Word of mouth is always considered the best way to get news around. It is considered unbiased and non-manipulative as information is passed on between people who trust each other. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 88 percent of consumers across Southeast Asia said that they placed the highest level of trust in word-of-mouth recommendations from people they knew.
The best way a business can tap into these enormous resources is by making their customers want to recommend their services to others. And, that is what customer advocacy is all about.
Customer advocacy provides marketers and business owners a way to leverage their most loyal customers as their brand ambassadors to spread awareness, generate sales and ultimately increase revenue. The numbers are promising, with Edelman’s 2016 trust barometer indicating that potential customers often trust each other more than they trust employees or salespersons of a company. Although, they still rely on the factual information and usage manuals displayed on the company’s website, the purchase decision is finally sealed only after considering advice or reviews from their peers. With the data on the effectiveness of such a strategy being available, businesses are getting creative in placing specially designated ‘customer advocates’ in front of their potential buyers. This tool of community marketing can be used in many ways–from having the advocates give references and reviews, blog about the product, participate in conferences or speak at industry events; the options are unlimited.
If there are so many benefits of such a marketing effort, then why doesn’t every business make use of it, one may wonder. The answer is, it is easier said than done to get even loyal and happy customers to be brand advocates. It is not a one-time engagement, it is aimed as an ongoing and long-lasting relationship. And, such relationships are built on trust and need time to be nurtured. At SOCXO, we have put together a step-by-step process through which your business can create an effective customer advocacy program that drives sales and will boost your revenue. So here’s what you need to do:
Deliver what your customers want: This is the main purpose of any business, irrespective of whether they are starting a customer advocacy program or not. Unless the customer is satisfied with your offerings, do not expect them to be convinced to genuinely spread awareness about your brand. Be sure that your product meets all your promises and that you and your team are easily accessible in case customers want to give their feedback. Be on your toes, strengthen your customer service strategy and fix problems as and when they are pointed out to you by customers. This is the first step to creating a loyal customer base.
Get an internal team ready: Once you are confident that you have built a somewhat strong customer base and are ready to kick off an advocacy program, the first step is to identify a team from your organization or create an altogether new group to handle this program. This is not just a side strategy as the numbers we shared above clearly show. So you cannot compromise on the internal efforts that go into the program. Recruit internally or externally social-media savvy, enthusiastic managers who, preferably, have experience working with influencers. Train them and then create an actionable plan. Inform other departments in the company about the program so that it can carried on without any administrative bottlenecks.
Pick the right customer advocates: You may have many loyal followers or enthusiastic customers, but you need to be very strategic in your choice of customer advocates. Choose someone who already has a somewhat established online and social media presence. The person you pick must be credible, passionate, have good communication skills and already have some kind of a following on the internet. Choosing the right advocate is half the work done. So take your time to make this decision.
Build a lasting relationship with them: Once you have selected your advocates, the next step is to woo them and convince them to speak on your behalf. Meet them, listen to what they have to say and acknowledge their ideas, if they put across any. You should already have a plan about how they are going to be presenting your brand to other customers and the narrative they are going to employ for this. But do not directly thrust it on to them. Walk them through your plans and strategies gradually, make them meet key members of your team and make them realize that they are being entrusted with a serious responsibility. However, do not scare them off by keeping it too formal.
Provide them with a platform: Give your advocates the chance to voice their opinions and connect with potential customers. It can be a group blog, a community forum or a social media page. Ensure that this platform is kept updated as potential customers who visit are engaged and never lose interest in the content. Give your advocates company merchandise with your logo on them so they can project themselves as authentic spokespersons of the brand. Also, give them the opportunity to be seen and build a personal brand as well. The program should be a two-way street. Make sure they are given ample press space like media appearances or interviews on behalf of the brand so that they, too, benefit and feel rewarded in non-monetary ways.
Make them a part of your business events: Now that you have established them as your advocates, you need to make sure that you integrate them well into your existing and future endeavors, like events, launches, fundraisers, conferences and so on. This will help keep the relationship strong and increase their loyalty as well. To other customers, too, this will soon become something to aspire for, thereby giving you a continuous pool of advocates to choose from. However, do not make the mistake of paying your customer advocates and setting the stage for an awkward relationship. Instead, the focus should be to build a meaningful relationship based on trust and loyalty.
Getting customers to endorse your brand for you is not as easy as getting them to buy your products and services. It is an entire different ball game. So invest your time and efforts into it; because if done right, your business can reap more remarkable benefits than ever before.