So, ok … we have taken a little liberty on Peter Drucker’s quote. We added the part about who creates customers. We are pretty sure Drucker would agree with us. After all, building customer advocacy is one of the most important jobs of the business.
The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.
Let’s remind us what an advocate is. An advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular business, cause or policy. For example, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are groups that work to publicize and find solutions for particular issues.
These advocate groups have a significant impact on the issues they’re passionate about. Because of their passion, they have big power to influence how the public thinks and acts about responsible driving and animal treatment.
Research by Edelman’s trust barometer indicates that buyers, customers, and consumers often will trust each other far more than they’ll trust employees, sales or company. While factual information about product specs, pricing and usage will still be relevant on the corporate website, expect customers to do online research and consider advice from their peers before they make purchasing decisions.
There are several psychological principles you can implement into a social media campaign that will drive engagement and elicit a response from your audience.
This is important because it helps you get the most from your efforts and ensures the content you post doesn’t fall on deaf ears.
In his book, The Hidden Wealth of Customers, Bill Lee puts it this way:
“After a customer completes a purchase, what is typically left on the table is a gold mine of ways that firms can increase both the value they provide to clients and the profitability customers generate for the enterprise. With the new customer value proposition, you essentially reinvent your relationship, transforming customers into what I call customer advocates, influencers, and contributors.”
Customer evangelism is something companies, and marketing consultants have talked about for years. Often, though, the big companies get all the attention in this area. People assume small and mid-sized companies can’t create customer evangelists. But they’re very wrong.
Here are nine secrets you should know about creating customer evangelists. These are valid no matter what size your company is:
Customer advocacy … create a business cause
Great products and services don’t usually inspire your market. Great causes do. Apple stands for individualism. Disney believes in making memories. AAPR’s higher purpose advocates for making life better for American’s over 50 years old.
What values run through your marketing strategy and customer community? Your organization will attract people who share those beliefs.
When customers buy into your big picture, they will fight to strengthen your community. They will also advocate for your business’s cause.
Talk to your customers
Have real conversations with as many customers as you can. If you have a lot of clients, then you’ll need to prioritize your most valuable customers. Find ways to have real, meaningful and ongoing conversations with them.
This might mean inviting some to lunch. It might mean hosting get-togethers at your business. It might start with a survey and end with a phone call or a meeting. For others, it might be virtual conversations using email or Web 2.0 tools.
Get customers involved
Find multiple ways to get your customers involved. For some people, just a regular phone call or lunch will be enough. For others, you might get their help finding solutions to challenges you’re facing.
Create communities for your customers to participate in. Forums and blogs are perfect for this. Software and online companies have done this for years. Small businesses can also do it.
One great way to do this is to invite customers to submit pictures of their usage of products and services. Then post the pictures on their website. A very famous and successful example of building a community.
Customer advocacy examples … serve their needs
Of course, you’re doing this to make your company better. But everything you do in your customer evangelism effort needs to be useful. Educate them while you engage them. Always do things in ways that are helpful to and respectful. Keep that as your primary focus.
Help Customers Connect
Helping customer community members associate with like-minded people is a big part of creating advocates. When a customer is excited about your products and services, they are eager to share that experience with their friends. Those who are receptive to these stories are most likely going to be potential advocates.
Provide online and offline opportunities for customers to connect with other clients. These could be customer events or online activities. By making it easy for customers to connect, you are teeing up your most passionate fans.
Customer advocacy goals … be open
However, you engage by being open about what you’re doing and why. Make the process as transparent as possible. The more open you are, the more open they will be with you.
Empower your employee’s participation. Don’t script them or micro-manage their involvement. Let them get to know your customers and vice- verse. The more your customers know and like your employees, the more likely they will be evangelists for you.
The bottom line in creating loyal customers who promote your business is this:
You need to care about them.
Show your customers you are there to serve their needs. When you do this, you will deliver an experience that your clients can’t get anywhere else. So they’ll come back. And, they’ll bring others with them.
Deliver what you promise and promptly fix what goes wrong
This is an obvious starting point, but many firms lose sight of over time. Marketing that’s based on customer advocacy and influence must keep this central truth front and center. These frontline actions are what underlie any genuine enthusiasm from a client. You can’t enlist an advocate without the sound basis of a responsive relationship.
Help customers achieve their goals
The most important job of your business is to help your clients solve their problems aims. Aligning your customer strategy, content, and community management tactics with your clients is a surefire way to make your business indispensable.
The equation is simple. Satisfied customers are much more likely to advocate for your product, service or company.
Be consistent in building customer advocates
When a company has an active customer advocacy focus, customers are sharing ideas with each other. They are asking the business and its partners for advice. And they are responding honestly to communication from you.
This is fertile ground to recruit new members of your customer advocates. Keeping the pipeline full of their support is critical to building momentum.
To put it as simply as possible … create customer evangelists by caring about your customers and showing it with everything you do.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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