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What if instead of paying hundreds or thousands of pounds to promote your business, your customers did it for you for free? What if they happily shared your content and their positive experience with you with every chance they got?

Think about the impact something like that would have on your bottom line – less money to spend on attracting new customers, more sales, and a passive stream of new business. Plus, the positive word-of-mouth generated by loyal customers is two times more effective than paid advertising and also drives 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.

But here’s the thing: grooming your customers into constantly sharing you with others doesn’t happen when your only focus is to sell more to many. It happens when you focus on who you’re selling to.

So it’s not only about making new customers happy, but going above and beyond to get to know those happy customers, their needs and wants, and turning them into loyal promoters or advocates of your business.

But like all aspects of marketing, word-of-mouth isn’t something that just happens. It’s the result of a series of steps you need to take to wow your customers so they come to love your brand and then share that love with others.

Read on for ten ways to do just that…

Find your advocates

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

No matter how amazing your products, services or customer support are, and no matter how hard you try to make customers happy – you won’t be able to turn every single one into an advocate.

There will always be customers who arrive, make a single purchase, and leave, never to come back. Others will become regular customers, but do little else to benefit your business. But then there will also be a handful who have the potential to become your brand advocates.

Note the word “potential”. Customers don’t become advocates unless they have a good reason. They need to identify with and feel affiliated with your brand.

So, how do you find these potential advocates? A quick and effective way to do this is to send out a survey via email after a purchase had been made asking them this simple question:

 “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends, family, or colleagues?”

Customers who answer 9 or 10 have the potential to be your advocates.

So make a list of these customers as they are the people you’ll need to start building a stronger relationship with (but, of course, not at the detriment of your other customers).

For more ways to find brand advocates, check out these resources:

Once you’ve identified your advocates, it’s time to put them to work.

Next we’ll walk you through a few tactics that can help you turn potential promoters into active advocates. Of course, some of these tactics (like amazing customer support) should be employed with every customer, while others might be better applied to customers who you believe have the potential to become your advocates.

Here we go…

1. Offer amazing customer support

This one may seem obvious, but is it really, considering these stats:

  • 45% of customers can’t remember having a recent successful customer experience. Most failures were related to disappointing customer service.
  • 62% of global consumers have stopped doing business with a brand or organisation due to a poor customer service experience

Also, for every customer that bothers to complain, 26 other remain silent. So, while people might not complain about you, chances are they won’t be singing your praises either.

Bottom line: if you want to entice customers to promote your business, you need to start by providing awesome customer support that not only meets their expectations, but exceeds them.

Read our post on ways to provide customer service people go crazy for.

2. Ask for feedback

Asking customers for feedback is one of the most effective ways to gain valuable insight into your business. After all, who better to tell you what you’re doing right and what you could do better than your own customers?

Also, asking them to share their thoughts on their experience with you shows that you care. It shows that you value their feedback and are interested in making changes to improve their experience and what you offer to them – a vital step in creating brand advocates.

In fact, research has shown that simply asking customers for feedback “is enough to help keep customers satisfied and coming back for more”, whether or not they actually answer your questions.

For more tips and advice, read our guide on how to use surveys to get valuable feedback from your customers.

3. Remember their name

Doesn’t it feel great when you go to your favourite coffee shop and the barista greets you by name? Doesn’t it make you feel special and reaffirms your worth? So why not use this tactic with your customers as well?

Obviously, this method alone isn’t enough to turn them into loyal customers or advocates, but it will help in the long run. It’ll make them feel like you care about them as a person, and that they’re not just a number in a spreadsheet.

So, when addressing your customers, whether it’s in an email, a phone call, or in person, always use their name.

4. Offer a loyalty program

You’ve probably heard about this tactic lots of time. That’s because it works. If a customer receives a reward, a discount or any kind of bonus for repeat business, most often they’ll return to the same company instead of going to a competitor.

The problem with this is that joining a loyalty program doesn’t guarantee that customers will actively use it.

So, to encourage customers to use your loyalty plan make sure you keep it simple. The simpler it is, the higher the chances they’ll use it.

