“Nike makes the best running shoes in the world”- says Nike.
How would that feel for a potential customer? Not much, because they know Nike is trying to sell. The same sentiment, when shared by many customers, will make it easy for a potential customer to make a buying decision. Imagine your start-up being mentioned by many customers across the world in the same vein. Every business wants that. The term for it is ‘customer advocacy,’ as in, customers who act as your advocates willingly, without taking a penny.
What is customer advocacy?
Customer advocacy is a form of customer service where your business’ entire focus is on delivering the best possible service for its customers. Being bullish on satisfying your customers will yield terrific results- that’s the whole point of creating a customer advocacy program.
Steve Jobs is said to have famously said-, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology- not the other way around” when he was accused of eliminating products that weren’t in line with Apple’s customer’s needs. We saw how it turned out eventually for Apple.
In fact, in a world that is littered with your competitors, you must be dogged when it comes to satisfying your customers. Nothing less will do.
There was a time when word spread slowly, with the power of social media now, it is instant and can reach millions of your potential customers within seconds. A single bad review can make your profits nosedive. Therefore, it’s essential to create customers who are advocates of your products and services.
Why should you turn customers into advocates?
Customers are best as advocates since they lend credibility to your brand. If a friend or a colleague say that they loved a product, there is more trust factor there than when it comes from the brand itself. This is something we established in the introduction of the article, where we gave the example of Nike. Word-of-mouth marketing or Social Proof are some of the terms that we associate with when a customer talks positively about a brand to his/her peer group.
Your brand advocates will be the ones who will spend more money on your products as the years go by, send your business a recommendation on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, participate willingly in a case study, be featured in your blog posts, refer you to their friends, etc. All the mentioned activities by your brand advocates will make a lot of difference to your brand.
The marketing that your brand advocates do for you is free because they genuinely like what you offer. This is exactly why you need to create a customer advocacy program to create new ones as well as keep the present ones satisfied and happy.
Factors that drive Customer Advocacy
Some of the best practices that businesses follow to create a Customer Advocacy program will have a little of the following things in common-
- Feel-good factor
- Great Packaging
- Sensible humor
- Personal touch
- Humane voice
- Going the extra mile
- Loyal customers
- Listening to the customer
- Surprising the customer
Examples of Customer Advocacy programs
Uber’s Refer-a-Friend program was used to find out customer advocates. The referral program was not only used to for riders but drivers as well. They also ran a specific program for drivers who previously worked for Lyft, which captured a lot of attention.
Furniture retailer Made.com used User-Generated Content (UGC) where they showed photos of products in the homes of real customers (sent by the customer) to show how the product really looks. This helps users engage with the brand more. It is also a way in which users will know that what they see is what they get.
One of the most popular uses of UGC was Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” ad where they used photos sent by real customers for engagement. These photos were on billboards and in other advertising materials.
Cisco Champions Program, an initiative created by the networking giant make their brand advocates talk about Cisco across all their networks and social media channels. Results were more aligned than what they achieve by networking with relevant peers, highlighting their expertise and knowledge along with many other rewards. Cisco Champions Program got around 55,000 tweets and 200 Cisco-related articles on their websites and blogs.
Few ideas on Customer Advocacy programs
If you are not sure how to go about implementing a customer advocacy program, here are a few tips for you to achieve things right away on a small scale.
- Provide avenues for your customers to fill out feedback at each customer touchpoint. For each time they provide feedback, award them virtual points which can be used to redeem when buying from you.
- Provide your brand advocates a chance to write on your blog posts.
- Invite your brand advocates to test your product before it is released to the public.
- Give them exclusive information about product launches, new features, partnerships, and other information. This will improve their relationship with you dramatically.
- Promote your customer’s business on your website’s blog.
- Invite your advocates to meet with the CEO
- Provide your advocates speaking opportunities at your company events
- Invite your advocates to be a part of company meetings
Each of these recommendations can go a long way in creating a beautiful relationship for your customer advocates with the company. With time and a little bit of effort, this can go a long way in establishing your business as the market leader in your niche when it comes to taking care of customers. You will see more customer advocates batting for you as you keep getting better at it.
If you are not satisfied enough, we will give you 10 reasons why you should have a customer advocacy program
Helps you unearth your advocates
It is not always easy to find customer advocates for every business. Because they might not be openly announcing it to the world. Depending on the kind of business you do, there might be a plethora of channels through which you could possibly reach out to them. In addition to recognizing who your customer advocates are, you can also find out why you are their favourite business to work with.
Your customers might be able to take full advantage of your products and services by being a part of the customer advocacy program. These activities will improve your business significantly.
Improve your products
Your customer advocates are your most engaged customers, or they are at least your most benefited ones. In either case, they would be able to tell you about gaps in your services or products. Reach out to your advocates to find out what they feel about your product and ask them if they see any way in which your product can be improved. Ask them for feedback about each of the features in exchange for a reward that will help them immensely. This will further cement their relationship with you.
Expect your advocates to be open with you when they discuss their biggest peeves with your product. In fact, they might even recommend methods to improve your product and service offerings. The way in which you get help from your customer advocates will be a reminder to your potential customers that you treat your customers well and respect their opinions.
Leads to retention
Brands need to keenly listen to what a customer advocate is saying as their views are important when making changes that help your final product. Their insights should help in improving the service as well as making changes on the product so that it can affect the lives of more customers.
