This is the fifth and final article in a series covering the Hanlon Full Funnel Marketing approach. We have addressed how to generate awareness for your brand, encouraging your audience to consider your merits, nurturing leads and directing them to form a preference for you, and optimizing your outreach to convert purchasers into brand loyalists who come back again and again.

In this article we will discuss why it’s so important to keep interacting with customers after the point of sale and how to draft an army of brand advocates that will authentically share your message and spread it even further.

Word of Mouth is Still the ROI King

The tools available to marketers today are simply incredible. Artificially intelligent analytics engines, truly granular user tracking, and automated customer relationship management platforms were all the stuff of science fiction twenty years ago. Ten years ago they were limited to only the biggest and most well-resourced enterprises. Today, businesses of all sizes have access to them.

Yet, there’s one trick in the marketers playbook that predates all that flashy and advanced technology that is as valuable today as ever: word of mouth. Earned media (publicity freely and organically generated by a brand’s followers, not paid for), which includes peer-to-peer referrals, social media shares, and other forms of word of mouth marketing, routinely nets four times the results of paid media.

That’s likely due to the fact that 76-percent of people say they are more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people. The number is even higher if one of those “normal” people is close to them. According to Nielsen, 84-percent of customers trust a recommendation from a friend or relative. Moreover, recommendations have become an integral part of the modern shopping experience. 92-percent of customers say they seek social recommendations before making a buying decision, reports SalesForce.

“76-percent of people say they are more likely to trust content shared by ‘normal’ people.”

Given those realities, it’s more necessary than ever for brand managers to employ marketing approaches like the Hanlon Full Funnel that are specifically designed to ensure consistently high quality customer experiences and keep your audience engaged — whether they are actively buying something or not.

It doesn’t hurt that the rapid rise of social media channels has drastically accelerated the speed at which word of mouth marketing moves as well as its reach. From a cost basis perspective, investing in brand advocates also just makes smart financial sense. Paid media is costly, earned media is free.

What is a Brand Advocate?

Simply put, a brand advocate is anyone that helps grow your brand and share your story without being paid for their efforts. They choose to advocate for you simply because they like what you do and want others to know about it. Brand advocates are prized because they:

  • Generate positive word of mouth marketing
  • Recommend you to their friends and family
  • Post about their preferred brands on social media
  • Create user generated content featuring your brand
  • Provide invaluable feedback and analytics data

The term “brand ambassador” is sometimes used interchangeably with brand advocate, but the latter is a less formal role. Brand ambassadors often sign contracts that specify how, when, and where they share brand messages. Brand advocates are operating on their own without orders or restrictions from a brand manager.

“84-percent of customers trust a recommendation from a friend or relative.”

Brand advocates can include customers, employees, managers, clients, partners, and social media influencers. Generally speaking, the more removed an advocate is from the brand, the more influential and authentic their message is.

When a top executive sings the praises of his company, no one takes notice, but if someone much further down the hierarchy takes the time to, it carries more weight. In fact, employees are too often forgotten as a valuable pool of potential brand advocates. They know the brand from the inside so their input is highly influential.

Where Are They Found? How Are They Activated?

The key to any brand advocate marketing strategy is to first identify individuals that have expressed an affinity for your brand. That can be accomplished by scouring online review websites, asking partners about forming a mutual advocacy program, and using social media listening tools.

Of course, finding advocates will be a lot less challenging if you are managing your brand in a manner that is attentive and rewarding to your audience. Brands that fail to respond to online queries, for example, see a 43-percent drop in customer advocacy, according to SproutSocial. Conversely, those that do, net a 20-percent increase.

The Temkin Group, a customer experience (CX) consultancy, reported that after having a positive experience with a company, 77-percent of customers would recommend it to a friend. That behavior cuts both ways, however, because, according to CX expert Esteban Kolsky, 72-percent of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people, but if they are unhappy, 13-percent will tell 15 or more people.

“Brands that fail to respond to online queries see a 43-percent drop in customer advocacy.”

The issue for brands is that just because a customer is unhappy and making it known to their followers doesn’t necessarily imply they are going to let you know too. Only 1 in 26 unhappy customers make an explicit complaint. Most simply defect to a competing brand. It’s up to brand managers to survey their audience, analyze the feedback, and ensure the brand and customer experience is being delivered consistently and effectively.

The goal of the advocacy stage of the Hanlon Full Funnel is to identify potential brand advocates, nurture them through their decision making process, help them become experts in your offering, and convert them into active champions of the brand.

When the Brand Experience Works, Brand Advocates Follow

At the end of the day, brand advocates aren’t a commodity you can just go out and purchase. They don’t work for money, they are genuine fans that promote your brand simply because they love it.

But, if you treat your customers, employees, clients, partners, and broader audience right by focusing on a consistent brand experience that delights and exceeds expectations, staying connected to them on social media and other outreach channels, sharing credible values that inspire, addressing their concerns promptly, and creating outlets for them to share their feelings — in other words, doing all the other things it takes to grow an admired brand — advocates will organically emerge to support you.


Do you have an authentic, engaging, and valuable brand that lacks advocates? Talk to us about implementing the Hanlon Full Funnel marketing approach today.