In a perfect world, every business would have clients lined up at their doors and sales reps who close new deals every other day. But in reality that's not always the case - not for emerging companies, nor for established ones. However, once a sale is made and a contract is signed, the chase for the "golden goose" clients starts all over again.

It’s an ongoing and exhausting process that had marketers and business strategists thinking about capitalizing on the most valuable resource and slashing the sales process in half. Instead of focusing and wasting valuable resources on bringing in new clients through a strenuous outreach process that might or might not yield the expected results, it’s much more effective to get them come to you by making use of existing satisfied customers.

Perhaps you already know this, but to grow your brand’s awareness and portfolio, there are few things more powerful than the opinion and voice of a customer. Asking for a customer reference might initially sound awkward for most sales and marketing professionals. Maybe it seems to you like asking a paying customer to do you a favor, and to some extent you are be right. But usually happy clients want to give something in return. You will be amazed at how flattered people will be when you reach out to them in a direct and honest way and how much appreciation they will have for the chance to contribute to your brand’s success story and visibility. But most importantly, they will be happy to get vocal about a product or service that they truly believe in.

As victims of constantly increasing demands, busy schedules, complex tasks and boring routine, it’s only natural to take a break once in a while. And what better way to do it if not by helping others, having fun in the process and be in the spotlight for a change.

Your customers want to see you succeed, meet new people and showcase their own achievements. Plus, as social and constantly evolving creatures, we are naturally inclined to share our experiences with peers and connect with like-minded individuals launching meaningful discussions based on our passions.

When your products support and delight customers, they are happy to become vocal about their success with it by carving out time to help you promoting it. In exchange for their contribution your clients receive social recognition, branded products and a seat at the table. So, a reference is not a favor, it is a win-win as advocates also benefit from being a part of your program.

In some cases, advocates can go as far as welcoming prospects on-site and giving them a hands-on demo of the product or service your offer, especially if the advocate and your prospect are in the same industry. In this case, your advocates’ experiences are ever more relevant for the potential customer.

Instead of being shy and reserved when asking for references, a better strategy would be to find out what motivates your advocates and try to match their expectations. And be straightforward about what’s in it for them and the reasons behind their entire effort. Purpose, motivation, and a well-thought-out rewarding scheme are key to keeping your valuable advocates happy and helpful. When you also consider those who love your brand but are not allowed to publicly support it, there’s an ever-bigger pool of advocates you can tap into for this activity. For example, public sector organizations. They would welcome the opportunity to support you in a private way and in the process to meet new interesting people that perhaps otherwise they would never get the chance to do

Key takeaways: how customer advocates help prospects

People are naturally inclined to be the front-line providers of positive feedback for your brand’s services and products.

Keeping your advocates motivated while asking them to participate in activities, to network, and to present your services in a positive light to prospects is an ongoing effort.

The key to making your sales and marketing strategy more than a reference from a customer is to provide excellent service and capitalize on current existing customer relationships.