Customer Advocates: Expectations vs Reality
by gardenpatch Insights on Dec 7, 2022 9:00:00 AM
When was the last time you received an email asking, “On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this product/company to a friend or colleague?”
The net promoter score (NPS) is a customer loyalty metric that measures the likelihood of your customers to refer your company’s products or services. The higher the score, the better. Scores below 50 indicate dissatisfaction with your product or service and the potential for negative word-of-mouth.
Author Fred Reichhel's book Loyalty Effect discusses "finding and keeping good customers, productive employees, and supportive investors... to generate superior results."
Though the Loyalty Effect was written in 1989, it still holds good advice for marketers today. When you have a loyal customer base, you can turn them into advocates for your business. The best way to create an advocate out of a loyal customer is by using their testimonials on your website, social media pages, and other marketing materials.
81% of shoppers research a product online before purchasing it. In the early stage of the customer journey, new customers will seek educational content. In addition, when advocate testimonials are available, they will be more likely to trust your products or services because they know what others have experienced with them.
Over a decade ago, who would have thought that the marketing world would have done a 180 by now? For the most part, companies would focus their efforts almost entirely internally when thinking about getting more sales and more customers. But today's world requires that organizations leverage the customer experience to increase revenue and brand awareness.
While it is the intention of the marketing team to reach your target audience and communicate the benefits of your product or service, the challenge is today's non-linear customer journey. It's a complex process that consists of multiple touch points across different channels and devices. For example, users may start their journey on Amazon's website and end up at actual stores instead.
As a business, you would have invested hugely into sales enablement solutions and an effective internal sales team. You would have also invested in the best training for them. And you would also have set employees up for success by developing the most exciting handbook to keep them aligned with the company policy and product knowledge. It was a time of "hard work and little gain." The reality was the hard grind of the nine-to-five. So when the script flipped and we started harnessing the internet's power, marketing moved into an era of little effort with huge benefits.
Be honest. That sounds a whole lot better to me.
Take a look at today's marketing climate, and you won't be able to deny that we are in the era of new advertising. Marketing is no longer just TV commercials, billboards, etc. It's the internet age, and consumers have become accustomed to online shopping, online banking, next-day shipping, and real-time customer support. We live in a world of online shopping, websites dedicated to brand reviews, and internet fame. As such, marketing strategies also needed to change to keep up with the expectations of new customers, and they have.
Today's customers have a more significant impact on the success of your business than ever before. And a growing number of companies have taken steps to take advantage of this previously untapped marketing channel, their customers.
In fact, according to JitBit, when it comes to making sales, customer advocates are up to three times more successful than sales reps. This is because customer advocates are a golden ticket to success in marketing campaigns and ad campaigns. Not only is it free advertising, but people trust information from their friends and family more than they trust brands. Plus, people are more likely to buy products they learn about from trusted friends rather than those they see in ads. That's why more and more companies are tapping into customer advocacy as a marketing channel today.
Customers have more power than ever before, and when customer expectations differ from reality, they can easily take their business elsewhere.
That's why companies need to have a customer advocacy strategy and invest in customer experience management.
A customer advocacy strategy sets the tone for how your customers interact with each other and share their experiences. By encouraging your customers to use social media, review sites, and other online platforms, you can build up a following of people who recommend your business and products to friends, family members, and other potential customers.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's get a better understanding of what customer advocacy is.
What Is Customer Advocacy?
Some thought it was just a buzzword; others called it a trend. There were even some who thought of it as a fad! But customer advocacy is the game-changer of the marketing industry that allows you to get more out of your existing customers.
Customer advocacy is built on the idea that customers are your best marketing tool. Service-leading organizations understand that by setting customers up to achieve a successful experience with your brand, you can increase their loyalty, create advocates, and build trust.
Here are the top benefits of customer advocacy marketing:
- Customers become your best marketers.
- It boosts sales and repeat purchases.
- It helps you stay relevant through word-of-mouth marketing.
- It improves customer retention and reduces customer turnover.
While customer advocacy is similar to word-of-mouth marketing, you can think of customer advocacy as word-of-mouth marketing but on steroids. This is because customers trust other customers more than they trust brands. You can improve your brand's authority and reputation by tapping into this trust.
