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RISMEDIA, January 5, 2010—Cultivating clients and others to be advocates for your brand takes planning and time, and while you already work on building relationships every day, focusing on specific advocate prospects and activities will enhance your efforts. These brand believers are invaluable as they will promote you to their sphere of influence.

Most likely, you already have some advocates who developed through your business activities and personal or community connections, but you can always use more.

Prospective advocates usually go through several stages of development before they freely promote you, especially if they are not friends or family. You’ve heard these sales cycle terms before, but here’s a refresher:

Awareness – They know your brand exists.

Recognition – They recognize and remember your brand, and connect it to past communications.

Interest – They become interested in your brand and can identify the benefits.

Purchase – They have a need for your services and are comfortable with your brand. They prefer you and engage.

Your first task with these established clients is to identify the ones who are already your advocates and those who have potential. Potentials have certain attributes—the most important of which is that you work very well with them and there is a mutual, earned trust. You should also look for connectors. These are people with a larger sphere of influence.

Start by communicating or getting together with them at least quarterly. Put them into your regular communication systems for all clients, and make it easy for them to share. Personalize your communications to each advocate. Follow-up and touch on what’s important to them, and most of all, thank them when they promote you.

Eventually, you may want to take it further with some by inviting them to events, club meetings or a home party. Or, just have coffee occasionally and introduce them to others. This is especially welcome if they are new to the area. If you can’t participate in one of their events, promote it and their business, too, if applicable.

If you have a common interest, like a particular sport or exercise regimen, this is also a great way to start connecting. There are so many opportunities; the list is only limited to your creativity. Loyal advocates for your business are the ultimate marketers. Start your planning and re-engagement campaigns for the New Year!

Chris Kaucnik is marketing director for Home Warranty of America, Inc.

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