Best Strategies for Creating Customer Advocates

“No longer can you passively market products and services to any anonymous customer base. With the rise of influence marketing, your customer is marketing.” – Reuven Chohen

In the business world today it would be hard for any company to remain competitive if it does not have the support of its customers. The most important ‘person’ for a company today, and even the one who would help the company to sell more, is the customer. A happy and loyal customer base can be a company’s most potent selling and promotional ‘tool’, and hence it would make sense for a company to put in place robust strategies for creating customer advocates. The more such customer advocates, the better a company’s chances of gaining higher profits and achieving sustainable success. Research shows that prospective and other current customers of a company want to learn increasingly more about companies and their offerings, and tend to believe their peers, associates, and the existing users of a company’s products.

Since creating customer advocates seems to be the most effective method of selling more, and becoming an influential brand, companies are becoming more creative and active in highlighting their happy customers before others. Companies have begun to ask existing happy customers for referrals, write blogs, be part of online ‘discussion forums and communities’, be part of promotional events, speak about the company at networking events, and other such forms of advocacy for the company and its offerings. It takes a lot of effort and time for customers to be part of any of the activities mentioned, and they would do it only for companies that would have made the effort of creating customer advocates, through a number of strategies.

Each prospective buyer would want to make sound and intelligent buying decisions. Even though research of companies and their offerings may begin online, the actual buying does not happen until these prospective buyers gain confirmation and confidence from those they trust, which would include reviews from existing customers of the company. Listening to the comments of existing users provides social proof and creates a level of trust for the company in the mind of prospective users. It would therefore, be prudent for a company to ensure that it consistently creates conditions and situations for creating customer advocates, who would speak highly of its offerings, and work together with the company to ensure its success and market reputation.

How efficient and effective is your company in creating customer advocates? Has your company been able to identify ‘potential’ customer advocates from amongst its customer base? Market leaders say that the first step would be to monitor customer behaviour with regard to your company, and identify those customers who may already be extremely happy with your company, share positive comments, and support your company by encouraging others to form an association with it. Market experts further suggest that a company must create segments for their existing customer advocates by focusing on certain behaviours and patterns of these customers. Broadly, they would be customers who actively promote a company via social media, promote your company’s products with the aim of solving problems / helping others, and those that enthusiastically provide positive testimonials to a company’s prospective customers. By identifying these customer advocates, a company would be able to use them more effectively to create hype, awareness, and enthusiasm for itself and its offerings.

In business, it is imperative to monitor every strategy and process. Similarly, once a company would have identified the customer advocates, it would be necessary to encourage them by investing in them. To encourage existing customer advocates, it would be necessary to give them a lot of positive attention, create ways to enable them to interact easily with the company, provide them with incentives, ensure that they receive the best customer service, and other such means to reinforce their positive behaviour towards the company.

For creating customer advocates, it would be prudent to assume that top class customer service would help. Service excellence would include delivering on promises, and swiftly and efficiently making amends for lapses and errors. Doing this consistently builds trust, and customers that are able to trust a company would interact more, buy more, and over time become enthusiastic customer advocates. Before expecting customers to provide referrals and testimonials, it would be necessary for a company to give customers solid reasons and a foundation of prompt service and a robust relationship.

Creating customer advocates is not easy, and only companies focused on understanding their customers, and willing to do whatever it takes to resolve their problems, would be able to succeed in doing so. Customers want to know that a company is interested in them, and is focused on knowing and resolving their problems. With so many channels of communication and platforms through which customer data is available, it would seem relatively easy for a company to know its customers – both existing and prospective. When a company does receive positive comments, it would be necessary to highlight them, and work towards connecting like-minded customers, such that they can help each other through an exchange of ideas, and be a stronger force for advocating the cause of the company.

In creating customer advocates, it is necessary for a company to remember that before expecting customers to help ‘sell’ your company’s offerings, it would be necessary for the company to provide them with attention and make them feel important. This could be achieved by highlighting their achievements on the company’s website and or social media sites, providing them with relevant and free industry information, remembering and acknowledging their special occasions, and other such ‘feel good’ actions.

Cross-referrals also work great in creating customer advocates. This means, referring people and other customers to use the products or services from the company of their customer advocates. Creating customers for your company’s customer advocates, is a great way to keep them interested and eager to speak well of your company. Doing so brings more business opportunities to them and the company, which in turn bodes well for both. In addition, inviting the company’s customer advocates to attend networking events, or to speak at industry events, attend media interviews, and publish their articles / whitepapers / blogs on places of high visibility – are just some ways to create and retain customer advocates.

Creating customer advocates is not enough – a company must endeavour to build relationships with them consistently. Some of the strategies have been mentioned – but we are certain that depending on a company and its customers, there would be several other strategies possible to leverage the strength of customer advocates. Whatever the effort and resources required for creating customer advocates, the investment would be worth it. The company would see benefits such as accelerated growth, a growing belief in its products, higher market share and reputation, and sustainable success. When customers associate with a company, they do so because they would perceive some obvious benefits, and it is the responsibility of a company to prove them right, and go beyond their expectations. Customers are more than willing to help a company succeed – it would translate to making their lives easier, and spell success for their business too. Creating customer advocates is not only about getting customers to buy the company’s offerings, it is about ensuring that they help the company ‘sell’ to a wider market and varied customer segments. How successful has your company been in creating customer advocates?

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