The road to advocacy

As an industry, it’s time we move beyond the notion that a loyalty “program” can convert loyal customers into brand advocates. We tend to be more focused on making another sale rather than building another relationship. At the end of the day we all have to meet our revenue goals, but don’t allow your short terms goals to overshadow the power of high life time value brand advocates.

Below are four ways brands can offer consumers more than simply a deal and help loyalty members move along the road to advocacy.

Brand Strength

Your brand strength is important. To move loyalty members along the road to advocacy, efforts must include the development of a brand personality. Consider your brand persona. If your brand were a person, would your customers want to spend time with them?

Your organization’s culture should be built around the brand and expanding the loyalty effort across the enterprise. It should be ingrained in all you do. While there are numerous economic components to advocacy, it’s really about the emotional component. People are more likely to be loyal to a persona rather than a company.

Empower Your People 

For anything we do, 10 percent is technology and 90 percent is the people around it.  People are the tools. Therefore your associates should exude the brand to complete the customer experience.

Empower your associates. Get them involved in the design of your loyalty programs and initiatives. Your associates are at the front line, engaging with customers on a daily basis. Invite their input and welcome their suggestions. The more involved they are, the greater the chances are that they will embody the brand to communicate externally.

Marry Channels 

Tie different data points together. Loyalty programs have traditionally lived in the offline world. Offline data should be married to online data to drive a seamless omnichannel experience. The same applies to unstructured and structured data.

In order to get advocates, you have to marry the channels, but a lot of programs still don’t do that.

Always Be Connecting

Humans are social by nature. Many people want to connect with others, especially when they have a similar characteristic of belief.

Take Best Buy for example. Years ago we suggested Best Buy create a social media channel to allow their customers to discuss products. We trained their “Blue Shirts” to monitor the social channels. As it turned out, the “Blue Shirts” rarely had to step into the conversations as other Reward Zone customers were eager to discuss and help each other.

Another great example is the Walgreens Steps component of their Balance Rewards program in which members earn points for miles walked or pounds lost. Users can form groups to support and congratulate each other on achievements. Fostering these emotional engagements is a key component of brand advocacy.

Loyalty isn’t a one-step campaign. It’s a continual process during which brands have the opportunity to engage consumers and transform them into brand advocates.