Getting new customers is always exciting.
But real business growth comes from repeat customers. Research shows that return customers spend 33% more per order than new clients.
And that’s not all.
They’re also 77% more likely to recommend your brand to their friends and drive additional revenue.
Why is this important?
Because 92% of people now trust personal recommendations over paid advertising when making a purchase decision.
All these stats mean one thing.
If you want to grow fast you need to turn your customers into loyal fans and brand advocates.
In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how to do it.
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What is a brand advocate?
A brand advocate is a highly-satisfied customer who voluntarily spreads positivity about your brand, speaks highly of your business on social media and other public platforms, and influences the purchase decisions of your prospects with positive word of mouth.
Their impact is huge.
According to research, brand advocates drive more than $6 trillion of annual consumer spending and influence 2x-3x more new sales as compared to your regular customers.
Strong brand advocates increase awareness about your brand beyond your immediate target audience and eliminate costs that are associated with traditional marketing and customer acquisition strategies.
This is why both B2B and B2C brands are focusing more than ever before on developing brand advocacy programs and encouraging customers to publicly share their positive brand experiences.
How do you turn regular customers into raving fans and loyalists?
I’ll explain that in the rest of this article.
7 Tips to turn happy customers into brand advocates
You can’t rely on random positive reviews or occasional referrals from satisfied customers. You need a coordinated strategy to convert the positive sentiments of your customers into tangible business results.
Here are a few ways you can do it.
1. Understand what drives advocacy
Brand advocates will always be a small portion of your overall customer base. Most other customers will purchase from you (once or repeatedly) but won’t engage with your brand or talk about it much on public platforms.
So keep an eye on the customers who do take the time to spread a positive word about your brand and understand what drives their advocacy.
How can you do it?
- Run On-Site Surveys: A simple question like “how likely are you to recommend us to a friend”, plus a small explanation of the answer, can give you a deep understanding of what’s making your customers happy.
- Social Listening: Keep an eye on people who’re talking favorably about your brand on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., engage with them, and listen to what they’re saying.
- Repeat Customers: Once a customer renews their subscription, ask them what made them do it and how you can ensure that they renew the next time as well.
Knowing what drives advocacy is crucial because it gives you the necessary insights to develop an effective and long-term strategy for your business.
2. Develop a memorable onboarding process
First impressions often leave the strongest mark on people’s minds.
This is why your product’s onboarding process has a direct impact on your customer retention rates.
According to research, 86% of people say they’re likely to stick longer with a product and even pay more than before if it has a better onboarding process that educates them on making the best use of the product.
When people truly understand the value they can get from your product, and use it to its full potential, they’re much more likely to spread the word about it as well.
How do you create an effective onboarding process?
- Instead of throwing all your product features at your customers at once, ask them why they’re using your product and what they hope to achieve with it. Then guide them to the most helpful features that are relevant to their needs.
- Give them templates that they can start using at once.
- Minimize friction points so that your customers can start using the core features of your product as soon as possible.
- Develop an onboarding email sequence that guides and educates your customers on making the best use of your product.
Converting a stranger into a lead and a lead into a customer takes a lot of work. Don’t waste it by ignoring your product’s onboarding process.
It’s a low hanging fruit that many SaaS companies underestimate.
3. Develop a customer-centric culture
Customer experience is the biggest factor that determines whether a customer becomes an avid fan and word of mouth marketer for your brand or your biggest critic.
This is where you win or lose future business.
According to research, 55% of customers are willing to pay more to brands with a customer-centric culture.
What is a customer-centric culture?
A culture where customer satisfaction and happiness are at the center of all your business decisions. Customer-centric companies don’t outsource customer service to just one department.
Instead, it’s a part of their core value system and every department feels equally responsible for ensuring customer success.
Zendesk, a leading customer support platform, conducted a detailed study of more than 45000 businesses across 140 countries. One of their key findings was that 68% of customers were annoyed when their problems were transferred for resolution from one department to the other. They also found that 70% of customers expect companies to collaborate between different departments on their behalf.
In simpler words, don’t toss the customer around because of your company’s internal structure. Develop a culture where customer issues have the highest priority in all departments and every section of the company works to offer a memorable customer experience.
To develop such a culture, you need people with the right skillset.
Here are the most important customer service skills for modern businesses.
Customers might forgive and forget a lack of features or an occasional technical glitch in your product, but most of them would never forget a bad customer experience.
