How to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates -

How to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates

Diverse marketing strategies for brand awareness involve more than just growing your following, or increasing individual sales, it seeks to build an infinity group for your product or service. What is the best way to achieve this? You could invest in paid advertising or content marketing, however recent studies show that 75% of people don’t believe traditional advertisements. What can marketers do to combat this disenchantment? Well, 92% of consumers do trust recommendations from friends. So how do you not only acquire that recommendation, but create a satisfied customer that will evangelize your brand? Answer: develop a brand advocate!

Rob Fuggetta founded a marketing agency that focuses on building brand advocacy. He defines brand advocates as; ‘customers who actively champion your brand and influence the buying habits of others. It’s for this reason that advocates are the most valuable customers of all.’ Brand advocates are not easily curated, however with word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) generating 2x more sales than paid ads, you can’t afford to miss out.

Here we’ll outline a 2-step process with the ultimate goal of creating an army of advocates and a wealth of user-generated content. Let’s dive in!

STEP 1: Encourage & Identify Potential Brand Advocates

Customer Service Rockstars

Creating a loyal customer base starts from the top down, all the way to entry level positions. You might have the highest rated product on Amazon, but that means nothing if a customer calls and speaks to rude support staff, or gets frustrated with an unsuccessful chatbot on your website.

Take for example, Zappos- a company that is consistently praised for it’s above and beyond customer service. Their methods include everything from empowering CSR’s to make their own decisions, to having all staff (including execs) on-board with customer service training. If positive & powerful customer service is a cornerstone of your company, you’ll build on a solid foundation.

Thank You Notes

Appreciation goes a long way! Once a customer purchases your product or service make sure they understand that you value them (and not just with a pop-up thank you screen, or a ‘We appreciate your business’ line on your invoice). True appreciation is so rare, that it stands out. Hex is a male accessory company that gained notoriety a few years ago because it sent a handwritten thank you card with every product, which amassed to more than 13,000 notes.
While this can equate to serious hand-cramps and a large stationary bill, it made the company stand out, and definitely made an impression on their customer base. For larger companies you can also send out email thank-yous. What to avoid: Don’t send a thank you with an offer or deal that will make the appreciation appear insincere or gimmicky. It will make the offer seem like a disingenuous marketing ploy. If you want to offer discounts or specials to first-time customers- do that separately.. which brings us to our next point.

Loyalty or Rewards Program

Reward programs for customer loyalty are industry standard and can range from a punch card at the local donut shop to nationally recognized programs. While it will be difficult to stand out in this area, you can find a model that works and stick to it. Take for example CVS ExtraCare program, which is so famous for its excessive use of printed coupons on your receipt, it has become a running joke. But it works for them- the CVS tribe is 80 million deep!

The lesson: incentives your repeat customers.

Initial ID of a Brand Advocate

How do you pick out brand loyalists from the crowd? Simple- ask! We’ve all been on the phone when a recording says, ‘please stay on the line for a brief survey’, or a pop-up appears immediately after you push buy; ‘How likely are you to recommend our product to family or friends?’ Some companies go one step further and send a post-purchase email requesting feedback a la the ride sharing company- Lyft.

Choose a benchmark for responses (such as ratings of 7 and above) and focus on that customer base for potential brand advocates.

**PSA- We aren’t saying you should disregard unhappy customers, but that’s a different conversation.

Step 2: Engage Brand Advocates

Once you’ve identified your brand advocates, it’s time to engage them. Engagement is largely dependent on the company, but here are a few (of many) ways to employ your army of advocates.

  • Recognition- Highlight your brand advocates on social media, or even your blog. If you have a happy camper who loves your product, what better PR than to highlight that testimonial? This will also make your advocate feel significant and validated. The actress Drew Barrymore founded beauty company Flower. Not only does the brand support their clientele, but Barrymore herself features customers on her personal Instagram. As an inspiring beauty personality, being promoted by a celebrity to their 8.7 million followers would definitely make your day.
  • Discounts- depending on your bottom line, you can offer brand advocates low level discounts to show appreciation and keep them singing your praises. This can be as simple as sending a PM to a happy Yelper for free appetizers, to a formal discount program for advocates depending on their level of interaction.
  • Influence Marketing- The world of influencer marketing can be complex, however if an influencer loves your brand, then you need to jump on that evangelizing train! This can be as informal as trading product for social media mentions to a full-on influencer program.

Again, these concepts are just the tip of the iceberg as far as engaging your brand advocates goes. Specifics are highly dependent on the individual brand and or product, marketing budget, sales numbers, etc etc.

Goal Achieved: User Generated Content

Once you find and engage your army of advocates, the ideal outcome is high-quality user generated content (UGC). This may be in the form of glowing product reviews, social media mentions, or blog testimonials, but most importantly its word-of-mouth marketing and free content! Which is worth its weight in gold. According to a recent study, 86% of Millenials says UGC is a strong indicator of the quality of a brand or service.

Right now only 33% of businesses are actively seeking and collecting reviews, so get a head of the curve! Create a dependable and unique customer service program, use brand advocates to the best of your ability and enjoy the success of the user generated content can offer!

By Amanda Disilvestro on May 15, 2018

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