Just consider that 75% of advocates are likely to share a positive experience. Moreover, brand advocates are 50% more likely to influence a purchase.
With the internet's global reach, people are not limited to only telling their family and friends about you. A great example of this is how Amazon has built their business by encouraging customers to share their purchases with friends and family. This helped drive more sales through referrals and increased customer retention.
In certain cases, a single social media post can go viral, reaching millions of people in a matter of days, even hours. Now imagine that social media post is talking about how great your business or service is. Even if it reaches only a few hundred thousand or a few thousand people, that's still great potential for your business.
The foundations of word-of-mouth marketing have always been based on the fact that people trust who they know. And while this is still true, the internet has brought us together in more ways than one. Consumers now seek out the opinions of total strangers online before purchasing from a business. If most of the reviews are negative or complaints, they'll move on to a competitor. On the flip side, if most of the reviews are positive and indicate high levels of customer satisfaction, they'll stay.
Look at it this way, 84% of people actually trust online reviews, and over 90% regularly consult review sites like Trustpilot before committing to a brand or company. So now you can see how important it is to ensure that your customers are spreading positive reviews about you.
So how do you inspire your loyal customers to become advocates? Let's find out.
Why Do Customer Advocates Matter?
Customer advocates matter because they're passionate about the brand they love — that passion can make or break a campaign in today's digital world. So if you want people talking about your product or service, you need someone willing to stand up and be counted as an advocate for your business or brand.
Creating Customer Advocates
Encouraging your customers to market your business for you is easier than you think. It all starts with your customer experience. If your customer has a good experience with your business, they will recommend you to others when the time comes.
Let's say, for example, you sell customized t-shirts, and your customer service and the product are superb. You print on some t-shirts for a family vacation, and they are impressed beyond words. A few weeks later, someone needs company t-shirts printed for a function and gets a recommendation from that family to use your service. That family probably had the best vacation wearing your shirts. Maybe they even took tons of pictures wearing your product and posted them in a "best vacation ever" folder on their social media pages where even people they don't know can see your work. People will remember you when you can become a part of memorable moments, surpass the customer's expectations, and make them even better.
The Value of Dedicated Feedback Pages
The importance of customer feedback cannot be overstated. It's the way you'll learn what customers like, don't like, and what they are looking for. Simply put, it's just one aspect of good customer service.
One way to promote advocacy among your customers is by giving them a platform to express how they feel about you. You can do this by simply adding a section or page to your website dedicated to customer reviews and feedback. You'd be surprised to discover how many of your existing customers are willing to take time out of their day to give you feedback when prompted. Furthermore, 78% of consumers prefer brands that collect and accept customer feedback.
Collecting Post-Purchase Feedback
Also, make it a habit to request feedback from your customers after they interact with your business. Not only does this help to build a relationship with your customers, but it also keeps you in the know about their general sentiment towards your brand.
But it's not enough to provide a place for customers to leave reviews. You must track your reviews so you can know what's working well and what changes should be made.
You don't have to stop at providing a space for reviews, though. You can create a whole customer advocacy strategy to manage better what your customer advocates are marketing at any given time. Let's say you have an email list of happy customers who generally give feedback when you ask. If you have a new product or service, you can create an email campaign for the new product and let them help you market it. This can be done in a few ways. You can make it referral-based and give them rewards like special discounts when they refer someone who makes a purchase.
Social media is a great way to get your business' content out there, but it's not so great if you have to do all of the work yourself.
According to Quincy Smith, Head of SEO and Content at Ampjar, “Brand advocates are an excellent way for companies to increase their reach without using aggressive sales tactics that turn off potential customers.”
Social sharing and customer advocacy are two important elements of a successful content marketing strategy. When you combine them as part of a coordinated plan, your business gains more visibility and exposure.
To encourage social sharing, you need to ensure that it's easy for people to share your content — and give them the incentive to do so.
There are many ways that you can tap into your customer base as a marketing channel with a good customer advocacy strategy. We compiled a guide entailing 6 of the best ways to improve customer advocacy just for you.
Is Customer Advocacy Worth All The Hype?
