Scroll through any leading marketing blog and you’re likely to find an abundance of articles on PPC advertising, content marketing, and SEO. All of these methods are great for acquiring customers, but they take time (and in the case of PPC, money) before you get a result.
Alternatively, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your brand, since you don’t have to do the hard work yourself.
In fact, when your customers are promoting your business for you, this frees up valuable time for you to work on other objectives.
One of the reasons that word-of-mouth marketing is so powerful is because it comes with embedded social proof. The best kind of social proof is a recommendation from a trusted friend.
This is useful because 80% of Americans seek recommendations before they make any kind of purchase.
To harness the power of word-of-mouth, marketers create brand advocacy programs to engage their best customers.
Jay Baer, the marketing strategist behind Convince and Convert, defines a brand advocate in the following way:
“A volunteer marketer. A customer that proactively uses their time and their social capital to promote a company or cause.”
A single benevolent act such as giving a customer a referral code or special discount may encourage them to sing your praises momentarily – but advocacy is an ongoing process.
If you want your brand advocates to continue promoting for you, it’s important to invest in them. When you’re truly concerned with the long-term satisfaction of your customers – you’ll be amazed at the lengths they will go to promote you.
Create unforgettable memories
Taco Bell is a brand that has mastered customer retention.
One could speculate that there is something special in the hot sauce that keeps customers coming back, but there is more to it than addictive food.
While Taco Bell has an excellent social media presence, one campaign, in particular, caught my attention.
For Valentine’s Day, the brand launched a social media contest called Love and Tacos.
The winner, a diehard brand advocate who constantly tweets about the brand, was flown to Las Vegas for six days where he and his fiance enjoyed VIP treatment for the week. For the climax of the trip, the couple were married in Taco Bell’s flagship restaurant (yes, Taco Bell actually has a wedding chapel).
David Meerman Scott describes newsjacking as: “The process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”
Taco Bell has taken this a step further, by injecting their brand into the life story of this couple. Every time they recall fond memories of their wedding – Taco Bell is associated.
Whenever this couple is hungry and craving fast food – which restaurant chain do you think will come to mind?
Consider how you can insert your brand story into a special moment for one of your brand advocates. Do it correctly, and birthdays, weddings and other special events will always carry the association of your brand.
Publish User Generated Content (UGC)
Every marketer knows that it’s wise to retweet posts from your diehard followers. In fact, I recommend monitoring your social media channels to identify the individuals who are frequently mentioning your brand – this way they’re already on your radar when you’re ready to do some sharing.
However, you can take things a step further by featuring UGC from your advocates on your website.
Sending your brand advocates special discounts in exchange for video reviews of your products is a win-win exchange.
When you consider that 4X as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it – it’s clear to see why customer reviews are a good asset to any landing or product page.
Unlike text reviews, video reviews from real customers are impossible to fake – which helps with social proof.
Customer reviews will benefit you by improving your conversion rate, but your advocates receive benefits as well. Not only do they get a discount for their effort, they also get to feel as if they’re part of the brand themselves and get the validation from being featured on your website.
For high ticket products, you may wish to consider hiring a film crew and then asking the advocate if they’d be happy to discuss their experiences with your brand. Extensive video testimonials are a great way to promote high-end products and services.
For B2B businesses, you may wish to publish case studies for your brand advocates. This strengthens your working relationship and gives their business some additional promotion too.
UGC works fantastically well on Instagram.
Airbnb is an example of a huge brand that features significant amounts of UGC on its official Instagram page.
As a travel brand, it helps that Airbnb’s customers are a continuous source of stunning photos featuring exotic locations. This kind of content is highly attractive to prospective customers.
However, even if you’re in a more mundane niche – featuring images of your brand advocates using your products is always beneficial for promoting your brand and strengthening existing relationships.
Ask for suggestions
In the most simple terms, a business is a vessel for delivering value to a target audience. Financial remuneration occurs as a result of the value delivered.
Many marketers and entrepreneurs go wrong in delivering what they think their audience will value rather than what they actually value. This is a fatal mistake that can be avoided by talking to your advocates.
Customer preferences change over time. If you’re not maintaining regular communication with your existing customers, you may find yourself getting left behind when the market shifts without you knowing.
Your brand advocates are a microcosm of your customer base. Send them emails, talk to them on the phone and survey them in order to find out how you can improve your offering and solve their pain points.
On the topic of customer retention, serial entrepreneur Peter Sage emphasizes the importance of giving value. He implores entrepreneurs to ask themselves: “How can I serve the needs of my customers over and above what they’re expecting?”
This customer is an Apple loyalist for life, partly because of her excellent experience with a customer service representative who stayed on the phone with her for two hours in order to fix her problem – then sent a message after returning from vacation to check if she was okay.
Entrepreneur, author and digital outsourcing expert, Chris Ducker, would refer to this approach as P2P (people-to-people).
Technology is great, but it can’t replicate the human interactions that make us warm to a brand (not yet, at least). Going the extra mile to deliver value to your customers will keep your brand etched in their memory with positive associations.
Giving value doesn’t have to be costly. In fact, one of the best ways to give value to your advocates is to ask them about their current frustrations, then publish free content that guides them towards a solution.
Since brand advocates are representative of your customer base as a whole, you’ll find that pain points are common – so by tackling these issues in your content, you’ll help everyone who consumes your content (not just your advocates).
I wish I could give you the magic pill for retaining brand advocates, but the truth is that there is no quick-fix tactic. The unglamorous reality is that you need to remain dedicated to delivering value and maintaining long-term communication.
Sure, everyone loves a discount – but they remember the times when a human reached out to them and went above all expectations in order to help them.
Feature UGC in your social campaigns, survey your advocates and implement their feedback – just do it with the selfless intention of giving value and you won’t go wrong.
Do you have any other strategies for investing in your brand advocates?
If so, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear them.
Guest Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.