Cultivate Client Advocacy … Before They’re Advocates

Every freelancer wants advocates spreading good word of mouth on our behalf. And in hindsight, it’s easy to pick the advocates — they’re the clients who, by the end of the job, love you and your work.

But what if you could identify potential advocates?

Clients give hints as to their advocacy potential. Do you know what they are? If you do, you can spot a would-be advocate before they know it, and do everything in your power to cultivate that advocacy.

If 25% of your clients are advocates now, you could boost that figure to 50% or 75% — so long as you can identify their potential, and act on it.

These are some of the advocacy pointers I’ve spotted in my own clients.

Responsiveness

A super-responsive client is usually a person who wants to get the job done, and/or loves working on the project.

That situation provides a massive opportunity for you to impress. If you match their responsiveness, in both speed and completeness, they’ll be more likely to feel that you “get” them. They’ll also be certain that you’re professional, and that you genuinely care about their project.

If you can get the job done to — or above — their expectations, you’ll have met their primary need. If you can make the process fun — by engaging, supporting them, and creating a partnership, rather than a client-supplier relationship — you’ll meet the second need I mentioned above, and increased their propensity to advocate for you.

Language

If your client tells you you’ve done “great work”, they mean it. If they say they “love” what you’ve done, that’s how they feel. If they mention their “excitement” about the project, they’re excited.

Most of us don’t use expressive language without reason, and if you’re getting those messages in conversations, via email, at meetings, and so on, then you can be sure you have a potential advocate on your hands.

If you do have face-to-face meetings, then body language can also alert you to potential advocacy: enthusiasm, attention, empathy, and eagerness are all signs of someone who genuinely cares about what you’re doing, and wants your work together to be a success.

Continue to work closely with them, finding out what, specifically, they “love” and why, and you’ll be able to do more of what they love as the project progresses. The more they love your work, the more likely they’ll be to advocate on your behalf with their industry peers, colleagues, and friends in the future.

Internal “pre-advocacy”

The best sign of a potential advocate is, well, advocacy!

Some of us don’t like giving recommendations to others and are unlikely to do so unless pressed. But if your client advocates on your behalf within their own team or organization, that may mean they have a higher propensity to advocate for you in wider circles — with industry peers, new employers, friends, and so on.

Internal advocacy includes:

  • removing roadblocks that are hindering your progress
  • acting swiftly among colleagues to get you access to people and information that you need
  • inviting you to meetings — or even work-related social gatherings — that they feel will help you get the job done.

Do you have potential advocates you haven’t identified?

We should see every client (and potential client) as a potential advocate, and work accordingly. But by keeping an eye open for these signs, you can ensure you give potential advocates every reason to become loyal advocates both now, and long after you’ve finished working with them.

What hints about clients advocacy potential have you spotted? Share them with us in the comments.

Image courtesy stock.xchng user scrappin.

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  • Nicolette Beard

    This is such a great reminder and so obvious. It’s stimulating me to write my own post, “I Want to Work for Someone Just Like Me.” High standards, etc. Other than “responsiveness,” I’m unclear on how I would go about identifying potential advocates prior to us working together. Could you elaborate?

    Thanks,

    Nicolette

  • Georgina Laidlaw

    Hey Nicolette,
    Good question. I’m tempted to say, “yeah, you really have to work together before someone has much chance of becoming an advocate” and perhaps that’s true to a degree, but even those you haven’t worked with can recommend you to others. In my experience, those people have always heard about me through multiple channels, we’ve met and talked, and we know we’re on the same wavelength.

    Empathy or alignment of philosophies likely has something to do with that—a sense that you “get” each other, and you share common ground in terms of professionalism and discipline-related values. That comes down to intuition, but if you’re conscious of seeking it, you’ll be more likely to recognise it early in the piece.

    Hope that helps?
    Georgina