Advocacy Marketing – Turning Customers into Brand Champions

by Natasha Ambavle |

Advocacy Marketing – Turning Customers into Brand Champions

Today, for most people, the singular source of entertainment, news, and information is user-generated content. In layman terms – social media platforms. The dependency on user-generated content has increased considerably in the last few years. With a platform to share your views, customers are getting more vocal about their likes and dislikes, causing a direct … Read more

The Age of Customer Advocacy Marketing

Ever bought a product or service because it was hyped on social media? Or it came strongly recommended by online friends? You probably answered ‘Yes’ and so did 70% of customers that believe consumer opinions and 90% that rely on friends’ recommendations, according to recent research by HubSpot. If you ask marketing and social media … Read more

Top Advocacy Marketing Examples from the Current Industry

Brands investing time and effort in advocacy marketing in the current time are experiencing gains

The sheer potential of word-of-mouth marketing makes advocacy marketing highly important for any brand focused on devising a solid customer acquisition strategy. Brands investing time and effort in advocacy marketing in the current time are experiencing gains on multiple fronts. From new customer acquisition and enhanced revenue generation to brand building and more, advocacy marketing … Read more

Why It’s Imperative to Combine Engagement & Loyalty—From Browser to Advocate

Browser to Advocate

Building loyal customers who are advocates for your brand will continue to grow your company’s bottom line for years. The key is to use your loyalty program to engage and inspire your customers to share their experiences across your ecosystem and in social media. Read through the journey below for the proof points you can’t ignore.   … Read more

5 Best Advocate Marketing Practices to Build Customer Advocacy with Loyalty

Best Advocate Marketing Practices

Following the best advocate marketing practices powered by a robust advocacy marketing strategy can help you to transform your loyal customers into your brand advocates. While positive customer review is extremely critical for a brand’s success, the key to increased customer lifetime value and acquiring new customers lies in taking proactive measures to turn your … Read more

7 Crucial Referral Fraud Prevention Tips

referral fraud

Digital fraud is a growing concern for all types of businesses and consumers, and marketers are no exception. If you’re working on any kind of program that rewards users for participating, you should keep reading. If you’re rewarding your customer base for doing things like connecting on social, writing reviews, referring friends, sharing photos, and so on, then you should definitely keep reading. The strategies and capabilities we’re about to discuss apply to referral fraud more specifically, but are still relevant to other customer loyalty and advocate marketing programs.

Before we dive into referral fraud prevention best practices, we need to define fraud first. It will vary for each business and its marketing programs, but for the average client using some sort of incentivized sharing or referral solution, fraud consists of the following scenarios and potentially more:

  • A user attempting to refer him/herself in order to get rewards
  • A user using bots to get rewards
  • An existing user attempting to get a discount meant for first-time customers only

In Annex Cloud’s system, there are three main actions that you can take when it comes to your fraud dashboard.

  • You can flag a suspicious referral
  • You can outright block a referral attempt
  • You can also exclude certain email addresses, domain names, or IP addresses from being blocked–in other words, let these users bypass your security settings

That said, let’s take a look at the most important ways of preventing referral fraud.

1. Prevent Referral Fraud with Cookies

This is a common fraud prevention tactic that’s worth spelling out. Let’s say that your business rewards customers with loyalty points when they successfully refer a friend, who in turn gets 15%, to purchase–just like Bebe does.

bebe raf mobile mockup

If the referrer chooses to share via social media or with a personal invite link, it’s a best practice to block any attempts to redeem that referral that happen on the same computer within the same cookie session. In other words, if a shopper copies her own personal invite link into her browser and tries to redeem her own referral, she’ll be blocked because of how we use these cookies. Your Sharing and Referral solution should have capabilities to easily implement this standard referral fraud prevention best practice.

2. Personal Data is Your Referral Fraud Friend

Personal data is an excellent secondary layer to your referral security. Email is the most standard form of data when it comes to this. Of course, it’s a no-brainer to block a referral attempt if the referrer and the referee have the same email address. There are also other ways to use email data, though. We recommend flagging referrals in which the referrer and the referee have similar email addresses, for example.

3. Use the Power of IP Addresses

IP address blocking is useful if you find lots of referral attempts coming from one area. It’s a common enough scenario that one person will share a perfectly legitimate referral link with her coworker (or roommate, or family member, etc.)–who sits 10 feet away and is on the same IP address–who then makes his own purchase. It’s somewhat uncommon, though, for this scenario to happen multiple times.

