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Let’s Talk: How to turn customers into advocates

We all want customers who love your brand and are prepared to shout it from the rooftops. For this to happen, they need to connect with our product or service on an emotional level and feel appreciated throughout the customer journey.

So, how do we create this type of customer engagement?

Let’s Talk…

James Needham, Co-Founder, Untangld

“It’s a harsh truth that not everyone that buys from you likes you or wants to recommend you. Understanding the nuances of customer advocacy runs deeper than a convenient Net Promoter Score you can drop into your next board meeting.

“Firstly, take a step back and access the category you operate in. Some are closed, discreet worlds where advocacy circulates within the inner sanctum of colleagues, friends and family. Finance trading and personal home loans operate like this. Other categories are inherently social and lend themselves to broadcasting behaviours. Fashion, music, and tech brands often live here. This will help you gauge if advocacy is a value or volume play and direct focus and investment.

Within these parameters, finding the contexts and moments where advocacy is most natural is the key to unearthing your brand’s unfair advantages. Where customer desires tap into a deeper emotional connection that you have permission to enable. Then map the critical drivers of choice – hero experiences, your shiniest features and/or benefits that prompt an advocacy opportunity. As always, advocacy starts with seeing your brand through the eyes of your customers.”

Kat Warboys, Marketing Director, APAC, HubSpot 

“A successful business will focus more time and resources on its existing customers than those in their sales funnel. Though pouring energy into chasing new business leads might seem like the logical first step on the growth ladder, the reality is that you’ll scale faster if you can turn loyal customers into life- long advocates. In fact, our research tells us businesses are more likely to be successful in selling to existing customers, with a sales rate of up to 70 percent compared to just 20 percent for new customers.

“One way to foster customer advocacy is to incentivise your customers, partners and community to use their knowledge and expertise to help others. This idea of community advocacy creates a really powerful shift in focus from sales enablement to buyer enablement. At HubSpot, we have a network of creators, thought leaders, practitioners, and power users called HubFans that earn points when they help other HubSpot community members. These points enable HubFans to jump up the ranks and unlock benefits like invitations to exclusive events, networking sessions and speaking opportunities within the community.”

 Dave Stein, Head of Corporate Development, Airwallex 

“Having a ruthless customer focus is one of the biggest contributors to business success. That’s because turning satisfied customers into loyal advocates also attracts new customers in the process. So, what are the key steps to take when converting customers into your biggest fans? 

  1. Research your target market and engage regularly with your customer base. For example, we make it a priority for the management team to speak to our customers directly. By keeping the customer experience top of mind, we can make interactions easier and faster, while also providing more value to our customers.
  2. Anticipate and manage roadblocks throughout the customer journey. When encountering a customer issue or concern, it’s important to promote open, honest and empathetic communication with your customer. It’s not what you get wrong, it’s what you do next that matters. 
  3. Challenges can build stronger relationships. We found roadblocks can become a great experience for both us and the customer. These situations provide the opportunity to not only improve our product, but also ensure our customers are thrilled with the final outcome.”

Alex Catalan, regional manager for Australia, Traction Next

“The most difficult aspect of any brand’s relationship with their customers is capturing their attention in a way that turns them into fans. You need a strategy that connects on an emotional level.

“They need something to talk about, whether it’s exciting news about your business, exclusive deals and discounts for say, signing up to your mailing lists, members-only benefits, and a program that rewards referral.

“Most businesses think that their job is done once a purchase is complete. However, keeping the relationship with this customer transforms them into loyal advocates who will do a lot of the marketing for you by sharing your brand with their online/offline audiences and friends. Loyal customers are essential for any business that wants to growth, and it should be a high priority in any business marketing strategy.”

Arjun Paliwal, Founder and Head of Research, InvestorKit

“Turning a customer into an advocate all starts with ensuring the product/service being sold is a good fit with your client and will genuinely benefit them. Give them an outcome that leaves them feeling like they have to tell the world about it, because in my industry (property), results matter most.  

“However, it does not stop there. I believe in a never-ending aftercare: from ongoing evaluations on their properties to simple check ins; it’s this level of support that creates meaningful relationships and is key to my high client repeat rate. 

If you feel your product/service will help others and you are proud of the impact it has made to them your client, ask them about others you can help. To gain advocacy and word of mouth in business, it’s a case of ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’.”

