What happens after your customers make a purchase is just as important—if not more so—than what happens before. Recommendations are the lifeblood of small business, and if you’re not seeking them out, it’s likely that your competitors are.
So, how do you turn your customers into staunchly loyal brand advocates? In short: engagement. Both before and after money is exchanged. Purchases should be less about transactions and more about the overall experience with your brand.
What does this mean for your business? Here are a few tips:
Identify Already-loyal Customers
Start where you are. Find out who your biggest fans are right now and start putting their activity to good use.
- Seek out customers who regularly engage with your brand on social media or who leave positive reviews on sites such as Citysearch.
- Ask your customers what they like about your brand and the products or services that you offer using surveys, comment cards, or email marketing. Customers who give high marks to questions like, “How would you rate your experience?” and “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family?” often just need a little nudging to become strong brand supporters and potentially provide you with free and powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
- Ask your salespeople about which customers they turn to as references for sales calls. Which customers have given recommendations to friends in the past? Which customers are most satisfied with your product?
Try to identify your fans on a regular basis—every three or six months—so that you have a growing list of people who love you. Customers who fall into one of these categories already feel loyal toward your brand and are likely to respond favorably when asked to share their positive experiences.
Adding More Advocates
The more people feel favorably toward your business, the more opportunities you have to increase brand awareness organically.
- Keep in contact with your customers. One example of a company that excels at this is Hyundai. Hyundai drivers get a complimentary air freshener on their one-year anniversary of ownership. The company has given away more than half a million air fresheners since the program began. This simple gesture goes a long way toward making customers feel appreciated, and many Hyundai drivers take to social media and email to share their surprise and excitement with their friends and family.
- Your contact efforts can be similarly simple. Let customers know you appreciate them and their business.
- Thank them for positive reviews, shares, and mentions on social media.
- Send out cards or discounts for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.
- Reach out when they’re not expecting you to (i.e., not when you are expecting another purchase from them).
- Go the distance to provide great customer service. You may be familiar with the story where Morton’s Steakhouse delivered a steak to an incoming passenger at EWR after he tweeted a request for a Porterhouse (If not, go read up It’s pretty awesome). The incident immediately went viral on Twitter and elsewhere. This is the type of service you should be providing—if you can make your business stand out in a sea of companies that only provide “so-so” service, your customers will do your advertising for you.
- Provide consistently excellent service. Train everyone at your company to go out of their way to make things right for everyone who walks through the door.
- Try to accommodate special requests, if possible.
- Remember that everyone is a broadcaster with their own audience. If you provide over-the-top service, your customers will tell their friends and family, which will translate into new business for you.
Making the Most of Brand Advocates
If you are committed to finding and cultivating brand advocates, this could become one of your most valuable advertising initiatives. People are much more likely to listen to recommendations from people they know than they are to take advice from a display ad, no matter how carefully thought-out the ad may be. To that end, there are some things you can do to make it more likely that your customers will share their good opinions about you:
- Ask for positive reviews. After a customer makes a purchase, thank him or her and ask for a review, either on your own site, on their own site (if they have a blog with a good number of followers), or a review site, like Yelp.
- Ask your best customers who they know who would like your product. You can reach out directly to these referrals.
- Ask your customers for social love. Make it easy for them to like/tweet/share your content.
- Ask for free advertising. Get some of your most loyal customers to write blog posts or images for you. You can put these on your site, your social accounts, or wherever else works.
- Ask them if you can use them for case studies.
This list is not meant to be comprehensive—once you’ve found your advocates, get creative and keep providing top-quality service.
Have you had any success with brand advocacy? Tweet us at @Rapid_Advance using the hashtag #Customer1stCompany to share your experiences!