Successful marketing strategy isn’t based only on high ROI and conversions. Modern brands should establish an emotional connection with their customers, share the brand’s inner culture with them. In this case, customers may become a part of a brand’s team and stand out as brand advocates.
Brand Advocates: Who They Are
Brand advocates in a large sense can be customers, bloggers, employees, family members, or friends. Those people share the brand’s corporate culture, values, and mission. They like the product or service they get from a company and gladly share their positive experience with their audience.
Ted Rubin, the renowned social marketing strategist, calls relations between brands and their clients a cornerstone of good marketing. He introduced the term Return on Relationships (ROR), on the analogy of ROI. It is the value a brand gets through establishing strong, trust-based relationships with its customers. Today these non-material signs of a brand’s reliability cost more than the money you pay for advertisement.
ROR gets profitable for both sides. Customers get high-quality products or services, while brands get publicity and outreach for potential customers for free.
Power of Brand Advocates
More and more studies show the growth of ordinary people’s trust in recommendations and reviews from others. Nielsen’s 2012 Global Trust in Advertising report claims that 92% of 28,000 consumers from 56 countries trust their friend’s and relatives’ recommendations rather than traditional forms of advertising. Consumer reviews on earned media gained the trust of 70% of online respondents. Editorial articles that brands publish on earned media came third and gained the trust of 58% of consumers.
BrightLocal survey conducted in 2014 revealed that 9 of 10 (88%) consumers read reviews about local businesses before purchase. Among such businesses are hotels, flights, cars, restaurants, doctors, plumbers, etc.
It seems pretty logical today when people get tired of a false image of a product created in adverts. When no one is surprised that celebs are getting money for their promotion of this or that brand. Thus consumers rely more on the opinions of average buyers who tested the product and genuinely liked it. According to the same survey from BrightLocal, customers, in general, read from 6 to 10 reviews before making a decision of purchase.
“Word of mouth” becomes one of the most powerful ways of promoting a product, business, or service. Such trusted resources as TripAdvisor welcome customers’ reviews and treat them as a base for building a brand’s rating. People in the modern world love to share their opinions on social media. The trick is that people more tend to share their negative experiences rather than positive ones. And brands need to monitor all mentions of it online and try to turn every experience into a good one.
Getting Brand Advocates for Your Brand
Reaching out brand advocates requires you to establish a strategy for identifying potential advocates, nurture them, inviting to collaboration and define their reward.
Start with your target audience. Research your social media followers and take a closer look at the accounts that usually speak about your brand in a positive way. Learn what makes those people satisfied about your product, engage those users for a closer collaboration.
Useful tools that help monitoring your brand mentions and other activity connected with your business:
— Followerwonk. An app from Moz that helps tracking your Twitter followers activity, location and general interests. Allows compare users accounts and organize your followers into groups for more specific targeting;
— ReFollow. It helps finding the right audience, “grooming and managing” your relationships with followers effectively;
— Klout. One of the most popular tools for sharing content to social media and track social media activity. It also offers suggestions about Twitter accounts to follow;
— BuzzSumo. Amazing service that helps identifying what content performs the best and how it can be improved. It also helps monitoring influencers that can impact your business;
— Sprout Social helps tracking and measuring social engagement, getting messages from followers, monitoring brand mentions and specific hashtags.
Share Your Brand’s Values
Make your brand open to your customers. Offer insights about its corporate culture and values. Your brand’s values should be clear and easy-to-understand for your audience. The blog content, social accounts, or publications on earned media should promote those values. Encourage your followers and readers to share your content and comment.
Your employees can act as on-board brand advocates too. Since people are more likely engaging with individuals rather than with brands, your employees can become that bridge between your business and customers. Surveys show that people are 3 times more likely to trust employees than the company’s CEO or other official representatives. Here, at PRNEWS.io Ukrainian office, we use this idea during the recent IT-event iForum.
Ask People for Reviews
The above mentioned BrightLocal research shows that about 9% of customers are open for collaboration with brands. They are happy to leave reviews if a brand asks for some. Thus, if you send message to 100 customers and ask them to leave feedback, 10 may yield to your request.
Brand advocates like attention to their own needs and personalities. So make sure that their reviews are shared with your community. Don’t forget to thank people for the feedback they leave — they spend their time on it, appreciate it. Building relationships is listening to everyone and answer people’s needs in return.
Provide a Reward
Building relationships with brand advocates is not a totally free source anyway. But that doesn’t mean you should literally pay for reviews and comments, no-no. Small treats and pleasing surprises will definitely work. You can offer:
— Badges or Certificates that a person can display on their social media account or a website;
— Nice discount for your services or products;
— VIP-treatment during company’s events (e.g. an exclusive sneak-peeks of the latest product and the process of its creation);
— Invitation to be beta-testers of a new product;
— Branded staff like t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc.;
— Backlinking to their posts, profiles, etc. on your blog articles or in editorial content on other websites.
Make Your Brand Page More About Your Customers
People like sharing their thoughts about various things. But more of all that they love talking about themselves. Make your blog or social media account a friendly platform where your customers can enjoy a real conversation, share their own interests and expectations.
The Bottom Line
The strategy of ROR is not about the advertisement. It is about building relationships and nurturing an emotional connection with your brand. Focus more on your customer’s needs and wishes. Treat user-generated content with care and genuine interest and people will trust your brand more.