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Bragging Rights

How to use technology to earn, encourage and support brand advocacy.

With the Loyalty Ladder1, we explained how our customers move through their journey with your brand from trust2 to loyalty and ultimately to advocacy. Once your users have crossed the loyalty threshold and have established that they will use your products or services going forward, your next job becomes to earn your way into an advocacy relationship with them.

The advocacy threshold is that point in the relationship when our customer invests their personal time, energy and goodwill in our brand. When they put their personal seal of approval and publicly recognize their relationship with us, it is generally a tipping point in the relationship. Advocacy generally comes in the form of a real world conversation, but it could also come in the form of an unsolicited social media like, share or a forwarding of your email newsletter. The highest form of advocacy is, of course, an outright referral. When your customer sends you new customers, you know that you have earned a valuable advocacy relationship with them.

The Net Promoter Score (or NPS)3 has risen to fame as a popular survey tool for measuring customer sentiment and satisfaction and it is possibly the best survey based proxy for it. My problem with surveys, however, is that no matter how short and sweet they are and no matter how many times you say thank you, they are an interruption and annoying. Unless your customer is in a rare mood, you are moving them down the loyalty ladder a rung or two by getting in their face and asking them how you are doing.

However, nothing beats measuring the actual behaviors that demonstrate advocacy whenever possible. Measuring customer advocacy should become a key performance indicator for your business to measure, talk about daily and help you raise the bar on your service.

So how can we use technology to pull our loyal customers into an advocacy relationship? Here are five key strategies for your business:

Reward Them. Outright bribes work for some customers, especially those who like discounts (think: buy 11 cups of coffee and get your 12th free), but simple recognition of status can be even more powerful. The airlines are a great example with their Diamond and Million Miler programs. The folks who earn their status are proud to put their badges of honor on their luggage4,5. If you find the right things to reward them with, they are bound to eventually share it with others. What is the luggage tag in your business or industry? How could you create a status symbol that would be outwardly recognizable in your industry?

Invite Them In. Create a community that only they have access to that is intended to celebrate them and garner feedback from them on your products or services. This is the one place where surveys make sense for your customers. When they choose to help you improve your products or services and are investing their time and mental energy in your business, they are already your best advocates. If you invest in them and invite them into your inner circle, they will share that experience with others. How could you invest in a community for your most passionate fans?

Make it Easy to Share. Build systems and features that help them create their story with your brand. Testimonials and stories about your customer experiences are incredibly important for your business. They can become the fuel for the trust cycle2 and help you with your sales and marketing6. If you make it easy to share their experience, you increase the likelihood that they will share it. How can you use technology to identify good experiences and capture them with your customers?

Honor their feedback. Treat every piece of feedback that they give you like gold. Let them know that you hear them by simply acknowledging them and engaging them in a dialog. The more human that dialog is, the better. If you honor their feedback and make your customers feel heard, they will share that story with those around them. What are the sources of customer feedback in your business today? How can you empower those communication channels with technology?

Recognize Them. People are under-recognized. Simply acknowledging their names and identifying those loyal customers from the crowd will make them feel special. How do you train your staff to distinguish your brand advocates from everyone else7? How can your systems help your service staff identify those loyal customers and recognize them?

Brand advocates are one of the most important assets that your brand has and we often neglect them and take them for granted. Invest in your technology in ways that scale to support your brand advocates so that doesn’t happen to your company.


  1. The loyalty Ladder:
  2. Trust: How to use Technology To Generate Trust:
  3. The Ultimate Question by Fred Reischeld:
  4. Nudge by Thaler & Sunstein: 
  5. Hooked by Air Eyal: 
  6. Moments of Magic by Shep Hyken: 
  7. Secret Service; Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service by John DiJulius: 
  8. Predictable Irrationality by Dan Ariely: 
  9. Maslow on Management by Abraham Maslow: 
  10. Why We Do What We Do by Ed Deci & Richard Ryan: 
  11. Persuasive Technology by BJ Fogg:

 Note: 8-11 are other influencers of this work. Although not directly references, their ideas are reflected in the work. 

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