Andy Mellor, regional VP, ANZ at Kofax

“Let’s not beat around the bush – first impressions last. If you nail that very first interaction with your customer, you’re more likely to make a lasting impression and as a result gain their loyalty and advocacy. But something that isn’t talked about (and probably should be) to ensure a seamless, positive customer experience from the get-go is to make sure it’s a secure onboarding

“We need to ensure that customers receive an unassailable onboarding process, not only to gain their trust but also because businesses cannot afford a data breach or fraud. If a customer had to cancel their credit card and update their recurring payments, they would probably be vocal in telling their network what a hassle it was. “So, using technology – particularly digital identity processing capabilities will give you confidence, helping you to focus on fun stuff, like building experiences that create repeat business and loyal customers.”

Mark Brown, general manager – marketing, Konica Minolta Australia

“Turning your existing customers into your biggest advocates not only boosts your reputation; it builds a stronger relationship with your clients. There are three key ways to achieve this: 

1. Partnerships. True, successful partnerships need equity and balance, with both give and take. If it’s unbalanced, you won’t get that advocacy as the customer may feel like they are being short-changed and missing out on opportunities. 

2. Deliver on promises. Establish credibility by being accountable and delivering on time, and in full. 

3. Anticipate needs and provide extra value. Basically, this means ‘wow’ your client by understanding their long-term goals and requirements. This will help build your relationship as a trusted advisor when it comes to their decision-making. 

By providing your existing customers with consistent value and credibility, and surpassing expectations, you will build strong partnerships and turn your customers into an advocate.” 

Tass Melissinos Vice President & Regional GM at WSO2

“We’ve been talking about the importance of customer experience for years, but it often seems to be a trade-off between that and rigorous identity confirmation. Should we really have to set up separate usernames and passwords every time we register on a new website? With the shift to digital driven by the pandemic, customers are demanding better digital experiences, and businesses are competing for customer loyalty and advocacy with every interaction. Identity as a service, (IDaaS) is critical to ensuring secure authentication and giving the consumer the right to decide what information they want to share and with whom.

“Your company cannot afford the liability or the irreparable damage to reputation that comes when customer details are stolen. Incorporating a secure customer identity and access management solution adds security with fewer password resets and more trusted logins, creating a seamless user experience and ultimately, a happy customer.”

Dean Swan, Regional Director ANZ, monday.com

“In my experience, when you deliver true value and impact for your customers, advocacy comes naturally. By addressing pain points and providing a solution specific to your customer, the authenticity of the relationship built shines through.  

“Many customers are looking for ways to best adapt to the times. By empowering organisations of any size to create the tools and processes they need, teams are able to manage every aspect of their work in one space. This way, transparency is utilised to prevent silos, communicate effectively and make data-driven decisions. Working together with customers to customise your tech to each customer’s needs will ensure satisfaction and loyalty.

“Customers will always be happy if you can solve real pain points. By addressing their needs in such an exact manner, your customers become your strongest advocates.”

Catherine Mapusua, Head of Lending at WLTH

“Turning customers into advocates is a great way to build on your business and ensure clients stay loyal to your brand. Below are some of the ways I subtly coach my clients into advocates. Firstly, it is best to identify your database into clients that have potential. You can do this by using a survey to determine if they would recommend your services to friends and family members. Next, basic old fashioned customer service can go a long way. 

“More than often, we rely on technology platforms to engage with our clients. However, calling clients is highly effective, as it adds personalisation that makes the client feel valued, motivating them to refer you. Always ask for feedback. It doesn’t need to be hostile or something to be afraid of; it is simply further information that you can use to improve your product or service. 

“Next, being upfront and honest is important, as the modern client expects transparency. If a client has negative feedback, apologising and claiming responsibility can go a long way. Adding strategic repeat engagement with your clients will naturally move them towards being business advocates. If a client is impressed by your product and service, it is important to nurture the relationship. 

“Lastly, ask your client if they have anyone they would like to refer you to. By requesting a happy client to consider friends and family as referrals, they are more often than not obligated to help you by sharing contact details. We are all human, and we love to help.”

Adam Hinds, National Business Development Manager, Sorted Services 

“Word of mouth is the best form of growth for any business but how do you get the customer to talk about business in a positive way to other potential clients. In the past I have found that by first providing an exceptional customer experience is the starting point, then as you develop a relationship you can seek feedback on your business and then implement those changes. 

“This enhances the relationship with the client and makes them feel part of the journey. The ease the customer is able to communicate with your business whether it be via emails, phone or via live chat which gives instant feedback or answers the question is really important for the customer and will build trust in your business, so they feel the need to talk highly of you to others.

“Customers become advocates in two ways – by just generally speaking to other people in the various social media channels we have available – Industry Facebook groups are always asking for certain businesses and if you are providing great service then your clients will naturally promote you. Alternatively, you can look at an ambassador type program which allows clients to come on the journey with you and help shape your business, this also allows you to use them as a reference when talking to potential clients.”

