Customers are great, but brand advocates are even better. When your customers are all in, they can be more influential than any old marketing strategy – completely free of charge. We naturally tend to put more stock in recommendations that come directly from people we know or are connected to, and customers who advocate on your behalf can be invaluable. For every customer advocate you have, you can bank on his or her social media connections, which can easily run to an audience of hundreds (or more, much more).
All of that is easy to say, but fostering a cult-like devotion to your brand is certainly easier said than done. There are, however, five important factors that can help you fire up your customers to spontaneously advocate for your already awesome brand.
You’re Going for that Emotional Connection
Those companies that trade on brand mania – you know who they are (think Apple and Harley Davidson) – manage to create brand communities who just can’t seem to get enough of whatever it is they’re selling. Often, what’s on offer is as much about promoting an inviting theme or lifestyle as it is about the product at hand. Harley Davidson’s customers obviously connect on a deep emotional level with their bikes. Not for nothing do at least half a million people converge on their Harleys every August in Sturgis, South Dakota, for ten days of enjoying that lifestyle en masse. It’s all about sharing the experience, and Harley Davidson has managed to take this phenomenon to the next level and has been honing its craft since long before social media was even a thing.
While you’re not going to reach superstar status overnight, you can strive to incorporate elements of this emotional connection thing in the way you interact with your customers – in house and online.
The Four D’s of Difference
Brand and essence expert Douglas Atkins, who used to head up Airbnb and who authored The Culting of Brands, offers insight into the community-building trade secret known as the four D’s of Difference, including:
You are who you are, and you need to nail what it is that you are as a business down. You can’t be all things to all people, which makes determining who you are that much more important. Harley Davidson, after all, isn’t for everybody, but Harley enthusiasts know who they are, and your business should be going for a similar zeitgeist.
Once you’ve pinpointed what it is that makes your business uniquely your business, it’s time to declare it to the world – in your own unique voice.
You aren’t going for generic here. You want your brand to sing from the rooftops, whether that means a logo, a blurb, or anything else. After all, that little Nike swoosh is perhaps the most iconic – and the simplest – logo that ever promoted a product. Demarcate yourself.
The demonize component of the four d’s may be a bit tougher to wrap your head around. It does, after all, sound like the makings of a bad relationship. What they’re getting at here is adopting an us against the world mentality, which Harley has hit hard. When you can specifically demonize your competition – as Apple is so fond of doing (remember the I’m a Mac; I’m a PC commercial?) – you promote solidarity. And if you can have a bit of fun with it, all the better.
Give the People What They Want
The most beloved brands tend to define themselves in a certain way and then drive that message home. Whether you head into a Starbucks in Seattle or SoHo, you know you’re in the mother ship, and if you can distill that je ne sais quoi that defines cult-status brands and apply it to your own business, you’ll be off to the races. It comes down to establishing your unique thing and then consistently providing it across platforms – whether it’s your website, your storefront, or your presence on social media channels. Let intentionality and consistency guide your very-clear message – no mixed messages here – and you’ll be on the path to brand-identification hegemony.
Customer Service Never Goes Out of Style
Without excellent customer service, all you have is a lackluster business. Nothing builds brand loyalty like taking an individualized approach to your customers, which provides you with an excellent opportunity to connect in an authentic way. When customers feel heard, they’re much more likely to advocate in response. This extends to online reviews and feedback, which you should perceive as the goldmine it is – instead of as some nightmarish fear-factor. If a customer complains, make it right by self-correcting, whether that involves taking action, explaining the issue, or simply acknowledging your customer’s disappointment. Customer reviews are an opportunity that you shouldn’t miss.
Reward that Customer Loyalty
While there is little consensus regarding loyalty programs, it’s important to remember that building brand loyalty isn’t a cookie-cutter proposition. For example, those slavish disciples of Sephora live and die by their Beauty Insider Loyalty Program Points, and there’s little not to love – those premium size samples are invariably well-received. Recently, the brand extended its points program to include an exchange whereby customers can use their points to donate directly to the NAACP. Clearly, the answer is finding your brand niche – whatever that may be – and running with it – either toward or away from loyalty efforts.
Savvy Digital Marketing Experts Can Help You Promote Customer Advocacy
When a brand becomes known for the devotion it inspires in customers, it’s no accident. You, too, can harness the marketing magic these companies have internalized. Ultimately, your business is – and should be – as unique as you are, which means there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. There are, however, dynamic marketing basics that can help you forge your own path toward fostering customer advocates. Why do things the hard way when you can do them the smart way, with the invaluable guidance of those enlightened marketing mentors at The Web Guys? We’re right over here, so please reach out and contact us at 317-805-4933 today.