Advocates are a powerful community because their participation is perceived as more organic and results in greater trust. They are sharing because they love the brand and they aren’t getting paid to talk about it. That being said, we use a combination of product and non-financial incentives to clue the advocate into the right actions they can take to help the brand.
Even if you don’t have a community of brand advocates, you can still leverage non-financial incentives for your community of customers. Here are four (though there are many more) to consider starting with.
It’s no secret that recognition is highly important for employees, but did you know that it is also a core motivator in your community of customers? In fact, in direct sales, recognition is the second highest motivator (higher than financial compensation!) next to autonomy.
Recognition can be both internal (within the organization) and external (within that individual’s community). Though external recognition can appear more difficult to attain, platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin make spotlights accessible (and shareable).
At Sseko, we created a coveted award for top leaders at the annual Summit gathering. At the Celebration Dinner, top ambassadors (Fellows) were invited onstage for the full Hollywood experience of adding their handprints in gold to a scroll - adding to the leaders who had gone before them. The internal recognition was photographed and later shared on social media for external recognition.
How can you recognize, honor, and celebrate your top customers both internally and externally?
2. Brand access
Exclusive access to your brand may feel daunting, but here are some simple ways that you can elevate a customer’s access to your brand.
How it’s made. Give a sneak peek into the creation of your product or service. This can be released as an Instagram or Facebook LIVE, a blog post, or an exclusive email.
Employee spotlight. Get a non-financial incentive two-fer when you recognize an employee AND invite customers to hear more about someone in your organization who might not normally be accessible to the public. Talk up their strengths, their passion, and the values you see them manifest that align with your organization.
Event Experience. If you really want to go big, consider events that are only accessible to a certain segment of customers. If you partner with any events-based organizations, offer top customers a free or discounted ticket. If your organization is in the events industry, consider how you can offer exclusive experiences within the event to top-tiered customers only.
If you’ve already done the work to establish an advocate community within your organization, you have tons of opportunity to create exclusive experiences just for advocates and give everyone else who didn’t decide to become an advocate yet a classic case of FOMO.
3. Community & Connection
Never underestimate the power of community as a motivator for your customers. When customers are ignited around a passion that is tied to your product or service, they will naturally gravitate towards and relate to other customers with those similar interests.
A great example of this is Lululemon. Their community of like-minded “leaders who sweat, compete, and create at the highest level” are invited to connect at events in person. This community has become the pillar of Lululemon's iconic success.
Have you created a pathways for customers to connect to each other? If so, how can you prompt customers to connect and elevate that authentic relationship?
Feedback? Hold on. Asking someone to give their opinion sounds more like asking for a favor than rewarding them with an incentive.
Stick with me for a second. I’m not just talking about “rate this product.”
Feedback isn’t just reviewing what’s already occurred. It can also mean providing insight into what you want to see in the future.
For example, “We’ve got three new patterns coming out next season and because you’re a gold level customer, we want to know which three YOU want to see most. Vote in your pattern here!” Or what Lego did when they created Lego Ideas to hear directly from their top fans about what Lego sets they wanted to see in the future.
Inviting someone to give you feedback says a lot. First, requesting feedback shows transparency, which builds trust. Second, when the feedback is requested because it’s tied to a certain position or tier of customer (eg. “Because you’re a gold level customer…”) it incorporates a recognition incentive. And third, asking someone for a “favor” results in greater positivity towards the requester.
In summary, non-financial incentives are great because they are just that. No finances needed. But as you can see from these examples, non-financial incentives call your organization into a more robust, thoughtful, and authentic approach to connecting with your customers. Which is why so few companies intentionally leverage them. Which is why they could be your next edge.
Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder
About the Author
Bri Leever is Chief Community Architect at Ember, a splasher of water, and lover of books doing life in an ever-changing migration pattern ✈️