Every startup knows that apart from funding, one of its major challenges will be building a strong customer base. Getting a customer as a startup is hard enough without throwing in the seemingly impossible feat of turning the customer into a raving fan and your brand’s advocate. Your goal should not be just getting that one-time or two-time customer, but turning them all into loyal customers and brand advocates.
The tigers of Apple and Google who do not announce their “tigritude” because their customers do most of the work for them, actively promoting their products without being asked to by the brands. Who wouldn’t want to have such zealous customers?
Fortunately, it is only seemingly impossible and not outrightly impossible. So, read on to find out how to turn customers into brand advocates.
Always Offer Quality Above Quantity
As a startup trying to produce enough to satisfy gradually increasing customers, there could be a tendency to begin cutting costs and lowering quality so as to meet up with the demands of quantity. Never get sucked into this pipe that could drain your business in the long run and destroy any business goodwill and reputation you may have already amassed.
One sure way to getting customers to becoming advocates of your brand is to offer them products and services worth raving about. For instance, if you check out the products and services of Amazon or Google, they were not the first online store nor the first email provider, but they both command the major share of the market in their industry.
Before you expect your customers to shout on a mountain top at the top of their lungs about your products and services, do your part first, wow them.
Unbeatable Customer Services
The rules of relationships also apply to the seller/ customer relationship. If you make your customer feel all you care about is making that sale and after that, you don’t give a damn what happens to the product or to your customer, you most certainly won’t ever see such a client again. In fact, the client is very likely going to turn away potential customers to your competitors. Everyone goes to where they are valued.
Your customer experience should go beyond clinching that sale, make them feel they are important individuals. Since technology has made the development of almost perfect products possible (most times at lesser cost rather than additional costs), you can bet your customer isn’t really looking for anything super power. Especially if you’re a startup, why would your customer leave the big sharks in the ocean and come to you? Simple answer: you make them feel precious and deserving of everything you do for them.
Make an effort to ensure you offer unbeatable customer services, right from first contact, to sales and even after sales has been concluded. Unbeatable customer service is what retains your customers after the excitement of the initial sale has cooled. Customer is king. The customer is always right. These must be true in all your dealings with your customers.
Customer service is not only about sales, it extends to your website or online store. How intuitive is your website? Is it easy to find one’s way around the site, or will a tour guide be needed? Is the site cluttered or loads at snail speed? Remember, this is the digital age, and technology is your best buddy in pitting your own against the big sharks.
Set up Loyalty, Referral or Affiliate Programs
The customer who keeps coming back is the loyal customer. But remember, that customer could just as well, walk over to your competitors, especially if your competitors are offering an incentive for switching over to them. If you can have repeat business with your customers, they would likely become loyal, so set up sale programs and promo sales to keep them happy and loyal.
Having a referral program will automatically turn your customers and even potential customers into your brand’s advocates. Give them an opportunity to gain something of value just by bringing in a new customer, either a gift coupon or discounts.
Whatever program you set up should be a simple one that can be easily explained to a three-year-old. A complex loyalty reward program that your customers don’t understand or can’t explain to a prospective customer won’t appeal much.
Get to Know Your Customers
Knowing your customers is one of the reasons businesses use social media to reach out to their customers. What customer A looks for in your products or services might be slightly different from what customer B looks for. Yet you have to find a way to please both and can only do that by knowing each customer well. Your knowledge of them will assist you in communicating effectively and getting across the right message you have in mind.
There are some marketing automation tools that you can you can use to identify your customers, get to know them and keep track of what’s happening at all times. These automation tools and software allows you to keep track of what customers are buying, their purchasing behavior and what they are saying about your business, brand, and product. All these familiarizes you with your customers and you never have to wonder, who is that?
Today’s customers are no longer naive and ignorant, they are well aware you’ve got your little tracking tool. But what sets you apart from the others is that you actually use the information from the tracker effectively.
It’s possible you already have clients who have taken up advocate roles for your brand, reach out to them, let them know you value their efforts. Everyone needs a little appreciation and encouragement to keep doing what they’re doing, especially when they’re doing something you never asked for.
Personalize their Experience
Now that you know your customers from those tracking tools, it’s time you personalize their experience with your brand. If you’re wondering how to do this, just pick a lesson from your favourite eatery, your waiter probably knows you by name and when you place your order, asks things like “how is business, family?” That’s the level of personalization you should aim for.
Don’t get scared if you have thousands of customers, we’ve got lots of digital tools that automates this personalization, after all, most contacts with customers are virtual over 90% of the time. So, when your customers return to your site after registering, welcome them by name, offer them a customer profile page and personalization options for products and services to the extent that you can handle.
Take things up one level in personalizing their experience by sending spontaneous gifts. These are gifts specific to a customer, meaning other customers are also probably not getting that gift. You could send this gift on anniversaries or other special occasions. The gifts could range from discounts to free shipping to free accessory to an already purchased item, the options are limitless.
Ask Each Customer for a Feedback
A satisfied customer would without being asked, want to promote your brand to other potential customers. You can help encourage them to do this by embedding a rating system on your site, sales follow-up email or post-purchase survey. All you have to do is simply ask questions like “how satisfied were you with the product?” “How likely are you to recommend?” If you’ve got an awesome product like we mentioned at the beginning, getting rates of 9 and 10 wouldn’t be difficult.
Consistent Customer Interaction and involvement
Are you the type that only gets your customers involved when it’s time to refresh marketing practices? Trust me, your clients will notice and just tune you out. So, get them involved in all you do, not just once in a pink moon, but regularly and consistently! The more you do this, the more you’ll make your customers feel important and open to giving you quality feedback. You know those feedbacks usually go a long way to improve your services and promote your brand.
One sure way to interact and get your customers involved is to ask them to try out your new products and services before launch. Do this and watch them trumpet the good news about your brand to their network.
Transparent Operations with Clear Dissemination of Information
If you’re like me, you would also not want to deal with a shady brand or one who blankets all activities in secret. I can bet you would want to know where the brand has its warehouse, where manufacturing and packaging occur, how orders are shipped, how the shipment can be tracked, and most importantly who to contact in event of encountering problems. All these should be obvious and clearly stated on your site. Also, customers love brands that enlighten them more on the use of the product and other necessary information.
Clear dissemination also includes those times you will mess up! Rather than turning your customers off with being arrogant about it or trying to explain it off, just humbly admit your fault and take active steps to ensure the incident does not repeat itself. If you do this with all honesty, your customers would be the ones defending you when the need arises.
Generate Some of Your Brand’s Blog Content with User Generated Content.
Does your brand’s website have a blog? Then kill two birds with a stone! Get content for your blog while making your customer thrilled to be featured. User Generated Content (UGC) is free to use and most customers would gladly do it for you just because it makes them feel good. All you have to do is give the customer some guiding questions and then leave them the freedom to come up with an exciting story about their experience with your brand, aimed at inspiring others to get such experience too.
Wise brands that wish to get established as the authorities in their niches do this frequently. It’s a professional way of getting relevant, reliable and valuable feedback that is openly shared with other customers.
If you can implement all of the points mentioned above, it would be a natural thing for your customers to refer friends and family to your brand. More success to you!
Got questions? Additions? Subtractions? We would love to hear them! Please drop them in the comments.