Customer advocacy is constantly evolving and is proving its value year after year when it comes to improving customer experiences and stabilizing the bottom line. 

Our State of Customer Marketing Report for 2023/24 produced some interesting statistics on the presence of customer advocacy programs and how they are run today. 

In this article, we’ll also go through some newer features in customer advocacy programs that are beginning to grow. 

Customer advocacy programs

Last year, when we asked participants, “Do you have a customer advocacy program?” 39.3% of participants said yes. This year, that answer has grown to over half of responses at 52.2%

Another interesting increase is that 20.3% of responders do not have an advocacy program, nor are they currently in the process of creating one.

How many customer marketers have advocacy programs currently?

While the number of customer marketing professionals with an advocacy program has increased, the total number of respondents who either have or are about to have an advocacy program has dropped from 89.3% last year to 79.7%, a decrease of about 10%.

While this is undoubtedly still an impressive number, it will be interesting to see how these averages change over the next few years. Hopefully, we will see the number of those without an advocacy program drop.

Now, let’s look at some of the specifics of these advocacy programs.

How are advocacy programs managed?

With how involved customer marketing responsibilities are, we wanted to explore how our participants manage their more process-related tasks, like data collection and automation.

Participants could only pick one answer.

Last year, there was a pretty even distribution of answers between the options presented, with spreadsheets, manual tracking, and customer management tools taking up about 30% each.

This year, though, we have a clear popular choice with customer management tools being preferred by 52.8% of participants. Manual tracking has dropped the most to 19.5% from 37.5% last year.

How are advocacy programs managed?

When comparing which management technique was used in relation to budgets, there seemed to be little correlation.

We also checked to compare if the size of a company (and consequently the size of the customer base) had any impact on which tool is used. Enterprise companies most often chose a customer management tool, and scale-ups preferred spreadsheets, while mid-growth most often chose manual tracking.

This certainly speaks to a correlation between the size of a company and the choice of management tool, despite budget factoring less into the choice. Manual tracking and spreadsheets are usually chosen by smaller companies with smaller customer bases, and customer management tools are most common for larger companies too.

Impact of an advocacy program

Next, we wanted to see where companies found advocacy had the biggest impact. Last year, about half of the participants stated their advocacy program had the biggest impact on case studies - around 50%.

This year, the largest percentage remains case studies at 37.1%, with increased referrals being the next highest at 17.1%.

Notably, there was a big dip in those who saw an increase in their Net Promoter Score - from 17.7% to a mere 2.9% this year.

Impact of a customer advocacy program?

There seems to be a bigger variety in the areas in which advocacy seems to have a big impact, especially with the ‘Other’ section making up 22.9% of answers. Those who chose this option provided answers such as an impact on revenue, research feedback, and better client engagement.

A few also said it was too early in the program to quantify its impact so far; although we are a year on, 12 months is still a relatively short period for long programs like advocacy strategies. We’re looking forward to how things evolve as current advocacy programs mature.

How many customers are advocates?

Out of those who have advocacy programs, we asked what percentage of their existing customers they considered advocates. The highest percentages were found on the low end of the spectrum, with the highest percentage being the range <5% at 33.3%.

The next highest range was 5-10% at 26%, then 11-15% at 22.2%. This is a notable drop from last year, where the majority stated 5-10% as being advocates.

How many customer are advocates?

There may be a few reasons for this, most notably the change in the economic status of many countries over the last year. Due to the increase in general costs and with earnings struggling to keep up, loyal customers may have been forced to (perhaps for the first time) drop their subscriptions and purchases in favor of prioritizing other needs.

Contributor Emily Glover, Customer Marketing Lead at Vimeo, shared her thoughts:

“I can only hope this trend is due to the sheer uptick in the volume of new customers who are purchasing new services and are merely still onboarding. Jokes aside, the attention economy is very much a thing, and advocacy is not immune to it. 
Advocacy programs can demand a lot from customers in terms of time and energy — and there are more and more advocacy programs out there. With these things in mind, customers may be becoming more selective about which ones they get involved with.
Think about how many pieces of software you use in your day to day. How many have their own advocacy programs? Likely many. How many do you realistically have time for in an average work week? Likely only one or two.”

In the coming year, it will be interesting to see if this number increases again and if the increasing number of advocacy programs will support this.

The future of customer advocacy

What are some common trends we've seen that might be making more of an impact on how customer advocacy is run over the next few years? We've picked out some of the more regular strategies being used by customer marketing teams today:

  • Enhanced data privacy and compliance: As data privacy regulations tighten globally, there is a significant push towards ensuring that customer data is handled with utmost integrity. Compliance with these regulations is not just a legal necessity but also a crucial element in building trust with customers. Marketing strategies now need to incorporate robust security measures and transparent data-handling practices to maintain customer trust​.
  • Hyper-personalized customer experiences: There's a trend toward creating hyper-personalized experiences. This involves using predictive analytics and large language models to anticipate customer needs and preferences, sometimes before the customer explicitly expresses them. This level of personalization requires a deep integration of technology and creativity to craft individualized customer interactions that resonate on a more personal level​.
  • Strategic use of peer reviews and customer feedback: Traditional feedback mechanisms like surveys are becoming less effective as customers choose more direct feedback routes or opt for peer reviews. Recognizing and utilizing these channels effectively can help in identifying brand advocates and leveraging their influence to attract new customers​.
  • Transparency in data usage: There is a growing demand from customers to understand how their data is being used. Successful customer advocacy programs will need to ensure that their data policies are transparent and easily accessible, allowing customers to feel more in control of their personal information.
  • Emphasis on sentiment analysis: Understanding customer sentiments through advanced analytics is becoming crucial. This involves analyzing the emotional content of customer feedback across various channels to tailor marketing strategies that better meet their emotional and practical needs​​.

Advocacy in depth

Over recent years, companies have shifted their focus from customer acquisition to customer retention and engagement. 

Customer Advocacy Certified will take you through the foundational skills and knowledge needed to launch and manage customer advocacy programs and excel in your career. 

By the end of this course, you'll be able to confidently:

  • Learn the fundamentals & exact blueprint for creating highly engaging customer advocacy programs.
  • Leverage your advocacy toolbox to help you scale and avoid potential pitfalls before launching your programs.
  • Understand how to align your customer engagement initiatives to strategic drivers within your organization.
  • Successfully measure your program ROI to get more budget & headcount.