Everyone has customers, or they wouldn’t have a business. But not every customer you have is ready and willing to sing your praises. Yet you need as many of these customers as possible to do just that. So how can you turn a customer into a brand advocate?
Give Them a Voice
Maybe that sounds a bit obvious, because to be a brand advocate they kind of have to be saying things, but you need to do more than simply let them talk about your brand on their own personal social networks. A Brand Advocate does more than let others know how great your product/service is. Brand Advocates can also provide keen insights and suggestions to improve those products and services.
Here are four ways to encourage your customers to not only talk positively about you, but also offer you valuable information to do better.
#1: Build a Branded Community
A branded community is a great way to bring all your customers together to engage with not only you, but other customers. People can share opinions, give advice, discuss issues and more with each other. You, as the owner of the community should be doing several things: listening to what is being said, responding and engaging appropriately (and we aren’t talking marketing speak here) and rewarding those who are most active and provide useful information for others. Done right, a branded community will encourage customers to go outside of the community and continue to say good things about you across their social networks.
#2: Listen, Learn, Reward
Customers want to be heard, and not only that, they want to know that youactually listened to them. To go along with that, if you actually take the time to ask them things, you better be doing something with the information you receive. If you don’t, you are not going to earn brand advocates, you are going to earn a garbage can load of Oscar the Grouches.
Before the Internet truly took off, Word of Mouth (WOM) meant that people actually sat in a room, or on the phone, and talked to each other. With the Internet and the huge popularity of social networks and blogs, WOM has taken on new meaning. Your Customers have so many more avenues to talk about you, and your product/service — which means you have so many more avenues to
talk back (helping, sharing information, responding to issues, etc..).
The more you engage with your customers and add value, and support forums to allow them to have their say, the more they will appreciate you and recommend you to others.
And don’t forget to reward those who work the hardest to help others, these are the best brand advocates you can have.
#3: Watch and Learn, Make Changes
You may think this is the same as the previous point, but it’s a little different. There are many ways you can turn a customer into a brand advocate without them having to actually say anything.
If you enable social capabilities on your corporate website or online product documentation site like commenting, voting, sharing, then you have the ability to learn what information people are reading and finding valuable. This allows you to offer more of the same important content and fix content that you may see as key, but isn’t hitting the right spot with your customers. This in turn encourages customers to read more and respond favorably to information via social tools.
It also gives you keen insight in what things customers might want you to add to your product/service, allowing you to enhance your offerings to suit what the customers want.
While these approaches don’t openly encourage brand advocates, they do offer a great way to ensure you are giving people what they want and ensuring they let others know you do that.
#4: Turn Oscar into Big Bird
Maria Ogneva said it and it’s true, “your brand critics are closer to brand advocacy than you think.” The brand hater (Oscar the Grouch as I like to call him), isn’t really a bad person, he just has issues with your product or service and he wants you to know it and help fix it. So he’s going to tell everyone everywhere about his beef.
Your job is to not ignore him (because he is only one voice right? Wrong.), but to work with him to respond to his issues, help him resolve his problems (if you can) and then as a natural evolution, turn him into a Brand Advocate (or the loving yellow featured, helpful Big Bird).
Obviously you can’t help every person with every problem personally, hence the importance of customer communities. But you can help some and if you do manage to resolve all his problems and retain him as a customer, there’s a good chance he will equally praise you to everyone everywhere. So don’t think a negative comment means someone who doesn’t care — it’s actually just the opposite, and an opportunity for you.