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June 6, 2017
Email Marketing  |  9 min read

Leveraging Email Marketing to Turn Customers into Advocates

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Sujan Patel

In a world of increasing online competition and growing distrust of both brands and their advertising, customer advocacy marketing represents an opportunity to turn the positive experiences of your past customers into a powerful sales message for new buyers.

To be successful, however, advocacy marketing must be scalable. Reaching out to past customers on a one-to-one basis requires too much time and effort to be sustainable. That’s where email marketing comes into play.

Using email marketing for customer advocacy

Email sequences can be set up based on a practically endless number of possible triggers.

To use email marketing for customer advocacy, you need to identify which behaviors and actions indicate that a past client has already or is likely to become an advocate. After that, you can build nurturing sequences designed to initiate new advocates into your referral marketing systems.

Post-purchase onboarding sequences

Peter Kriss, writing for the Harvard Business Review, shares the following data on the value of a positive customer experience:

“[A]fter controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases in the transaction-based business (for example, how often the customer needs the type of goods and services that the company sells), customers who had the best past experiences spend 140 percent more compared to those who had the poorest past experience.”

 customer experience drives sales.png 

The question then becomes, “What creates a good past experience?” Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures argues that onboarding plays a big role: 

“The first in-app experience your customer has with your product sets the tone for your relationship, and if it’s confusing, overwhelming, or otherwise puts up barriers to achieving success (or at least recognizing the value potential in your product), you’re in trouble.”

Though Murphy is speaking specifically about SaaS apps, the principle applies to all different kinds of businesses. It’s intuitive. If you support customers after their purchases, they’re likely to be more satisfied than those who don’t get full use of your product or service due to a lack of follow-up. 

This post-purchase onboarding can be done with automated email sequences. Here’s an example of an email Harry’s sends to customers who have just received their first shipment of razors, courtesy of Emma:

Your post-purchase nurturing sequence may involve one message like this or a longer series of training tips. In any case, your goal is to give new customers the guidance they need to be successful as soon as possible.

Net Promoter Score survey 

Once you’re confident that your new customers have been successfully onboarded (which may require more than just email, depending on your product’s complexity), it’s time to find the promoters within your audience. Again, this can be done with an automated email.

Related Article:
Customer Service | 12 min read
The Ultimate Guide to Referrals

Within your email marketing system, set up a survey that asks onboarded customers how likely they are to recommend your business to others, on a scale of one to 10. Set up your system so that those who respond with a “9” or a “10” are tagged as promoters, as defined by the Net Promoter Score formula:


These promoters should be funneled into a new email sequence that’s designed to introduce them to your company’s referral marketing program.

Advocate training sequences 

Assuming your company has a referral marketing program in place, the goals of your advocate training sequence should include:

  • Introducing new advocates to the benefits of your program
  • Teaching them how to join
  • Giving them helpful tips and training on how to become effective advocates

Here’s an example of an introductory message used to engage new advocates for ModCloth’s referral program: 


The specific number of messages in your advocacy sequence will vary, though you’ll want to keep the following principles in mind: 

  • Pay attention to open rates. Seeing a big drop-off over the course of your sequence could indicate that you’re sending too much or that the information is no longer helpful.
  • Make becoming an advocate as easy as possible. Ideally, your advocacy email nurturing campaigns should integrate with your referral marketing system to make participation seamless.
  • Use behavior-based triggers to send individual advocacy messages whenever users take specific actions. Seeing a one-time customer become a repeat buyer could indicate that they’re ready to become an advocate for your brand.

Value-based sequences   

Finally, remember that, in order for customers to remain advocates for your brand, your company needs to continually remain top-of-mind and be seen as providing ongoing value.

This, again, can be accomplished with ongoing email marketing sequences designed to nurture the relationship between you and your customers. This can be done with informative messages, coupon codes, personalized status updates and more (keep in mind, though, that personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates).

Here’s an example of an engagement message sent by Pocket, based on a user’s experience interacting with their product: 



Again, watch your open rates. They’ll tell you if you’re sending too many messages, or if the specific types of engagement emails you’re sending are resonating with recipients.

Also, be sure that once a customer has entered into your advocacy sequence, that they aren’t still receiving nurturing messages intended to provoke the first sale. The tagging and segmenting features of your chosen email marketing system should be up to the task (if they’re not, look for a new system).

Remember, though, that while advocacy marketing emails can be automated, they shouldn’t be treated as something you set up once and forget about. Regularly optimizing your sequences based on the data you generate from existing customer advocacy will make future relationships even more effective.

Repeating History: Small Business Strategies for Earning Repeat Sales and Customer Loyalty - Download Now
Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. He is a hard working and high energy individual fueled by his passion to help people and solve problems. He is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake,, Quuu, and Between his consulting practice and his software companies,Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.

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