Consistency and a human connection are key to making sure your customers remain your best advocates.
Brand advocacy is powerful. When it comes to making decisions on how we spend our time and money, recommendations from friends and family members count. While word-of-mouth advertising is nothing new, the way in which we communicate opinions on brands and their products and services has changed dramatically. Since the emergence of the internet, and more recently social media, savvy marketers have been tracking and leveraging the freely-given thoughts, feelings and opinions of consumers.
Given there are now a vast number of digital touchpoints through which opinions are communicated, it’s worth taking a look at how businesses can best apportion resources to ensure they’re getting their slice of the brand advocacy pie.
Deliver on Brand Promise
Whether formally articulated or not, all brands make an implicit promise to customers. Put simply, this promise is a set of expectations a client or customer
has when entering into any form of commercial transaction. If these expectations are met, a client will regard the transaction as satisfactory. If their expectations are exceeded, chances are they’ll happily take on an advocacy role. If, however, their expectations are not met, the opposite may occur.
To ensure expectations are met, and preferably exceeded, it is important to first understand people’s expectations of your brand. Without this understanding it is possible that you will fail to deliver on them.
It is also important that your brand and the products and services it provides remain consistent and reliable. An obvious example here is McDonald’s, which has built a highly successful brand based on the perception that a customer can walk into any store across the globe and have a consistent experience– regardless of which country they are in.
Create remarkable Experiences
If you want advocates to let others know about your brand and the products and services you provide, you need to give them something to talk about. Excite them, surprise them and engage them. This is often achieved when your brand acts ‘human’. Too often, brands can be perceived as mechanical, robotic or formulaic. Creating a personal connection with potential advocates can be all it takes to shift a satisfactory experience into an exceptional one and convert a customer into an advocate.
Customer service is an obvious area to achieve this, but there are also other brand touchpoints. An example is social media platforms, where you can give your business a more human face. Respond to social media posts and follow up with customers who may have had a less than satisfactory experience. Chances are, you may be able to turn a negative into a positive.
Experience marketing, which is an activity that provides experiences that inspire, educate and, when done well, incite positive emotion, is currently enjoying some time in the sun. As well as encouraging advocacy, it is a strategy that enables businesses to form a more personal connection with customers. This can be valuable as these relationships give a deeper understanding of customers and their motivations and enable more targeted marketing campaigns in future.
While experience marketing is one of the fastest-growing marketing activities, its success depends on a consistent marketing approach to drive awareness and engagement.
In recent years, marketing efforts have also seen a marked shift toward customer experience (CX). Part of the reason for this is that creating a positive customer experience – one that delivers on your brand’s promise – is an effective way to turn customers into advocates. A key to understanding and thinking about CX is that it needs to encompass the entire experience a customer has with your business. When considering a CX strategy, it’s also important to design it in conjunction with your business objectives. According to research and analytics firm Forrester, a CX strategy is: “A plan that guides the activities and resource allocation required to deliver intended experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations in accordance with the goals of the organisation.”
To ensure expectations are met, and preferably exceeded, it is important to first understand people’s expectations of your brand.
Let People Advocate
While word of mouth is still a powerful way for people to advocate for your brand, there are now a vast number of digital touchpoints that can be leveraged to encourage advocacy. The most powerful of these is social media. These platforms have become so pervasive in everyday life, largely due
to their ability to instantly disseminate information to a global audience. Prior to social media there were few, if any, positive connotations with the term ‘viral’. Now, if something goes viral it can have massive, hopefully positive, implications for a brand.
When encouraging advocacy on social media, it is important to understand which platforms your customers are using and devote your time to these. There’s little point in spending precious time and resources on Pinterest if your customers are all on Instagram. Spending a small amount of time uncovering which social media platform your customers prefer may pay dividends for your business.
This article was first published in State of Play, Issue 6, 2019