Categories: Customer EngagementCustomer Lifetime ValueCustomer LoyaltyRatings and ReviewsSharing and Referrals

Loyal Customers are Brand Advocates who must be Retained

“Victory in marketing does not happen when you sell something, but when you cultivate advocates for your brand”: Steven Knox, Proctor and Gamble

In today’s intensely competitive world, there’s nothing more important than amazing and relentless customer advocacy and support. Putting a heavy focus on customer needs, engagement and interaction are all essential elements for turning customers into loyal brand advocates. According to Harvard Business School, a 12% increase in customer advocacy can result in  200% growth in revenue for companies. So, what is customer advocacy? When customers love your brand so much so that they prefer your products or services over others and recommend them. Customer advocacy helps brands do the heavy lifting of growing their business. Customers want brands to stop marketing to them and start engaging with them. They prefer a dialogue, not a monologue anymore. Due to customer advocacy, brands see increases in average order value, customer lifetime value, frequency of purchase from repeat customers, customer referrals and more social mentions.

Customer advocacy starts with a clear understanding of customer needs and behavior.  In order to achieve this, identify what they want and keep an eye on any key shopping behavior metrics and patterns. Customer feedback is critical to understand how to best support them. Identify customers with a high NPS of 9 or 10 to review your brand. This ensures a strong relationship and provides your company with valuable insights. One of the most effective customer advocacy best practices is breaking customers into segments and surveying them to offer suggestions. Companies like Patagonia, Nike REI, and Apple are the frontrunners in their respective industries because they enjoy strong advocacy from their customers. 

How can you succeed at cultivating customer advocacy? Going the extra mile to build trust. 

  • Focus on nurturing relationships at all points of the customer journey
  • Focus on frictionless and convenient buying and checkout experiences
  • Focus on product and merchandising levels to minimize stockouts 
  • Focus on rewarding them for their loyalty 

How are brands leveraging their brand advocates these days? 

  • Rating and reviewing products
  • Testimonials 
  • Recommending your brand 
  • Referring their friends and family to come and make a purchase
  • By encouraging them to share useful content with their social network 
  • Having advocates provide feedback on products and services
  • Having them share promotional offers with social networks

At Nordstrom, employees are mentored to utilize good judgement and nobody abides by a rule book. By doing so, employees feel ownership towards something they care deeply about. This is a great example of how building employee advocacy creates a great customer experience, which thereby creates the opportunity for customer brand advocacy and loyalty.  Nordstrom sets the standard to delighting customers and demonstrating very high perceived value despite the high cost of their products.   So, why are brand advocates so valuable? 

  • Word of mouth influences purchase decisions. It’s more powerful than paid advertising. Almost 90% of customers report that word of mouth is the primary reason behind their buying decision. According to a study, 9 out of 10 online customers prefer recommendations from their friends and family as their most trusted advertisement. One of the most popular examples in this case is eBay, it uses customer advocacy through reviews to create a trustworthy platform. 
  • Increase conversion rates with reviews. A study found that an increase in ratings by 1 star can lead to 5-9% revenue growth. Norton increased its sales by almost a staggering 200% due to twofold increase in product ratings on Amazon. 
  • Customer advocacy leads to growth and retention. Once brands have determined the key drivers in customer advocacy program, they should find ways to actively cultivate the relationship. You must pay close attention to what your advocates are saying and make necessary iterations in your product roadmap. 
  • Brand advocates create a strong brand community. Cisco realized the importance of a community of brand advocates and planned to expand its limited pool of advocates by launching a customer advocacy program to convert passive customer advocates into active ones. They launched ‘The Cisco Gateway’ advocacy community where customers can connect with each other, share ideas, gain access to Cisco content, get perks and rewards and expand their personal brands/networks. 
  • Customer advocacy helps increase brand value. Customer advocates trust your brand and turn to you despite low cost competitors because of the value you bring to them. Apple is one brand that has leveraged customer advocacy extremely well to increase its brand value. Apple has a large pool of customer advocates who feel a sense of unity and enjoy being part of the brand’s community and want to share their experiences with other customers. And this wouldn’t be possible if there isn’t trust in the brand.

We are in a new world that requires a fundamentally different approach to customer engagement. The best strategy is to give back to your most profitable and valuable customers to encourage brand loyalty.

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