Savvy brands understand that consumers trust other consumers more than marketing messaging. They also understand the value of word-of-mouth advertising and recommendations and have incorporated customer interaction into their marketing strategies. The most successful businesses find and nurture cheerleaders for their brands to turn customers into advocates, and for good reason. Creating relationships with brand advocates is vital. Not only will it promote your brand, but it will also have a higher lifetime value as a long-term customer. With that, here are a few simple ways to help you assemble your own cheer squad:
Monitor brand mentions.
Go out and find customers that are already posting about your brand and products. Social listening through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a good starting place to get a feel for the general sentiment regarding your brand. They are very accessible platforms that allow you to reach out and connect one-on-one with customers that love your products. Once connected, you can begin to work with these customers to infuse them within your own marketing efforts. This can include testimonials or leveraging their own social media following to spread the word about your products.
Facilitate advocacy where it counts.
While monitoring mentions of your brand and products through social media can be a great, it can also be time-consuming. And though valuable, this social content lives decentralized all over the web. This is why facilitating and displaying what your customers are saying through ratings and reviews directly on product pages is so impactful. Much like social media, it gives consumers a platform to rave about your products, but with the added benefit of being published right at the point of purchase. Having this authentic content right on your own e-commerce brand site or retail partner product pages increases its effectiveness. Some rating and review solutions are also highly automated, allowing you to collect and display content efficiently with little time commitment.
Stay authentic and embrace consumer criticism.
No one is perfect, and your business isn’t exempt. So, own any valid criticism consumers may offer up through social media or reviews versus trying to deflect or suppress it. Your social media microphone gives your brand an outlet to communicate your side of the story along with a route to remedy the situation, which other consumers will appreciate and respect. The same can also be done by responding to consumer reviews right at the point of purchase on retailer product pages. Besides, a little vulnerability can be a good thing—it will remind your customers and prospects that your business is run by humans just like them. Similarly, negative feedback can be a gold mine—when it’s treated as an opportunity rather than proof of failure. For example, a negative review can give you the chance to turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer, and you may even learn how to improve your products and services for the next release. Furthermore, prospects and customers are more likely to trust mixed product reviews—too many positive reviews can appear suspicious.
Harness customer creativity to bond with your brand.
Involve your brand advocates in ways that allow them to flex creative muscles and interact with your brand. Doritos has done a phenomenal job with this and their Crash the Super Bowl commercial contest. In 2015, it inspired almost 500 people from around the world to create and share their own commercial for the brand. (View the winning commercial for 2015 here.) This multi-year campaign incentivized thousands to become brand advocates. These types of creative advocacy campaigns come in all shapes and sizes. Brands from Starbucks to National Geographic have run hashtag campaigns on Instagram inviting consumers to upload handmade doodles on coffee cups to posting travel photos. This not only helps you as a brand stay connected with your customers, but also turns your customers into advocates in the process.
In a Nutshell
Whether it is to increase your brand awareness or use real customer reviews to sway shoppers at the point of purchase, having real customers evangelize your brand is powerful and cannot be underestimated. Their words and pictures ring louder and truer with shoppers than any marketing messaging. Find ways to give your customers a voice and you’ll be rewarded.