A notable Hebrew quote considers “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Unfortunately, many businesses take this literally, devoting a great deal of budgetary and staff resources to tooting their horns. However, this function can be accomplished far more efficiently (and often for free) by satisfied customers.
Old School: The “Hope” Method
Historically, a business would “hope” that a customer, pleased with their shopping and purchasing experience, would recommend the business to at least one other individual, who might in turn pass the recommendation to others. However, in the days of the digital age of the 21st century, one tweet or one post on a Facebook wall or on someone’s blog can potentially be viewed by thousands. Consequently, customers, who would once share the good news about your business with their family or next-door neighbors, now have a far wider audience at their disposal. The sincerity factor should not be underestimated. It is well known that while your own advertising may be taken with a grain of salt, a customer’s unsolicited recommendation based on personal experience is likely to carry a lot more weight with potential new customers.
Enter “Advocate Marketing Technology”
Rather than just hoping that satisfied customers will pass on the positive mojo, today businesses can actually do something to make it happen. Meeting customers on their home turf (social media and mobile apps) can be accomplished through loyalty and referral programs, success management and voice-of-the-customer initiatives. Fortunately, there is now advocate marketing technology available that allows businesses to combine all of these into a cohesive relationship-building program.
So how does this work? Businesses swim in oceans of data; software, such as the latest releases by Sitecore, allow you to go fishing for those social media savvy customers who are most likely to participate in advocacy programs and serve as eager promoters for your business. It’s time to become contextual and learn as much about each of your customers as possible, including what they need, what motivates them, what drove them to your business and how to avoid driving them back out. Rather than flinging your programs out into cyberspace to be ignored, your business can focus on those customers who will enjoy being brought into your “family.” Creating customer engagement in the form of opportunities to serve as brand advocates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is a way of making your hand-picked promoters feel special and valued. Others, learning of their positive experiences with your business, are likely to be your next customers and, before long, your next tier of advocates.
The Churn Stops Here
Studies show that customers are incredibly fickle. An opportunity to purchase a product at a slightly lower price may drive them directly into your competitors’ arms. The challenge is to not only bring customers through your doors, but to keep them there for the long haul. “Churn” has long been the scourge of marketers, but how can you stop it? Making the most of opportunities to use customers as marketing advocates is a win-win in that it not only provides you with free advertising, but it also helps those customers feel good about themselves. Invested in your business, there is a greatly reduced likelihood of them developing a roving eye or becoming subject to the wiles of the competition.
How Deep is Your Love?
Satisfied customers may tell a few people about their experiences, but they largely lack an appropriate outlet to express their enthusiasm and gratitude for your business. Unless, of course, you provide them with that outlet! Most customers have had so many unsatisfactory experiences with businesses over the years that finally finding one, which makes them feel valued and provides the quality of personalized service they so badly desire, is likely to result in an emotional outpouring of appreciation. Harnessing that enthusiasm can be more valuable than any traditional marketing campaign. Why not have your true believers “pay it forward” while the positive experience is still fresh and raw? Many will gladly whip out 20 tweets if asked to do so. Emotional investment can become your business’s secret marketing weapon. Employing the right advocate marketing technology is the first step in identifying your truly engaged customers who will be very pleased to spread the good word and provide the exponential increase in business that your efforts so richly deserve.