That’s why we recommend  flagging multiple referral attempts occurring from the same IP address. We usually recommend allowing 3-5 referrals before marking anything as suspicious, but you can always choose your own threshold. You can also set up multiple thresholds–for example, you can flag anything over 3 attempts, and resort to outright blocking once 5 attempts occur.

fraud dash slide 1

4. Conquer the Bots

The last main way of preventing referral fraud relies on detecting abnormal referral activity. We frame this as a user generating X successful referrals within X timeframe. If your referral goal is clicks to the site–not purchases–your fraud timeframe may be hours. If the goal is purchases, then you’ll likely be looking at a longer period of time. These types of referral attempts–particularly ones related to clicks to the site–are usually related to bots. We always recommend setting up a two-tiered security layer when it comes to them: depending on standard referral traffic, flag referral attempts above a certain threshold with your designated timeframe. Then, if the referrals reach a secondary, higher threshold, outright block them.

5. Consider Your Exclusions

With all these different ways to block referral fraud attempts, you now have to consider who you may want to bypass your rules. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Do you work with any bloggers or influencers who will generate an abornally high–but still valid–amount of referrals?
  • Do you want to let your employees use the refer a friend program?
  • Do you want to grant your employees special privileges, like the ability to refer more friends?
  • Do you have an affiliate program that you want to work into the referral program, or will it affect the referral program in some way?

Once you’ve decided who should be exempt from different fraud measures, you can add them to an exclusion list, either by email address, domain name, or IP address.

6. Delay Gratification

Everyone likes an instant reward, and we always want to capitalize on customers’ excitement about your business. However, in order to prevent referral fraud, it’s a best practice to not reward the original referrer until the referee’s order has been shipped. This way, you won’t have to deal with shoppers trying to game the system by placing an order and canceling it before it ships. Additionally, if the referee returns their order, there must be a provision in place to deduct the credit from the referrer.

7. Block Existing Account Holders

Lastly, we have this important referral fraud measure that is so basic that it might be overlooked. Referral programs are largely designed to acquire new customers. Consequently, you should block existing account-holders from using a referral discount. They should be encouraged to refer friends, but they shouldn’t be able to benefit from the extra incentive to purchase.

If you’re interested in more information about Refer a Friend, take a look at our best practices white paper, “The Step by Step Guide for a Powerful Referral Program!” And take a look at the power of Sharing and Referrals and Social Login in our case study with Vivobarefoot–they’re seeing a 10:1 ROI and a 38% increase in orders!

The Most Intelligent Ways to Use Your Advocate Marketing Data


In an earlier post, we explained that the data you collect from your loyalty program maximizes the marketing of your referral program. Simply because you know everything about loyal customers- including their likes, demographics, and Facebook friends, if you request that information from them. In this context, advocate marketing data is no different, as here you also will be gathering huge chunks of information about and from your brand advocates.

Understand Why Your Advocates Love You

Advocates exist on a spectrum, and the most vocal are no less than brand evangelists. These customers are totally and completely in love with your brand. There must be something in the overall ecosystem of your brand that has appealed to them. It can be your product, your customer service, or your association with some noble cause. It can be anything. Try to know this in detail. It will automatically give you a fair understanding of which facet of yours is more appealing to the majority of people. Analyze it critically to decide whether can it become your USP or not. If yes, you can set the tone of your branding and marketing communication around it. In short, it will allow you to put your best foot forward…and believe me, many companies have exhausted before giving their best shot, as they didn’t know which part of their organization was the strongest!

Track The Social Media Influence Of Your Advocates

I have said this countless times and I will say it once again: Any business activity that is intended to reach out to people or influence them has to be rooted in social media. The reason is not just its immense reach. What makes social media ultra-powerful is its ability to make your content viral within a blink of an eye. Thus, your advocates have to be on social media platforms to make a difference.

You must check which platform is giving you more traction, which content format has become much more viral, what sort of communication is resonating with people, and how many conversions actually resulted due to social media. Clearly, the advocate marketing data which you will get through this activity can help you in effectively shaping up your digital and social media marketing plan.

For example, if your analysis finds that videos or images posted by your advocates are garnering more engagement and responses, you can focus more on visual content. Or if Facebook is giving you more conversion, you can double your marketing efforts via putting more ads on Facebook. Certain advocate marketing solutions have built-in features that will help you discover where your advocates’ social media sweet spot is.

