media like Facebook/Twitter/G+ still apply? Or would it be perceived negatively to have only 50 or 100 followers or fans?

  • joannalynnlord

    Hey Josh! You bring up a great point. BigDoor also works with enterprise companies and we’ve thought about that exact question. We are powering a niche – companies looking to launch loyalty campaigns and programs – but the right content, activity, and effort can push strong social counts. We may never get ten of thousands people liking our company but we will still show that 1,000 people do.

    Today all prospects have multiple touchpoints with a brand before deciding to go with them. The enterprise sales cycle is often a much longer one and seeding trust with those prospects takes a lot of great execution on our parts. Building a community (even if it’s smaller) is just another great way to demonstrate your dedication to an industry and offering value there.

    Hope that helps! That is a great question, maybe we can get a post up on it at some point! It would bring a lot of great questions/dialog I bet!

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