In particular, there’s currently a shift from ‘word of mouth’ to ‘word of mouse’. Online channels and social media means customer advocacy is moving online and amplifying the opportunity that lies dormant for many brands; the opportunity to leverage its existing customer base and multiply it through customer advocacy.
Brands that have cracked the science of customer advocacy are enjoying double-digit growth, as their raving fans do all their marketing for them.
So how do you harness and foster customer advocacy?
Here’s a summary of seven paths to client engagement. They are initiatives and ideas that can be incorporated into your existing strategies and programs. Some of these insights are as much about posing questions to ask yourself about your brand and what makes it special.
The Little Things are the Big Things
Ask any successful retailer and they’ll tell you that there’s never one big idea, strategy or technology that is the impetus for growth and success. It’s the little things, that over time and through the result of cumulative affect, create a sustainable competitive advantage and give your customers something to talk about. Some of my most memorable customer experiences are nothing to do with the ‘big things’ – the functional aspect of the product or service, but in the little touches or the unexpected extras.
Questions are the Answers
In the quest to be more productive and more efficient and automate our business processes to respond to the needs of our customers in lightning speed, we’ve lost the power of curiosity. Too many brands and businesses are focused on being interesting, rather than interested. Ask more questions of your customers. Ask different and more thoughtful questions of your customers. It enables you to communicate and market in a more personalised way and build multiple points of commonality – the key platform for trust.
Focus on the Future
Professor Shali Tarot recently cited a phenomenon she calls ‘the optimism bias’, which skews our human view of the future. As a survival mechanism, we’re wired to think about our futures in more positive terms than they will turn out. It keeps us motivated and happy. As marketers, we can leverage this process to our advantage by having more conversations with our customers about the future benefits of the products and services we’re providing. Invite your customers to imagine a point in the future in the context of your product or service and in nine times out of ten they will attach a positive emotion to it.
Sharing stories was how humans communicated and learned things for hundreds of thousands of years
But today communication is often compacted to a status update, a sound-bite, a 140 character limit or three bullet points in an email. But as humans we’re still wired for storytelling and we respond subconsciously to that form of communication. Leverage storytelling in your business by sharing your story, your customer success stories, the story of how your product or service is made, developed or produced, the story of what’s unique about your offering and the story of how you make it memorable for your customers. At the end of the day, people buy into why you do what you do just as much as what you do.
This sounds obvious but I’m constantly amazed and underwhelmed at the lack of enthusiasm I encounter in customer service interactions every hour of every day. Energy is contagious and if you interact with your customers with a level of excitement and an almost ‘I can’t wait to share this with you’ persona, they will naturally get excited about buying whatever it is you’re selling.
Whether you realise it or not, your existing customer base is your most valuable, untapped marketing asset. And one of the easiest, most cost effective ways to maximise that asset is a milestone marketing program. Every single customer has milestones that relate to them – birthdays, mothers day, Christmas, etc. Then they have milestones that relate to you … anniversary, spend level, number of purchases. If you did nothing else other than recognise one or more of those milestones with an unexpected gift, you would see an increase in referrals to your business. When was the last time you received a gift or a card celebrating a one, three or five year milestone of being a customer of that brand? Probably not recently (if at all) but I bet that if you did, you’d tell your friends about it.
Jim Collins’ famous book Good to Great proposed that ‘good is the enemy of great.’ We don’t have great schools, governments and corporations because we have good ones. Most brands strive for good customer service; they are content with satisfied customers. The problem with that is that satisfaction doesn’t create talkability. Not many consumers share a ‘satisfactory’ experience with their friends. But when they have a great experience, they want to share it – online and offline. They become a raving fan and a walking advocate.
Are the majority of your customers having good experiences with your brand or are they having great ones? The answer to that has the potential to revolutionise your business and give you a serious competitive edge.
Go the extra mile. It’s not crowded there.
Click here to secure your free advanced copy of Amanda’s book when it’s released in late September.