Leverage the Power of Influential Customers

“It is important to think of every customer as an online celebrity with followers, friends and above all, influence.” – Dave Kerpen

While promotional campaigns, marketing activities and multi-channel communication work to help a company gain visibility and attract attention, the power of influential customers has an equally critical role to play. So, what do we mean by influential customers? Many well-connected customers have a large network and therefore are influential customers. It is highly beneficial to a company to increase the number of such customers in their customer base and leverage the power of influential customers by providing stellar customer service and high quality products. The more such customers are pleased with the company’s offerings, the higher their chances of advocating it to their large circle of associates, friends and business acquaintances. As a company’s reputation rises, so will their sales and profits and by continually leveraging the power of influential customers, their success would be long term and sustainable.

A survey reveals that influential customers have been able to generate billions as sales income and the estimate was $20 billion for 2014 and projected about $30 billion for 2015. Influential customers can therefore contribute from 20 to 50 percentage of a company’s total income. These are astounding numbers and the great part is that gaining this kind of revenue is in the company’s control by – forging strong relationships, providing consistently high levels of service, ensuring best and customized products and highly competitive pricing. Satisfied customers are also influential customers and they have the power to build a company’s business and increase their visibility. Investing in CRM software is also highly effective in gaining and retaining influential customers and is a potent method of attracting more customers, which in turn leads to high sales and profitability.

It is a well-known fact in business, that potential customers are more likely to believe existing customers of a company rather than the best advertisements and campaigns. Leveraging the power of influential customers is a lot more beneficial, sustainable and long lasting method. The new customers that your influential customers are able to attract enter the ‘relationship’ with an already positive impression of the company. Conversely, influential customers when displeased can have an extremely damning effect on a company, as a single negative comment would be considered true, just as quickly as a ‘good word’. Without using and leveraging the power of their influential customers, companies could potentially be ruining their chances of even surviving.

As companies understand the criticality of ‘joining forces’ with their customers to drive business and build a formidable reputation in the market, they are more likely to give customers what they want, thereby gaining more influential customers. Such companies appeal to a wide cross-section of customers both domestic and global, each with their own influence and power. With so much ‘power’, companies and their brands cannot but be successful as their influential customers stand by them and other customers become more influential with time. In order to strengthen, the relationship with such customers, companies must share their values and display behaviours that appeal to these customers – CSR activities for example. As customers come to trust your company, they become even more influential by sharing their great experiences with your company and turn to the highly potent and visible platforms of social media to do so.

Influential customers and all customers now have even more control on companies and they are not shy to use this control to make or destroy a company. As mentioned, even a company’s average customers can wield enough power – enough to make them influential customers by sharing their experiences online. Research reveals that even a small company with not as many customers, has the potential to gain a large number of customers, simply by customer advocacy.

Influential customers, as mentioned, have a far wider reach and greater convincing power but even customers with smaller networks have the potential to be positive influencers for your company. It is great business sense to make customer segmentation and approach each segment individually thereby making all you do for a particular segment seems customized.

Just like with all customers, companies must be thoroughly aware of who their influential customers are, how to engage them and who the potential influential customers are. Of course, Customer Relationship Management software and other technology are hugely helpful in gathering, collating, analysing and using this data to understand their buying preferences and predict behaviour. Statistics reveal that companies that use technology to gather and analyse such customer data, are able to gain at least 23 times more customers than those companies that do not.

Once a company is able to segment their customers based on influence, the marketing and social media strategies would be more focused and therefore effective. The good news is that with so many different communication channels companies are able to reach out more customers with less effort and time. Using the right tools, channels and content, companies can engage their influential customers for their benefit and turn their regular customers to influential ones. With time, a company gains the much required visibility and enhanced reputation that are so vital for growth and profits.

All customers need to feel important and valued, and a company that is vying for the attention of their most influential customers it makes sense to ‘pamper’ them. Remembering important occasions, thanking them publicly, providing special discounts and gifts, holding a special event to honour them and other such methods, are great ways to ensure that your influential customers use their control to enhance your business.  The more your influential customers speak well of your company there will be a noticeable and significant increase in the company’s bottom line – high returns on relatively small investments. The fact is that when such influential customers are associated with a company, it becomes a matter of pride and social prestige not just for the company but all those that work with them – employees, investors and other stakeholders.

In the current business scenario, any customer has a hold on and can prove to be highly influential for any company. The kind of customer service and other offerings they receive from a company will determine the use of their influence to help companies forge ahead. The online world is proving to be the most effective vehicle for any company when trying to publicize their strengths and leverage the power of their influential customers. However, incompetence or poor service can have the opposite effect – customers can use their influence and visibility just as easily to write negative comments and describe their poor experiences with thousands of people at once – some of whom may have been potential customers. Studies reveal that while customers may not be as enthusiastic to share ‘good news’, they are quick to share incidents that reflect poorly on the company, making the task of companies that much harder.

As customers learn to take and lend support to their ‘own kind’, companies do not have a choice but to step up the level of their customer service and the quality of their products in order to gain favour with their influential customers and encourage other customers to use their influence too.

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