Brand advocates aren’t just satisfied customers, they are satisfied customers who talk about your products or services, or your business itself, in such a way that the people they talk to turn into actual customers as a result of buzz and word of mouth marketing.
In fact, brand advocates can be so persuasive that they don’t just reach out and influence their own friends to try your business, but even their friends pass on the good they have heard about your business or its products and services without even trying them first, as a result of the strength of conviction and specificity with which your brand advocates recommend your business to them. This kind of advocacy won’t come as the result of one good customer experience, and it certainly won’t happen by accident.
Brand advocates who will speak to friends and family with this level of conviction will only become passionate fans of your business if you (or a staff member) first demonstrate extraordinary interest in or concern or care for them.
It’s important to point out that this type of extra-ordinary customer service doesn’t occur within the confines of meeting your customer’s expectations. Many business owners readily assert that their business delivers exceptional customer service (or extraordinary customer service) when in fact, they are doing no more than meeting customer’s basic expectations.
Customers expect you to fulfill your end of any transactional interaction (i.e., they are buying a product or service from your business) cheerfully, on time, completely, perfectly, with anticipated results, etc., every time. Doing so is not extraordinary, it’s simply fulfilling the bargain on your end.
So how do you cultivate brand advocates, missionaries who are willing to go out and share the “good news” about your business or about you, as a professional, with their friends, families, co-workers and even total strangers?
How do you inspire people to actually write rave reviews and give 5-star ratings to you and your staff on sites like Yelp and CitySearch, local online news sites or which you can use on your own website or in your own marketing collateral?
1a) You must meet their needs or solve problems for them in extra-ordinary ways. Your actions or efforts must be outside of what they view as simply fulfilling your end of the buy-sell bargain.
1b) The problems you solve or needs you meet must be extra-ordinarily important to them; and, ideally, not readily obtainable elsewhere. If you have to go outside of customer expectations to provide something your customers can easily obtain elsewhere, they might be appreciative but they might also believe that you should have been able to do so more easily. Likewise, if you fall all over yourself to provide something a customer requested but doesn’t actually value significantly, you may be investing extraordinary efforts in the wrong directions.
Though they may be the most obvious areas, the realm of products and services isn’t the only area where you have the opportunity to gain brand advocates. Customer loyalty and word of mouth marketing can also be stimulated when you:
2) Demonstrate extra-ordinary concern or commitment to a cause close to your customer’s passions or interests. This could be a charity or cause (like curing cancer, caring for the homeless, fighting domestic violence, etc.), investing in important civic projects or donating money (a portion of proceeds from sales or events) to or investing time directly in their kid’s schools.
3) Become extra-ordinarily engaging. 365 Days of Marketing was written specifically to give business owners the means to become extraordinary. One of the ways that it does so is by providing you with hundreds of ways to engage, intrigue and interest your customers. You can turn your social media sites or your store’s entry way or point of sale into points of engagement, interest and entertainment for your customers. You can be present within their lives beyond the products and services that you sell, and so become a point of conversation and buzz marketing between your customers and their co-workers, friends and family members.
Ultimately, to build an army of brand advocates requires that you find a way to become an irreplaceable resource for your customers and prospects, whether that occurs in store in how you provide products or services or online, on your web store or customer education and engagement platforms. This occurs only when you go beyond or outside of customer expectations in the course of operating your business, and in ways that are truly important to your customers, themselves.