We can't deny that when it comes to online marketing, trends come and go. But, if you should look at the world of SEO, you'll see that the landscape has changed a lot over the past few decades. You may wonder whether it's even worth it or too late to ride the customer advocacy wave.
The truth is customer advocacy is not new. The big deal is that we've found a way to amplify its effects by expanding its reach. And if there's one thing we value in customer relations, it is setting and surpassing expectations. The same is true for what you will get versus what you expect from your customer advocacy strategies. While there are many benefits of customer advocacy, many companies dive in without first understanding what to expect and how to make it work for them.
So, what should you expect from your customer advocacy program?
What To Expect
If you are running a small business that doesn't have an extensive customer base to begin with, it will take time to see the results. Let's face it, even in today's millennial paradise of instant gratification, most things still take little patience to get off the ground. So, as a small business, you'll find that it takes a couple of months of work before your customer advocacy strategy becomes the well-oiled machine that will be the life and breath of your business. So, be patient and watch it grow.
Developing a good customer advocacy strategy won't be difficult if you already have a large customer base, which is usually the case of large organizations. With thousands of followers on different social media platforms, many niche websites have the ability to reach millions of people worldwide in a matter of days. And while that is potential your business can tap into, the same potential applies to negative publicity.
So, when you open the doors for customers to tell you and others how they feel about your service, you need to be prepared for anything. In today's world, as much as we revel in the thoughts of five-star reviews and traffic beyond our wildest dreams, only some of our customers will leave us glowing recommendations. There will be some that are unhappy for one reason or another. But do not despair. It all comes down to how you handle negative reviews.
Negative reviews are not to be taken lightly. According to Qualitrics.com, a scale-crashing 94% of consumers admit that they have been persuaded against supporting a business because of a negative review! A single negative review is enough to leave a gaping hole in your customer loyalty.
That's why it's so important to keep track of what people are saying about you both on and off your website. Data from MOZ indicates that a single negative review of your business can cause you to lose up to 22% of your existing customers. And this 22% loss triples if you should get up to three negative reviews. For sustainable growth in customer advocacy, you shouldn't have more than three or four negative reviews. With more than three negative reviews, you stand the possibility of losing up to 70% of your current customer base.
Once you understand that using customer advocacy as a marketing channel is a two-way street, you'll have the right expectations to help you succeed. You can't always avoid negative feedback, but you can use it to your advantage. It all boils down to how you handle negative reviews.
How To Handle Negative Reviews
Negative reviews can make a huge impact on your business, but they don't have to be your downfall. You've spent so much time building your brand's reputation that you want to keep negative reviews from destroying it. Instead, see them as opportunities to improve if they do come. Negative reviews highlight the areas of your business or process you need to work on.
Think of it this way. The person who left you a negative review has a problem you need to solve. And once you solve this problem, this same individual can leave you a positive review. When people can see you working on customer issues and resolving them, it increases customer loyalty and boosts your brand reputation.
How To Handle Fake Reviews
Be on the lookout for fake reviews. If you find out that a negative review is fake, report this to the review site and make a public statement proving this. Unfortunately, there are trolls who leave negative thoughts without ever having an actual experience or interaction with your business.
Responding To Customer Feedback
Did you know that 30% of consumers who leave negative reviews change their thinking to positive after their issue gets resolved? So you can bounce back from negative feedback.
Feel free to go the extra mile and reach out to the customer if you need a better understanding of where you fell short in their experience. Apologize for the inconvenience and be accountable. This goes a long way in earning and keeping the trust of your target market.
If you understand the entire customer lifecycle, the job of marketing becomes more manageable. It enables you to attract new customers and engage in more effective marketing. In the case of true service leaders, great service creates loyal fans and advocates.
Aside from being the third element of the E-A-T moniker, trust is also a two-way street. So while you need your customers to trust your business, it also requires trust when you give them a voice. Let your customers provide you with a hand in spreading the word about your brand. Of course, they may use that voice to sing your praises or leave you a negative review. But having an excellent approach to your customer advocacy program will go a long way in ensuring that you're in a position to handle any situation.
Two heads are better than one. So reach out to us at gardenpatch, and let's work on your customer advocacy strategy together. Let's talk!