In a crowded marketplace, where consumers are often bombarded with marketing claims made by brands, it can be difficult for them to know who to trust. In these situations, many turn to their peers for recommendations or advice.
Recent research carried out by Kantar found friends and family to be the most trusted source of recommendations in all age groups. Peer recommendations were found to be even more trustworthy than online reviews and were significantly more trusted than media sources.
In this post, we’ll be looking at how you can take advantage of this by leveraging the brand advocacy potential of your most loyal customers, who we’ll refer to as brand ambassadors throughout.
What is a Brand Ambassador?
A brand ambassador is someone who promotes your product or service in their interactions with other people via relevant communication channels. They can range from social media influencers who represent your company for sponsorship to your everyday consumer who’s simply evangelical about a brand they love.
In this article, we’ll be discussing mostly the second type of brand ambassador — the valued customer who freely recommends you to friends and family. Not necessarily because they have entered into a contractual agreement to do so, but because they value whatever it is you provide them with and want to share their enjoyment.
Customer Loyalty and Personalization
To create loyal customers, you need more than just a good product. If you want to elevate the customer experience and create brand longevity, you must cultivate a relationship.
The key to building meaningful relationships with customers is to show them you value them. To do this, avoid sterile, one-size-fits-all messaging that treats every consumer in the same way. Try to add a human touch by channeling your marketing efforts into personalized messaging.
Personalization can start as soon as a potential lead lands on your website. Use visitor segmentation to divide web traffic into different groups who can each be targeted with a personalized experience tailored to their demographic.
As you learn more about your customers, you can offer even more personalized experiences. Segmentation is a good start, but many expect a unique experience in return for their loyalty. Ensure you have an effective data pipeline in place that collates browser data and logs visitor behavior. This will allow you to see what your most valued customers are browsing for and offer relevant products and offers.
Retaining and Engaging Customers
If customers like your brand, they’re more likely to subscribe to a mailing list. Converting visitors to your website into subscribing account holders opens up a line of communication between you and them.
Alongside other communication channels, establishing a curated mailing list is the first step toward turning paying customers into brand ambassadors. But if your marketing materials are going unread or ending up in people’s spam folders, a great opportunity is being wasted.
To retain those customers, you don’t just need their contact details — you need to engage them. That means communication must go both ways. Competitions, freebies, exclusive promotions and limited edition products are a great way to reward your loyal customers and keep your mailing list engaged.
You should make it as easy as possible for your customers to get in touch by having multiple channels of communication available to them. For example, you could implement a live chat feature on your website or set up a toll-free number to call. For many, social media accounts are increasingly the go-to means of reaching out to a brand.
Ensure your customer service operation is set up so customers can easily get in touch using their preferred method and that if they choose to switch from one channel to another, they can pick up a conversation where they left off. This approach is known as omnichannel customer support and refers to a customer support strategy that provides consistent and integrated service across channels.
Referral programs are a great way of turning loyal customers into brand ambassadors. Not only do they make it easy for customers who’ve already signed up to mailing lists and membership schemes to refer their friends, but they also make it worthwhile for them to do so. That’s because referral programs typically reward both the new customer and the initiator.
A referral scheme formalizes the process of brand recommendation. It takes advantage of people’s willingness to trust recommendations from someone they know. Referral programs recognize, however, that not everyone who loves a brand automatically becomes an ambassador. Sometimes they need a nudge in the right direction. That’s why referral schemes incentivize your existing customers to introduce your product to their peers.
Incentives could be discounts, free samples, special offers, or you could put a points-based reward scheme in place. Not only do referral schemes generate new leads but, because gifting can increase customer loyalty and retention, they can also grow the lifetime value of the existing customer.
As 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 recommendations is to extend your customer network.
Customer Experience and Digital Marketing to Build Trust
No one is going to recommend a brand they don’t trust to people they know. Even if they like your product or service, any weaknesses in the overall customer experience will reduce your chances of turning customers into brand ambassadors.
Customer experience design starts with marketing and follows the customer journey through sales, distribution, customer service and product support. As most marketing now happens digitally, a good place to begin is web design. For example, many digital marketers have found a minimalist design improves the customer experience.
The idea of consumer trust gets to the heart of why peer recommendations are so successful. They’re more genuine and don’t feel like a sales tactic.
One way to build trust is to back up any claims you make online with customer reviews and independent research. There’s nothing wrong with using product demonstrations and in-house marketing materials, but if you can complement this with outside sources of information, it will help reduce churn rates and increase customer trust.
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 can inform your business strategy and help you generate leads, acquire new customers, and retain existing ones.
Social Media Ambassadorship
Positive social media engagement is another way to organically grow your consumer influence and build trust in your brand. With social media, referrals don’t have to be direct, one-to-one recommendations but can be one-to-many recommendations made via online platforms. When some people have online followings that number in the thousands, the right recommendation can reap huge rewards.
Often, social media ambassadorship mirrors its real-world equivalent. Someone enjoys a product and wants to shout about it, so they author an original Reddit post, Facebook status, tweet, or some other kind of online statement about said product.
Iterable’s 2021 consumer psychology poll found that 29 percent of respondents said they take to their social channels to voice brand satisfaction, and 21 percent said they do the same to share dissatisfaction.
With this in mind, it’s clear that as well as encouraging people to share their positive experiences, you need to respond well to online criticism. Employing a social media manager to deal with dissatisfied customers will markedly improve your reputation.
What’s more, it can even turn unhappy customers into brand ambassadors. For example, if someone receives a faulty product and turns to social media to complain, a prompt and helpful response from your customer service team can be just the thing to turn their negative experience into a positive one.
Remember, as well as originally authored social content, the social media share (repost, retweet, etc.) can be a great way of getting word about your brand out there. To increase the likelihood of people sharing your social media content, it needs to be useful, entertaining or ideally both.
The best type of content to maximize reach through social shares will depend on the preferences of your customer base, but it’s also platform-specific. For example, research shows that on Facebook, video is the most shared type of content above photos, links and statuses.
Yet when we consider the most popular formats on Instagram, we find video falls to third place in terms of engagement, behind carousel and image posts.
Ultimately, the best strategy to maximize social ambassadorship is to create a range of content in different formats for people to share. Keep in mind they’re unlikely to share a blatant advertisement unless it’s especially funny or original.
On the other hand, how-to guides and informational content is not only an easily shareable type of marketing material but doubles up as a form of customer support too.
Turning Trusted Customers Into Brand Ambassadors
Organic brand advocacy is one of the best ways to grow your reputation and increase your reach, helping you get your product into the hands of more customers. But having a great product isn’t necessarily enough, and you can’t always count on happy customers sharing their experiences.
Thankfully, a little encouragement goes a long way when it comes to creating cheerleaders for your brand. By following the tips laid out here, you should be well on your way to turning your most trusted customers into excellent brand ambassadors.
Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud PBX platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content.