When you set up customer advocacy programs in place, it will give the customers a chance to reach out to you and continuously be in conversation with you. This will help with reinforcing your brand values. When you get a new customer from a customer advocate, you should make it a point to reward them. You can do so by showing them appreciation or by actively engaging with them on social media channels.
Recommendations are a great way to build trust
Businesses do not know who to trust, and it is an essential requirement in any relationship. To survive in this challenging environment, you need to have customers telling the world that you are “Good to work with.” It creates a lot of difference to your brand and how your potential customers look at you.
Once you have become credible in their eyes thanks to a customer of yours for recommending you, their only other concern is if you can match their budget. If budget isn’t a problem, consider that the deal is closed. Having recommendations for your products reduces the duration of your sales cycle.
Acquire newer clients
With the help of a customer advocacy program, you can build a strategy where you can bring in newer clients. When you have a robust customer advocacy program, you should consider referral marketing. You can use the network you have built and also encourage your customers to tell about your services to others.
When your customers reach out to their network, one question that they will get invariably will be,” Are they good at what they do?”
Without a doubt, they will reply that your services have been impeccable.
“Because they worked well to give me my deliverables perfectly well and on time. I trust them to do it for others.”
Remember this, anyone looking for a solution is always looking for validation of the product from businesses who have already benefited from it. Therefore, when a customer of yours recommends you in their network, it becomes easier to close the sale.
Reduces customer acquisition cost
Firms that have positive reviews everywhere, especially on social media platforms where its customers frequent, will find it extremely easy to bring customers into their fold. Because people value the recommendations of their peer groups- which is why word-of-mouth is one of the most valued marketing techniques in existence. There is no way a brand can “pay” for this type of marketing.
A good customer advocacy program can unearth circumstances which will result in word-of-mouth recommendations. Also, remember that the cost of acquisition is more than the cost of retaining a customer. Your advocacy program should focus on paying customers and in finding ways on how you can benefit them. When you do that, your customers will be more than happy to recommend you.
In this time and age, companies should focus on engaging with the committed customers instead of spending top dollar in using traditional marketing methods (which are expensive) to acquire new customers.
Brand value increases
People stay with you when you provide them value for their time and money. You create Customer Advocates when you deliver value in being associated with you. It gives you the tag of a trustworthy brand. When you are considered as a brand that delivers, businesses will be happy to pay a premium price to you because they know you will get their job done.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of companies which has excellent marketing skills but don’t have the necessary skillset to finish the projects that they are assigned to. So your potential customers are always cautious of paying money for a vendor unless they are sure that they will not be disappointed.
Customers who see value in your offerings will not change working with you even if they find a low-cost option because they will not be sure about the quality the newer company offers.
Reduces the need for reputation management
Customers are not that vocal when they have a positive experience, but if they encounter a negative experience, you can expect them to let out steam in a way that 7 is impossible to imagine.
In the business world, this should be a famous saying-“Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned.”
Companies can’t stop customers from saying what they want. If you get a negative review, a lot of potential customers will gravitate towards reading and reflecting on it. But let’s say you have a stellar customer advocacy program that makes your customers love you more, and there are many places where they can show their liking for your products, then a few negative reviews will drown in the face of all the positivity that you are surrounded with.
Companies that don’t have a lot of positive reviews should engage with the services of online reputation services that offers steps to tackle it. With a customer advocacy program, you can steer clear of these costs.
Increase your bottom-line
With a customer advocacy program, you will find a lot of ways which you can use to increase the sale of your products.
How do you do this?
By allowing your customers to find different ways in which they can use your services. They may not be using a few of your products since they might not be aware of what it can do for their business. Educate them about their benefits.
Help them in understanding how you can help them better. Do this genuinely even if you think they might not sign up for it. In the long run, they might have a need for your product or connect your business with someone who wants your expertise.
The customer advocacy program could also have a reward system for your customers to get gift cards, discounted products, and services for every customer referred to you. As we have mentioned earlier, referrals are easy to close.
Rapid increase in collecting User Generated Content
There have been companies that have taken great advantage of user-generated content (UGC) to generate revenue. User-Generated content can be extensively used in marketing, especially in the form of different content types. It could be videos, pictures, messages, or conversation screenshots sourced from customers themselves. Getting UGC usually is a difficult task because customers won’t respond or don’t have an incentive to do so.
But if you have a proper Customer Advocacy program built, it becomes easy to get content directly from your most loyal customers. Even the customers who are passively a part of your business will get in on the action to take advantage of the rewards. You are slowly bringing them to interact with you in a way which could positively affect your relationship with them.
It is a must to have a Customer Advocacy program if you want to have customers talking about you and bring you more business.
In 2019, it is a powerful marketing concept, and its relevance has only increased thanks to the Internet and the fledging importance of social media in shaping business decisions.
Customer Advocacy is the highest form of loyalty that you can expect from your customers. It will prove as a significant advantage when compared with your competitors. You must keep your community of customers engaged and feeling respected. You can do this with the help of collecting customer feedback regularly and by using smart referral tactics that inspire them to act.
With more businesses entering the fray, there would be confusion among your potential customers in who to trust. This is where third-party validation can make all the difference in the world. If you have a Customer Advocacy program, you will be way ahead of your competitors and will leverage the most critical stakeholder in your business- your customers.