As marketers in industries such as CPG, one of our main goals is often turning casual consumers into repeat buyers. There are a few ways we can do that through methods such as influencer marketing, consumer education, sales...but one of the most important and best ways to grow brand loyalists is to take your consumers on a path from people who simply buy your product, to people who advocate and live with your product. Simply put, brand advocates will do more for you then your own marketing ever will.
Having worked in the CPG industry from the beginning of my career 15 years ago, and learning from amazing companies I have had the fortunate opportunities to be a part of, I work hard FOR my brand advocates. What may surprise many people, is I do this strictly organically. I have worked with some of the best, brightest and biggest brand champions and have never once paid them.
Any company can "pay to play" or throw money at people to talk about their product. How effective is that, though, really? I'm a firm believer that the more honest and trustworthy people are, the more we will listen to what they say. No-brainer, right? People trust friend's reviews and recommendations more than they trust brand's recommendations, as we know, so the more unbiased peer advice is, the better. So to me, it would only follow that my consumers will trust my brand advocates more if they know they're not paid to talk about my product, and are doing so because it truly fills a consumers need, to enhance their lives.
It is definitely the harder route, developing brand advocates based on emotions and relationship building, as opposed to giving them money to do things you ask of them. However, it leads to more fully engaged people talking about, using and purchasing your brand, and I'd argue it is much more of a long-term strategy. I also will often see companies, SMMs and brands using the terms "Brand Advocates" and "Brand Influencers" interchangeably, when they are quite different. It is not unusual to not pay Brand Advocates. That is part of the misconception.
Brand Advocates willingly share your brand with others via WOM, social media, etc because they truly enjoy and get something out of your brand. They are motivated not by cash from the brand, but the ability to be looked at as thought leaders within their own networks, as they continually recommend things to their communities that people also get something out of. They thrive on helping the people in the groups they keep themselves in and getting recognition from brands for doing so.
Once you have identified who your most loyal consumers are, you can begin to join them along a path towards Brand Advocacy.
Here are a few ways that have worked for me, to transform casual consumers into powerful brand advocates.
Focus on What's in it For Them, not What's in it For Me? You've got a product or service that you stand behind and one that has been designed to fill a need in consumers lives. What more are they looking for? Recognition from the brand? Doing product reviews on their sites that you bring to your community, offering your advocates a larger reach and more eyeballs on THEIR products as well as yours? As in any other relationship you are growing, you want it to be beneficial for both parties.
Be Grateful. Without people purchasing your products/services, you have no brand/company. Without your brand advocates, you don't have credible help growing your sales, sharing your offering to a larger audience or bringing more people to you. I don't see a way not to feel grateful for these people! Let them not just see yu saying thank you, but you want to ensure you are making them FEEL thanked and that you are happy to be working with them. I'd advise having a tracking procedure in place prior to beginning to work with your advocates so you can keep track of what each of them are doing with you, and how you plan to keep them happy and continue to build on what you've started with them.
Give Them An "Inside View." Your advocates are great people to give first looks of new products or campaigns to. Allow them to feel the exclusivity of being the first ones with knowledge or sneak peeks into your content. Let THEM do the sharing of this new information, rather than you as the brand.
Share Your Passion. The more your passion is for your brand is communicated to your consumers, the more they can get excited and inspired by you and begin to feel that passion for themselves. How do you create an emotional connection with complete strangers and your brand? Share your brand stories, the stories of your employees and encourage your consumers to share theirs with you.
Offer Incentives. Besides getting inside knowledge, I like to seed my advocates with product. They already are purchasing and love your product, why not ensure they always have a stash available to them? Through the building of relationships, networking and sheer time I've been involved in the industry, I am also able to offer my advocates access to things they, on their own, might not have access to - backstage passes, tickets, unique experiences....people will always remember how you make them feel, I try to always make people feel appreciated.
Marketing is no longer a one-size fits all approach, nor is it done by sending out messages to the masses. It is built one personalization, creating an emotional experience between consumers and your brand, and via the building of honest, true, long-term relationships. Your investment into your brand advocates translates directly to their investment with your brand.
I'd love to hear what has worked for YOU and YOUR brand! Tweet me @lucyrk78 and share your tips with me?