Turning Loyal Customers into Brand Advocates

The typical marketing funnel looks like this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Intent
  5. Purchase

There are several different variations, depending on where you’re looking or who you’re asking. But this will do for the purposes of this post.

In the past decade or so, many have added an additional step after purchase: Loyalty. It is now marketing’s job to turn first-time buyers into loyal customers.

And that makes sense. We have the tools to do it. We know that it’s much less expensive to sell to existing customers than to acquire a new one.

But let’s go one step further. I’m here to argue that creating a loyal customer is not the end of the line for marketers. It is also our job to turn loyal customers into brand advocates.

The new marketing funnel looks like this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Intent
  5. Purchase
  6. Loyalty
  7. Advocacy

The advocacy stage is just as important as the others, because it helps to push people into and down through the top levels of the funnel. When your customers tell their friends and spread the word for you, they’re providing free marketing. And often, that word of mouth marketing is more effective than anything your brand can do, because people trust other customers more than they trust companies.

So how do you turn loyal customers into advocates?

The easiest way is to give them the tools and incentives they need. Refer a friend programs fit this stage perfectly. When they’re done well, they are regularly promoted at the right times to the right customers. They provide people with easy ways of telling their friends and reward them for spreading the word.

You can build advocacy into the product itself, letting customers push messages to their social networks as they use it. You can encourage product reviews on platforms like Amazon and Yelp, which tend to drive business to companies with better reviews than competitors.

The key is timing. Not every customer will be an advocate. That’s why loyalty comes first. Once you have a loyal customer, you have a ripe target for advocacy.

Market To Mondays – Part 4

Welcome to the latest edition of our new weekly blog series, Market To Mondays. Each week, we will introduce you to a new group of people you should market to. We’ll tell you who they are, why you should market to them, and how you might get started.

Last week’s group was Social Media Followers.

Today’s Group = Friends of Followers

Last week we discussed why and how to market to your company’s followers and fans on social media. Today, we take it one level further.

Because social media is, for lack of a better term, social, there are entire groups of people just beyond your reach as a brand.

The social circles of your followers don’t necessarily follow you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t market to them. In fact, I’m here today to tell you that you can, and you should.

Why should you? The two main reasons are simple. First and quite simply, you are able to. Second, people usually surround themselves with people similar to them in age, location, and interests.

That second point is important. It says that if your followers are customers or potential customers, than their friends are also potential customers. Not in all cases, but in many. So to ignore their friends would be to ignore an entire audience you might easily connect with.

But how?

The how in this case varies by social media platform. The first and most direct way to advertise to the friends of your followers is by using Facebook’s ads platform. The brilliant people at Facebook have made this simple by adding a “Friends of Followers” setting on every ad when selecting your targeting options.

Beyond that, you can target the friends of your followers across all networks in three distinct ways. The first is by sharing content that itself is share-worthy. Content that engages your followers is more likely to be shared by your followers, thereby providing a direct link (almost a referral) from your brand to your follower’s friends.

Second, you can host a social media contest that incentivizes sharing. Contests with a social component that reward entrants for number of votes or likes actually encourage sharing. Entrants need an army of friends to help them win the contest, and so they are likely to tell everyone they know about the contest, and indirectly, your brand.

And finally, you can launch a social referral program designed to turn your followers and customers into brand advocates, actively marketing your brand to their friends and followers. By rewarding them with special offers or discounts, you incentivize them to act on your behalf as an army of marketers.

Let the followers of your followers become your followers, and you can grow your market at the speed of light.

What group should we cover next? Now accepting submissions for audiences that we will cover in an upcoming “Market To Mondays” post. Submit your ideas via our contact page or in the comments section below.

6 Ways to Get More Referrals

Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing for any business. When customers talk about you, recommend you, inspire others to try out your company’s products or services, you win. You don’t need to advertise as much, and the advertising you do will often be more effective.

But referrals don’t just come naturally. You work for them.

