Revealed! How Leading Brands Turn Their Customers into Brand Advocates

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If you’ve ever wondered what brought about the rise of startups, it was simply because startups brought solutions that helped to fill that “gap” between the big companies and customers. In case you’re thrilled by this and think you could be the founder of the next big startup by just providing a solution, sorry to burst your bubble, but it goes beyond just providing solutions.

Having an awesome solution does not automatically translate into having a large chunk of the market. You definitely need a strong marketing strategy that brings you customers, retains those customers and of course, skyrocket your revenue.

It’s one thing to have a customer, it’s another thing to have a brand advocate.  When your customer becomes your brand advocate, you’ll see your business revenue skyrocketing! If you desire that for your brand, read on to learn what these startups did to get there.

Have a Reward/ Affiliate Program

Who doesn’t like a reward? Now you can imagine how thrilled your customers would be to find out you offer rewards for simple actions that actually doesn’t cost them a thing to do. The reason why reward/ affiliate programs are the best options when trying to grow your business is because word of mouth recommendation is very powerful and the best way to retain customers.

Assuming when you launched your startup, you had just 10 customers whom you wowed. If each recommends your awesome products or services to just one person each, that gives you 10 new customers, and the cycle just goes on and on!

SlimTrader, a Nigerian technology enabler in the hospitality industry adopted this method with their MoreRewardz program where they rewarded hotel guests for spending in their recurring stays at hotels registered in the program on their site. Since lots of customers wanted to take advantage of the reward, they opted for hotels in the reward program. Of course, that meant hotels now ‘scrambled’ to get themselves registered for the reward program. That translated to more revenue for SlimTrader. So, you too can implement this method for your brand with an awesome loyalty program.

Invest in or Set Up a Complimentary Vertical Product

Bread and tea always go together right? If you’re a tea producer, you’re likely to make more sales if you collaborate with a baker or even invest in making the bread yourself. Wakanow and Hotels.ng are examples of startups that followed this method to gain more sales and more brand advocates.

For instance, Wakanow acquired a bus booking platform to give it greater monopoly over its international travel and hotels market. Customers are more likely to patronize a brand that seems to have it all in one place, flight, transportation to hotels (bus or car), and hotels booking.

Hotels.ng on the other hand, is trying to monopolize the entertainment niche through its investment in OgaVenue, an online platform designed to search and book event centers in Nigeria.

Organise contests, competitions, and events for customers

Have you ever noticed that when people talk about this event or that event, this contest or that contest, you’ll always hear them also mention a brand? Probably that brand was the sponsor or organizer.

Contests and competitions can be organized for different groups of customers, say children, youths, parents, students, working class moms, etc. Whichever one will appeal to the majority.

This goes beyond customers saying pretty things about your brand, it’s important you know that organizing and hosting events will easily make you an expert and thought leader in your particular industry. There are different kinds of events you could host, from a business focused event such as that done by Slimtrader or to a leisure focused event, like that done by Wakanow. What matters is that you secure abundant media coverage of the events and other programs you host.

>>How To Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates<<

Keeping Customers Engaged and Educated with Content Marketing

One of the factors that propelled Hotels.ng to the top was investing in content marketing. The new SEO strategy is content which is not just text but also includes other forms like video, graphics, and audio. If your site’s content is relevant and valuable, you’ll educate prospective customers and increase awareness of your brand while also driving up your sales funnel.

Hotels.ng adopts several blogs to achieve this, they are the site’s official blog, the CEO’s (Mark Essien) personal blog, an online and print Travel Magazine. The best part about Hotels.ng’s content is that their content is tailored for everyone who travels, not just their paying customers. What does that mean? You’re more likely to patronize a brand that gives you free, helpful and valuable tips on something that matters to you. That is effortlessly turning potential customers into brand advocates.

