Being a marketer is tough.
There are whole industries designed to ignore you. You strategically run a commercial during the finale of a widely popular show - only to have your audience DVR it. You run a radio spot during rush hour, hoping to catch people during their commute, but they change the station. Even your digital ads are turned away by ad blocking software.
It seems impossibly difficult to capture the attention of your audience these days.
But have you ever noticed that when you talk about a restaurant you recently visited, everyone around the office is all ears? Or that when your friend upgrades his/her phone, you want to know all about the new features and unique capabilities?
This is the world we live in today. And in this world, trust is more important than ever.
The bad news is that people don't trust what your brand has to say about itself. Less than half of consumers worldwide (47%) say they trust television, magazine, and newspaper ads - almost a 25% drop from 2009. And in the US, trust is even harder to come by... only 25% of US consumers say they trust ads. Sounds pretty depressing, right? It is. But there is hope for marketers, because while people don't trust your ads, they do trust recommendations from others.
In fact, 90% of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from their friends and family, and 70% of consumers trust online reviews. This means that an Amazon write-up about your product will influence a potential customer way more than the billboard ad you just ran.
Marketers need to rethink marketing.
It's time to leverage the power of consumers and amplify the voice of brand ambassadors.
It's time to create a customer advocacy program.
Creating an advocacy program is one of best things a brand can do to start building meaningful relationships, engage their most loyal customers, and empower organic word-of-mouth both online and offline.
Here are seven things you'll need to keep in mind as you start building out your program.
1. A defined objective... do you want buzz or love?
Don't confuse exposure with advocacy. So before you do anything, define your ultimate goal - is it short-term buzz or everlasting brand love? Creating a sustainable network of advocates - customers who support your brand and will talk about it to their friends - will take more time to build, but will guarantee long-term commitment.
2. A VIP list of advocates
A smart brand puts a heavy emphasis on recruiting passionate and dedicated advocates. If you don't invite the right people into your network, you won't achieve the right results. So be very selective about those you invite.
3. Long-term engagement
When you think about how to get your loyal communities talking, be creative. Make sure you choose technology that offers a number of exciting ways to keep your advocates engaged and interested. Allow the members of your network to connect with you, as well as with each other.
4. An open feedback loop
Comments, complaints, and suggestions actually make a difference in the company's products and services, so take them to heart. In doing so customers will feel more involved and appreciated.
5. Exclusive Perks
It is extremely exciting for your advocates to be first in line for information about your new products, access to your events, and sneak peeks behind the scenes. It reminds them that they were specially chosen to be part of an exclusive group and makes them feel even more connected.
Once you've created a community of customer advocates and engaged with them, why not extend the goodness and the impact of the program beyond just a simple social share? Consider amplifying your amazing community members by displaying their conversations and content proudly across your digital properties. You can even use their endorsements in place of traditional ads.
No matter what platform you choose to build your advocacy network on, make sure that you have a solid set of metrics to track the effectiveness and impact of your campaigns.
The most important thing to remember for a successful customer advocacy program is that you are in it for the long haul. You need to plan ahead to keep members engaged and interested - don't be afraid to go the extra mile to build strong relationships with them and show them that you truly care. And when the time comes and you need their support, they will be there to have your back, every single time.
If you are looking for more tips and insights about building the customer advocacy strategy, I discuss the topic in more details in this e-book.