If you think the ultimate destination in the customer journey is to turn consumers into loyal customers, think again. The real goal is to turn them into free brand ambassadors who are thrilled to market and publicize your business, services, or products. However, if getting one sale is challenging enough, (and it is!), imagine how tough it may be to get your customers to work for free. There are obstacles galore and many opportunities for mistakes, but there are ways you can help make it happen.
When you have brand ambassadors doing a lot of your work for you, they can “advertise” the special events and speakers you have lined up. They are happy to be your walking, talking marketing campaign. These awesome wonders will sing your praises to the people most likely to become your next customers—their friends, families, and people they connect with on a daily basis, (like their acquaintance in yoga class who would love your new green water bottles.)
But how do you turn a customer into a brand ambassador? How do you ensure your startup is going to be one of the few celebrating an anniversary in a few years?
Here’s the foundation for creating brand ambassadors:
1. Start with a quality product or service
This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of beta testing and prototypes, and to jump right into a supposed full-fledged service or product before you’re ready. Of course the prototype stage is crucial, but learn from it and use this time to perfect the end product. You want your customers to to be marketing for you, but they are only going to advertise, if there is a decent, "something," to tell about.
2. Make yourself shareable
From the right marketing swag to a social media presence or blog that’s easily shareable with buttons connecting to Facebook or Twitter, your customers aren’t going to do all the work. The easier “you” are to share, the more likely they are to do it. Don’t launch an online presence until all kinks are worked out and sharing is made easy. Customers can handle about one and one-half seconds of bother or frustration, and the "sharing" will be non-existent.
3. Woo the customer, (and don’t stop)
You probably, (hopefully!), have a great plan in place when it comes to turning people into paying customers—but don’t stop there. Once a purchase has been made, that’s when the romance really takes off. You want to keep them interested, but not turn into a stalker. Keep them on the hook by offering a discount on their next product or service, genuinely asking for feedback, (and then act on it), or otherwise luring them back to you.
4. Consider an incentive program
There are many ways to approach this, and one of the most blatant is giving existing customers a perk if they get their family or friends through your doors. Is it an obvious tactic? Yes. But it will work if you make it worth something to your customer and if they are assured that you will not be hounding their friends saying that they recommended your product or service. It can be a means of catering to a group instead of an individual if it is handled right.
5. Focus on customer service
This should be your foundational thought throughout the entire customer journey, but it’s easy to drop the ball. Unless you’re a mega, mega corporation, ditch the customer automation. Make sure your customer service reps enjoy ongoing training where there’s a sense of personalization involved with every interaction, and entertaining, personal touches always trumping a sales pitch.
There’s no guaranteed way to turn a customer into a brand ambassador, but following the best practices of this transition will only work in your favor. How would you like to be treated by a brand? Follow your own advice and you'll find great results.