Everything You Need to Keep a Loyal Fanbase

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Have you ever considered the importance of turning customers into forever fans, a.k.a brand ambassadors? It’s widely known that some of the best growth comes from word of mouth marketing, which naturally occurs when customers suggest your products to others in their close circles. This form of marketing is crucial to organic growth because it’s based on relationships and trust. In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen divulges the secrets to turning customers into brand ambassadors for optimal growth. Tune in to the full episode to learn more!

Channeling marketing and CX efforts

CX and marketing go hand in hand when it comes to building brand loyalty. It’s at this intersection where we find the most value and opportunity for growth.

Think about it, if you try a product and love it, you’re more likely to recommend it to your friends and family, right? Well, this word of mouth marketing is where a lot of companies focus their efforts because it’s cheap. Recommendations come essentially free so long as the product and service stay consistent. Companies don’t have to pour as much time, money, energy, and focus into this area of marketing because it occurs organically. 

Customers become brand ambassadors the second they spread the word about their positive experience. They already have pre established trust among their peers who then go to buy the product based on recommendations, making it so the company doesn’t have to spend anymore resources on marketing or building relationships with this group.

“I think organic brand advocacy is one of the best ways to grow your reputation…It helps you get your product in the hands and more customers, but having a great product isn’t always enough and you can’t always count on happy customers sharing their experience. So, little bit of encouragement can go a long way to creating these advocates for your brand.”

Encouraging customers to spread the good word is easy to do when they’re incentivized. Many companies have loyalty programs that reward customer purchases. Others offer discounts or free products for every referral they receive.  

“Referral programs typically are going to reward both the new customer and the initiator. So a referral program formalizes a process of brand recommendations.”

Remembering the human element of CX

Why do so many brands focus on surpassing the competition at all costs but lose sight of their customers along the way? We see so many leaders get lost in the shuffle to the top that they often forget the very people they serve. Obviously, customers are key to longevity and this goes without saying but always keep your brand focused on the customer and their needs.

To better center your efforts around consumers, you need to be a customer-obsessed company, meaning that every step of the process from product design to shipping is done with their needs in mind. This also includes keeping that empathetic, human element in each part of the experience. How exactly can you accomplish this?

The first step is personalization to create a unique experience for every individual that interacts with your company. Gabe explains:

“It could start as soon as potential customers land on your website. You could use visitor segmentation to divide traffic into different groups so that each can be targeted with a slightly different or tailored experience to their demographic.”

Next is to be available for your customers on their desired channels. Live chat is growing in popularity and customers, especially those of younger generations, are loving this communication option. When customers are able to speak with agents on their preferred platforms, they’re more likely to stay with the brand and follow through with their purchase. Empathy goes a long way in CX. The least we could do is chat with customers where and how they want.

From bad experiences to ambassador opportunities

The second someone goes on social media to write a comment about a negative experience they’ve had with your company can create a lot of chaos, especially in today’s digital world. This is why we’re starting to see more social-media-damage-control type jobs popping up all over the market. 

Gabe explains that the way we respond to negative feedback can turn an upset customer into a brand ambassador.

“If someone receives a faulty product and does this and turns to some social media to complain, it makes a huge difference in prompts…A helpful response from your customer service team can be the one thing that can turn that negative into a positive.”

To learn more about customer and brand relationships, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Everything You Need to Keep a Loyal Fanbase

Intro Voice: (00:04)

You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:10)

Welcome everybody to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast. We’ve got your host, Gabe Larsen, here. Today we’re going to be talking about this idea of everything you need to know to turn customers into brand ambassadors. Now I’m taking here from a post that Grace Lau, Director of Growth over at Dialpad, did for Kustomer. It was such a great summary of this topic that I want to just give you a little bit of an overview. Some of the takeaways I got, if you want to see more on it, you can check it out on the Kustomer blog. But let me see if I can summarize some of her thoughts as, yeah, I thought it was pretty interesting. So everything you need to know to turn customers into brand ambassadors, I mean, isn’t that what we all want? We want people doing the selling force. It makes things much, much easier.

