It’s as simple as this: when people win, they talk. When customers thrive, they tell stories about who and what helped them get there. In other words, customer success drives customer advocacy.
But is that all there is to it? Is the relationship between success and advocacy a one-way street? No way; I’d argue that faithful advocacy turns right around and drives customer success. In fact, I will argue that. Are you ready?
First, let’s take a look at my primary claim.
Customer Success Drives Advocacy
Let’s start simple. What exactly is an advocate?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an advocate as “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.” In public policy and legal contexts, an advocate is someone who puts forward a case on someone else’s behalf.
Maybe you’ve never thought about it this way, but an advocate is simply a customer who’s taken it upon themselves to “make your case” in the public sphere.
How do they do it? By talking (posting, tweeting, pinning, etc.) about how your product or service has helped them succeed—whether you’ve helped them boost conversion rates by 162% or drop 25 pounds.
Why in the world would they want to do that?
I like to think of the motivation for advocacy along two lines:
1. Synthetic – You put a sophisticated, multi-tiered advocacy marketing program into place and incentivize the snot out of them until they talk about you.
2. Organic – This is when customers get so excited about what you’ve helped them accomplish that they literally can’t keep quiet about how wonderful you are.
To sustain a successful advocate marketing program, you need both these dynamics working together. Your customers need an organic story to tell—one their network will believe. At the same time, even the happiest customers need a bit of synthetic motivation.
Advocacy Drives Customer Success
As I mentioned in the intro, the relationship between customer success and advocacy is a two-way street. I’ve already demonstrated how customer success drives advocacy. Now let’s take a look at the two-fold way advocacy drives success.
1. Before the Sale: How Advocates Set Up Your New Customers for Success
When it comes to making sales online, the most powerful psychological motivator is social proof. That’s why 92% of online customers won’t buy a product if it has no reviews.
Unscrupulous companies take advantage of this by paying for reviews, pumping up numbers and using other of shady tactics to trick consumers into thinking they’re more popular and revered than they really are.
You can try that, but I promise you it’ll lead to anything but customer success.
Smarter companies use social proof to more noble ends. They encourage satisfied customers to advocate, not merely because of incentives, but because they have a legitimate story to tell about what they’ve accomplished with the product.
These stories act as a filter, drawing in your target audience and blocking out anyone else. In either case, your advocates separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. The remaining grains of golden goodness will be the right customers for your business. And they’re the ones who’ll happily buy your product and experience the most success.
2. After the Sale: How Advocates Stop Your Customers from Jumping Ship
As we just saw, advocates help customers succeed by making sure only the right customers come to you in the first place. But they’re not done yet.
Advocates play an important role in the customer’s lifecycle even after they’ve converted. Perhaps the most obvious way they do this is by participating in online customer support forums.
Hootsuite’s Support Community is a popular example. When you ask a question, you may see a few Hootsuite employees floating around here and there. But what you see far more of, are devoted Hootsuite fans jumping in to answer each other’s questions.
Getting advocates to ease your customer service burden in the context of online community isn’t just a great way to free up resources. It also strengthens the bond between customers and creates more opportunities to develop additional fans and advocates.
As we’ve seen, customer success and advocacy drive one another. Thus, both are worthy of your business’s close attention. But tread carefully; don’t place a cart full of customer advocacy ahead of the success-driven horse. Focus on helping your customers win. Then, help them tell that story to the world.