“Word of Mouth” is a powerful marketing strategy, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Marketers can’t sit around and wait for their customers to recommend their businesses just like that. It may sometimes happen ‘out of nowhere’, but without providing the right customer experience and rewarding them for their loyalty, even your most frequent buyers can be lost to the competition.
Whether you have an established company or just starting with one, you should never stop thinking about your customers, who they are, how to attract them, how to provide them with the best service, and last but not the least – how to make them your brand advocates.
You may already have strategies in place to turn your customer into brand ambassadors, but here we have some great new hacks you can add to those:
Provide unique customer experience
For a customer experience to be great, we need much more than the customer being satisfied with our products or services. The 21st century customers expect a unique and well-rounded buying experience and we know very well that customers are always right! If you do this the right way, your customers will speak well on behalf of your business.
There is no universal procedure for creating the best customer experience, but marketers usually agree on the following:
- Get to know your customers by digging deeper beyond their emails and purchase history. Use every opportunity to find out what they think about your products and services, your brand and the way you do business. Conduct surveys, ask that extra question on your landing page form, ask for feedback on social media and most importantly after they tell you go a step further and interact with them. Respond to their questions and complaints and make sure that you provide them with best service in every phase of the buying process. As a way to listen to customers and get tons of new ideas, Starbucks created My Starbucks Idea program where customers could submit new ideas and also get insider knowledge about Starbucks new products. To support it, Starbucks dedicated a Twitter account for users to share their observations, wishes and ideas.
- Identify areas of friction in your business and act on it. Friction can occur at different points in the buying process. It can start with your customer’s long search to find your products online or poor information about the products or services on your website. Also, it can appear at the very end of the buying process if, for example, the shipping and return information is inaccurate or hard to find customers may become very frustrated with this and leave your website just before they purchase. Ask yourself how easy is your shipping page to find, does it list all the costs, does it say if you offer fast shipping and the cost, does it give currency options, does it say what international shipping options are, is there a link to returns and so on…Amazon does a great job here, as it offers clear and concise shipping information with many options for faster shipping as well as estimated dates of delivery on all of the products listed on the site.
You should put yourself in your customer’s shoes and optimize your website so that buyers can find what they want on your website more easily, get your product information for orders and make sure it’s relevant and complete. Find the most advanced and easiest payment method as those are the things your customers value the most. Keep up with technology and business trends and find an answer to the question how can you make their buying experience truly delightful.
Find “the best” customers
True brand ambassadors can’t be bought. Those are customers who deeply identify with your brand and speak well about your business online and offline. But how is it best to identify them?
First and foremost – dig into your customer base and create a segmented list of customers based on the information about their previous purchases, their interests and more. Your best brand advocates are people with high yearly spend, those recurring customers that may not spend much but buy often, and buyers which actively engage in conversations about your brand on social media.
Gather data from social media and listen to the feedback you receive, and when we say “social media” we mean all social media, not only your company pages.
Some of your ideal brand advocates are talking about your brand far from your ears and eyes, so use keywords for your brand, business and industry and track those conversations. Don’t go only for “what”, also look “where” these conversations are and develop your strategy based on your findings.
This method is known as “social media listening” and can do wonders for your business!
This way successful businesses also engage with customers by responding them in a funny and creative ways which makes the online conversations interesting for other people to share, such as this example from Sainsbury’s! In the screenshot below, the company refrains from the formal, “boring” communication, and instead engages in a fun, creative conversation. There’s no doubt Marty praised the company for its laid-back, funny approach, to its friends and family – it’s exactly what every business needs!
Make them feel special and willing to promote your brand
After identifying your most loyal customers, offer them some kind of incentive to show them that you recognize how important they are for your business.
Give your most loyal customers VIP discounts or think of other discounts like referring your business to friends. Use automation tools to send them personalized emails and SMS messages with special coupons or send out small surprise gifts with their next purchase. By sending out the personalized SMS such as this one from Diva.com which contains both “thank you” for the purchase and invitation to join a loyalty program, can be very effective and make your brand more desirable to the customers.
