How to create advocates for your brand

11th October, 2017

New businesses can spend a lot cash telling the world they exist. But what if you could inspire people to rave about your product or service for free?

“Being authentic in your brand and being able to identify those evangelists to say stuff is going to be worth ten times more than you just standing in the corner and yelling,” Chanie Hyde, marketing services lead at tech startup incubator BlueChilli, told The Pulse.

She advises tech startups on their marketing, and said finding people willing to rant and rave about their products is a vital part of the mix.

A person outside the business with seemingly no dog in the race adds a layer of authenticity a startup can’t replicate.

Creating advocates for the brand can be a cost-effective form of marketing, but Hyde notes that the costs may occur elsewhere.

“It’s about maximum effort at an early stage and building relationships. It’s a resource cost,” she said. “A lot of people think you can hit it and quit it – but you can’t.”

Identifying potential advocates

For startups, simply identifying potential customers can be a challenge – identifying advocates is even more challenging.

Hyde said a lot could be gained by engaging with early adopters.

“Early adopters are in a curiosity stage. If you engage with them and ask questions…in those early stages you’re going to hit a bit of gold,” said Hyde.

She also said brands needed to effectively “listen” to figure out who to reach out to.

In the B2B space that may be the gatekeeper at prospective company you wish to work with, but with a more consumer-oriented product it’s about knowing whose opinion people trust.

For example, do you have a tech product you want brought to the attention of early tech adopters? Then figure out who they listen to.

READ: 3 tips for building trust with customers

Courting your customer

Once a brand identifies a possible advocate, courting them is the next step.

“Take the time to know your customers, to ask them questions,” said Hyde. “People are generally really surprised when a human reaches out and asks them a question.”

Usually, after a person downloads or buys a new product, there’s no communication – besides a templated welcome email.

Instead, Hyde said that interacting with your customer in a human way, and being honest about the value exchange in play, gives you a shot at forming a relationship – whether that’s through email or social media.

“Being transparent and authentic help break down the barriers of cynicism,” said Hyde.

“You might get pushback, but it’s worth the gamble. You’re not going to build a brand advocate by not asking questions.”

READ: 3 powerful questions to ask customers for better marketing 

You might strike it lucky and find people who just love the product and rant and rave about it under their own steam, but forming a relationship with them makes it much more likely.

“It’s about courting your customer,” said Hyde. “You want to take them on the first date, talk to them, show that you’re interested in them. Ultimately, you want them to fall in love with you.”

While asking your customers questions about themselves and their experience with your product is something of an art, Hyde recommends a rational approach.

“Keep the end goal in mind,” Hyde said. “If it feels like it’s not going anywhere, don’t keep on going.”

“It’s important to look at the engagement and not do anything without measuring it.

“Make sure you don’t annoy the crap out of people, because that’s not going to build brand enthusiasm.”