7 Ways to Turn Your Everyday Customers Into Extraordinary Brand Advocates

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This story originally appeared on Salesforce

Acquiring customers is nice. Keeping customers is how you stay in business.

For small business owners, the ideal state is to create a customer base that creates new customers. Not only will loyal customers keep coming back themselves, they’ll also become a linchpin of your marketing efforts.

Consider these stats from a 2014 survey of just under 5,000 consumers

  • 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business
  • 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • Only 12% do not read reviews

Consumers trust other consumers more than an unfamiliar brand. Here are 7 tips to turn your existing customers into your company’s most vocal advocates.

1. Encourage them to write online reviews.

You have to decide what makes sense for your company. Some brands offer incentives for positive reviews; others simply mention it at brick-and-mortar locations or in emails. The point is to gently remind your satisfied customers that a review from them would mean a lot, without being pushy.

2. Use email marketing to increase brand loyalty.

According to the 2015 State of Marketing, email loyalty campaigns are among the most successful emails you’ll ever send. Seventy-two percent of email marketers rate email loyalty campaigns as very effective/effective, and 21% rate them as somewhat effective. That’s a high percentage of marketers who rely on email for customer retention. Include valuable, newsworthy, or money-saving content in your email campaigns to encourage subscribers to forward to their friends and family.

Related: 5 Secrets to Increasing Customer Retention -- and Profits

3. Be proactive about customer service.

Offer customer service before they even ask for it. For example, in this recent example on the Salesforce blog, a food delivery company offered a free meal after a night of delayed delivery—without the customer even raising a complaint. This is the kind of customer service that spurs serious brand loyalty and evangelism.

4. Create helpful content and offer it at relevant times.

During customer service phone calls, in the body copy of customer support emails, or on your website and blog, add links to follow-up articles that answer logical next-step questions. For example, if you’re explaining how to set up an initial profile on your app, offer follow-up content that describes how to use the profile’s more advanced features. It’s all about being one step ahead in the customer journey.

Related: For a Winning Product Launch, Address Genuine Customer Needs

5. Ask them what they want.

This can be as formal or informal as you choose. You can either set up a one-time or ongoing “meeting of the minds” among your most loyal customers, or simply ask for feedback in person, on the phone, or on digital media when interacting with customers. The point is to get feedback on how you’re doing and what products could be better.

6. Accept some short-term profit losses in exchange for long-term benefits.

Even if it costs more to accept a returned item or comp a service, it’s still cheaper than having to regain that customer’s loyalty all over again. Even worse, a disgruntled customer can damage your SMB’s reputation on social media or review sites with long-lasting effects. Chalk up these short-term losses to the long-term benefit of keeping a brand advocate.

7. Constantly make improvements to your core products and offerings.

Nothing is easier to recommend than an incredible product or service. By the same token, no amount of great customer service or marketing can fix a bad product. As much focus as you put into customer satisfaction, you should simultaneously be finding ways to make your core offerings irresistible. 

Your most loyal customers will also be your SMB’s biggest advocates. They’re the ones who will recommend your services, subscribe to your newsletter, write online reviews, and tweet about you (and not only with their complaints). Everything you do to keep these customers—and keep them happy—is a meaningful investment in your company’s longevity.

Related: How to Make Someone Want to Do Business With You

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