Gabe Larsen: (01:10)

I think in a crowded marketplace, consumers are really bombarded with all these claims of marketing and brands, but it’s hard to know to trust, right? Well, where do people go? Where do you go? Your peers. This recent research carried out by Kantar, found friends and family to be the most trusted source of recommendations in all age groups. Peer recommendations, they were found to be even more reliable than online reviews and were significantly more trusted than media sources. I’m sorry. Well, I’m probably sorry to myself. Marketing media. It’s just, yeah. I mean, what do we trust? Those close around us, right? So how do you get there? How do you take advantage of this concept by leveraging the brand advocacy potential in those really loyal customers? Those who, oftentimes we like to use that word, are brand ambassadors.

Gabe Larsen: (02:22)

Okay. So let’s establish this. So what is a brand ambassador? It’s someone who promotes your product or service with other people via any communication channels that happen to be relevant. They can range from social media influencers who represent a company for sponsorship to everyday consumers who simply talk about your brand they love. I’m going to be spending where Grace went, mostly on that second type, valued customer who freely recommends to friends or family. So to create loyal customers, you need more than just a good product. If you want to elevate the customer experience and create brand longevity, all about relationships. Relationships matter. The key to building meaningful relationships with customers is to show you value. To do this. What do you not need to do? Well, you can’t have that one size fits all messaging that treats every customer the same. Add that human touch.

Gabe Larsen: (03:32)

How do you add that? By channeling your marketing efforts, personalized messaging. Personalization. I know it’s a buzzword, it is. But it could start as soon as potential customers land on your website. You could use visitor segmentation to divide traffic into different groups so that each can be targeted with a slightly different or tailored experience to their demographic. That’s one thing. As you learn about your customers, you can offer an even more personalized experience. I think segmentation is a good start, but many expect a unique experience in return for that loyalty that they ultimately want to give you. If you can ensure you have an effective data pipeline in place that collects browser data logs, visitor behavior, this can help. This can allow you to see what your most valued customers are browsing for and other relevant products or services. Now, if customers like your brand, I think they’ll show it.

Gabe Larsen: (04:33)

They’ll be more likely to subscribe to a mailing list. If you want to convert visitors to your website into subscribing account holders, open up a line of communication between you and them. Alongside other communication channels, establishing a curated mailing list might be the first step toward turning plain customers into brand ambassadors. But if your marketing materials are going unread or ending up in people’s spam folder, that is probably obviously time wasted. I think to retain customers, you don’t just want contact deals. You got to engage with them. That means communication must go both ways. Competitions and freebies or promotions or limited edition products, great ways to start to reward your loyal customers and keep that mailing list engaged. You should also make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch by having multiple channels of communication available to them.

Gabe Larsen: (05:33)

For example, live chat. Have that on your website or throw a phone number up there. We’re seeing more social channels pop on websites. Instagrams and WhatsApps and Messengers. Those are a great way to interact with the brand. Now, ensuring customer service operation is set up so customers can easily get in touch using their preferred, not just random, but preferred method, if they choose from one channel to another, they can pick up conversations where they left off, omnichannel customer support, meeting consumers where they are, it’s never a bad idea. I don’t think you’re going to get penalized for that. It’s what expectations the modern or now customer has. What else did I like? Oh, referral programs. Yes. Referral programs. Great way of turning loyal customers into brand ambassadors. Not only do they make it easy for customers who already signed up on say, these mailing lists and membership features to refer their friends, but they also make it worthwhile for them to do so.

Gabe Larsen: (06:44)

So referral programs typically are going to reward both the new customer and the initiator. So a referral program formalizes a process of brand recommendations. You can take advantage of people’s willingness to trust recommendations from someone they know and maybe just incentivize them a little bit. Nothing wrong with pushing the envelope. I think referral programs recognize that not everyone who loves a brand automatically becomes an ambassador. So sometimes we need that little nudge, right? We need that little push in the right direction. That’s why referral programs incentivize those customers to take that extra step and get that product into the peer’s hands. Right? Get them going. What else could you do? Some of these things could be, what incentives can you use for referral programs? Discounts aren’t bad. Free samples, special offers, the points, those can be tough, but points-based rewards can be great.

