The typical marketing funnel looks like this:
There are several different variations, depending on where you’re looking or who you’re asking. But this will do for the purposes of this post.
In the past decade or so, many have added an additional step after purchase: Loyalty. It is now marketing’s job to turn first-time buyers into loyal customers.
And that makes sense. We have the tools to do it. We know that it’s much less expensive to sell to existing customers than to acquire a new one.
But let’s go one step further. I’m here to argue that creating a loyal customer is not the end of the line for marketers. It is also our job to turn loyal customers into brand advocates.
The new marketing funnel looks like this:
The advocacy stage is just as important as the others, because it helps to push people into and down through the top levels of the funnel. When your customers tell their friends and spread the word for you, they’re providing free marketing. And often, that word of mouth marketing is more effective than anything your brand can do, because people trust other customers more than they trust companies.
So how do you turn loyal customers into advocates?
The easiest way is to give them the tools and incentives they need. Refer a friend programs fit this stage perfectly. When they’re done well, they are regularly promoted at the right times to the right customers. They provide people with easy ways of telling their friends and reward them for spreading the word.
You can build advocacy into the product itself, letting customers push messages to their social networks as they use it. You can encourage product reviews on platforms like Amazon and Yelp, which tend to drive business to companies with better reviews than competitors.
The key is timing. Not every customer will be an advocate. That’s why loyalty comes first. Once you have a loyal customer, you have a ripe target for advocacy.