If you build it, they will come. That is, as long as it’s what they want. And it’s well built. And perfect, and fun, and exciting, and…well, you get the picture. In an ideal world, every advocacy marketing program would drive millions in earned media value and double-digit growth.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. Successful programs don’t just happen magically.
It takes strategy, foresight, and a key understanding of your audience to build a successful advocacy marketing program. Luckily for you, we’ve assisted hundreds of brands with their advocacy marketing efforts. Not to toot our own horn but, it’s safe to say that we know a little about what it takes to build a solid foundational strategy for your advocacy marketing efforts.
Six Nine Questions to Guide Your Advocacy Marketing Program Strategy
Here are six nine key questions that, once answered, can help you build the perfect advocacy marketing program for your audience. Since we wrote this post back in 2018, we’ve had the experience of helping hundreds of brands create and support their advocacy marketing efforts. Based on this experience, we’ve added a few new questions that are critical to a successful advocacy marketing program.
1) Who Is an Ideal Advocate for Your Brand?
Hint: Don’t say “everyone”.
As a starting point, you need to develop a clear understanding of your advocates. Look at your repeat buyers, your tried-and-true fans, the people that are already seeking out and gobbling up your content.
Notice anything similar about them?
Do they share a common gender or age range? Do they all like (or dislike) certain hobbies or activities? As patterns emerge between specific groups of people, so does the personification of your ideal advocates. These are the individuals that are going to not only join, but actively participate in your advocacy marketing program – provided (and this is important) the program resonates with them.
2) What Content Is Important To Your Newly Identified Advocates?
Once you identify who you envision joining your program, you next need to determine what motivates those individuals. What do they care about? What is important to them? How can you provide your advocates with value? The answer to these questions will help you formulate your content strategy – specifically, the topics of the content pieces you’ll be sharing with and through your advocates.
Some common questions to ask about your newly identified advocates:
- Do they want discounts or coupons?
- Would they prefer or value exclusive content?
- What type of media do they prefer to consume (blog posts, articles, videos)?
- Would they get behind a user-generated content initiative?
3) Who Else is Wooing Your Advocate?
You already know you have the best advocacy marketing program on the block, but that doesn’t mean other brands aren’t trying to woo your Superfans into their marketing initiatives.
Take a look at your competitors. Do they already have an established advocacy marketing programs? If they don’t, what are other ways that they might be empowering, organizing, and leveraging their brand advocates?
Explore if your competitors are:
- Running user-generated content campaigns
- Building exclusive communities
- Partnering with influencers
4) What Incentives Would Encourage Your Advocates To Operate At Peak Performance?
If you have advocates regularly sharing your content, promoting your brand and in general making you look like a rockstar, reward that behavior and encourage those advocates to keep sharing! You’re not buying actions, you’re rewarding good behavior amongst your fans.
Not all incentives are created equal. Some audiences want swag, others prefer exclusive content; each audience is different and understanding what motivates your audience to share can be the difference between a zero month and a hero month.
5) How Are You Going to Optimize Your Campaign Over Time?
In other words, what is your listening strategy going to be to improve your advocacy marketing program? No initial strategy is going to succeed with a “set it and forget it” mentality. The strongest programs are forged in the heat of advocacy battle.
Set yourself up for long term success from the beginning by laying out how you are going to approach refining your program. Your advocates are going to be providing you feedback in several ways, but typically feedback will come in two forms:
This is content your advocates send to you by way of surveys, focus groups, or other dialoguing methods. The SocialToaster platform makes it easy for your program manager to solicit for this kind of feedback using our built-in survey functionality.
Actions always speak louder than words, and just because your advocates SAY they want something changed, doesn’t mean they actually want you to change the status quo. Non-verbal feedback is given in the form of engagement metrics. For example, if you have certain post topics that consistently generate a high level of clicks and shares, you’ve found the content type that your audience is interested in.
Likewise, the opposite is true: if certain topics are falling flat, your audience is clearly telling you that they don’t want to receive this type of content.
6) What Does Success Look Like For Your Advocacy Marketing Program?
Take the time to define what success looks like for your program. Each program defines success differently, but in general advocacy marketing success tends to be tied to the following KPIs:
- Earned Media Value
- Sharing Rates
- Total Audience Size
- Total Program Reach
- By understanding where you want to go, you can determine what it takes from a resource standpoint to get there.
For example, if you want 10,000 fans in your program in the first six months, you know that you’ll need to support an aggressive recruitment strategy (complete with some recruitment spending).
Likewise, if you have your eyes on a cool mil in EMV, then you know that you’ll need to maximize the sharing power of your advocates through frequent and consistent content sharing.
7) How Will You Grow Participation in Your Program?
Once your program is launched, how will you market and advertise it to your brand fans? No matter how much they love your brand, most people aren’t going to stumble on a brand’s advocacy marketing program. They need to be educated that the program exists and invited to join.
Take the time to put together a recruitment strategy to drive awareness and membership into your program. As a note, you may need to invest some dollars in advertisements and other channels to properly grow program participation.
A few of our favorite recruitment channels include:
- Emails to your 1st-party lists.
- Posts on your organic social media platforms.
- Paid social ads that target your ideal advocate.
- Influencer marketing.
- Links on your website or any other owned digital media (blog, etc.).
- Inclusion on packaging, receipts, or other physical touchpoints with your customers.
8) How Will You Support Your Program Over Time?
Long-term advocacy marketing ROI is built on continued investment in your advocacy marketing program. The more you nurture your advocates, the more likely they are to engage with your program over months (even years), while also inviting their friends and family to join.
For many brands, supporting an advocacy marketing program requires both a commitment of talent and dollars.
Identify owns your advocacy marketing platform. Who will be engaging with members, creating posts for them to share, etc.? You will also need to identify where the content being shared by your advocates will be coming from. Is it a blog? An agency? Third-party sources? Those resources may need to be invested in if they are expected to support your campaign.
To ensure long-term success, your program will also need to be supported by a steady stream of compelling incentives or prizes. You should also carve out a portion of your budget for ongoing recruitment to continually grow your advocate base and counter any natural attrition.
9) Identify the Right Size of Your Platform
We talked above about the need to find the right platform to house your advocacy marketing platform. One that can help you nurture your advocates while also reporting on the metrics that matter most to your organization.
All of that is important, critical even, but it’s also important for you to find a platform that is able to meet the initial needs of your program and then can scale with you as more fans join. Don’t get bogged down paying more for a system you aren’t quite ready for.
This is why we created SocialToaster Lite. Starting at only $30, SocialToaster Lite was purposefully built to meet the needs of newer programs.
With SocialToaster Lite, you’ll be able to set up your branded advocacy marketing program, invite your initial fans, and start sharing content within minutes. You’ll also have access to our ContentToaster AI subscription to identify and promote content to your fan-base automatically.
Sure, SocialToaster Lite may not have all of the bells and whistles of our Enterprise Solution. Still, at $30 a month (no contract required), it’s the ideal platform for experimenting with advocacy marketing and exploring its potential impact on your marketing ROI.
Don’t build an advocacy marketing program blind. Put yourself in the shoes of your advocates and craft a program that your advocates can’t wait to join.