Growing your Fan Base: How to Turn Customers into Advocates with Email Marketing

Post written by Naida Alabata
On Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

In an age where consumers are placing greater emphasis on trust and authenticity, brand-driven content has not had the impact it once did. Finding ways to evolve customers into advocates is an efficient way to translate customers’ pleasant brand experiences into powerful sales messages.

And one of the more effective ways to do so is through email.  

First off, what’s the difference between customers and advocates?

A certain level of enthusiasm for your brand separates even the most loyal customers and customer advocates.

Advocates have such satisfaction from using your product/service that they go out of their way to recommend it to their peers, engaging others in the promotion of your brand.

This is also why fostering loyalty among customers is important, as they can potentially become a powerful marketing tool who can do part of your marketing work for you.

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Why customer advocacy works

The vast ocean of vendor-driven content that is constantly being pushed in front of consumers has bred growing distrust for brands’ advertising.

Increasingly, consumers are relying on online reviews written by other consumers to influence their purchasing decisions. According to the Edelman 2017 Executive Summary, peers outrank financial analysts, CEOs, and government officials when consumers seek information during the buying process.

This is why brands have placed greater importance on identifying customer advocates, as they represent a great opportunity to convey marketing messages as organically as you possibly can.

Why email marketing?

Social media and messaging apps may be the go-to platform for people to communicate with each other, but there’s one thing all social networks have in common—the need for an email address.

According to Statista, in 2017, email users were pegged at 3.7 billion – a figure that is forecasted to grow to 4.1 billion in 2021.

To compound this, the unpredictable changes in the algorithms of social networks make it increasingly difficult for marketers to exact just how many people get to see their content. Compared to other marketing channels that include social media, direct mail, and paid search, email marketing enjoys over 4x higher median ROI (122 percent).

Email marketing, to this day, remains to be one of the most effective ways to foster long-term relationships with customers who have already engaged with your brand.

3 Effective Ways to Turn your Buyers into Customer Advocates

While gaining new customers is still a valuable goal for your business, customer advocacy is a more effective and cheaper way to promote your brand. In fact, by 2020, consumers will rely more on their experiences as the deciding factor whether they want to keep doing business with you or not.

Here are steps you can take to turn your current buyers into advocates:

Step 1. Create email sequences

Email sequences are a series of targeted emails sent on pre-set time intervals that could either be one of these two or both:

  • Time-based – Pre-set intervals include after opting in, a week after a purchase, and a month after subscribing to a service.
  • Trigger-based – These are emails sent based on actions or inactions of your recipients. The triggers can be watching a video, clicking an email link, or not logging into a platform for a week.

Apart from being automated, a big reason why email sequences work is how they can be used for different marketing goals. Whether it’s to increase brand awareness, capture leads, foster loyalty, drive engagement, there’s an automated sequence that can help brands achieve their goals.

Here are a couple of examples of email sequences:

Post-purchase ‘Thank you’ email

Apart from expressing how much you value your customers, post-purchase thank you emails provide marketers an opportunity to continue engaging with customers. You can provide helpful content like this example, or provide special offers. This kind of email goes a long way in personalizing customer engagement, and ultimately, building brand loyalty.

Customer satisfaction survey

Asking for your customers’ feedback is a simple way of showing them you care. It also gives you the added benefit of being able to gather valuable insights and data, which in turn allows you to provide customers with better experiences.

Step 2. Identify potential customer advocates

Once you feel like your customers have been boarded by your email sequences, you can find which ones have the potential to be advocates.

One popular way to do this is via the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey – a simple, direct question asking, “On a scale of 0-10, how likely will you recommend our product/service to others?”

According to the NPS formula, those who answered 9 or 10 are considered as “promoters.” They are generally characterized as repeat buyers, who are satisfied with the company’s products/services enough that they’ll actively recommend it to other potential buyers.

Step 3. Incentivise promoters

You can then create a referral marketing program for potential advocates.

In this example, ModCloth encouraged customers to make referrals by offering $15 rewards for every friend who makes a $50 purchase, while also giving them the chance to win a $200 gift certificate for every referral made.

Here are other examples of excellent referral programs:


Planted—a recruiting service connecting non-technical people with jobs in the startup industry—gives a perfect example of an email that has the killer combination of being attractive, simple, and effective. It has an enticing offer ($100 in Amazon Credit) and has a clear CTA.

They’ve also made it as frictionless as can be, giving a unique referral link, while having a large button where customers can track their referrals.


Despite already having 500 million users, the cloud storage company is still growing its user base by 100 million each year.

This email does a simple, yet effective, job of notifying customers when they’ve made a successful referral, and rewarding them with 500 MB of additional storage. Reminding people of the benefit they’re getting from referrals encourages them to do so even more.   


A few things to keep in mind:

  • As noted by Infusion Soft, make becoming an advocate as easy as possible, with participation to referral marketing programs as seamless as can be.
  • Behavior-based triggers can be used to find potential advocates. A new customer who immediately becomes a repeat buyer can be a good indicator of their potential to be an advocate.
  • Keep tabs on open rates. If you find that a particular sequence isn’t performing, you should adjust accordingly and stop sending those types of emails to that particular segment. What engages them this week may no longer work a month from now.


The entire concept of customer advocacy is founded on nurturing customer relationships and building trust. To be able to turn customers into advocates, not only do you have to meet their increasing expectations, but you also have to find a way to surpass them.

Email marketing has become an understated tool in this age of glitzy social media trends. But if you’re able to craft an email sequencing strategy that works, you’ll find that to be one of your most valuable marketing assets.

Did you know Inbound Now offers a WordPress plugin for managing and sending emails? Be sure to take a moment and read more about it here!

About the Author:
Naida Alabata is a content strategist in Grit PH, she's also the content manager of Startupcredo and an entrepreneur in the Philippines. She opts to share her expertise in business and digital marketing, she provides tips about content and social media marketing by content contribution.

Posted in: Email Marketing
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