The right marketing strategy — a strategy that hits at the right time and strikes a chord with consumers — can make a company. It can propel a business into the future and help it achieve astounding success. Brand advocates are integral to this success.
Consider one of the most famous examples of striking a chord: Apple. Before Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after a decade-long absence, the company he helped found was in shambles. Jobs streamlined the brand. He looked at what customers really wanted and laid the foundation for the worldwide success the company enjoys today.
Apple is not alone as an example of a brand that has become a global empire by striking the right chord with consumers. Think Amazon, Lego, Red Bull, Starbucks, or any of the other many massive brands that started small and rocketed onto the global scene.
So what sets these businesses apart from others? Or, more specifically, what sets any successful business apart from competitors that may be struggling within the same industry or niche?
Enter Brand Advocates
One of the biggest influences in the success of Apple, Amazon, Lego, Red Bull, and Starbucks is brand advocacy. These companies — through their products and customer service— have created armies of brand advocates. These are customers and team members who help drive the brands forward. They are individuals who have immersed themselves in the brands and have become mouthpieces for brand awareness.
Brand advocates live and breathe the “brand.” These are people who buy and use Apple products exclusively. They buy on Amazon whenever possible. They make sure to drink from cups branded with the green siren, all while making sure to post a photo tagged with #psl on Instagram to remind the world that pumpkin spice latte season is upon us (again).
Your Most Valuable Resource
This kind of advocacy and participation stems from a sense of pride and social worth that comes from associating with (or being seen associating with) popular brands.
That association is called the bandwagon effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon not limited to global brands with household names. Smaller businesses, such as your own, can replicate this success. You can do this by focusing on your most valuable resource: your positive relationship with your customers.
The ongoing relationship you have with your customers is one of best ways to stimulate retention and referrals. Happy customers are much more likely to talk about your business with family, friends, and colleagues. This kind of word of mouth (WOM) is an incredibly powerful form of marketing. Kimberly Whitler, a former CMO and current Forbes.com contributor, explains that the best way to harness the power of WOM is to create experiences worth talking about.
Built on the Power of the “Wow Experience”
As a business owner or marketing manager, your job is to create a “wow experience” for your customers — something they can talk about with everyone they know, in-person and online. This means going the extra mile and applying the “three E’s” of customer service: engage, equip, and empower.
What does this look like? While Whitler goes into more detail, the “three E’s” are simple: You engage with customers by listening to them. They have a lot to say about your brand if you ask. By listening and engaging in conversation, you become more meaningful in the lives of your customers.
Then, follow up and equip your customers with the information you want them to share about your company. At its core, this information is the experience you deliver through excellent customer service. You tell a story through the way you interact with customers. This is why it’s critical to go above and beyond in your interactions and to stay top of mind with your customers.
Finally, you can empower customers to become your brand advocates. This means providing them with the tools they need to participate in the conversation and a place to do so. This might be a Facebook page or a social media campaign targeted at igniting a conversation (a contest, giveaway, or special promotion).
The importance of brand advocates cannot be overstated. Nielsen, one of the most renowned consumer information and data measurement companies in the world, says that 92 percent of consumers rely on business or brand recommendations from family and friends over all other forms of advertising.
Strike a Chord
This is your opportunity. More of your customers are on social media websites and apps than ever before. Not to mention, you have access to an incredible number of media resources and tools, from web tools to direct mail (and yes, that includes newsletters!).
You are in a position to empower your customers and your team members like never before. With the right initiative, they will become your brand advocates. They will advertise for you and share the brand they love.
All you have to do is give them something to talk about.