Advocating: Empowering Your Customers to Tell Your Story
The first three posts in our Small Business Growth Strategy series have focused on building your brand, identifying your target audience and acquiring customers. Hopefully you’ve been following along and have been able to successfully apply some of the ideas to your business – but our work here isn’t done yet. In this post, we’re going to discuss how to build customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
Small business leaders are often so focused on acquiring new customers that they overlook this important part of a successful business development strategy. Your current customers can be a huge contributor to the growth of your company – and it’s never too early to create a plan for building customer loyalty/brand advocacy.
Define & track
The first and most basic step is to make sure you know who your super customers are. Determining who these important customers are will depend a good bit on your type of business and the way your customers purchase your product or service. For example, if you offer a wide variety of products or have recurring or subscription opportunities for your customers, it’s pretty easy to define “regular customers” as customers who have made more than one purchase, and “super customers” as customers who consistently do a high volume of business with you. While there’s no exact formula, you should be sure to take into account the attributes that make customers valuable to you, such as purchase volume, product usage or activity, email open/clickrates, social media mentions of your brand, and referrals.
The key here is to make sure you’ve set up a sustainable way to define and track these variables and customer segments. The best way to do that is to utilize tags or custom fields in a CRM so that at any point you can search for and access the customers that meet these requirements and send targeted messages to customers at each stage.
Once you’ve created a plan for defining and tracking your customer types, you must create a plan for encouraging your customers to advocate for you.
Amazing customer service
You might not see customer service as a growth tactic, but you should. Brands that serve their customers well ensure retention and position themselves for brand advocacy. Take a minute right now and think about the most memorable customer service experiences you’ve had as a customer. Unfortunately, it’s likely that most of the experiences that come to mind are negative. Recognizing common customer service pitfalls can help make sure you don’t fall prey to them in your own business – which can yield a strong competitive advantage by ensuring your customers have a positive experience.
Consider the fact that 76% of shoppers in the U.S. view customer service as a “true test” of how much a brand values them (Aspect Software). If your customers don’t feel valued, you’ll be much less likely to retain their business – and acquiring new customers can cost you five times more than valuing and retaining current customers (Forrester Research). The more you treat your customers in a way that makes them feel valued, the more opportunities you’ll find for growth and brand advocacy.
Customer loyalty and advocacy programs
According to Zendesk, 54% of people would consider increasing their amount of business with a company for loyalty rewards. Incentivizing loyalty is a crucial part of the long-term growth of your company. Your target customer segments are a great place to start when determining how to build a customer loyalty program. What type of rewards might your customers be interested in? The more you can base your loyalty rewards on what your customer finds valuable, the more successful the program will be.
Another way to incentivize loyalty and brand advocacy is through “advocate marketing.” According to Influitive, one of the many solutions built to support this type of program, “advocate marketers manage a company’s happiest customers and motivate them to help the company achieve business objectives, such as revenue growth and greater brand awareness.” Consider investing in an advocate marketing software program or in a team member who is primarily focused on caring for your super customers and providing them with resources to help grow your brand.
31% of consumers are willing to recommend providers and brands to others (Accenture), but many companies miss out on referrals simply because they don’t ask for them. There are plenty of ways to ask for referrals, but the most simple way to do this is to include the ask in a customer satisfaction survey.
Create a survey with questions that will help you improve your customer service and determine who you super customers are. Don’t make the survey too long – it should take less than 5 minutes to complete. At the end, ask your customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend. Form builders like Typeform allow you to create “logic jumps” based on your customer’s answers to questions like this. If your customer answers that they are unlikely to recommend your company, jump to a question about why, or to a place where they can give more information – and include an ask for their contact info to reach out the them to make it right. For the customers that are likely to recommend you, give them an opportunity to do so, such as a discount or free trial they can pass along to people they refer to you. You can also give them the opportunity to write a testimonial or post about your brand on social media, right from the form.
There is no lack of ways to engage your super customers to grow your brand, you simply must make it a priority. Just like in the other stages of your small business growth strategy – if you focus on finding ways to add value, deeply understanding your customer and being authentic in your engagement with others, you are likely to achieve great results in business growth.