HOW TO CREATE CUSTOMER ADVOCATES

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of advertising effort, and increasingly savvy at toning them out. However, small businesses have a secret weapon that’s largely underutilized—customer advocates.

A recent study reveals that 83% of consumers say they trust recommendations of friends and family. Two-thirds trust consumer opinions posted online. Advertising carries

How do we cultivate this powerful source of advertising? How do we build relationships from lack of awareness to like, love and then loyalty? Money cannot buy organic and authentic customer advocacy, but hard work can. Here are three ways to encourage brand advocacy:

Be genuine

After just about every purchase at retail stores and restaurants, companies bribe customers with cookies and coupons to complete surveys. But how many times have you felt compelled to advocate fiercely on behalf of Hallmark? Do you feel like your comments or critiques are taken seriously … or even read?

Don’t let your customers wonder if you care! Respond quickly and honestly to any and all communication. Encourage engagement. Ask questions. Tweet directly to customers. Thank them for their business and for posting reviews. Show you care on a regular basis—don’t simply craft generalized posts and call it a day.

Admit when you’re wrong

People are driven to online reviews for two reasons—they either absolutely loved their experience or they hated it. Rarely do you find neutral online reviews. What sets apart the winners from the losers in the online world is how negative reviews are handled. Business leaders who apologize and fix the situation strengthen their brand and increase future customer advocacy. This is your opportunity to show the world how you handle negativity. Be responsive, not reactive.

Give back

Don’t forget to give something back to your advocates and loyal customers for helping you promote your business. After all, the advertising they have provided you is invaluable (and free).

People want to be recognized for their efforts. Show them that they have rightfully put their trust in your business and that they are important to you. Give them 15% off their next purchase, a handwritten thank you note or a shout out on a social media post (with their permission).

It takes a time commitment for people to get on their computer and write out a review. Go the extra mile and find a way to leave a meaningful impression in your day-to-day interactions with clientele.

The rewards will pay dividends.

Cheers,