HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY CREATE BRAND ADVOCATES FOR YOUR BUSINESS
The customer is king.
Recently I’ve been inundated with articles attempting to convince me that content and context is (or should be) the king of every company’s business plan. But whilst I’m the first to acknowledge the importance of a stellar content strategy, the bottom line is that it is the customer who still reigns supreme. And long before they abdicate, it’s down to us to empower them to advocate.
Advocacy programmes are undoubtedly great tools for brands. In a recent Google study, we were told that 60% of business technology customers search for peer testimonials during the decision-making process (Influitive.com). Recognising the power of peer-to-peer recommendations could open up a wide variety of opportunities for your company from positive brand perception to increased sales but you have to be committed. Loyalty is born of commitment from you and there are some key factors you need to consider.
Here are the top things you need to remember to build your advocacy programme:
- Take the Lead – Be clear about what you want to achieve via your loyalty scheme. Is it short-term awareness? Or long-term love? Whilst we’d strongly recommend the latter, whatever the KPI you need to build your programme accordingly. The newly created strategy by fashion retailer ASOS has been designed to leverage the long-term social influence of their most passionate customers. This commitment to long-term advocacy has seen the brand accept passionate fans that are still growing their social influence into the programme. In fact, ASOS are giving their advocates the tools to grow their own social influence in the form of social media tutorials and access-only ASOS content.
- Empower Your Employees – Your own people are going to be the frontline of your programme so you need to ensure they are equipped to do their job. Build your team using hands-on training, practical guidelines and templates as well as ongoing support. Look to implement an omni-channel sales platform such as IGS into your company, a powerful and easy way to help employees navigate their way to a sale, leading to boosted morale and a much healthier bottom line. You should also empower your team to evangelise your business. This tactic can build their confidence, add personality to your programme and also act as a recruitment tool.
- Advocacy is a Two-Way Street – Loyalty doesn’t come from passively broadcasting messages to fans. Did you know it costs a business about 5-10X more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell to an existing one? Not only that, but on average, current customers spend 67% more than new customers. (Hubspot) Your advocacy program needs to include a feedback loop that allows customers to comment, suggest and even complain. Yes, you might hear things you’d rather not, but being responsive will help customers feel involved and valued. A great example of this is UK mobile network Giff Gaff, who allows their customers to answer other customer’s queries in exchange for transferable mobile minutes. This builds loyalty into a traditional customer service whilst putting trust in their customers to represent the brand to others.
- Optimise Your Experience for All Touch Points – Your physical, digital and social interactions all have to be working in tandem to truly build a customer experience worth evangelising about. Want some tips on how can you achieve a truly impeccable customer experience? Get in touch.
- Be Personal – You want to build a relationship with your advocates. You want to build an inner circle around your most passionate and loyal customers so they can feel like part of a team. I’d recommend building elements of exclusivity into your programme as first access to information, new products or events. These small initiatives can give your programme real customer appeal. Tailoring your customer journey to customer expectations and bringing your advocates closer to the product and your processes will foster a much closer relationship, whilst adding the personal touch will make the brand-to-advocate relationship seem extra special. Take a look at the ambassador program for drinks brand Maker’s Mark. They give their advocates the chance to have their name marked on a real barrel of bourbon as well as follow up membership with updates on your barrel and the chance to purchase product from your batch. Bringing your advocates closer to the product and your processes will foster a much closer relationship whilst adding the personal touch will make the brand-to-advocate relationship seem extra special.
- Consider the Role of Paid – Yes, organic appreciation of your company, product or service will always be worth more than paid activity but such idealistic views don’t account for how the ‘business’ of influence has evolved. In fact, a serious programme should have considerations for how to recruit/retain both organic influencers (e.g. customers) and paid influencer (e.g. bloggers and vloggers).
- Upsell – According to Acxiom, the more products or services a customer has bought from a company, the more loyal they are likely to be. Let’s be honest, it’s no secret that we all like what we know. Customer loyalty programmes don’t just reward customers they also influence buying decisions. Upselling isn’t a dirty word. Selling add-ons to a loyal customer can benefit them as much as you (Axicom). Using an omni—channel guided sales tool such as RIPPL™ can help you easily both upsell and cross-sell, enhancing customer experience even more. Delivering more value to them can help develop your relationship with them and in turn provide you with the information you need to make their experience better.
- Beware Antagonists – These are your anti-advocates, sharing negative stories or opinion about your products, service and business. Antagonists have equal influence as your advocates and are just as good at turning business and customer opinion. Something to remember about antagonists; they are – with the odd exception – real people with real problems. Treat antagonists well, give them attention and do whatever possible to solve their problem. As noted on a blog by Kissmetrics, ‘one of the things that many businesses fear about being online is that they will open the door to people publicly criticising them, their products, or their services. But it doesn’t matter whether your business is online or not – if your customers are online, then people will still be talking about you!’ Avidly Monitor your social accounts, respond quickly and professionally to complaints and you might just find that complaints become compliments and compliments become brand advocates. Read more on this over on Kissmetrics.
Committing to customer advocacy is just the first step but it’s a step that will lead your business into a valuable relationship exchange with your most passionate and loyal (and royal) customers.
Do you have a customer loyalty programme? What results have you encountered and what does the future hold for the ever more demanding customer? How exactly can we make them stay?
I’d love to hear your views.