We’ve written in a couple different places about the power of customer advocacy in online community. Heck, we’ve even developed an entire guide on how to implement a multi-tiered community advocacy program.
Is advocacy really that important? Consider these statistics:
- 92% of customers trust recommendations from people they know
- Word of mouth stands behind 20-50% of purchase decisions
- A 12% bump in advocacy generates a twofold increase in revenue growth
Incentives are a great way to fuel advocacy, but today I want to focus on a very specific subset of advocacy incentives: swag.
Yes, that’s right. If you want to give your advocacy program a shot in the arm, ply your advocates with a healthy dose of branded kitsch.
Using Swag to Blaze a Trail
Just take a look at SalesForce’s Trailblazer community. This group is a customer advocacy community on steroids—fueled by the central theme of Ohana (the Hawaiian word for family) and a dedication to learning, innovation and collaboration.
Here, the prominent identity badge is the coveted Trailblazer hoodie.
Here’s how Salesforce describes their hoodie:
“You may have noticed a snazzy piece of fashion more and more people are sporting. It’s a soft, black, zip-up hooded sweater with the words ‘Trailblazer’ emblazoned on the front. If you see someone in a Trailblazer hoodie, you’re looking at a person who is a leader, a transformer, an innovator.”
That last piece is crucial. It doesn’t just mark out a member of the community; it infuses them with a sense of identity. The Trailblazer isn’t just a nice piece of swag; it’s a visible manifestation of one’s connection and commitment to this community of advocates.
Swag Advocacy Pays Off
Important: the Trailblazer hoodie isn’t swag that Salesforce gives away for free. You actually have to pay $37.50 just to get your hands on one. That fact alone confirms the power of swag.
That people would actually pay to wear a piece of clothing that identifies their love for a product/service — which… ahem… they also have to pay for — is a clear statement of swag’s identity-forming power.
Salesforce isn't the only one to get this, of course. Every band who's ever set up a merch table at the back of the venue knows that — more than another revenue stream — selling t-shirts is a powerful way to promote their brand.
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t sell jerseys just because they stand to make a boatload of money doing so (although, they do). They do it because swag is part of the necessary furniture that comes with building and deploying a fan base.
Making Swag Work for You
Odds are, you’re not going to convince your community members to shell out for your branded swag. That’s fine. You don’t need them to trade dollars for merchandise.
What you do need them to trade, however, is their advocacy. As I briefly showed at the beginning of this post, customer behavior stats make one heck of a case for a sustained advocacy marketing program.
So, how do you get your customers and fans to get out there and start shilling for your product? You guessed it: swag.