  • If you’re using a number of different social networks with your Social Login solution, you can see which ones are the most popular, and whether or not that changes on desktop vs. mobile. Get more insights about Social Login in our best practices white paper, “Unlocking Social Login.”
  • If you’re using Visual Commerce, you can use a ranking algorithm like SIRA to determine which types of photos get the most likes on your site or on Instagram, which posters have the most followers, which photos drive the most revenue, and more. Your advocate marketing data will then not only help you pinpoint who you should encourage to share more, but will also arrange your photos for you!
  • Sharing and Referrals solutions give you advocate marketing data that lets you easily see which methods of communication are most popular among your advocates, whether it’s email, various social platforms, or something else. Check out all of our Sharing and Referrals best practices in “The Step by Step Guide for a Powerful Referral Program!”
  • Trackable Buttons, which are usually coupled with Loyalty in order to incentivize sharing, track sharing via any channel you’d like, whether it’s Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or anything else. Then it’s easy to use this advocate marketing data to see which networks your shoppers are choosing.
social login distribution graph
This chart is just one example of the advocate marketing data you can get from your solutions. Here, the Annex Cloud Customer Success Team has gathered Social Login statistics from all of our clients to determine that a majority of their shoppers choose Facebook when logging in, which is followed in popularity by Google.

Turn Your Advocates Into Influencers

With each passing day, the role of influencers is becoming increasingly vital. Influencers have a sizable following on social media and people consider them to be experts in their respective industries. Unlike celebrities, they exude authenticity. It’s easy to pinpoint your biggest advocates and reward them for sharing, whether it’s with extra loyalty points, surprise and delight tactics, or extra love on social media.

Give it a thought. Your advocate loves your brand. He naturally understands your products well and thus can give rational arguments in their defense in the moment of crisis. So, he is fulfilling the logical precondition that is necessary to become your influencer. Now, the only thing that you have to check is how many people on social media really value his opinion. And that’s the professional precondition to be your influencer. If you see that he is bringing a lot of conversions, you can ask him to become an influencer.

Select the Right Communication Channel

There are plenty of ways through which your advocate marketing program communicates with your customers- email, social media, and push notifications are the most prominent ones. Your advocacy program can become a litmus test to know which way is giving you the best results. If you learn from your advocate marketing data that mobile messages are best for getting customers excited enough to purchase as per your advocate’s recommendation, they’re probably the right medium for other kinds of lifecycle marketing.

Of course, in the world which is characterized by omni and multi-channel communication, you must communicate with your customers through all possible touch points. But this analysis will give you numerical proof about the usability of a particular method and thus more reason to focus on it.

To Conclude… Advocate marketing data, whether it’s numerical or non-numerical, is enormously valuable in deciding whether you’re going in the right direction or not. It has a direct influence on the future success of the company. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you should gather it in whatever ways you can and implemented them whenever the opportunity arrives. Be it a referral program, loyalty or advocacy program, or rating and review platform, make sure that while executing these tactics you are taking notes of the granular data packages. Companies spend extra to get market insights. So, why not do it while executing your programs at no extra charge?

Note: Curious about merging advocate marketing tactics with customer loyalty? Our guide, “Advocate Loyalty: A Four-Point Strategy,” will tell you everything you need to know! 

The Changing Landscape Of Advocate Marketing in 2017

advocate marketing in 2017

Advocate marketing consists of giving your customers the motivation and tools to write product reviews, refer friends and colleagues, contribute branded photos, connect with you socially, and more, resulting in more authentic customer content, extended social reach, customer-driven innovation and more. Of course, the soul- the interior of the definition is still very much the same. What is changing with the rapid tide of time is its exterior, i.e., its priorities, its way of working and its radar too. Here are the changes we see happening for advocate marketing in 2017.

Advocate Marketing in 2017: Permission-Based Marketing Approach

Traditional advocate marketing concepts center on ‘interrupting’ someone; getting them to pay attention at a time that suits you best. But today, that is the worst way to try to grab the attention of people. Your buyer or the people to whom you want to suggest your brand are busy. They know all the tricks that various marketers use. That’s the reason why ad blockers have become new normal as far as consumer behavior is concerned. Ad blocking was estimated to have cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015 and there are now 198 million active ad block users around the world.

ad cartoon

That’s why advocate marketing is shifting towards becoming the synchronized element of its customer’s journey, at a time that suits customers. It is doing away from interruption marketing and moving closer to the permission marketing. Thus, you have to find out when people are more responsive to your efforts of advocating your favorite brand.

