When asked about how and why they make purchases, most people say that reviews and recommendations play a major role. That holds true even in the B2B marketplace—according to one study, 60 percent of B2B tech buyers look at peer reviews before making buying decisions.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, when it comes to your own purchasing decisions, are you more likely to trust an ad or a person who’s actually used the product?
The question is, how can you boost positive reviews of your business and how should that play into your overall marketing strategy?
Brand Advocates: Generating Buzz
Brand advocates are more than just loyal customers—they’re ambassadors. They’re people who believe in your business and who are willing to answer questions, write blog posts, and help you create favorable word-of-mouth buzz. They can help you by reviewing your products and helping convince leads who may be on the fence about your services to take the plunge.
Who are your advocates? Where can you find them?
Begin by identifying customers who have had a good experience with your brand.
- Get in touch with people who are interacting with you on social media or on review sites like Yelp.
- Find customers who’ve given you positive reviews on comment cards or surveys.
- Ask your salespeople—which customers to they turn to for references? Which customers are most satisfied with their experience?
Try to identify potential advocates on a regular basis—every three to six months or so—to keep your pool fresh.
This should go without saying, but in case it’s not obvious: in order to keep your loyal customer base large and happy, you need to provide consistently great service. It’s not enough to be just “adequate”— most companies do that—you need to “wow” your customers with attention to detail and personalized service. Try to accommodate special requests when you can, and let them know how much you appreciate them.
Setting Up a Brand Advocacy Program
Identifying advocates is only half the battle. You need to decide what to do with them once you’ve found them. Here are some ideas about how you can leverage their power to help maintain a positive image for your brand:
- Ask them to follow you on social media and comment on and share what you post.
- Ask them to write positive reviews and testimonials on your site, review sites like Citysearch, or their blog and social media profiles.
- Ask them if you can film them talking about their experience with your brand.
- Ask them to contribute to communities or forums.
- Ask them for referrals.
- Ask them to write blog posts or create images for you.
- Ask them if you can use their experience as a case study.
- Ask them to speak directly (over the phone or via email or chat) to potential customers.
- Ask them to come up with FAQ questions and answers or identify improvements for your website.
These are just some of the ways that brand advocates can be put to good use. You should get creative and decide on which strategies will work for your business.
You should probably start small. Ask potential advocates to do something easy at first, like follow you on Instagram or give you a five star rating on Google+, before moving on to bigger projects like testimonials and blog posts. You may also want to consider setting up some sort of rewards or kickback program where advocates get a percentage off, a nominal payment, or free products (à la Amazon Vine) for completing tasks.
You should also invest some time in mentoring and quality control. You should let your advocates be authentic voices for your brand, but you may also want to set some guidelines if, for instance, you plan on connecting brand advocates with potential customers directly.
How about you? How are you leveraging the power of brand advocates in your business?
Holly Cordner is a marketing manager living in Salt Lake City. She writes for Needle, which helps businesses of all sizes identify brand advocates and connect them with customers. Her first love is technology with tofu coming in a close second.