When it comes to running your business, clients are great, but brand advocates are gold.

A client is going to pay you for your product or service. They may even return in six months to buy again. They are the backbone of your company. Customers are the people that keep your business running year after year.

However, a brand advocate will be the person who returns again and again and encourages other people to try your product or service. This is the person that draws new customers into your business. They are the lifeblood of your company.


How to Identify Potential Brand Advocates

Brand advocates are often obvious when you take a minute to pay attention to what they’re doing.

For example, is there someone that’s always tagging your business in their social media posts? When you ask customers how they heard about your company, do one or more of them mention the same person?

Are there active users who recommend your product or service to other users on sites like Quora and Reddit?

When you’re looking for a brand advocate, you’re not just looking for someone who loves your product, but someone who isn’t afraid to profess their love to anyone and everyone who will listen.


What to do with Potential Brand Advocates

Identifying these brand advocates is just the first step. Once you know who you’re looking for, it’s time to put them to use.


Create a Brand Advocate Profile

Learn about your brand advocates. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they purchase? Are they active on social media at night? In the morning? All of the time?

What products or services are these brand advocates bragging about? What else do they talk about on social media? Do they love a specific professional sport? Do they spend their weekends outdoors? At the movies?

Learn as much as you possibly can about your brand advocates and see what they all have in common.

Create a profile for a brand advocate much like you would create a potential customer profile.


Talk to Your Brand Advocates

Then, talk to them. Reach out to your most vocal brand advocates and ask them what they like about your company. Ask them what you can improve.

Find out what first attracted them to your product or service. Is there something that they need or want from you in the future?

These are loyal customers that love your company. They want to see you succeed and they want to help you get there.

Their insight is essential to the future success of your business.


Reward Brand Advocates

While a brand advocate will happily offer up this information for free, there’s no harm in making sure that you show your appreciation right back.

Be sure to reward brand advocates for their help with a gift or a special, one-time discount.

A handwritten, personalized note would also go a long way to keeping up a good relationship with the brand advocate.

Remember, good brand advocates, are worth their weight in gold.


How to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates

Now that you’ve picked the low-hanging fruit, it’s time to expand. You want to convert some of your best customers into brand advocates.


Target Returning Customers

According to Smart Insights, one or two purchases is not enough to turn a customer into a loyal client. Instead, it’s going to take at least five purchases.

Go through your records and seek out the clients that have purchased from you a few times. Try and bring them back into the fold.

Use retargeting ads (details here) and drip email campaigns (details here) to encourage these previous clients to buy again. Offer exclusive discounts and deals.


Show You Are Trustworthy

Frequent purchases allow you to prove to a customer that you are trustworthy. The more a person buys, the more opportunities you have to deliver a great product or service.

This is your chance to show customers that they can count on you for a quality product, a reasonable price, and fantastic service.

The Future of Commerce explores the idea of trust when talking about the brand IKEA. IKEA has spent so many years fulfilling people’s expectations that earned customer trust. In fact, customers trust the company so much that they wait months for the store to stock an out-of-stock item.

Once they find out that the item is back in stock, they tell their friends. They purchase the item and then post about it on social media.

All of that is built up through years of trust.


Hook Customers with Exceptional Value

Another way to develop a customer into a brand advocate is to hook them in with an exceptional value.

CNBC explored Costco a few years ago and found that good value is what drives people to Costco in droves.

It doesn’t matter that the average person spends hundreds of dollars during a trip to Costco. Those same people feel like they’re walking out of the warehouse with the best deal possible.

When a client walks away from your business feeling like they received an exceptional value, that client is more likely to return again and again and again. They are also more likely to tell their friends.


Loyalty Leads to Rewards

Many businesses have found that loyalty and rewards programs are the best ways to retain customers and create brand advocates.

Vocalcom suggests welcoming new customers with a discount after the first purchase. As they become more frequent buyers offer upgrades, discounts, or even free products depending on their purchase history.

If you’re looking to encourage brand advocates to be more vocal, then create a referral program for your fans. Offer incentives to people who share your product with their friends.

A referral program can be as simple as a discount on a customer’s next purchase for every friend they recommend. It can also be intricate, such as a sliding scale with larger prizes and rewards as they recommend more and more customers.


Surprise Customers

Finally, every now and again, find a way to surprise customers. As marketer Sujan Patel explains, a freebie is great, but it’s even better when it’s a complete surprise.

Give the customer a surprise upgrade to free shipping or a surprise bonus gift. Maybe you just send a gift out of the blue or include a handwritten thank you note in your next shipment.

When you surprise a customer with your thoughtfulness or generosity, they are more likely to remember you in the long run.


Written by Erika Towne