Traditional sales channels are failing and even the efficacy of e-mail marketing is in question. And yet, companies are springing up and growing like wildflowers after a spring rain. What’s their secret?
- Outstanding experiences.
These are the things customers not only want, but demand. The companies growing now not only deliver these in spades, they also cultivate, empower, and engage their customer base. When the customer is the most trusted source of information, why not leverage them? This is where the ideas of customer success merge with brand advocacy.
In fact, you could say that brand advocacy programs begin in customer success. A strong customer success program tracks usage of the product over time and maps it to the customers’ stated goals, ensuring that the product is doing what the customer needs, and that they are successful in their goals.
But the best companies double down on this by requesting a regular review between customers and their own executives. This is especially important in the B2B market, since having an executive show up on your side greatly increases the chances that executives and stakeholders will attend on the other side.
These meetings not only show you care, but also give your team a chance to show what has been achieved so far, and align their services with clients’ changing future goals. Taking this extra step may seem like a huge investment of time and energy, but consider: You are showing your customers exactly how much real value they’re getting from your services.
By keeping pace with their progress, working to ensure their success, and letting them know what you are helping them to achieve, you ensure returning revenue and the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell, and most importantly, give them reasons to tell their friends about you.
From this foundation of Customer Success, some companies use formal Customer Advocacy Programs to build rewards and incentives that “organize the troops” around specific goals. For example, if you need to build user reviews on a new site, you can ask your registered brand advocates to contribute their reviews, while providing recognition and other incentives which fit their values.
Similar to Buyer Personas, you can create Advocate Personas to help categorize and target what your advocates do best. Some may be all about social media, while others may be bloggers or Yelpers or Angie’s Listers, and others might build out hundreds of connections on LinkedIn or in-person.
Their motivations generally fall into a few categories. They want to be perceived as experts, and sharing their knowledge about your business is part of that. They want to get their names out there, or they’re super-connectors eager to build their networks. Or, they genuinely want to help other people solve their problems and consider yours a great solution.
These are the most important, trusted, powerful influencers you have access to – so don’t mess it up. If you adopt an advocacy program, make it fun! Make it rewarding. Otherwise, you’ll turn enthusiastic, engaged customers into people too tired to deal with you.
The most popular tokens of appreciation are in the form of status (rather than freebies), like special badges, or a private cocktail reception at your next event. Cleverness and sincerity count more than a ubiquitous Amazon gift card, and nothing beats a personal touch like a handwritten note.
Businesses are quickly realizing that by empowering their customers to get out and talk about their positive experiences, they can tap into the oldest and most powerful form of marketing in history: word of mouth.
That’s right, all the technology in the world at our fingertips and I’m telling you to go back to word of mouth marketing. But, since we do have all the technology in the world, we have the ability to put a virtual loudspeaker to those words so they can carry farther, faster, and reach more ears.