Paying for advocacy isn't a smart move. Not only does it cheapen the message, it's unethical, it can get a company in the FTC's crosshairs, and it's just plain lame. It's like saying, "Since our product isn't worth talking about genuinely, how about I give you 10 bucks to write a review?"1
Examples of Rewarding Advocates
- Sneak peeks. Consumer Electronics manufacturers can give Advocates a sneak peek of a new DVR or what the new software version will include.
- Exclusive offers. Don't give Advocates the same offers you give to all customers. Give them unique offers that show you recognize them as your true VIPs. Hotels can give Advocates a weekend package accessible only to the Advocate and their friends.
- Ask for opinions. Apparel companies thinking about a new line can give Advocates the opportunity to voice their opinions about the line before others.
- Give contributions to nonprofit causes. One of the best ways to reward Brand Advocates is to make cash and/or in-kind contributions to deserving nonprofit organizations on behalf of your Advocates. This approach motivates advocates. boosts your corporate image and reputation, and serves a useful social purpose.
- Acknowledge advocates. Let them know their recommendations matter. You can show Advocates which of their friends they've recommended that are now customers and Advocates themselves.
- Advocate-only events. Restaurants can hold a special in-person event for Advocates to get an exclusive preview of new menu items and meet the executive chef.
- Give early access. Retailers can open a store one hour early. Let your Advocates be beta testers.
- Give access to company leaders. Starbucks Melody had an opportunity to meet Starbucks' founder, Howard Schultz. Even if you don't have a rockstar CEO, giving Advocates the opportunity to have direct dialogue with senior leaders of your company can make them feel special.
- Provide VIP levels of service. Hotels can provide Advocates with a town car or limo while they stay at the property or a personal VIP guide. Software providers can offer advocates a special help disk for VIP customers only.
- Honor your advocates. Highlight your Advocates with an "Advocate of the Week" program. This is a great way to encourage Advocacy without paying for it.
There are not 10, straight-forward, systematic ways to reward Brand Advocates. The bottom line is to make Advocates know that they are and feel appreciated. After all, they're your volunteer sales and marketing force that you'll never have to pay.
1Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force (Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-1183-3603-8; July 2012; Hardcover & E-book)