The path to advocacy: Engaging customers from the start with Customer Marketing Leader Leslie Barrett

Sendoso Customer Marketing Leader Leslie Barrett shares tips on developing customers into loyal advocates and optimizing the value of your referral program. Explore the best way to establish meaningful connections early in the customer lifecycle for maximum success.

Jason Perumal
Jason Perumal
Content Marketing Manager
Read time: 9 mins

With 88 percent of consumers trusting recommendations from people they know above all other forms of marketing, referral marketing holds immense power for brands today. 

Turning customers into advocates early in the buyer journey amplifies brand visibility, boosts credibility, and, most importantly, increases customer loyalty and retention.

Leslie Barrett, Former Senior Director of Customer Marketing and Evangelism at Sendoso, joined the SaaSquatch podcast, The Advocacy Channel, to share her journey to becoming an award-winning customer marketer, 

Discover Leslie’s top five strategies for empowering your customer advocates. 

Key takeaways from this blog
  • Word of mouth impacts the majority of purchasing decisions.
  • Customers place more trust in the content shared by individuals, including user-generated content (UGC) and employee posts, than in brand-generated content.
  • Rewarding customer advocates can lead to repeat business and a stronger community connection. 
  • Building a community helps customers feel more connected to your brand and less likely to leave.
  • Integrating customer advocacy into the sales strategy can lead to more effective customer relationship building and increased sales performance.

5 strategies to help develop lifelong advocates from the start 

Turning customers into lifelong advocates is more than a goal––it’s necessary for sustainable success. But how do you transform casual customers into loyal champions of your brand? The answer lies in a proactive and thoughtful approach from the very beginning. 

Here are five key strategies to help develop strong relationships with your customers. They’ll help you turn them into advocates who love your products and are eager to spread the word about your brand.

1. Make the first experience memorable 

First impressions are everything in customer advocacy. Once you’ve got your target audience’s attention, you must knock their socks off with a memorable first experience. 

This journey starts by capturing your audience’s attention and delivering an experience that surpasses their expectations. Whether through a seamless website, exceptional customer service, or a product that exceeds what they anticipated, the goal is to forge a bond beyond a transaction.

The initial interaction sets the tone for the entire customer journey. It also significantly influences whether a customer will become a brand advocate. Businesses should employ targeted marketing strategies, blending digital and personal elements to enhance customer experience:

  • For a digital platform, this includes a user-friendly website with intuitive navigation and quick load times. 
  • Personal interactions involve training customer service teams to provide empathetic and efficient support, ensuring a smooth first encounter with the brand.

The goal is to surpass customer expectations with their products or services, leading to positive word-of-mouth and repeat business.

Surpassing customer expectations also means moving the focus from making a sale to creating a relationship. The first experience should begin a lasting relationship that nurtures new customers into brand advocates.

Interestingly, some brands, such as Sendoso, don’t wait for customers to become regulars before including them in their customer advocacy programs. Leslie emphasizes the importance of building trust from the outset. She establishes a foundation of trust by providing customers with timely, relevant content. 

Leslie explains how she initially put customers on the customer advocacy program. 

Many brands wait until customers are regular and loyal users of the brand before asking them to join the customer advocacy program. 

However, this approach makes customers more receptive to joining advocacy programs or participating in activities like G2 reviews, as they feel a sense of loyalty and trust built from the beginning of their journey.

2. Keep the conversation alive 

Maintaining ongoing communication after the sale helps reinforce the customer’s decision to choose your brand.

Silence can be misinterpreted as disinterest, potentially jeopardizing loyalty and advocacy. Proactive post-purchase engagement is key. This can include: 

  • Sending thank-you emails
  • Inviting customers to complete satisfaction surveys
  • Making courtesy calls for high-value purchases

It’s key to balance attentiveness with respect for the customer’s space, aiming to make them feel valued without overwhelming them.

Encourage customers to share their experiences with your product or service. Leslie emphasizes the importance of showing customers the value of their feedback and its role in enhancing the customer experience. 

She recommends a straightforward approach to soliciting feedback: ask customers for a few minutes of their time after each interaction during the onboarding process, underscoring its significance for improving the overall customer experience.

Here’s how she recommends framing your initial request to customers: 

When customers offer feedback, it’s vital to demonstrate genuine care. Acknowledge their input with a thank-you note, respond thoughtfully to any concerns, and implement changes based on their suggestions. 

Feedback should be easy to give and insightful for improvements. Creating simple yet effective surveys and offering incentives for feedback can facilitate this. Plus, establishing direct communication channels helps customers share their thoughts effortlessly. 

Keeping a customer relationship thriving is similar to nurturing a friendship––it requires regular, meaningful interactions. Businesses must invest time and effort to show customers they are valuable beyond their financial contribution. Keep the dialogue ongoing with informative newsletters, updates on company initiatives, invites to events, and previews of new products or services. 

