Paying for advocacy isn’t a smart move. It lessens the impact of advocacy. It’s unethical and it can get a company in the FTC’s crosshairs. And it’s just freakin’ lame. It’s like saying, “Since our product isn’t worth talking about genuinely, how about I give you 10 bucks to write a review.”
Here are 10 ways to authentically reward Customer Advocates:
- Give Advocates sneak peeks at new products and services earlier than other customers. If your company is a consumer electronics manufacturer or a software firm, give Advocates first access to a new DVR or version of your graphics software.
- Hold special events for Advocates only. If your company is a restaurant, hold a special event for Advocates where they get an exclusive preview of your new menu or meet your new executive chef. If you’re a retailer, hold a special Advocates only preview of a new store opening. Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill and Vertical Response, an e-mail service provider, are two companies that thank Advocates by inviting them to special events.
- Provide Advocates with exclusive offers that they can share with their friends. Don’t give Advocates the same offers you give to all customers. Give Advocates unique offers that show that you recognize them as your true VIP’s. If your company is a hotel, give Advocates a weekend package for their friends only.
- Give Advocates early access to exclusive content. This includes content like white papers and research studies. If you’re a biotech company, make sure your Advocates are the first to get a new research study.
- Ask Advocates for their opinions. If you’re an apparel company and thinking about a new sportswear line, give Advocates the opportunity to voice their opinions about the line before others.
- Give Advocates special access to company leaders. Starbucks gave one of its Advocates- “Starbucks Melody”- an opportunity to meet company founder, Howard Schultz. Can you imagine how thrilled Virgin America Advocates would be to meet Sir Richard Branson? Even if you don’t have a rock star CEO, giving Advocates the opportunity to have direct dialogue with senior leaders of your company can make them feel special.
- Give contributions to nonprofit causes on behalf of Advocates. One of the best ways to reward Brand Advocates is to make cash and/or in-kind contributions to deserving nonprofit organizations on behalf of your Advocates. This approach motivates Advocates, boosts your corporate image and reputation, and serves a useful social purpose.
- Honor your Advocates. Webroot has started recognizing its Advocates with its Webroot “Advocate of the Week” program. This is yet another great way to encourage advocacy without paying for it.
- Let them know that their recommendations matter. One of the best ways to recognize Advocates is making sure they know their advocacy is working. Awhile back, one of my colleagues recommended someone they knew for a position at our company, Zuberance. They were delighted when I sent them an email thanking them for the recommendation and letting them know that the person was doing a great job. You can do the same thing systematically online by showing Advocates which of their friends they’ve recommended are also now customers and Advocates themselves!
- Give Advocates VIP levels of service. If your company is a hotel or a resort, you may provide Advocates with a town car or limousine while they stay at your property or a personal VIP guide. If your company is a software provider, offer Advocates a special help desk for VIP customers only.
Letting your Advocates know that you recognize their contribution is the best reward imaginable. A simply thank you note or email from the CEO of your company goes a long way with Advocates.