Improving sales is important for any business, and considering how it ties in directly with revenue, it’s often the metric that determines the success of a brand. However, it’s easy to lose sight of what lies beyond that ever-important lower-funnel conversion when brands are thinking only about sales.
With customers being presented with more options than ever (not to mention how accessible e-commerce purchases have become), it’s high time for brands to really understand the role that customer advocacy is playing in their brand’s growth strategy. Here’s why.
The overlooked importance of customer advocacy & loyalty
Today’s customers can actually afford to switch between brands at any time they want without any hassle. Studies show that 40% of customers are willing to change their brand loyalty for a reason like the discounts that are offered or the payment methods available at a store.
The marketplace is rife with disruption, and many major brands are losing their market share to smaller startups as well. That’s not necessarily because of the fact that these brands offer superior products or services. Rather, they’ve managed to create customer experiences that are both consistent and frictionless. Due to their size, smaller companies can quickly pivot and improve experiences to align with customer feedback—a task that larger organizations might find difficult to execute comprehensively across their people, processes, and technology.
Working on all of these things contributes to lowering the cost of acquiring customers and churn cost, and these are important numbers. The ability of startups to create seamless customer experiences is highly evident within the customer advocacy stages of their marketing funnels, where strong word of mouth and glowing online reviews help drive robust new customer acquisition pipelines.
The biggest challenge brands are facing right now is controlling this, especially considering how big an impact customer advocacy, loyalty, and retention can have for your brand—increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits by 25% to 95% (Source).
How can brands improve customer advocacy, then?
Well, the three biggest things that brands can do to improve customer advocacy are:
- Making their products/services available at competitive prices
- Having a loyalty program for their customers
- Investing in improving the customer experience that they provide
Let’s take a closer look at how these three factors play into driving customer advocacy.
While this might work for smaller brands, the one thing we need to keep in mind is that not everyone is incentivized by affordable costs. Even with household items, people might want to buy something that’s expensive but is of better quality than a cheaper product/service. In today’s world, especially, brands need to strongly consider not involving themselves in the price war for several reasons: the margins won’t be as good, and the perceived value of your brand might be viewed as lower in some markets.
That being said, if you’re a retailer, for example, that can actually afford to sell products from household names at lower prices, this strategy might give you a quick-and-easy advantage over your competitors.
Well, if you want to improve customer loyalty (that will, in turn, drive customer advocacy), then loyalty programs could actually be great option (I can almost hear you go, “You don’t say?”, right now). But on a more serious note, 73% of consumers are more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs, and a good percentage of Gen-Z and millennials are also highly influenced by loyalty programs.
Loyalty programs are easy to set up and can be rewarding (see what I did there?) as well. Here is a list of some great loyalty program software that you can use for your business.
Investing in Customer Experiences
These days, the spoils go to the company that creates and maintains the best experiences. In fact, 42% of customers say that they would pay more for better customer experience. There are some studies that even talk about how loyal customers are five times more likely to make a repeat purchase and four times more likely to refer a customer. Take a look at this infographic:
A good experience can always leave customers with a smile on their face, so be sure to actively spend time thinking about how you can improve the customer experience that your brand provides. And remember, in today’s all-digital world, customer experience starts from their interactions on your brand’s digital profiles to the moment they unpack their products back at home—so you need to make sure every part of this customer journey meets expectations if you want to improve customer advocacy.
But is that where it ends? Not at all. There are other factors that tie into helping your customers becoming brand advocates as well. Like your brand’s social media profiles, for instance.
Social Media, Targeted Audience, and Customer Advocacy
Posts and user interactions on social media can make or break a brand in today’s world. Social media can be a great way to connect with your target audience, get an idea of what people expect from your brand, or just let people know the latest and greatest deals you’re running.
Wendy’s social media channel is a great example of how brands can appeal to their target audience. Wendy’s Twitter has 3.4M followers as of the day of writing this post, and it has a huge amount of content that greatly appeals to millennials.
However, what you don’t wanna do is not box yourself in and make the mistake of alienating others. Building targeted content with a ton of new-age references and voice (like Wendy’s) is an interesting play that could cost sacrificing customers from some parts of the spectrum. Catering to different types of persona effectively is important, and as always, this means that you need to understand the needs of your customers better. Striking that balance is in your hands. If done right, this can earn you a lifetime customer that will remain loyal to your brand and become a brand advocate as well.
Another key component of fostering customer loyalty and advocacy revolves around the establishment and upholding of core brand values. This is, without a doubt, a tricky space for brands these days. Customers absolutely want to know what the brands they support stand for and to see those values backed up through action.
To build advocacy through brand values, brands need to establish strong positions and principles and be willing to stand behind them when put to the test. However, brand values shouldn’t be established with a narrowly focused target audience in mind and communicated myopically.
Strong brand values should stand on their own, but they shouldn’t box in a brand. Like any other messaging, brands should communicate their values in different ways to their different cohorts and personas, while still maintaining authenticity. In this way, brands ensure customer advocacy across a broader spectrum of customers, rather than a vocal few.
How Can Brands Encourage Customer Advocacy?
Ultimately, encouraging consumer advocacy is all about understanding the experiences consumers are having with your brand and ensuring people know your brand is always listening and looking to better serve its customers. In this regard, promoting advocacy comes down to:
- Actively monitoring customer feedback and reviews on third-party profiles to see how people are reacting to your brand experience
- Identifying points of friction based on customer feedback and internal assessments
- Making concrete changes—via people, processes, and technology—to create greater consistency and minimize friction in the customer experience.
These days, given the ever-rising competition within the marketplace, advocacy is perhaps the most important—and most neglected—measure of how a brand is keeping pace with its competitors. That’s because customer advocacy—the level at which your customers are willing to vouch for your brand and influence the decisions of others—is one of the only true measures of customer experience. And these days, customer experience is everything.