What does it take to turn customers into brand advocates?

It’s not an easy question to answer, and no magic formula exists — but some brands are getting it right. Obviously customer experiences, both online and offline, with the brand and the product have to be great to convert one-off customers into repeat customers (barring monopolies) but UX and CX alone aren’t enough to turn customers into champions and advocates.

So what does it take to drive this kind of advocacy, where people are so enthusiastic that they gush to their friends about the brand, often without any prompting? If there was a way to create that magic formula, it would take these three ingredients.

One Part Brand Promise

A company wanting to create advocates should stand out and deliver on its brand promise. Customers must choose you and prefer to buy from you before anyone else, and that requires a brand doing what it says it will do.

Take Costco, for example. There is no shortage of grocery and retail outlets to purchase from, but one look at the numbers at Costco’s growth in sales and membership and you’ll be able to see they have repeat and growing customers. Costco has set itself up to target relatively well-off consumers who also like a good deal, and the warehouse approach (the inventory is still on pallets!) cuts labor costs, savings the store passes on to shoppers.

At the end of the day, what Costco promises is that joining as a member means you’ll get certain prices and discounts. Customers see the warehouse and wholesale approach and know they’re getting discounts because of the quantity they purchase and in this way Costco is delivering on its promise.

One Part Loyalty

We know that products must be coupled with quality to help invoke customer loyalty. Costco offers this with things like great customer service and trusted brands. It also builds loyalty through financial partnerships and the membership model.

Although Costco and American Express are going their separate ways, the partnership has been a great way to drive loyalty among shoppers since they get cash-back rewards from using American Express while shopping. It’s likely that the new relationships with Visa and Citibank will prove beneficial to Costco as well as its customers.

The membership model can drive brand loyalty itself. Obviously, having paid for a membership is incentive enough to shop at Costco, and the fee comes out to a few dollars per month, with just a little more for upgraded memberships.

Since people like to talk about saving money, and share what they’ve learned with friends, a membership program is a great thing for satisfied customers to suggest.

One Part Evangelism

Third-party referrals are powerful when it comes to consumer decision-making. According to a Nielsen survey, 84 percent of consumers see word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family as the trustworthiest form of advertising. This is why so many marketers and companies are interested in measuring their customers’ Net Promoter Scores (NPS), in order to find out how likely they are to tell others about their brand.

Creating brand evangelism can mean quite the ROI, as it’s pretty much free advertising. Satisfied, loyal customers are happy to talk to others about their experience, and maybe even get them to shop.

Conclusion

A brand advocate is highly valuable, but isn’t made overnight. When you deliver on the promise you make, and keep shoppers coming back for more through great experiences wherever they interact with your brand, they might just start evangelizing and spread the good word for you.