As the digital landscape continues to develop into 2017, expectations of brand communications has evolved beyond single channels of discovery and consumption. Digital marketers are constantly seeking ways to optimize content, digital ads, and media channels to cut through the clutter, generate buzz, drive engagement, and influence actions. In fact, one-time viral marketing campaigns are quickly losing efficacy due to short-term engagement and lack of depth for ongoing social evolution. To survive in an era where the customer is king, brands must go beyond counting video views and focus on a much more important goal: turning customers into brand advocates.

What is a brand advocate?

Brand advocates are satisfied customers who believe in a brand’s products and services so much that they promote it to friends, colleagues, and peers. The also share brand content on social networks and protect brand reputations with positive perceptions. That’s not to mention they do it for free. A recent study by Influitive and Heinz Marketing suggests that:

  • 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral
  • 82% of sales leaders say referrals are key to sales success
  • 78% of marketers said that referrals have a higher conversion rate compared to any other type of lead.

Buyers trust recommendations from people they know, and in the digital age, word of mouth interactions are readily available through email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and review forums. A strong referral program that builds emotional and behavioral connections with customers will not only help increase profit for brands, but will also drive higher customer lifetime value.

Most Trusted Sources for B2B Buyers

How can businesses leverage brand advocacy?

Businesses that develop strong brand advocacy or referral programs, spend less on advertising and create higher engagement through user-generated content. To be effective, brands should identify the specific reasons behind why people share content and then amplify them. For instance, Jonah Berger, an expert on word of mouth and social influence, recommends crafting content that makes consumers feel like exclusive insiders and in-the-know. In other words, consumers like to share information that makes them look good. Another way to motivate people to talk about a brand is creating memorable, immersive experiences for consumers. When interactivity is executed well, immersive experiences tap into consumer emotions, resulting in a stronger opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. After all, emotions drive people to take action. Lastly, businesses should promote and celebrate their brand advocates to show they are valued and appreciated. When consumers know they are valued, they become attached to the brand through trust.

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