Chasing the holy grail: brand advocates and why you need them.
Advocates are more than just loyal customers – they are highly satisfied customers who will happily share their thoughts about your brand. These people play a major role in word-of-mouth marketing and driving new business by promoting your brand organically to new audiences.
A global study by KPMG, “The truth about customer loyalty”, found that if a customer is loyal to a brand, then:
86% will recommend a company to friends and family
66% are likely to write a positive online review after a good experience
46% will remain loyal even after a bad experience
So how can you effectively build trust in your brand where your customers genuinely speak positively about you and their loyalty to your brand? The short answer: Implement a brand advocacy program.
We’ve put together 8 strategies that will help you turn your customers into brand advocates:
To create raving brand advocates, you must understand your customers and their needs. The easiest way to exceed your customers’ expectations is to really listen to what they have to say and incorporate that into your business. Asking for feedback (regularly) will give you insights into what your customers want and, more importantly, expect from you: faster delivery, clear communication, loyalty rewards and a great customer experience.
Here are 4 ways to collect customer feedback:
- Customer surveys
- Encourage reviews and testimonials
- Reaching out directly post purchase
- Monitoring and responding to activity online using analytics/social monitoring
There’s one crucial question you can ask that will help you identify potential brand advocates:
“On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends, family, or colleagues?”
Focus on fostering relationships with customers that have given you a score of 9 or 10 (but not at the detriment of other customers).
Identify their motivators
Customers attach themselves to your brand for a variety of reasons. It’s important to understand the reasons that customers love your brand and then amplify those qualities.
To establish what motivates your customers to advocate, don’t make assumptions about your brand and what customers expect; instead, (as above) listen to what customers are saying about your brand and group into focus areas, both positive and negative. Monitoring your social channels is a great place to start, what comments are recurring and what can you learn from them?
Customers can be motivated by a multitude of factors; from a fast and transparent delivery process to your brand values or policies on subjects like sustainability and social impact – the trick is to identify the trends that unite your most ardent fans and highlight them in your marketing efforts.
To create a brand that consumers love, you need to create trust, and trust starts with authenticity.
Don’t be afraid to push back the curtain and get real with your customers about who you are and what you stand for. Beware of producing marketing materials that are full of jargon and don’t really say anything. Your customers will feel much more connected to your brand if it feels human and tells it straight.
By creating a more human brand, your customers won’t just be loyal, they’ll be more likely to advocate for your brand and will be far more forgiving of mistakes. This is important. No business is perfect. Most customers are rational and understanding, and if/when something goes wrong (despite all your best efforts), you don’t try to hide behind excuses and are simply up-front and honest with them, you’ll be better off.
A good apology can be the difference between a fresh start and a permanent blot.
Let your customers tell your brand story
Developing strong, personal relationships with your customers is the key to earning advocacy and driving sales. A report by Deloitte found that customers that are referred to your brand by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
To help your brand advocates be heard, consider including sharing functionality on your blog to make it easier for them to share your content with their networks. When customers talk about your brand, amplify their praise in testimonials to increase the reach of their advocacy and reward them with a simple thank you note, or exclusive offers and rewards.
A survey from Zendesk found that 90% of consumers were positively swayed by online reviews (testimonials).
By promoting authentic customer stories, you are signalling that you care about your customers feedback and will benefit from improved customer retention rates, and increased revenue over the long term.
Encouraging your customers to talk about you (hopefully, positively!) and then displaying that content on your website or social channels achieves four things:
- Provides free content that you can use on your website
- Provides free content that acts as social proof and encourages other people to convert
- Helps to turn the customer that wrote the testimonial into a brand advocate
Aim to acquire your customers for life
If you focus on acquiring your customers for life, an interesting thing happens. Your focus will shift from just selling products or services to establishing a long-lasting relationship with your customers.
Most of your customers will visit your website, or your bricks and mortar store, once and never return. Let that sink in… Then think of all the money and effort you spent on acquiring that customer. In fact, it can cost five times more to attract a new customer, than it does to retain an existing one.
Doesn’t it make sense to focus your effort and marketing budget on nurturing your existing customers and converting them into repeat business?
This is not to say that you shouldn’t market to new consumers but ensure your marketing plan does not end with the sale. What does your post sale, feedback capturing, and re-engagement plan look like?
Surprise and delight
Go above and beyond with customer service to create moments your customers will want to share. By surprising your customers with exceptional service and unexpected benefits, they are more likely to tell their friends and family about the experience. Try reaching out to customers to invite them to a VIP experience. Select influential users or create brand advocates out of unsuspecting fans.
One of the most effective ways of making your customers happy (and turning them into brand advocates) is to surprise them with a freebie or upgrade.
Give your customers a (nice) surprise and they’re going to want to talk about it and, more importantly, the brand that sent it to them.
This could entail many things, including:
- A gift with purchase or an upgrade to free shipping or same day delivery service
- A thank you note – simple and effective
- A git to a charity or cause that you know your customers are passionate about (because you listened!)
- Puppies to cuddle (no, not kidding)
- Commit to awesome customer service
Adequate customer experience is forgettable. Good is not great and advocates can only sing your praises, if you do something to deserve it.
The good news is that while you may not be able to influence the weather or control your competitors, the level of service you provide is completely within your control. That’s why you should always be cooking up new ways to over deliver.
Consider using technology in innovative ways to give customers what they want, how they want it.
Create a loyalty program
A customer loyalty program or rewards program is a marketing strategy that rewards loyal customers that frequently engage with your brand. The idea behind an effective loyalty program is that the more loyal customers are, the more rewards they’ll get.
Some of the best examples of loyalty programs can be found in smaller businesses. Successful cafes and shops make a point of getting to know their best customers personally and rewarding them with special services and attention—access to new sought-after goods before other customers, VIP sales, or giving them a free drink or voucher/credit to redeem on future purchases. They know that delivering increased benefits to valuable customers results in loyal customers; and those loyal customers become more profitable over time.
Remember, that just because a customer joins a loyalty scheme, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll use it. Simplicity and ease of use are the key to a successful loyalty program:
- Make the program easy to use
- Make the program easy to understand
- Ensure the program gives customers discounts or benefits (on products they actually want)
Don’t rule out the possibility of charging a fee for your loyalty scheme.
Amazon Prime is a great example of this. Customers pay a fee in return for ‘free’ quick delivery and access to exclusive content, while Amazon benefits from the increased customer loyalty (and monthly recurring revenue) that comes with paying to ‘commit’ to a brand.
Creating a brand advocacy strategy really boils down to developing and maintaining relationships. By creating a more human brand, your customers won’t just be loyal, they’ll be raving brand advocates.
This is the holy grail of marketing.
If you’re interested in learning more, drop us a line.