Advocate Marketing in 2017: Advocacy is a Two-Way Street

Until now, it has been accepted that an advocate is totally and madly in love with your brand and that’s why he will remain the vocal advocate of the brand for time incalculable. His presence was taken for granted. But that isn’t the case anymore.

Cassandra Jowett, advocate marketing expert and senior content marketing manager at Influitive, was absolutely right when she said, “The best [advocate marketing] programs are beneficial for both your brand and your advocates—not just one-sided take take take. It’s a huge mistake to focus too much on your brand’s objectives and not enough on your advocates’ goals. If your number one priority isn’t the advocate experience, you’re doing [advocate marketing] wrong. Plain and simple”.

Indeed, it’s very simple to understand what Jowett said. If all the time you are asking your advocates to promote your brand through reviews, messages, etc. you’ll very likely find that pool of advocates drying up. Simply because advocates may lose interest in promoting your brand if the whole process is not giving them anything to cheer and cherish about. Hence, it becomes important to give a thought about their needs…about their experiences of being your brand advocates. This precisely explains why creating a mutually beneficial relationship with your advocates is what most of the marketers are discussing about. How to do it? Reward them as per their likes and wants!

Advocate Marketing in 2017: Advocacy is Becoming a Full-Time Job

It’s not a new thing: we all know that successful advocacy programs need the right amount of attention. The reason is, running an advocacy program is one thing. Running, managing, maintaining a successful advocacy program is an entirely different ball game. Even today, many companies are using the services of brand advocates on a freelancing basis or they are working as part-timers. The idea of advocacy marketing is still too new to them. But considering the fact that like every other marketing program, advocacy program also needs robust strategy, customer targeting and personalized way of communication, I won’t be surprised if advocating the brand becomes a full-time job opportunity.

Advocate Marketing in 2017: Employee Advocacy Might Be the Game-Changer

Advocacy isn’t limited to customer advocacy anymore, and it applies to B2B as well as to B2C industries. There is another facet of advocacy which is brimming with potential- employee advocacy. According to a Social Chorus webcast, B2B marketing content shared personally by employees delivers eight times more customer engagement than brand-shared content. It’s not very difficult to understand why it has worked so well.

As an employee, you know your product like a back of your hand. This is especially true if you are the part of a development or a conceptualization team. This is where the box of authenticity and trust gets ticked by the customers. It’s not a coincidence that 92% of customers trust employee “word of mouth” over branded content, according to Nielsen. No wonder, many companies have reaped great benefits from employee advocacy. This includes IBM, Adobe, CISCO, Dell, Deloitte, Mitel and many more.

Advocate Marketing in 2017: Wrapping It Up

There is a movement of change in the world of advocate marketing. The older layers of traditional thinking and ways are peeling off and they are getting replaced by new ones. The only thing that you must do as a marketer is to analyze your current advocacy program and see where you can incorporate the aforementioned changes. Sooner or later, they are going to become norms of advocate marketing.

Note: To run a successful advocate strategy, you need to have advocates first. Go through our white paper, “21 Ways to Turn Shoppers into Advocates,” to discover how to convert site and store browsers into advocates. To know more about advocate loyalty and how to implement it effectively, this white paper–“Advocate Loyalty: A Four-Point Strategy”–is all that you need to read!

The Differences Between B2C and B2B Advocate Marketing

B2C and B2B Advocate Marketing

There is a basic difference between B2B and B2C companies when it comes to many of their marketing and sales activities. Brand advocacy is not any different and thus there is a difference between B2B advocate marketing and B2C advocate marketing. But at the same time, they strive for the same goal and that is to influence people to bring more and more sales. Thus, some lines, colors, and hues will be there in the both the paintings of B2C and B2B advocate marketing.

Whether we’re discussing the similarities or the differences between the two, it helps to start with a definition. Both B2C and B2B advocate marketing can be said to be:

The practice of pinpointing, targeting, and activating your most vocal customers to market on behalf of your brand by referring friends or colleagues, writing reviews, connecting with you on social media, and so on.

A) Communication: As there is a fundamental difference in the people that B2B and B2C marketing target, the way they communicate also has to be different. B2C communication can me more fun-oriented and aspiration arousing. Spicy taglines laced with slang may work here. But that’s not so much the case with B2B advocates. They have to look and sound like knowledgable professionals.

More than being entertaining or enthralling, they have to be able to articulate the benefits of your products in a scholarly and factual way. B2B advocate marketing messages should be backed up by a strong platform of common sense and logic. The reason is, at the end of the day, you are pitching your product to business people who are very well acquainted with all the marketing and psychological ploys that your advocate might be using. So, it’s very difficult to win their hearts based on pure emotional or psychological tactics. They need facts!

