The most ancient and, perhaps, still the most efficient kind of marketing is the good old word-of-mouth. There is nothing like getting a recommendation from someone you know and trust. This would trump any glossy celebrity endorsement. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 88 percent of consumers across southeast Asia said that they placed the highest level of trust in word-of-mouth recommendations from people they knew. All businesses are sitting on a huge treasure trove of marketing assets – their customers. Using your customers to spread awareness about your brand and generate sales is called customer advocacy.
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According to Edelman’s 2016 trust barometer, new and potential customers trust each other and previous customers more than employees or salespersons of the business. However, finding the right customers who can work with you and creating a customer advocacy plan for your business is easier said than done. It is a long-term process and requires time and effort from your side. So here’s how you can create good customer advocates for your brand:
This is the first step towards success in any business, whether you are starting a customer advocacy programme or not. If, as a business, you do not meet the expectations of your customers, it is unlikely that any of them would recommend you or want to be associated with your marketing efforts. Pull up your socks and ensure that your customer service and be open to feedback from them.
The next step is to make sure that the customers whom you bring onto this programme are guided and trained properly so that they deliver your brand message accurately. You need a strong internal team for this. Use existing talent or recruit new talent who have experience working on similar programmes and can handle social media strategy.
You may have a good, loyal fan base of which everyone may be enthusiastic to be enrolled on such an advocacy programme. However, when you finally come around to choosing customer advocates, do not be swayed by just plain enthusiasm. Pick someone who already has a good enough social media presence and has a decent number of followers. If not, it would be like sending out your message into a void. Inform them about your strategy and connect them to the key members of your team. Make them realise that they are taking on a serious responsibility and guide them on how you plan to go through your plans.
After training them, provide them with a platform where they will be voicing their opinions and endorsing your brand. This could be the company’s Facebook page, a community forum, or a blog. You could create content that can be disseminated by them through their social media accounts as well. The most important thing you need to remember is that it’s a two-way relationship. Give your customers enough reason to advocate your brand. Also, money is not always an option. This might make the relationship awkward. A better way to retain good advocates for longer is by helping them build a personal brand as well. This can be achieved by giving them opportunities to interact with the media on behalf of your brand, giving them merchandise and making them a part of your business events.
It is far easier to get customers to buy your products than to get them to vouch for it. Research has proven that a customer advocate is 50 percent more likely to influence a purchase decision than a regular customer. What’s more, a study conducted by Goethe University found that customer advocacy is a more financially attractive way for companies to acquire new customers. So get ready, put aside some of your marketing budget to create an effective customer advocacy programme, take your relationship with your customers to the next level, and generate more sales and revenue from it.