How to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates

In the marketing world, it's no secret that it costs more money to generate a new customer than it does to market to an existing one. To make the most of your marketing budget, take steps to turn your customers into brand advocates.

Use an Innovative Customer Service Approach

Customers are demanding quality service now more than ever - and a third of them would rather scrub a toilet than speak to customer service on the phone. That's why many businesses have turned to social media as a customer support vehicle. But, is that really enough? If everyone else is doing it, you've got to do something to stand out.

Take for instance the way Nextiva approaches their customer service. When a customer tweets or otherwise communicates on social media channels, they create a video instead of a comment or email. Short, 15-second videos provide a quick thank you to the customer personally. As a result, customers share the videos with their network, creating positive buzz about the company.

Create a Valuable Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs are everywhere. We see them with grocery stores and gas stations, retail stores, movie theaters, and even in e-commerce with sites like Amazon. Studies show the average American household is a member of 29 loyalty programs but they only actively use about 12 them.

How can you avoid ending up with a database full of "loyal" members, who aren't doing anything for your profit margins? Make your rewards something customers want to earn, or need.

Barnes & Noble charges a $25 annual fee for their program, but in exchange, customers get: free shipping for online orders, 40% off best sellers, and 10% off DVDs. As a bonus, first- time customers get $50 in coupons after signing up. Plus, members can also get 10% off in-store Starbucks purchases. For book and movie lovers, the savings can really add up.

Blue Cross Blue Shield's Blue 365 Deals is a rewards program for subscribers. Though options may vary for subscribers depending on the state they live in, they can get discounts for a variety of things related to a healthy lifestyle. Options include: discounted fitness equipment and gym memberships, discounted personal care services, and discounted wellness services.

Develop a Referral Program

Studies show referred customers are more valuable than customers acquired with other methods. Referred customers tends to have higher profit margins, and stay longer, resulting in an overall higher customer lifetime value. It makes sense, but the wrong program could leave you without referrals.

Take a cue from Quickbooks. Their Refer a Friend program gives the referred person a discount on products, and when they sign up, the person who made the referral gets an instant code redeemable for a $30 gift card at various retailers. There's also an option to donate the $30 to charity. It's possible to earn 19 gift cards in a calendar year.

Uber allows riders and drivers to refer friends with a unique code to give them credit to make their first ride free. Each time a credit is redeemed, the referrer earns credit toward free rides in the future. The amount of the credit is subject to change, and usually ranges from $15 to $20.

Build Your Brand Around Customer Values

LUSH Cosmetics, a global bath and body product company, has a 100% vegetarian (mostly vegan) product line. Most products are all-natural. All products use ethically sourced ingredients, and no ingredients come from companies that engage in animal testing. New products are tested on human volunteers before going out to the public.
They take it even further with minimal packaging and biodegradable packing material. Customers are encouraged to bring back empty pots, and when they have five, they can get a free product.

The Charity Pot lotion supports a number of small charities that focus on environmental issues, animal rights, and human rights. Sometimes, products are created to support charities, too. The #GayisOK soap campaign raised £275,955 for the Love Fund, (approximately $399,996.81) and reached 70 million people with direct campaign messages and social media.

When you add in the fact that they do not discount products, and only run an annual sale for Boxing Day, it's easy to attribute their large, loyal customer base to the fact they produce quality products and support causes that matter to their customers.

Focusing on keeping your customer base happy is critical to their brand advocacy. With personalized shopping and customer service experiences, rewards for shopping with you and bringing new customers to you, and going above and beyond to show appreciation for their loyalty, you'll soon find an army of brand advocates marketing for you.