Harnessing social proof is one of the best ways of building trust in your brand. And one of the most powerful ways of generating social proof is to get your customers evangelizing on your behalf, spreading the word about your brand with a genuine and believable voice. But how do you know your customer is ready to evangelize your product or service?
It’s not necessarily an easy trick to pull off, but neither does it involve any dark magic. Follow these nine simple guidelines, and you’ll be well on the way to turning your customers into advocates.
1) Define Your Brand
First, find out exactly what it is your brand stands for. Disregard your own ideas about what you’d like it to represent, and instead isolate what aspects of it resonate with your customers. Use surveys, questionnaires, or any other form of market research you have available.
You can then use your findings as a focus for future marketing, accentuating the positives that already appeal to your customers. This will strengthen the ties of loyalty that already exist.
2) Ask for Feedback
Make brand perception research an ongoing process. Frequently ask your customers for feedback, and genuinely take it on board. Doing this has two strengths.
First, you’ll continue to see things from a customer’s point of view, making your future branding and marketing work hit the target more effectively.
Second, it shows your customers that you care about their opinions. This increases their emotional investment, and they’re more likely to recommend your business almost as a matter of personal pride.
3) Give Unexpected Treats
You probably already hold a lot of personal info on your customers, so why not use it to boost advocacy? Send your best customers a useful gift on their birthday, for example, and the gesture will make a strong impact.
Their delight will further increase their loyalty, and they’re also likely to tell their family, friends, and social media contacts about their pleasant surprise. This is powerful advertising for very little cost.
4) Set Up a Referral Program
Even if your customers are already happy to recommend you to their friends, giving them a nudge in the right direction always helps. Incentivize them by offering reward points or discounts for every new customer they send your way.
There’s no need to develop a massive multi-level marketing operation, but a small bonus helps to convince contented customers to tell others about you.
5) Featured Customers
Contact some of your best customers and ask if they’d like to be included in a ‘meet the customer’ section on your blog. Many will say no, but the ones who agree will be thrilled at the attention.
Interview them about their use of your products or give them a tour of your premises and video the results. However, you make the content, publishing it will serve two valuable purposes.
The customer will be eager to tell everyone they know about their new-found stardom. And once the content is published, it’ll do a great deal to humanize your brand with everyone it reaches.
6) Mesh with Social Media
Social media thrives on the idea of sharing, and you should tap into that at every opportunity. Make it easy for your website visitors to share your content to their Facebook, Twitter, or other accounts. If your content is awesome enough, you can expect at least a small viral effect.
But to make the most of social sharing, don’t limit your prompts to easily ignored icons at the bottom of each page. Embedding calls to action within the content itself will significantly increase the number of shares it generates.
7) Encourage Reviews
Also, actively encourage your customers to leave reviews of your brand on relevant websites. A series of genuine, believable good reviews offer strong social proof to anyone weighing up whether to become a customer.
Of course, you risk receiving a mix of good and bad reviews, but even bad ones serve a purpose. If you respond politely and make it clear you’ve rectified the problem, as well as making it up to the customer, it shows your brand to be responsive and agile.
8) Give Away Branded Gear
Manufacture and distribute free branded gear such as t-shirts, caps, or even just bumper stickers. Everyone loves a freebie, and if they use them, your brand logo gets shown around town for just the relatively low cost of manufacture.
9) Great Service and Products
Lastly, no amount of marketing will make up for a poor customer experience. If your customers aren’t happy with your brand, they’ll never stake their reputation on recommending it, no matter how many inducements you offer.
But if your brand delivers on its promises, and offers genuinely useful products and service, then putting effort into developing customer evangelism can produce stunning results.