What if we told you your most powerful marketing strategy is simply making your customers happy?
It’s true. Brand advocacy generates higher-converting leads than any other strategy companies implement. More than 92% of consumers report that they trust peer recommendations, and in the B2B world 78% of referrals convert into viable business leads.
In order to reap the benefits of brand advocacy, companies must first create advocates.
But even generally happy customers won’t just put in the extra effort required to promote a brand to others. To be effective, customers need to genuinely want to be brand advocates, and that will only happen if their customer experience goes above and beyond what they expect.
- Brand advocates can include employees, customers, partners, and influencers.
- Providing a high-quality customer experience is essential to building brand advocacy over time.
- Prioritizing customer feedback gives brands insights into how to provide the best possible customer experience.
- Building advocate communities and creating shareable content are two ways to make brand advocacy easy for your advocates.
WHAT IS BRAND ADVOCACY?
Brand advocacy happens when customers promote a brand through social networks and word-of-mouth advertising. Their sharing creates interest with potential new customers in their networks, who will then presumably also become satisfied customers and brand advocates. The goal is to create a snowball effect where customers actively promote a brand and their compounded efforts grow sales and revenue.
Brand advocacy elevates the reputation and visibility of a brand, creates social proof, and has proven effective for organizations of all sizes and in every industry.
Brand advocates can include:
- Employees – Your employees have more insider knowledge and experience with your products and services than any other group. When employees are happy, they’re usually willing to recommend the companies they work for to people in their networks.
- Customers – Customers who love brands they’re using will share them with others who can enjoy the same experience.
- Partners – Business partners usually don’t compete directly, thus partners can be good brand advocates by sharing your products and services with any of their customers who could benefit.
- Influencers – Influencers have large follower bases, and the products and services they share gain high visibility and have the potential to reach large numbers of potential new customers.
In this article we’ll focus on that second group — your customers — and how you can create brand advocates by providing a superlative customer experience.
HOW IS THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE RELATED?
If we revisit the idea that customers must genuinely want to promote your brand in order to become brand advocates, we can easily see why the customer experience is so important.
Since the term “customer experience” seems to be used everywhere in the marketing world today, let’s clarify exactly what it means. Customer experience refers to the sum total of your customer’s interaction with your brand, from their first impression to any direct communication to the value your product or service adds to their lives.
Customer experience is different from customer service because the latter refers only to direct interactions between the customer and the company. Customer experience encapsulates much more.
STRATEGIES TO BUILD BRAND ADVOCACY
When you’re building brand advocacy, you’re not focusing solely on providing quality customer service when it’s needed (although that’s certainly important). Instead, brands must take a holistic approach that ensures a seamless, personalized, value-adding end-to-end experience.
Here are five actionable strategies for doing it.
Prioritize Customer Feedback
Customer feedback has the dual benefit of making your customers feel valued while providing you with direct insight into the customer experience and, more importantly, how you can continually make it better.
Companies who prioritize customer feedback can make better business decisions because they know where to place their focus, both internally when it comes to resource allocation and customer service, and externally as it relates to marketing and sales.
Collecting feedback in an ad hoc way without a structured process in place (although better than nothing) is not ideal. Instead, companies can benefit from creating strong customer feedback loops that generate consistent feedback and build analyzable data sets that can be used to identify trends and insights.
Useful tools for creating strong customer feedback loops include:
- Surveys – These can be as simple as asking for a Net Promoter Score (NPS) or including open-ended questions for more detailed feedback.
- Rating systems – Asking customers to rate your product or service on a simple scale (such as 1-5 stars) is an easy and convenient way to collect feedback.
- Customer Support Accounts – Dedicated support accounts via email or social media can be a good way to centralize support feedback like FAQs or troubleshooting.
- Feedback Forms – Feedback forms on your website give customers a place to go any time when to provide comments, testimonials, or questions and concerns.
- Third-Party Review Websites – Sites like Amazon and Yelp are harder to control but get tons of traffic from potential customers looking for reviews before making a purchase.
Keep in mind that customer feedback is only valuable if you make it actionable. To continually add to the customer experience, brands must create ways not only to collect feedback but to also review it internally and implement new solutions based on the insights gained.
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to build community among your current and potential customers, and doing so can be a great way to generate organic brand advocacy. When customers feel a connection to each other, it confirms their positive feelings and creates stronger loyalty to your brand.
Communities can be built in a number of ways:
- Social Media – Engage with customers on social media and post content that creates conversation.
- Knowledge Bases – Give customers a place to go where they can solve their own problems and provide peer solutions for customers.
- Events – Holding online or in-person events gives customers a chance to interact in a social setting where your brand is the headline topic.
Customer support isn’t the whole story when it comes to creating an exceptional customer experience, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle.
Being responsive might seem obvious, but it’s worth noting given that 96% of consumers say customer service plays an important role in their brand loyalty and one-third of customers say they consider switching brands after just one negative experience.
Don’t risk losing potential brand advocates just because your response time lagged. Know all of the channels your customers use to interact with your brand, and have whatever processes and people are needed in place to ensure quick response times and swift problem resolution.
Create Shareable Content
That’s a lot of potential time and networks for sharing.
To avoid making your customers do extra work (which they probably won’t do) and ensure your content appears the way you want it to any time it’s shared, you can take specific steps to make your content easily shareable:
- Social Media Buttons – Enable one-click sharing so your customers don’t have to take on tedious steps (like copying and pasting links or formatting posts) to share your content.
- Click to Tweet – This WordPress plug-in enables you to create CTA messages or call out high-impact sections of your content and generate single-click links for customers to Tweet them.
- Engaging Content – Customers won’t share content if it’s boring. Make your content engaging by covering topics your customers care about, using visuals like images and videos, and (when it makes sense) including comedy or snark to make your content enticing to share.
- Include Current Trends – Tying in current trends to your content by providing commentary or using hashtags creates visibility and drives sharing because it has high relevance in the moment.
Offer Advocate Perks
Offering special perks or benefits to your brand advocates is an impactful way to show your appreciation for the time and effort they put in to promote your brand.
Perks are best implemented as gestures of gratitude and not as a way to entice new advocates, which could undermine the authenticity of brand advocacy from your customers. Most of the time, brand advocates will also share the cool perks you gave them, so you don’t have to worry about potential advocates not knowing about them.
The perks you offer don’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective. Some examples include:
- Public Shout-Outs – Saying a public thanks to individual advocates on social media can go a long way. This perk also helps advocates gain visibility and authority in their own networks, a benefit especially attractive to customers who are also influencers.
- Access to Exclusive Content – Give advocates free access to content that’s usually not free or that offers higher/unique value as compared to your other public content.
- VIP Treatment – Discounts, upgrades, free product samples, earlier access, free shipping… this list could go on. Offering VIP treatments like these are extremely low-cost for companies but high-value for advocates.
Focusing on your brand’s entire customer experience (vs. customer service) elevates your focus from troubleshooting problems to providing end-to-end value. Talk to us today!