Is the answer to this question: “we use some software to track who gives references, we make sure we say thank you and give gifts, we ask them do to loads of stuff.” We need to do better. It’s tiring hearing other professionals who work in customer advocacy and marketing be so tied down to a traditional model.

So, cool, your company has loads of money and you can afford to lavish your advocates with gifts and offer them “perks”. That isn’t going to fly anymore. The old school shake of the hand, here is some nice wine and oh would you do a me favour just isn’t going to cut it in 2021. Business is moving on and your customers want to purchase work with more meaningful ethical brands, who want to partner with them not send them swag.

Work out what your advocacy model actually is

If someone asks me how we do advocacy – it’s very simple. We developed a model, it might not look pretty, but, it’s mine.

It’s founded on mutual trust and a strong relationship. I dig into the core set of values most of us have which makes us want to help our fellow human beings. I don’t bribe them with fancy gifts or bespoke experiences.

Working with a team of professionals who really care about their customers is more important than gifts and perks.

Customer relationships: It’s a two-way street

Whether you like it or not customer advocacy is a two-way street. It’s not just; I give you the nice stuff, now you do me a favour (the HubSpot advocacy personas demonstrate this really well). It’s so much more than that, it should feel like a partnership. In fact, I would go as far as to say call it a partnership, everyone understands that concept.

I remember, not so fondly, one of our non-advocates who I was relentlessly wishing to be one, saying to me once: customer: “When we installed [insert name of huge tech company here] they did all this really amazing stuff for me”, me: “ohhh how wonderful, what did they do for you?”, customer: “gave us loads of free swag and basically held a party for us”.

In all honesty that was when I realised this customer and I would never be part of a true partnership. It wasn’t the expectations, it was the lack of interest in an actual partnership, note how they mention the free stuff, nothing about how good the product or the people there are. Ok cool, you want free stuff, I can do free stuff, but I want us to work together, to create something that doesn’t just benefit you and me, it benefits your organisation and mine.

How you “do” customer relationships does matter

79% of high-income people, 51% of B2B clients, and 54% of Gen Xers will avoid your company for two years or more following one bad customer experience. (Source: Zendesk) “Customer experience” now means so much more than “my customer success/support manager was a terrible”. It’s everything from the way your run company, treat your people and customers to how amazing your products are.

Advocacy can be part of that negative experience if you aren’t careful, if you raise expectations to be the giver of gifts and perks, you are going to find yourself in hot water with a group of demanding individuals who you can’t manage. Those people will be powerful and those people will be very quietly destroying your reputation as a brand if something goes wrong.

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