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4 Unconventional Ways to Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates With competition fierce, it is imperative for brands to establish mindshare. Here are a few ways to turn your customers into marketing machines.

By Firas Kittaneh

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As businesses become more consumer oriented, competition grows fiercer. This lanscape makes establishing mindshare and developing brand advocates increasingly difficult tasks. (Consumers, too, have set their standards higher.)

To make a lasting impression on customers, you need to do more than produce an excellent product and provide reliable service: You need to turn them into marketing machines.

Need a little help getting started? Here are four unconventional tips for transforming regular customers into your loudest and proudest brand advocates.

1. Teach them how to fish. The old adage "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" rings true in the world of business. Memorable companies help customers help themselves.

Related: How to Build a Brand That Attracts Die-Hard Followers

For example, HubSpot offers sophisticated marketing software. But it isn't the product that makes the company recognizable, it's the content it publishes. For marketers, the company offers free in-depth materials and educational content. Readers recognize and love the brand, because its articles and blog posts help them at their jobs.

While smart brands understand customers' concerns and seek to identify and resolve issues that create barriers and cause frustration, the best brands also make sure to serve their customers beyond stated needs. Hundreds of thousands of marketers return to the HubSpot blog every month to learn more about online marketing and often leave with a fresh dose of "ah ha" each time they read eye-opening posts.

After years of hard work and dedication, the company has become a go-to resource for digital marketers, and its customers speak very highly of the brand.

Related: Woo Loyal Customers for Life With 4 Winning Ways

2. Start a (non-violent) war. Brave brands are champions to customers when they take bold action against injustice.

For instance, Eat24, a food-delivery service, recently took up arms against Facebook and won over many on the internet. In its "Breakup Letter," Eat24 publicly shamed Facebook for forcing businesses to pay to reach their hard-earned opt-in fan base.

The post alone has been shared more than 30,000 times, while the story has been covered in numerous news publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Re/code and CNN. The blog post features more than 600 comments and most are supportive.

Though Eat24 didn't win the battle against Facebook, it made many more loyal friends and followers.

3. Incentivize customers to sell your product for you. You won't nurture brand advocacy by force-feeding users your tired marketing message.

Instead make it worth their while to talk about your brand. A simple referral program is an easy way to start.

Menswear brand Bonobos encourages customers to share a $25 referral code with people they know and receive $25 in credit for each new qualifying purchase. It's a win-win-win situation that makes it easy for your customers to give something of value to their friends and reap benefits.

Just remember to make the offer substantial enough that everyone comes out on top and be aware of any abuse tactics.

4. Show your cards when you're most vulnerable. No business is perfect and every customer knows that. Most are forgiving and only become disappointed when you fail to handle disastrous events with transparency and tact.

Think about it. From a user standpoint, it is frustrating to be left in the dark about a late shipment or realize weeks later that you've been using a defective or harmful product. The brand that wins a customer's unwavering loyalty and converts that user into an enthusiastic advocate is one that takes extreme measures to ensure her happiness.

Earlier this year Groove, a help desk software provider, experienced 15 hours of downtime, upsetting a large number of its loyal customer base. To diffuse the situation, the CEO Alex Turnbull made sure to over-communicate what happened so users felt at ease.

He could have easily provided a very canned response during the outage, but instead he made sure to share every detail he had. This helped him gain users' trust.

Nearly a week after the incident, Turnbull recapped the situation and documented how Groove will manage crises and prevent further outages.

Related: How to Create Vocal Brand Advocates

Firas Kittaneh

Serial Entrepreneur • CEO at Amerisleep • CEO at OCLU

Firas Kittaneh is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of amerisleep. Most recently, he launched OCLU to improve how we record our most memorable moments.

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