Leslie follows a versatile approach, integrating customers into her Slack community to meet them where they are, whether through Slack, email, or surveys, ensuring open lines of communication at every touchpoint.

“I pop these people [customers]  into my Slack community, so I can meet them where they are in Slack or an email or a survey. I ask them things like if anything was unclear during our last call, was it too much of a firehose?”

3. Involve customers in your community 

Creating a sense of belonging within a brand community can enhance customer loyalty and advocacy. Brands should build a vibrant community that draws customers in and keeps them engaged. Welcoming customers to your community can be done effectively through several methods:

  1. Direct invitations in newsletters: Incorporate a clear call-to-action (CTA) in your newsletters, inviting customers to join your community.
  2. Social media promotion: Utilize different social media channels to promote your community, highlighting the benefits of joining.
  3. Packaging inserts: For physical products, use packaging, such as including a QR code, as an opportunity to promote your community.

The process of joining the community should be straightforward, encouraging customers to sign up easily.

To foster a sense of community, engage customers on social media through hashtag campaigns, live Q&A sessions, and encouraging user-generated content. These interactions increase the brand’s visibility and enhance customers’ sense of involvement.

Implementing loyalty programs that offer tangible rewards for participation and purchases can incentivize continuous engagement. These programs provide a structured way for customers to integrate more deeply into the community.

Leslie shares insights on the success of their Slack community. “We have a Slack community…It’s incredibly beneficial. We’ve had so much fun that I recommend just launching it. Consider creating a private channel for separate community platforms and inviting people to share best practices and more.”

She also emphasizes the importance of regular events like user groups, webinars, and Happy Hours for community engagement. 

To recap, involving customers in a community fulfills a psychological need for belonging and fosters loyalty and advocacy, ultimately contributing to high retention rates and customer satisfaction.

4. Reward customer advocacy 

Recognizing and rewarding customer advocates is key to maintaining their support and enthusiasm for your brand. To acknowledge their efforts effectively, consider offering exclusive rewards or special discounts. These tokens of appreciation thank your advocates and motivate them to continue engaging with your brand.

Giving early access to new products or services is another way to make your advocates feel special. This privilege, not available to the general public, underscores their importance to your brand. Public acknowledgment is also impactful. Simple actions like social media shout-outs or spotlights in newsletters can validate an advocate’s contributions and deepen their loyalty.

Implementing a structured rewards program creates a positive feedback loop. When advocates know their efforts are recognized and appreciated, they’re more likely to continue their support. Offering points or benefits for activities like customer referrals or testimonials provides a tangible incentive for ongoing advocacy.

Leslie shares an innovative approach to rewarding customer feedback. 

Rewarding advocacy strengthens the relationship between your brand and its most loyal customers. By offering meaningful incentives and public recognition, you encourage continued advocacy and demonstrate genuine appreciation for their support.

5. Get the sales department onboard 

Including the sales team in customer advocacy strategies is crucial, as their role extends beyond just closing deals. They are instrumental in building long-term relationships that pave the way for customer advocacy. 

Educating the sales team about a customer advocate’s concept and lifetime value is essential. This understanding can inspire them to look beyond immediate sales and focus on nurturing relationships that lead to repeat business and referrals.

Implementing incentive programs can effectively motivate salespeople. These can include bonuses, recognition programs, and opportunities for career advancement, rewarding them for making sales and converting customers into brand advocates.

Plus, the sales team is a valuable source of customer feedback. Their interactions offer insights into customer satisfaction and areas for improvement, which are crucial for refining advocacy strategies.

Leslie shares innovative tactics in her approach, 

By including the sales department in the advocacy process, businesses can leverage their direct customer interactions to foster a community of advocates, enhancing customer loyalty and business growth.

Turn customers into loyal brand champions to grow your brand

Creating lifelong customer advocates involves more than just selling a product. Instead, brands must make the first experience unforgettable, include customers in your community, and get the sales team on board. These steps transform customers into powerful supporters of your brand. 

Ready to start building a community of loyal customer advocates? Request a demo of today.  


What is customer advocacy? 

Customer advocacy is when customers enthusiastically support and promote a brand, often based on positive experiences and strong relationships with the brand. It goes beyond mere satisfaction; advocates are loyal fans who actively spread the word about the products or services they love, influencing others through their endorsements. This powerful form of marketing is built on trust and genuine connections, turning customers into valuable allies who help drive brand awareness and growth.

What is the goal of customer advocacy? 

Customer advocacy aims to transform satisfied customers into active supporters of your brand. It creates a community of loyal customers who repeatedly choose your products or services and recommend them to others. This advocacy leads to organic growth through word-of-mouth, enhances brand credibility, and fosters a trust-based relationship with your customer base. Customer advocacy turns happy customers into brand ambassadors, driving both customer loyalty and new customer acquisition

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