3 Reasons to Let Customers Tell Your Brand Story
Pop quiz - What do the below headlines have in common?
"I Tried THINX Period Panties - a Play by Play Review" shethinks.com
"Why I Quit Using Pink Razors & Joined a Men's Shave Club" dollarshaveclub.com
"My newfound love - organic tampons! LOLA" mylola.com
Answer: They're all written by real customers advocating a brand they love.
So, why is this important? Because, while traditional marketing and advertising tactics are still an important part of building brand awareness, letting your customers promote your brand or product for you can have a fantastic impact on your reputation and your sales revenue.
These customer advocates are different than brand influencers. Unlike influencers, who already have an established presence on social media and can leverage their large followings (through a partnership) to help promote your brand, customer advocates are your everyday customers - who just happen to love what you're selling.
Building real relationships with your real customers can be one of the best tactics for expanding and growing your brand into an unstoppable force.
The companies I mentioned above do this really well - two of them have actually taken this "customers matter" approach even further by creating URLs for their sites that evoke the customer possessive: "she" thinks (shethinx.com); "my" lola (mylola.com).
Here are three great reasons to create a customer advocate program:
1. It adds a stamp of authenticity to your brand
When you Google a product or brand, the first few things you'll likely see in search results are company-owned websites and social channels - and then probably lots of review sites and customer forums/discussions that are not sponsored or owned by the company.
You can have all the great taglines and inspiring ad creative in the world, but if your customers are saying bad things about you online, that's very often the deciding factor for someone considering whether or not to buy what you're selling.
This is an important shift in how people shop, and it's something all good marketers should be aware of and address.
Focusing on building positive reviews and customer success stories is key in promoting a positive online reputation - and it's your real customers who have the potential to be some of your biggest brand ambassadors. Their stamp of approval can mean a lot more than your self-proclaimed awesomeness.
2. It promotes customer retention and referrals
By engaging with your happy customers to co-promote their stories online, you're working towards building trusted, long-term relationships with them, thus leading to better retention. And by making them feel special and appreciated, you're also creating an environment where they feel empowered to indirectly market for you.
Social media enables them to spread the word faster and further, so encouraging your happy customers to leverage their stories on their own channels is a great way to get the word out in an authentic and meaningful way.
3. It's an inexpensive and effective way to drive new business
You'd be surprised by what happy customers are willing to do without being paid or by just receiving a thank you and/or a nice little gift.
You can start by soliciting testimonials from happy customers, offering only your gratitude in return, then from there, hone in on your favorites and reach out to these customers personally to talk about how you can work together to promote and share their stories. This personal touch to your customer relationship will make them feel appreciated and more likely to want to sing your praises to the world.
But before you start hitting up your customers for quotes and stories, it's vital to sit down and brainstorm the best approach for your unique target market. Building a customer advocate program should be a strategic endeavor.
A couple of great resources to start are Forbes' article with some initial steps on how to create a customer advocacy program and HootSuite's out-of-the-box ideas for building out your customer advocate program.
Customer advocates are just one slice of the marketing pie, but they can help your brand grow in a significant way when utilized well.
As business author Michael LeBeouf says:
"A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all."
Indeed, happy customers are the ultimate gateway to more customers, which is what every business wants.
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