You’re likely familiar with the coffee shop stamp system where you’re awarded a stamp for each coffee purchase, and after you’ve collected a specific number stamps you get a reward like a free coffee or a mug. So, for example, if you’re a plumber, you could offer a discount for a second or third call. If you have a nail salon, you could reward customers who check-in or post about their visit on social media.

Check out these resources for more information on how to create a loyalty program:

5. Offer a referral program

This is another effective way to attract new customers as well as to turn your existing ones into brand advocates.

The idea behind it is simple: existing customers who talk positively about your business to their friends and family and send new customers your way get a reward. This can be anything from a discount to exclusive access to a new product or service.

Here are a few tips for running a successful referral programme:

  • Give customers time to get to know your business and what you’re selling. You can’t expect them to make a referral if they’ve not had enough time to get acquainted with your business and the benefits of your products or services.
  • Create a program that’s beneficial for both the referrer and the referee. This way you encourage both your existing customers as well as their friends and family, or whomever they refer to you, to do business with you.

Always thank them for referring new customers. This helps to make the potential advocate feel helpful and valued, and it can also increase the chances that they’ll refer you again and again.

If you’re unfamiliar with referral programs, these guides should come in handy:

6. Surprise them

Receiving a freebie for buying three products or for recommending a new customer is great. But receiving a freebie just because you’re a loyal customer is even better.

Everyone loves a surprise gift. Just imagine the last time your partner or a family member gave you an unexpected gift – just to show you’re appreciated and loved. Or when you were offered a coffee on the house at your favourite coffee shop. That probably made you feel happy and excited, even more so because there was no special reason for it, like a birthday or a promotion.

So why not apply the same tactic to your business? Show your customers that you appreciate their business by surprising them with a gift that they’ll enjoy (and hopefully watch as they talk about it online).

The surprise gift can be anything from upgrading them to next-day delivery to a free manicure.

7. Give out free t-shirts

T-shirts are a cost-effective but amazing way to promote your brand. You could even send them as a surprise gift or along with a purchase.

This will not only surprise customers but it’ll also increase visibility for your business as more people will get to see your name and logo, and become familiar with your business.

It can also help turn existing customers into brand advocates as they’ll feel more connected to your brand, and proud to share it with everyone.

Here’s an example: say you’re a personal trainer and you have a number of clients who are participating in a marathon. Why not give out free personalised t-shirts and encourage them to run together as a team? Not only will this help promote your business, but it’ll also make them feel part of a beautiful community.

8. Remember special occasions

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Try to find out as much as you can about your customers, including their birthdays, whether they’re married or have children. This kind of personal information can help you build a closer relationship with them.

When time comes, put this information to work. So if they’re celebrating a birthday, a wedding anniversary or Mother’s Day, be part of the celebration by sending a handwritten card, a discount or even a gift.

Of course, you’re not going to send a gift to every customer as that might be costly. The key is to weight the costs of recognising a special occasion against the value of the customer.

So if you have a customer that keeps coming back to you, and recommending you to others, then it makes sense to nurture that relationship by sending a handwritten card and a gift. But if you have hundreds of customers, an ecard might be more appropriate as well as cost-effective.

9. Ask for testimonials

Don’t be shy about asking customers to share their experience with you in a testimonial, and then displaying it on your website.

This helps you achieve several things, such as:

  • Free, user-generated content that you can publish on your site
  • It acts as social proof, encouraging potential customers to do business with you
  • It makes that customer feel valued and special, increasing the chances that they’ll continue to be a customer and hopefully an advocate.

Check out our small business guide to collecting customer testimonials to learn what makes a good testimonial and how to entice more customers to publicly share their experience with you.

10. Don’t underestimate the power of “Thank you” notes

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“Thank you” notes are a lovely and very personal way to surprise your customers, especially when they’re handwritten. It shows that you truly care about each customer and that you’re not a faceless brand who’s only about numbers and revenue.

When writing these “thank you” notes, make sure you not only use the customer’s name but also make a reference to their purchase.

Wrapping up

Remember: no one tells your story better than your customers, not even you. So make sure you use some of the above tactics to entice more of your existing customers to actively and positively spread the word about your business.

Any other interesting ideas on how to get customers to promote your business for you? Tweet us @123Reg. 

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