Most companies depend on their marketing departments to be the voice of their business. This is achieved with strategies that focus on SEO, content marketing, email marketing, or social media.
These are all great if you’re looking to get your brand out there, but in today’s consumer era, where word of mouth is still the most popular method of recommendation, a lot of businesses forget about one very useful and very successful thing: customer advocacy.
So what is customer advocacy? What role does it play?
In this short guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know, from the overall benefits, to why we think customer advocacy is an essential tool for every business.
What is customer advocacy?
Customer advocacy is a state of marketing where customers are the spokespeople for your brand. It takes place when you have customers that love your brand so much that they are willing to sing your praises to everyone.
This is an excellent way for businesses to leverage their most passionate customers to increase brand awareness, sales, and your bottom line. Today, customer advocacy is becoming very popular due to today’s intensely competitive world and need for differentiation.
Customer advocates are more than just brand ambassadors or loyal customers. They are the lifeblood of your business. Unlike influencers, customer advocates are your everyday customers, who are much more relatable. Customer advocacy can be a game-changer for businesses.
But do all businesses need advocates? Keep on reading...
Why is customer advocacy important?
What’s the most important thing when building a great business? A good website? A great product? Whilst both of these things are important, it’s great customer relationships that are the bedrock of a business that can proudly market its reputation.
Indeed, Factory360 reported that 57% of small businesses say that having a relationship with their consumers is the primary driver of repeat business, and with 84% of consumers admitting they do not trust advertisements anymore, it’s becoming clear that people are now seeking third-party validation more than ever when making an online purchase.
McKinsey recently found that word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions; and 50% to 80% of word-of-mouth comes directly as a result of personal experience with a product or service.
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that customer communication and your business’ bottom line are very much linked, and that advocacy plays an increasingly pivotal role in influencing consumer behaviour, and therefore in increasing a business’ profitability.
But what happens when there is absolutely no focus on customer advocacy in a business’ strategy?
Believe it or not, research shows that customer advocacy can be instrumental in helping a company grow at an average rate of two and half times of their competition.
When 76% of individuals admit that they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands, it becomes clear that refusing to adopt customer advocacy can lead to a risk of stagnation. In fact, customer advocacy has been shown to increase marketing effectiveness by as much as 54%.
In a world where engaging with consumers takes more time than ever before, it’s getting harder for retailers to convert visitors into customers. The growing lack of trust means consumers are no longer interested in brands that try to sell hard. Today’s shoppers are looking for brands that put their customers first and create communities of brand advocates by rewarding loyalty. Companies that do not adopt it might find the struggle against the competition more and more difficult.
How to develop a customer advocacy strategy today
Connecting and having an emotional based relationship with customers is the key to loyalty and leveraging advocacy behaviour.
So how can a business connect with its audience and customers, starting from scratch?
It all starts with ‘the promise’. Your brand promise is a natural extension of your mission, your vision, your personality, and your values. It helps potential customers understand what to expect from your company: what products/services you offer, what values to stand for, how fast you deliver, how well you treat your customers, etc. Your brand promise is a powerful way to differentiate yourself from the competition, and to build meaningful connections with people. Your brand image and personality both need to be reinforced. People need to feel a strong connection with your business from the beginning, based only on what you tell them about your business. Think of Apple. Apple’s branding was never about competing with other products, it was always about escaping competition altogether.
Positioning your business differently will make a difference. But it doesn’t stop there. Every brand’s got to live up to its promise.
How? By exceeding customer expectations every time.
60% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now than they did just one year ago. Businesses who really care will know how to identify those expectations and meet them to the customer’s satisfaction.
This is how great companies beat the competition. Being average won’t get you anywhere. However, putting in the extra effort to meet and exceed customer expectations will help you create raving fans who purchase more often, and share their experience with others.
And that’s when understanding your customers comes in. Listening to customers is a secret weapon very few brands have. Observing what your customers are saying about your brand, your service, and their experience with you, is one of the best things you can do to turn your business into a customer-centric one. Matching customer feedback with your own data will help you get a clearer picture of the situation, what works, and what needs to be improved - and this is what will allow you to exceed expectations.
This truly makes a difference when it comes to turning customers into advocates, and helping your business stand out among its competitors.
A great brand leveraging customer advocacy is Fabletics. Their Instagram account is full of customers sharing photos of themselves in their sportswear. Their campaigns are always a huge success because they show potential customers how great the products are, both for exercise and casual use, and how much existing customers love and support the brand.
Customer advocacy is a never-ending process. It is the best way for brands to engage with their customers, reinforce brand loyalty, and acquire new customers thanks to word of mouth.
We’ll leave you with this quote from W. Edwards Deming:
“It will not suffice to have customers that are merely satisfied. An unhappy customer will switch. Unfortunately, a satisfied customer may also switch, on the theory that he could not lose much, and might gain. Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.”