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One of the best ways to ensure the success of a referral marketing program is to identify and engage with brand champions who are willing to carry your marketing message to their networks and followings. And there is good reason for businesses — across nearly every industry — to invest in some form of an advocacy marketing program. Consumers almost always put more stock in third-party testimonials than they do direct advertising from a brand. Especially if from someone they trust. 

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers prioritize recommendations from friends and family over any other form of advertising when considering a purchase. So it’s easy to see how just a handful of dedicated brand champions — who are the customers most enthusiastic about your products and/or services — could drive a large amount of revenue for your company at an incredibly low cost per acquisition (CPA).

Let’s now take an in-depth look at what exactly separates a brand champion from other customers, the various benefits they provide, and how to identify, motivate and work with them.

What Exactly Is a Brand Champion?

There are three distinct elements that set a brand champion apart from your run-of-the-mill loyal customer who is willing to say nice things about your company. 

  1. A brand champion is a person who is a power user of your products and/ or services. They’re passionate and highly knowledgeable about your company.
  2. Brand champions generally are extremely engaged with your team directly and often provide proactive reviews and feedback to your company.
  3. They have an extensive network or following and are willing to promote products to them on your behalf.

Most importantly, brand champions believe in your mission, values and products. They actively work to help build and maintain a positive image for your company through social media advocacy, user-generated content, word-of-mouth marketing, online reviews or testimonials, participation in referral programs, community-building and more.

Key Benefits of Working With Brand Champions

Brand champions play a crucial role in maintaining and expanding your company’s hard-won good reputation. Though the specific value they provide may seem hard to pin down, when looked at in the context of a comprehensive advocacy marketing program, there are certain key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be looked at to determine how effective brand champions are for your business.

Here are some of the specific positive impacts that brand champions can have on various metrics that demonstrate the value they can provide to your company:

Lower Cost per Acquisition (CPA)

Referral marketing efforts that leverage brand champions typically achieve a lower CPA compared to other forms of advertising due to a variety of reasons. Chief among these are:

  • Brand champions already have established trust and credibility with the people they are sharing your brand’s products and/ or services with
  • Brand champions know inherently who among their networks and followings would have the highest propensity to become a customer
  • Brand champions can typically be incentivized at a lower cost than it takes to run more traditional marketing campaigns and are only incentivized when the people they refer take an action that is valuable to your business (e.g., makes a purchase, subscribes to a free trial, etc.)

Industry research also confirms that referral marketing is almost always more cost-effective than other forms of advertising. 

According to data pulled from Friendbuy’s referral and loyalty marketing platform, across numerous industry verticals the story is the same. Time and again, the CPA for referred customers is lower than other marketing efforts when compared to industry advertising data provided by Sidecar (which has since been acquired by Quartile).


Friendbuy CPA

Advertising CPA

Apparel & Accessories 






Health & Beauty




Higher Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value reflects the total revenue generated by a customer throughout their relationship with a business. Since brand champions typically have a great idea of when a product or service is a good fit for someone in their network, they will naturally promote your business to the people who are most likely to become repeat customers. 

According to industry statistics, brands that create a dedicated referral program software and utilize brand champions and customer advocates to carry their marketing messages forward, generally see a 3-4x higher CLV when compared to other customers.

Higher Referral Program ROI 

Identifying and cultivating brand champions to help improve your word-of-mouth marketing efforts is essentially the equivalent of putting nitrous oxide in an already high-performing sports car engine. On their own, referral marketing programs typically deliver a high return on investment. When coupled with the effective deployment of brand champions, the results are even more impressive. 

Companies that work with Friendbuy’s referral marketing software enjoy an average 25x return on spend, which is significantly higher than the retail average return on ad spend (ROAS) of 2.87x.

How To Identify Brand Champions

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Whether you’re running a D2C or B2B referral program, there are actually two main groups of people that brand champions usually come from.

Employee Brand Champions

There are many reasons to treat employees well; however, one that is often overlooked is that they can be your most effective brand champions. By default, they know your products and services better than anyone else. They know your values and mission. They know how to communicate the value your brand provides to customers. And if they’re heavy users of your products or services, they can advocate for your brand from personal experience. 
To identify brand champions in this group, look at who the highest performers on your team are and consider creating an incentive structure for those high performers that would compensate them for going the extra mile as an ambassador of your brand.

Customer Brand Champions 

Quite obviously, most people who become a brand champion begin their engagement with that brand as a typical customer. Ways to identify and cultivate brand champions from your customer base include:

Foster Personal Connections With Clients

Engage actively with your user base across various platforms such as forums, social media groups, or exclusive customer communities. By nurturing relationships with individuals who consistently contribute, offer feedback, or share their successes, you can cultivate a group of loyal supporters who are poised to advocate for your brand through word-of-mouth marketing efforts. Strengthening these connections increases the likelihood of customers evolving into dedicated brand advocates.

Analyze Buying Patterns & Product Engagement Data

Each interaction a customer has with your brand generates valuable data that can be leveraged for insights. From their initial purchase to ongoing product or service usage, every action yields information about their preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction levels. By tapping into this trove of data, businesses can develop a detailed understanding of their clientele, enabling them to identify potential brand advocates with precision.
Once you identify your potential brand champions, it's essential to nurture and show your appreciation for their support. Recognize them publicly, engage with them, and involve them in brand-related activities to strengthen these relationships.

How To Incentivize Brand Champions 

Once you’ve identified your brand champions, it’s crucial to acknowledge and reward their efforts in promoting your business. Here are a few ways you can keep your brand champions happy and motivated to keep bringing your new customers.

Once you’ve identified your brand champions, it’s crucial to acknowledge and reward their efforts in promoting your business. Here are a few ways you can keep your brand champions happy and motivated to keep bringing you new customers. 

  • Exclusive & early access: Provide brand champions with exclusive access to new products or services before they are available to the public. You could also offer early access to special events, promotions, or content.
  • Referral rewards: Monetary rewards and benefits are one of the best ways to encourage your brand champions to promote you to their networks. Whether it’s an offer of “Give $20, $Get 20”, a 50% discount off your next purchase, or even a tiered program that increases the value of rewards for each new customer they bring, there are various types of referral rewards and incentives that can help your team move the needed and improve word-of-mouth marketing KPIs.
  • Public recognition: Publicly acknowledge and recognize brand champions on your social media channels, website, or marketing materials.

Who Is Responsible for Engaging With & Managing Brand Champions? 

The responsibility for managing brand champions typically falls under the domain of marketing or community management teams.

Depending on your brand champion strategy, and how many you work with, responsibility could fall to a community manager, social media manager, brand manager, influence marketing manager, customer experience or customer success manager. If your company is going to dedicate the time and resources necessary to create a strong referral marketing program, it is important to make sure one of these positions is actively communicating with and tracking important referral program metrics.

Summing Up 

Brand champions are important for businesses in nearly every vertical and can help you promote your brand and drive a substantial amount of revenue over time. They may also contribute invaluable ideas or feedback that can impact your company's own internal roadmap.