Collaborate with the Competition

It’s very easy to be in combat mode whenever the name of the competition comes up. But do you know you can go beyond that and build a platform that allows you to collaborate with the competition rather than devising ways to pull down the other. This must have been the ideology behind the first mergers and acquisitions.

When trying to collaborate, the focus should be on doing something that is mutually beneficial to both parties. You can both choose to target a specific group or location in the market, to increase sales for you both. As customers see you in good terms with the competition, they will root for you as a brand advocate.

Be the Social Media Celebrity

Even before I knew what Jumia was, I was already finding them everywhere on social media. Is it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? Jumia Travels became so popular because they won on social media. Social media accounts are the best avenue for a startup to get the attention of the public.

There is a catch to using social media though, you would put off your audience if you come with a salesy tone. Best practice entails just building interest in your brand by employing the use of pictures and videos to capture all those amazing moments you can offer through your products and services.

Leverage on Mutually Beneficial Partner Networks

Our elders had it right when they said a child who sits on the elder’s shoulders would see farther than the elder. This is exactly what leveraging on mutually beneficial partner networks is all about. A brand-new startup can easily grow its brand in the shadow of another already established brand. This was the lesson PayPal taught startups when it built its brand on eBay during its early days.

Here in Nigeria, HotelNowNow, a hub for hotel booking discounts across Africa and SlimTrader.com have partnered with Interswitch, an already established payment processing company needed to effect and monitor transactions in the hospitality industry.

Zenith bank already has a global reach which Wakanow.com has leveraged on to expand its brand beyond national and continental borders.

Stand Out: Leave the Crowd and Be Different

Successful startups usually have one thing in common, they are different from the crowd, they stand out. For instance, HotelNowNow carved a niche for itself in the hospitality industry. Rather than compete in the tight space of big hotel inventories that Jumia Travel and Hotels.ng are already known for, it focused on discount hotels making it the Go-To for such deals. Your best shot against the competition is going down the road the competition does not frequent.

>>How To Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates<<

Effective Public Relations Strategy

If you think the Public Relations (PR) department is just another avenue for dishing out paychecks, then you’ve got it all wrong. From time immemorial, PR has been one of the most effective ways to build your brand, let the public know the story behind the glory and of course, convert these people you’ve reached into loyal brand advocates and not just another customer.

Hotels.ng is one brand that utilizes the PR strategy effectively using the most appropriate channels to communicate their message to the public. This is possible because PR experts know how to do this without coming off as ‘salesy.’ And the most effective and popular PR strategy used by brands is organizing an event.

Offering a Side Attraction or Managing a Relevant Side Project

There is usually more than one road to a destination. A brand into fashion could try to get customers by having a side attraction that teaches customers themes to adopt for a pre-wedding shoot or what to wear for a pre-wedding shoot.

A hospitality brand like Hotels.ng could be managing a relevant side project that will bring in customers. Hotels.ng has a site called Spots.ng where information about interesting locations to visit in Nigeria are posted. Of course, hotels around that area are also featured in the posts.

So, they’ve made things easy for their customers. Attract them with a side project, and when a prospective customer chooses an interesting place to visit, the customer simply goes ahead to book one of the hotels close to the interesting location which has been mentioned in the post.

Tailoring Services to Customers Online Habit

Everyone is predictable in some way. Even those who are seemingly not predictable are predictably unpredictable (pun intended.) My point is studying your customer’s online habit would go a long way in helping you figure out how to please them more.

Is your site and its content easy to navigate and digitally optimized? Do your products and services have a ‘ready-to-buy’ feature? What product or method do your buyers favour most? Studying your customer’s online habits would provide you the answers to these. If your customers are pleased with all these, they would naturally become your brand advocates.

Don’t just work hard, work smart. Follow in the footsteps of these startups and watch your revenues skyrocket plus increasing your community of brand advocates. Regards,

Do you do things differently or you have a startup you are addicted to and now an advocate of? Let’s bounce off ideas in the comment section.

>>How To Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates<<

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