Word of mouth marketing. Considered as one of the best and buzziest ways to get noticed and even bought, it is an unbiased and non-manipulative method to get your share of authentic buzz.
According to a 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 this is by making their customers “want to” recommend their products and 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 emotionally connected, loyal and vocal customers as their brand ambassadors to spread awareness, generate sales and increase revenue.
Edelman’s trust barometer without fail, bring up the trust factor as the most important one while people take buying decisions. Today, more than ever, people often trust each other more than brands or self propagandised messages.
Although, we rely on the factual information and manuals displayed on the company’s websites, the purchase decision in the last mile is often swung after considering advice or reviews from peers.
Here are some ways customer advocacy can be facilitated (bear in mind, these are only some):
- Having them give references and reviews
- Customer blog, videos about the product (did we mention unboxing?)
- Participation and reporting in conferences
- Speak at industry events
- Participation in brand experiences
- Co-create content with the marketing team
We often wonder then why doesn’t every business/brand make more use of this powerful yet authentic and creative route to add believability to their brands?
Easier said than done. To even get loyal and happy customers is by itself an uphill task, leave alone asking them to be brand advocates. At least if its approached tactically.
Our belief is that this route is not a one-time engagement. It is an ongoing and long-lasting relationship. And, such relationships are built on trust and need time to be nurtured. Since the very essence of doing business is about customers coming first.
We put together a step-by-step framework to help you create an effective customer successful advocacy program:
Deliver on your customer promises:
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 and service meets all your promises. 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 a brand 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. So don’t 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. And for this you must have already built your own customer personas and customer types. This will help you to focus on those who are genuinely engaged with your brand.
They must be credible, passionate, have good communication skills and already have some kind of a following on social media. Choosing the right advocate is half the work done. So take your time on this decision.
Relationship Marketing is the where it starts:
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.
Power them up with branded merchandise 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 recognition so that they, too, benefit and feel rewarded.
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. 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 time and efforts into it; because if done right, your business can reap more remarkable benefits than ever before.
Want to kick start your own Customer Advocacy Program? Contact us for more details.