The latest marketing buzz is all around influencer marketing. But sometimes the budget or desire doesn’t extend to that. Whether you have the budget or not, marketing experts will always recommended harnessing the power of your current customers and clients – to use advocacy marketing. Have you heard of it? If not, it’s something that every business can benefit from. If you have a loyal, vocal clientele, you might already be doing it without knowing it!
Rentently defines it as “getting existing customers to share their positive experience with your company to other people.” In a phrase: word of mouth. The gold standard of publicity for a brand or business. Virtually all people trust WOM marketing (almost at many trust online reviews even if they’re not written by known sources). The Drum says in this post-Covid digital age, any good marketing funnel should include advocacy marketing. “Your customers’ positive experiences should motivate them to spread the word about your product, and build relationships on behalf of your company…. your customers are already well-positioned to speak on your behalf. All the tools they need are already present on their smartphones. Business adviser Steve Knox, known for his senior marketing role at Proctor & Gamble, thinks of smartphones as, first and foremost, relationship devices. They are social extensions of ourselves. And brands should take advantage of this fact.”
You want customers to be brand evangelists, organic ambassadors of your brand or service. But how do you do that? The two biggest things that’ll make a customer an advocate are:
A seriously good offering
It sounds cliched, because, well, it is. And for a good reason. Having a good product or service is pretty much the root cause of all good advocacy marketing. Someone isn’t going to sing the praises of your waxing studio if it’s filthy, the wax burns them or the job is done carelessly. Act like you can’t be bothered during a facial or leave someone with sloppy nail varnish and not only will they not say good things to their network, you’ll likely lose them as a customer too. Put the effort in and people will not only become regular customers, they’ll get their network (and their network’s network and so on and so forth) to become customers too. Exceed their expectations. “By making them feel like they received more than they paid for, it’s possible to create a better experience for the customer—and satisfied customers are inherently more likely to advocate for the company in the future,” according to Big Commerce in an article on advocacy marketing.
And stellar, attentive customer service
Part of that is, yes, good customer service. So if something goes wrong – and it happens – you fix it. If they have a question, you answer it. You are available, receptive and both pro- and reactive as needed. There’s no attitude. If you have an amazing brand or businesses but customers get crickets when they DM you a question or get the runaround – or a bad attitude – when they call, they won’t do your bidding. You need to make them feel loved and heard, if you want them to love your brand back.
But what about the actual checklist of tactics?
It’s all well and good to say just have a great product and be excellent at customer service. But what are the tangible, concrete steps needed to actually engage in advocacy marketing if you’ve already nailed those two things? It might seem like common sense – good product offering and customer service – but the part that really gets advocacy marketing to happen, the spark that moves customers to talk positively about your brand, is the relationship they have with you, how much your brand gels with their identity and a call to action.
Make things they want to share
Google says “Brands that provide consumers with deep experiences of their product—and manage to generate an emotional experience of ownership—win at the point of purchase…. Three in four Generation C consumers share the brand they love. There’s tons of content online surrounding your brand and category. Are you moved by all the content surrounding your brand? Does it prompt you to share? Are you connecting with your target consumers on their passions and interests for them to love your brand and spread the word?” Customers aren’t going to share things they don’t personally love, are proud of or think the person with whom they’re sharing will find useful or interesting. Keep that in mind when creating content you want them to share. Give it a purpose and make sure it offers something of value to your customer if they share it. Big Commerce points out that you need a narrative, a brand story, if you want to be remembered. “A strong brand narrative can help the customer remember who the company is and how it helped them—and making customers a part of the narrative encourages them to show loyalty to the brand.” And make sure it’s consistent. It’s your identity and it needs to be recognisably you across all platforms and mediums and it can only be that way if you have continuity of voice and visuals.
Make your brand or service easy to share
Ask someone to leave a Google review, but don’t give them the link to do it and chances are they aren’t going to spend the time to do the work you should have done for them. Create as little friction as possible for them to advocate for you. Share the links you want them to click, codes you want them to copy and share. Give them instructions. And, gently, do it more than once if you didn’t convert them to advocates the first time. Drip feed communication in a non-intrusive manner to stay front of mind… up to a point. You want to maintain the goodwill you’ve generated and don’t want to accidentally stray into spammer territory. But do persist a little bit with easily actionable things to help them advocate for you. Provide everything they need so that all they have to do is click a link or hit a button without thinking too much about it or spending too much time on it. Everyone’s busy and everyone’s attention is divided. They should be able to dash out the review on the bus to work in the morning, share a discount code on WhatsApp while waiting for their coffee or quickly use that custom filter to post something while multi-screening on the sofa at night.
Ask them to advocate for you
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. This can be: leave a positive Google Review, share a personalised discount code with a friend, like your business page on Facebook. Anything positive that provides social proof that your business or brand is good and has the stamp of approval of this customer. Follow up with clients and customers after they’ve had an appointment or bought a product, and make sure your communications have a call to action. In a text, include a shortened URL that links through to your Google business listing, a newsletter sign-up form, a shareable discount code or access to a custom Instagram filter. But you have to ask them to do something. Thank them, and then ask them to advocate for you.
Thank them when they do
It’s good manners and good business. Acknowledging the effort, time and social bandwidth your customers and clients are using to advocate for your brand. They don’t have to, but they have chosen to and it is hugely beneficial to your brand. Let them know you appreciate them. If you use any sort of digital marketing software, you might even be able to trigger an automatic email or text message if they complete a nominated activity. If it’s a Google Review or Facebook Review, respond and say thanks. If a new customer comes in as a referral, email, text or call to say thanks (and if you don’t have a referral program where the referring customer gets some sort of tangible benefit for doing that, start it now!).
Create a referral program
Referral marketing software is a whole thing and often times there is referral functionality built right into your booking software. USE IT if you’re not using it already. What does it do? With Kitomba, for example, one of the marketing features is the ability to create programs where you can “customise your own loyalty programme – select clients, set earning rates, record points and redeem rewards.” All the big names, like MindBodyOnline and Fresha, offer referral and retention marketing tools within their booking software offering. You can automate referrals so that your software drips campaigns and messages to clients to persuade them to recommend your product or service in exchange for something of value to them (whatever you set it to be… discount on next service, etc.). You can track the programs, see how they’re working and adjust them to get the most traction. This way you can set the systems up one time and they can run themselves.
Listen when they don’t want to advocate and find out why
Sometimes you won’t get things right or clients and customers are unhappy for another reason and unwilling to advocate for your brand. First, if you stuffed up something, apologize sincerely. No “sorry if you were offended by…” non-apology apologies. That’ll just make the situation worse. Once you apologize, ask how you can fix the situation and what would make them happy to champion the brand once again. If they seem to be uninterested out of the blue, gently query what part of your product or service they don’t like, and use that feedback to make your offering better. Think of it as a free focus group. If there’s a pattern among what’s making customers unhappy, that’s actually good news, because it’s a problem that’s been identified and can be fixed. Don’t just let customers and clients who are less-than enthusiastic just disappear. Find out what’s wrong and how, if possible, you can fix it, and then sing from the rooftops about the things you’ve just made even better.
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