Pay close attention to the content customers produce related to your business. Act on it, ask for a repost and engage in online conversations with them. By making customers feel like “insiders” you are one step closer to turning them into your brand ambassadors. Inviting loyal customers to early product launches or closed VIP events will make them feel appreciated and you will be surprised how these gestures can affect and strengthen their loyalty.
For example, Instagram’s feature “regram” is nowadays very popular marketing tool. For brands who use regrams as part of their user-generated content strategy, the benefit is clear. Regramming content from other users gives brands fresh material to share the audience content with their other audience. This saves money on hiring influencers or celebrities to promote your brand, and your audience can identify with it more quickly!
Observe, respond and reward – on social media!
Observe what’s happening on social media and act on it! The easiest way to spot your potential brand advocates is by keeping an eye on social media channels. Look for mentions, likes, shares, (re)tweets, questions, reviews and comments.
These actions and their content will help you focus toward the ones who are consistent in their actions or take time to really talk about your brand and services. Not all Facebook shares or Tweets are equal, so take a look at what customers have to say. The more involved ones are easier to convert into brand ambassadors.
We are very well aware that some feedback we receive on social media can be negative. If this happens, make sure to reach out to unsatisfied customers quickly and find out what went wrong. Don’t hesitate to respond to them in public, and make sure you start with some ‘Thank you for the feedback’ and ‘We are sorry to hear that…”. Later you can move this conversation to private channels, but not before other customers and the wider audience see that you are willing to resolve any issues they may have with your business.
To see how this looks in the practice, when a disgruntled customer complained about a problem on Twitter, JetBlue didn’t sit in silence, waiting for the problem to go away. Instead, it faced it head on, responding to the customer in public, acknowledging the problem before offering a more private communications channel to sort it out. That way, not only does JetBlue tackle the issue, but it also shows everyone else that their problems will actually be heard and acted upon.
Unique loyalty programs
If you have a well-designed loyalty program that people love to participate in, customers will talk about it and share the experiences with their friends and that is just what you want them to do!
A generic loyalty program won’t get them overly excited, so you need to make sure that your loyalty program is truly unique. Take some time to think about the goals you want to accomplish with the loyalty program and offer something your competition wouldn’t think of. Loyalty programs are an excellent way to make your company stand out and create those brand advocates who love what you give them back and want to tell everyone about them. Are your loyalty rewards exciting and must have’s?
If you are, for example, in the travel industry, don’t offer the same 10% off coupons for the next booking like everyone else out there. You can come up with more appealing rewards such as collecting points and exchanging those for special unadvertised deals, like free spa days with your next booking. Customers will appreciate a bit of creativity and feel like they are receiving something more valuable than a simple coupon.
You could go even further with an automated text message that congratulates customers every time they join the program, level up on a rewards scheme or qualify for a new award, such as shown in this example from The Corner House Restaurants.
Don’t forget that the loyalty program needs to be an extension of your brand and speak for it. By aligning the loyalty program with your brand, your business values, and industry you can both earn more trust from your customers and build your brand.
Your best brand advocates are the customers who talk and recommend your business online and offline, which helps you to build your brand and make it more relatable to people who actually buy from you.
You may already have a strategy to make your loyal customers into brand ambassadors, but this may not always be a simple task to always working perfectly for you. Try our new and creative hacks to help you make this process more effective by:
- Provide a truly great customer experience throughout their whole buying process, remove friction and collect as much information on your customers as possible.
- Don’t forget to dig into your customer base and create a segmented lists based on their previous purchases, their interests and more.
- Give your most loyal customers VIP discounts for referring your business to friends, send them personalized emails with a coupon, and make sure your loyalty program is compelling and offering rewards they cannot find with your competition.
All of this will make the customers to talk well about your brand, buy more and last but not the least – bring new buyers to you. Which hack will you start with first?