David Fairfull, CEO and co-founder, Metigy

“Building a customer-centric social media strategy plays a critical role in converting customers into advocates. This means designing a strategy that’s centred around your customers and is focused on fulfilling their needs and meeting, if not surpassing, their expectations. 

“Engage with your customers through hyper personalised and targeted communications that make them feel like a valuable part of your business. Develop a loyalty rewards program as a way of giving back to your customers with VIP offers and incentives. 

“Finally, asking for and really listening to customer feedback builds a synergistic relationship based on trust. The simple process of asking “how did we do?” will allow you to identify and address issues in the customer experience process before they become more complex, while helping to build authentic, lasting relationships with customers.”

Andrew Cornale, Co-Founder and Digital Experience Director, UnDigital 

“Testimonials are hugely important to businesses and turning your customers into advocates is one of the most efficient ways to grow your business. So, how can it be done? 

  1. Do what you said you would: Nothing can turn your customers into advocates if you don’t actually do the thing you said you’d do. 
  2. Be communicative: Good communication builds trust and a sense of reliability. When you communicate well with your customers, you’re telling them that you understand their needs and they can rely on you for help. 
  3. Ask for a review: If you know you did a good job and you’ve got a happy customer, chances are they’ll be more than happy to write a quick Google review, so don’t be afraid to ask!  
  4. Re-post them on social media: When they share something about you on social media, re-post it and thank them. This shows your appreciation and encourages others to do the same.” 

William Zhang, Director of Sales APAC Validity Inc. 

“Customers are arguably in the most vulnerable situation after contracts are executed, so it’s important to provide them with a clear transition and onboarding plan from the get-go to build trust and develop credibility. 

“Once this is achieved, offering well thought-out and strategic solutions to their business challenges is the way forward. To do this, you need to take the time to understand their challenges and goals in order to offer solutions that will make a real impact. Most of the time customers aren’t just buying a solution, they’re also engaging you as an industry expert, so be proactive and think ahead of any potential support you can provide. 

“It’s important not to rest on your laurels and consider the job done once your client is happy. Your customers are facing new business challenges every day, so your services and solutions also need to evolve. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. This is the most efficient way to ascertain whether they’re happy and likely to sing your praises to others.”

Ammar Issa, Founder & Managing Director, AMR Hair & Beauty

“The best way to turn your customers into loyal brand advocates? Generosity. Many retail brands work with gifting strategies in order to gain repeat customers, perhaps it’s 10% on your next purchase or a free sample. A surprise and delight strategy can be effective in many ways, but will they sing about it from the rooftops? Probably not. 

“Treating your own customers to a real VIP experience will not go unnoticed. Every year, AMR Hair & Beauty earmarks $500,000 for gifting to hair stylists and beauticians, as at the end of the day, these people are our most tried and true influencers. We often hear how customers have recommended our services to a colleague, friend or customer – which is fantastic proof that what we are doing is working.” 

Jason Toshack, Vice President and GM ANZ, Oracle NetSuite

“Converting happy customers into advocates for your brand, service or product is the key to ensuring long-term loyalty, and even attracting new customers. One way to achieve this is to encourage sales teams to build trust with customers through genuine connections. Incorporating the ‘human side’ into sales discussions and putting the focus on positive outcomes will lead to more meaningful relationships in the long term.

Simply put – if you can find ways to support your customers, do it. Find out what challenges they are facing, and where you can add value. For example, offer personal touches like hands-on training sessions or a trial of a new product. Something as simple as bonding through non-work-related conversations or shared interests goes a long way.

“An effective CRM tool will give you a complete view of your customer and can provide the right level of support and communication at the appropriate time. With superior service and support, I’m sure your customers will be by your side for the long haul.”

Andy Thiss, Area Vice President of Australia and New Zealand, Anaplan 

“Many organisations take a surface-level approach to customer success, with the name itself implying there is a point a customer reaches “success.” To achieve true customer satisfaction, businesses need to foster customer relationships through ongoing support, adding increased value to each interaction over time. 

“One of our focus areas at Anaplan is supporting customers to become self-sufficient. This helps customers implement success strategies that enhance business growth and performance themselves, albeit only made possible with our support. Helping customers to become self-sufficient shows a true sense of care for the customer and their business success, while also demonstrating your unique industry expertise

“Customer care can in turn lead to advocacy which is potentially the most powerful, effective and fast way to increase your customer portfolio. While it’s tempting to focus attention on new leads, try to remember you’ll see more sustainable growth by investing efforts within your existing customer portfolio.


Read more: How to drive a customer-centric sales culture


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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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