If you invest in shaping memorable experiences, your customers will stick longer and bring in more referral sales.
4. Reward customers for referrals
I’ve already mentioned that modern-day consumers trust personal recommendations more than paid advertising when it comes to making purchase decisions.
Why not use this tendency to drive more sales and incentivize your satisfied customers to spread the word about your brand?
Starting a referral/affiliate program for your brand can be a real game-changer.
It turns passive customers, who’re mostly satisfied with your services, into active marketers because they’re getting a clear monetary reward for their hard work.
It’s a proven strategy to drive brand advocacy that’s used by the biggest brands in the world.
According to a study by Forrester, of more than 150 companies with minimum annual revenues of $200 million, 84% of them have active affiliate programs.
Starting an affiliate program has another advantage.
It allows you to leverage the influence of high-authority bloggers who have millions of followers in different niches.
Most of them are always ready to promote a good quality product that pays well for referrals.
This is why affiliate marketing is the most popular for bloggers to make money online.
To make it an even more attractive program, you can pay a higher commission rate to your customers as compared to any random affiliates who haven’t used your product before.
This would make your customers feel special and at the same time encourage other affiliates to purchase your product before promoting it.
5. Offer an enhanced loyalty program
Loyalty programs play a crucial role in driving brand advocacy and customer loyalty.
What exactly is a loyalty program?
It is a marketing strategy that encourages customers to engage with your brand in different ways (for example purchasing your product, buying add-ons, renewing subscription, sharing your content on social media, referring new customers, adding product pictures, leaving positive reviews, etc.) to earn loyalty/reward points.
When a customer has enough loyalty points, they can use them for benefits like discounts and deals on different products.
This builds brand loyalty, helps you earn more per customer, and increases the percentage of repeat sales.
But creating a loyalty program isn’t enough.
Research shows that an average American household holds memberships in 29 loyalty programs but are active in only 12 of them.
An engaging loyalty program is easy to use and understand (seamless conversion from points to dollars). Plus, it rewards users for anything that helps spread the word about your brand (not just sales).
6. Offer actionable value with content marketing
Content marketing isn’t just useful for generating leads and converting them into customers. It is equally important in educating your customers on making the best use of your product, retaining them, and turning them into brand advocates by giving them tons of free actionable information.
If you regularly publish high quality content, it gives you more chances to engage customers with your brand and strengthen their bond with it.
This is why modern-day marketers consider it a key part of their overall marketing strategy.
According to Maryville University, which has been offering degree programs in digital and content marketing for a few years, B2B companies are, on average, spending $45000/year on every member of their content marketing teams.
This constitutes a significant portion of their overall marketing budgets.
But the long-term ROI of content marketing makes it worth every penny.
Salesforce blog is a great example of how to use content marketing effectively to generate word of mouth marketing.
Despite being a leading CRM solution, Salesforce invests heavily in content marketing and regularly publishes highly engaging and well-researched content.
It not only keeps their customers hooked to their brand but also shows different ways they can use it to achieve business goals.
Ahrefs and Buffer are other great examples of brands using content marketing to develop brand loyalty and triggering word of mouth marketing.
7. Encourage user-generated content
User-Generated Content (UGC) refers to the pictures, videos, comments, reviews, or any other content that your customers create for your brand.
Encouraging customers to create UGC is a great way to engage them with your brand, increase brand loyalty, and generate word of mouth marketing.
Research shows that 86% of Millennials believe that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a product, brand, and/or service. The same research also found that UGC influences the buying decisions of more than 80% of Millennials.
How do you encourage customers to create UGC?
You can hold social media competitions or make UGC rewards a part of your loyalty program. Sharing customer success stories is another great way to encourage more customers to come forward with on accounts of how they benefited from your brand.
Are you ready to turn customers into brand advocates?
Brand advocates play a crucial role in driving more sales and referrals. Thankfully, in the age of social media and 24/7 connectivity, it isn’t very hard to engage customers with your brand. The challenge, however, is to stay consistent with your brand advocacy initiatives because people have short memories these days and can quickly forget your brand if you don’t engage them regularly.
Let me know if you have any questions, I’d love to respond in the comments section.
Guest author: Jawad Khan is a freelance writer, professional blogger and marketing consultant. He works with digital marketing agencies, small businesses and entrepreneurs to build their online presence and brand image. He blogs regularly on www.WritingMyDestiny.com