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And for today’s business magic trick, I will turn a customer into a hardworking sales rep… tada!

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In today’s connected world, brand advocacy is more vital than ever. Did you know that on average, 32 per cent of advocates recommend ten or more brands a year? It’s true. They do this via Facebook (35 per cent), email (57 per cent) and the good old word of mouth (a whopping 92 per cent!).

In fact, Nielsen reported in 2013 that 77 per cent of consumers are more likely to buy a product when it’s recommended by an advocate. Clearly, there is now no option but to mobilise your customers and turn them into your highly productive and powerful sales and marketing channels.

Therefore, as businesses, we need to continuously promote our products with positive customer testimonials and then encourage interaction with our brands on social networks.

And as brand ambassadors, we need to always address negative comments from unhappy customers immediately. I mean, with 18 – 24 year olds on Facebook boasting an average of 510 friends each, bad news about your brand can spread at the click of a mouse!

Brand advocates come in different shapes and sizes

According to Social Chorus, there are at least seven customer advocate archetypes:

  1. The Titanic Tweeter – This one’s eager to share anything and everything. Supply this group with interesting, entertaining and digestible content.
  2. The Passionate Pilgrim – This one’s just in love with your brand. Give the pilgrim a road map that helps them share great content regularly.
  3. The Heroic Hipster – They spotted your brand first and want the world to know it. Welcome these ‘web warriors’ into your elite and privileged network.
  4. The Megaphone Millionaire – These are your celeb musicians, actors, entrepreneurs and political leaders who have a huge following of their won.
  5. The Giving Guru – This one looks diligently for information, products and services that will help their friends and family. It’s not always about your product or service for them.
  6. The Curious Curator – They have a big appetite for detailed data and analytical information. They will read and click from link to link to collect the very best sources.
  7. The Noiseless Ninja – The stealthy yet influential brand advocate. They tip-toe the social streets in search of killer deals, sneaky offers and great brand secrets.

How can you create brand advocates for your brand?

First and foremost, make it fun engaging with your brand – people love a great experience and yearn to come back for more. Next, make it easy for people to do business with you and thirdly, always under promise and over deliver.

Nothing beats receiving a product a few days before you were expecting it to be delivered.

Finally, show you care and take time to follow up regularly with your customers. Survey your brand advocates from time to time or get them to vote on a new product line.

How exactly should you use your brand advocates?

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, all brand advocates are content creators.

You see, content marketing is the most effective way for brands to increase engagement, especially on social networks. The problem is that brand content, whether created internally or externally, is expensive, and doesn’t perform as well as trusted content.

This is where your brand advocates come in. Your brand advocates create content that not only performs better, but is also less expensive than professionally produced content.

Dr. Kathleen R. Ferris-Costa’s survey found that brand advocates “create and curate more than twice as many communications about brands as does the average web user”. They are savvy in writing meaningful content and sharing it on highly visible sites.

Encourage them to share their experiences with your product, give them interesting content that’s easy to share and keep it fresh – behind the scenes videos, news, creative statistics and industry tips are all great shareable content.

Remember, consumers trust other consumers. Customer no longer have to rely on the brand itself to advertise or promote a product or service – they can easily and instantly access reliable, real-time information from their social networks, friends and forums.

Tony Eades is the Director of Brand Strategy at BrandManager, a creative, marketing and digital communications agency based in Sydney and Perth. He is a business branding expert with more than 25 years experience in building brands – online and offline – both here in Australia and overseas.

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