Here are six ways marketers can aim to get more referrals:

  1. Better products. As marketers, it is our job to ensure that what we are selling is what the market wants and needs. By designing quality products that address the customers’ key pain points, we can ensure that we satisfy those needs. That way, they will be more likely to refer friends with similar needs to our brand.
  2. Better customer service. Nothing can kill a customer’s experience more than poor customer service. It’s important for marketers to make sure customer service is a top priority. Customer service agents should be encouraged to go above and beyond protocol to make customers happy and exceed their expectations. A great customer service experience can make up for a less than great product. We have become so accustomed to poor service than when we receive extraordinary service, we talk about it.
  3. Referral incentives. Nothing encourages referrals like an incentive. You can offer cash or discounts, more features on the product, or higher standing in a community, depending on what you’re offering. Companies like Dropbox and ING use growth hacking programs to get customers to market their services for them, and you can too. Think about how you can build referral incentives into your user experience.
  4. Customer loyalty and membership programs. Happy customers don’t necessarily refer others. But when you engage those customers, they become more likely to act as brand advocates. Creating loyalty programs or memberships allows you to follow up with your customers regularly, getting their input, giving them special offers, and clueing them into where you’re going and what’s new. The more you talk to them, the more likely they’ll be talking about you.
  5. Social media interaction. There is no surer way to keep social media chatter about your company quiet than not actively participating yourself. When your company has a presence on social media, and you interact with those people talking about your brand, you encourage even more activity.
  6. Ratings and reviews. Consumers read online reviews when they are considering what brand or product to buy. You can encourage reviews on sites like Yelp and others that list your business. And you can feature reviews on your own site as well. This allows customers to hear it from other people like them, and not just take your marketing message at face value. Those reviews can act as referral sources if you get enough of them.

Free Marketing Ideas Part 7 – Develop a Referral Program

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Welcome to the latest edition of my new weekly blog series, “Free Marketing Ideas”. Each week I will identify and explain a simple marketing idea that you can employ at low or no cost. Last week’s topic was Start Producing Videos.

This Week’s Topic = Develop a Referral Program

The best form of free marketing is when your customers voluntarily tell other people how incredible your company is. It’s this word of mouth marketing that every company seeks. It’s efficient and effective, and for the very best companies, it happens organically.

But there are things you can do to encourage this type of chatter. And one way you can incentivize people to tell their friends and family about you is to develop an easy to use referral program.

The best referral program I’ve ever seen in terms of ease and effectiveness was ING Direct. They aggressively marketed a referral program to existing customers, promising $25 for every person you referred who signed up for a savings account. In addition, the person who you referred would get $50. That money was deposited directly into your account. And that was that.

A good referral program does two things. First, it makes an offer. Both the referrer and the referred get something for participating. Two, it makes referrals easy. The act of referring and the action that the referred need to take are simple and intuitive.

There are companies that offer out of the box referral program solutions for a fee, but you can have someone with basic programming knowledge set one up for you at a minimal cost. You probably already have someone on staff that can do the work.

And once the program is set up, it should run itself. You can market it to current and former customers. And you can direct people to it from (even integrate it with) your social communities. So it all comes together!

Share your thoughts on this idea, and other free marketing ideas in the comments section below and keep the conversation going!


Marketing to your Customers: Referrals

This is the third of a three part series entitled “Marketing to your Customers”. The theory here is a very basic one, selling to existing customers is far easier, and cheaper, than finding new ones. So in order to be successful, it’s vital that you master the basic skills of marketing to existing customers. And those skills are different in many ways than the ones required to market to non-customers.

Part two of the series gave us tips on how to use recurring sales opportunities to make more money.

The third part of this series is the simplest to understand, but probably the least thought-about of the three topics. Assuming you can’t increase the value of each sale, and you can’t expect customers to come back and purchase from you any more than they currently are, there is a third way to make each customer more valuable to you and help growth. Get more word of mouth referrals from them.

If each customer, on average, refers one other person who makes a purchase, you’re doubling your customer base. It’s that easy.

But word of mouth just doesn’t happen on its own. It takes you giving people both a reason to refer someone and a means.

The Reason – The reason the people refer your product or brand to their friends can vary. Either you over deliver on quality or service, or your prices can’t be beat, or your brand has a story that is begging to be shared. Maybe it’s the simple fact that you offer $5 to every customer who refers one of their friends. The key is to identify the reason (survey your customers) and publicize it.

The Means – Once you get the reason down, you have to roll out the means. Assuming that people will take it upon themselves to refer others makes you an idiot. Why limit yourself? Give people simple ways to do it, and help them get the word out. Social media has provided new outlets for word of mouth marketing that can have astronomical results. Ask them to share on their networks. Ask them to submit names and emails. Send them discount cards and coupons to hand out to friends.

The art of the referral is not a difficult one to master. It’s time we put more emphasis on it.

That does it for the “Marketing to your Customers” series. There are millions of other ways and reasons to market to existing customers, but this week’s post give you a good sense of how marketing to existing customers can lead to real growth.

Tell me how I did. Did you like the series? Did you hate it? Tell me why in the comments below.