Gabe Larsen: (07:52)

Not only do referral programs generate potentially new customers because gifting can increase customer loyalty and retention, but they can also grow the lifetime value of an existing customer. I’ve seen referral programs put a structure in place for recommending to friends and family. They can be even more effective than organic peer recommendations. Just as effective communication in the workplace is clear and task oriented, referral programs make it explicitly clear that the purpose of the recommendation is to expand, expand, expand that consumer network. Now customer experiences and digital marketing can also really help build trust. No one is going to recommend a brand they don’t trust. People they know, even if they like your product or service, any weakness in the all customer experience, it’s going to reduce chances of turning customers into brand ambassadors. Customer experience design starts with marketing and follows the customer journey through the whole thing.

Gabe Larsen: (08:55)

Through sales and customer service, product support. Most marketing now happens digitally. A good place to begin is web design. For example, many web digital marketers have found a minimalist design that can really improve the customer experience. The idea of a consumer trust, get to the heart of why peer recommendations are so successful, they’re genuine. They don’t feel like sales tactics. One way to build trust is to back up any claims you make online with those reviews in independent research. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using product demonstrations and in-house marketing materials, but I’m telling you, if you can compliment those with some outside sources, it helps. It just helps the whole customer trust cycle. Now, if you want to nail your customer experience, it’s worth learning how to use customer analytics, data from every step of the customer journey, it can inform, I mean, this is always the holy grail.

Gabe Larsen: (10:02)

You know, how are people moving from this to that? But analytics makes a huge, huge difference. Where else can you see customers become ambassadors? Social media. Positive social media engagement, that’s a really great way to grow organic influence through customers and build that trust in your brand. Social media referrals. They don’t have to be so direct, one to one recommendations, right? They could be that, I don’t know, one to many, made online platform, Twitter, whatever it might be. Now, while some people have online followings, that number for most including yours truly is in the thousands. But every little bit helps. Right? So often social media ambassadorship matches that real world equivalent. Someone enjoys a product and wants to just shout about it so they author an original Reddit post or they throw something on Facebook or tweet, right?

Gabe Larsen: (10:59)

And they get that out there. There was a poll done by Iterable in 2021 that was real interesting that was highlighted. It said, where is that here? Yeah. 29% of respondents said they take their social channels to voice brand satisfaction. 21% said they do the same to share dissatisfaction. So look, I think that’s, it’s not a ton, but it’s not bad. So with that in mind, it’s clear that as well as encouraging people to share their positive experience, you might want to respond by the way to criticism. Your brand social media manager, support agents who can feed that into their queues to manage reputation, that’s probably something to just check off and be aware of. Now what’s more is this all can turn unhappy customers into brand ambassadors. For example, if someone receives a faulty product and does this and turns to some social media to complain, it makes a huge difference in prompts.

Gabe Larsen: (12:03)

A helpful response from your customer service team can be the one thing that can turn that negative into a positive. Remember as well as originally authored social content, the social media share repost, it can be a great way of getting your word out for your brand. The best type of content to maximize reach through social, well it’s going to probably depend on your customer base, but it’s also platform specific. So research is shown that Facebook videos are the most shared type of content above photos, links and statuses. We consider the most popular formats on Instagram. You’ll find video falls to third place in terms of engaged buying carousel and image posts. So you gotta be thinking about how different types of medium, different customers will react to different pieces. Okay. Now last but not least in summary here, turning trusted customers into brand ambassadors.

Gabe Larsen: (12:59)

I think organic brand advocacy is one of the best ways to grow your reputation. It is. And just also it increases your reach. It helps you get your product in the hands of more customers, but having a great product isn’t always enough and you can’t always count on happy customers sharing their experience. So a little bit of encouragement can go a long way to creating these advocates for your brand. Hopefully some of those tips that we laid out here, you should be well on your way to turning your most trusted customers into some of those brand ambassadors. So I really appreciate Grace Lau again, for that post on the Kustomer blog. Wanted to see if I could summarize some of that for you, this idea of how do you turn customers into brand ambassadors? All righty, everybody have a fantastic day and thanks as always for tuning in.

Exit Voice: (14:02)

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