B) Content Strategy: Virality of content is the keystone to a B2C advocate content strategy. To be sharable is the prerequisite for B2C content advocacy success. Thus, blogs and social media accounts are vital tools for a B2C brand advocate. By adding share buttons on your blog, you will enable your readers to share your content across social channels with a single click. Of course, the option of visual content is also open.

With B2B advocate marketing, as we have discussed, content has to be somewhere on the level of thought leadership, coupled with a complete explanation of the product functionality and benefits, proofs of its success to appeal to the rationality of the decision maker and so on. And thus more than blogs, other content forms like white papers, case studies, one-pagers, e-books or infographics might work better for the B2B brand advocate. The likelihood of B2C advocates sharing case studies or white papers about anything but extremely expensive purchases is low.

C) Number Of People To Convince: As the only entity that B2C brand advocacy understands is the single and isolated customer, it has to deal with a single decision maker. Even though people take advice from many people while buying a car or selecting a foreign trip location, the decision-making powers solely lie with them. In short, as a B2C advocate, you will have to convince only a single person per buying decision.

But with B2B, there’s rarely an individual buyer. On average, the corporate decision-making group involves 5.4 people. The number of people may increase if the deal is costly and a lot is at stake. It simply means you have to answer to more people and you have to convince more people for a single purchase decision. No wonder then that B2B has a lengthy buying process as it generally takes a time to reach some consensus when the decision-making unit is large.

D) Channels:

Social Media Channels

Every business activity intended to reach people is incomplete without social media. It’s more than true irrespective of whether you’re doing B2C or B2B advocate marketing because your target customers are there on the multiple platforms of social media. But as every platform has a different purpose and usability, it’s important to understand which platform is more natural for which sort of advocacy.

For B2C, Facebook has been a staple due to its enormous reach and effect. But with the growing importance of the visual content, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are also becoming favorite destinations of B2C advocates. The reason is simple…the very nature of these platforms is like a digital hangout where you can speak whatever comes to your mind. It’s a way to display your personal feelings and thoughts.

For B2B, LinkedIn still remains the most important.  As it was created as a professional network where professionals from every sector can communicate, it’s obvious that B2B advocates should use it as much as possible. Many important people from the business world have their presence on LinkedIn. You can tap them. Besides, discussion groups, in particular, should be leveraged as much as possible for not only engagement but content distribution. Believe me…understanding the platform and its behavior have paramount importance. It’s unlikely that the CEO or MD will talk about your software solutions on Facebook. For him or her, LinkedIn is better suited. It may make or break your advocacy game!

E) Different Challenges: Both B2C and B2B advocate marketing have to face different challenges. In B2C advocacy, you have to create a pitch which is full of personalization with the undertone of why the product, which you are recommending, can make a little or big change in the lives of your target customers. Similarly, the scale of B2C is huge. Just imagine how many coffees Starbucks must have sold in the last year. You will have to reach and convince most of them either to come back again or refer their friends. Naturally, it has to have quality monitoring.

The biggest challenge for a B2B advocate is that each company has a different buying process. Buying is never an impulsive decision in B2B purchasing. And thus each company follows certain steps before they decide anything on the final purchase decision. You will have to understand their process. You will have to mold yourself to see where you can fit in their things of schemes along with interacting with the right prospect at the right time. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

To Conclude… Indeed, even though the basic concept of advocacy remains same in B2B and B2C setups, there are some obvious differences. And those differences primarily stem from the difference in the target customers. But few things remain same- need to communicate powerfully and effectively with the customers naturally pops up in the mind in that context. Because whether its B2C or B2B, ultimately it’s B2P, i.e. business to people!

Note: To run a successful advocate strategy, you need have advocates first. Go through our white paper, “21 Ways to Turn Your Customers into Advocates” to discover how to convert your loyal customers into advocates. For a bigger-picture approach, check out “Advocate Loyalty: A Four-Point Strategy!”

Why the New Starbucks Loyalty Program Won’t Work, and How to Fix It

What's wrong with the new Starbucks loyalty program, and what they should do instead...

I have to side with the angry masses on this one: the new Starbucks loyalty program won’t give the company the results it wants. First, a bit of background Starbucks launched their “My Rewards” program in 2009, and it’s done incredibly well. Three years ago, when mobile payments were a nascent concept, as much as … Read more

Related Posts

Sorry, no posts were found.

[White Paper]
[White Paper]