Turning Your Customers into Advocates for your Brand

Industry Insight

SalesWarp - Turning Your Customers into Advocates for your Brand

Scoring the buzz designers, brand managers, and business strategists continuously pursue isn’t easy. The important thing is getting consumers who adopt a brand to actively advocate a brand. Some companies convince customers not only to use their products but to adopt their brands organically: their brand is an industry standard, it’s part of the popular culture, it’s ingrained in their customers’ lifestyle.

What makes consumers advocate for a product and willingly accept and “own” it as part of their individual identities? How do you get people so revved up that they’re willing to slap a sticker on their car out of allegiance to the company, or tattoo their bodies with your brand, as Harley owners frequently do?

Stephen La Cambra at Invesp.com has some interesting thoughts on harnessing your customer base as spokesmen for your brand:

Build a Community: You hear this one a lot and writers like me tend to make make it sound easy as pie, but it isn’t. Great rewards rarely come easily, but if you manage to build a proper community around your business or products, you will have the most loyal advocates. And it can work for just about any product: check out these communities built by a scissors manufacturer www.fiskateers.com and WD40 www.mywd40.com

Ask for Reviews: Customer reviews are the digital marketing gift that keeps on giving. First, you engage a customer to the point that she is willing to give her time and thoughts to review your product. Second, she instantly becomes an advocate because that review influences others. Third, your product and site get more content, which boosts your SEO. All at no cost to you. Sweet. If your ecommerce site doesn’t have reviews, it may not be as difficult as you think. There are a number of pre-packaged options. Here’s one from the UK: www.loudervoice.com

Loyalty Programs: The granddaddy of advocacy creation tools, loyalty programs are proven to work; but they’re not foolproof. In addition to the standard “points rewards” model, you can also offer promotions exclusively to certain segments, like email subscribers; reward the return of packaging, like print cartridges; offer added-value for extended or repeated purchases; and the list goes on. Our friends at Get Elastic have a great post about loyalty programs here: www.getelastic.com/8-loyalty-programs

Coupons or Other Incentives: With high-profile media exposure and a tough economy, coupons and couponing are more popular than ever. If there is a customer advocacy program you can run on your own, it’s couponing. The trick with coupons and similar incentives is timing. When your customer has just made a purchase, flush with excitement as she looks at your confirmation/thank you screen, it’s the perfect opportunity to present a coupon or value-added incentive.

Encourage Social Media Mentions: Even though a Facebook “like” or Twitter mention will not necessarily trigger a sale, the cumulative effect of social media mentions improves your brand reputation and influences shoppers. Put yourself in this situation: you’re trying to decide between two very similar retailers before making a purchase, one has 10 Facebook Likes, the other has 10,000. Which would you choose? BTW, please follow Invesp on Twitter 😉

Customer Service: The perennial “no brainer” of all business marketing, when you set yourself apart by serving customers well, you create loyalty and advocacy. Bonobos is a great example. While many online retailers struggle with whether to offer free shipping, the first thing you read at the top of www.bonobos.com is “Free & fast shipping, insanely easy returns”. Imagine telling potential customers how easy it is to return your products. But being able to make a return is a major concern with online shoppers and Bonobos eliminates it immediately.

Products which have real value for consumers hold the potential for rapid adoption. Meaningful value is a subjective thing, varying among individuals and groups, but it is generally based on having one’s needs or aspirations met, factoring in the value offered by alternative products and customers’ expectations about the future.

This is not to say that people can always articulate their needs and aspirations, especially in areas of new technology, but an assessment of consumers? ability and willingness to adopt must be gauged alongside their motivations for doing so and their expectations of how the market will look in the future. Because if “armchair expectations” are that 3-D TV prices will halve in 18 months, many will hold off on buying one, despite their desire to have one.