The Dreaded DTR: How to Transform Customers into Brand Advocates

Transform Customers Into Brand Advocates

Once you’ve gotten the hang of branding, you’ve nailed down SEO, and you’re working those social media platforms and creative content like an old pro, it’s time for a DTR. Defining the Relationship. This beings the process to transform customers into brand advocates. With your customers, to be exact.

Managing Your Customers

If you’re managing your company well and you’ve got a strong product, you’ve probably got a decent thing going with your audience. They seem to like your work, and they seem to like the identity and name that your company has built. But are your customers ready to go beyond being a run-of-the-mill consumer and take the next step?

Brand advocates are customers who speak positively about your business and pass on affirmative word-of-mouth statements about your brand (word-of-mouth meaning both online and offline words. Gotta love someone tweeting in your favor). Brand advocates are incredibly useful for a company. They act as both an extension of brand marketing and as free, genuine, well-intended advertising. A glowing review from a friend says more than dozens of advertisements from the company trying to sell you something. A brand advocate is more likely to plug your company to potential customers who have similar tastes, views, and interests. They’re trustworthy, authentic, and they can really help increase your sales. Word-of-mouth is a heavy influence on the current market’s purchases:

transform customers into brand advocates recommendations

Sounds perfect, right? Who wouldn’t want to be a company with a community of customers so taken with you and your business that they want to share your story?

The problem with any DTR style transformation, including the shift from customer to brand advocate, is that you might be perfectly ready—even desperate—to reach that next level while your customer isn’t quite ready to take the leap. Building brand advocates is tough, and it has the potential for a lot of heartbreak. 

Let’s break down defining the brand advocate relationship and look at some tips for inspiring your customers to become brand advocates. It’s time for DTR!


The difference between a happy customer and a delighted brand advocate usually lies in their experience with your company.  A happy customer has a good experience. A brand advocate has an experience that’s both great enough and memorable enough to share with their friends.

Here’s where your creativity can be put to good use! Try to find unique ways for your customers to really engage with your product and website, creating that experience that they’ll want to share with others. You’ll also be continuing to strengthen your brand this way, giving your customer something produce great content, and your customers create a community around that content.

HubSpot’s an example of a brand with an amazing advocacy community, which they’ve impressively gathered through their project HubStars. Their users are united around HubStars’s gamification, which challenges users to complete advocacy tasks in order to gain points. These can be used to win everything from gift cards to fancy tech. HubStars is definitely the ultimate example of creating engaging content to attract advocates. While it’s not a path toward advocacy many people can afford to mimic, it’s definitely inspiring.


Response and Outreach

Brand advocates, like any good relationship, require communication. Your interactions with them are significantly less effective if they’re one-sided.


Forbes’s list on gaining brand advocates is so confident about the usefulness of talking with your audience that it lists three different points about personal relationships/feedback from users.  We can’t all extend coffee invites to every influential customer. Your company can work off comments given on your content and site, interact with and feature customers online, and build relationships with online leaders in your field. Not only does this help you build a base of advocates by showing thoughtfulness and trust, but it can help you identify ways to improve your product and user experience.

And once you’ve established relationships with your advocates, they’ll not only talk to you, but they’ll talk to others. Which is going to significantly increase the reach of your business. Once you’ve gotten a brand advocate, they’re the ultimate super fan. A Zuberance social media study found that the average brand advocate in their survey had 300-600 online connections and 30% of advocates plugged their favorite brands at least once a week. That’s a whole lot of effective advertising that you’re tapping into.


Part of gaining advocates is definitely forming a relationship with your customers and connecting with them through a strong brand. But another huge reason why customers choose to advocate a brand is that they want to seem knowledgeable and passionate.

A study was done by Needle, an advocacy network, cranked out the following numbers:


Note that your brand is still incredibly vital; this chart shows what motivates advocates, not necessarily what attracts them to your company in the first place. Most advocates want to seem knowledgeable and share their passions about subjects they already care about. Your brand helps them relate to and find your company. Branding also encourages your audience to see you as a trustworthy resource for information—and if they’re being motivated by the urge to share knowledge, users will gravitate toward well-branded, reputable sources. 

But this chart makes a really important point: your content needs to be relevant, and it needs to relate to your customers’ need to share their knowledge and passion. Your content needs to serve a purpose that an advocate feels is important enough to “build and share.”  By creating good, supported, and useful content, you’re more likely to attract outspoken and active advocates. Not only that, but you’re more likely to keep them as you generate new content and new conversations.



We don’t want to make this process seem easy. Getting to transform customers into brand advocates takes a lot of time branding, interacting, and creating. But advocates are certainly worth any effort you can extend. We admit it: they’re high maintenance. But the relationship they share with you is a productive, caring, and sales-increasing one. 

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