Don’t underestimate the power of brand champions.
Long before Apple was the tech juggernaut it is today, it was an aging product and ran in the personal computer industry that it had helped create. Right now Apple is one of the top technology companies in the world, but it is easy to forget that there was a time about 20 years ago when Apple was less than a month away from filing bankruptcy.
At that time, Apple was anything but a market leader. What kept the company going during those lean years was a dedicated following of brand champions who promoted and bought the company’s products even when these products weren’t exactly great. A company without such a base of brand champions never would have survived those lean years before Apple co-founder Steve Jobs returned and created the success story we know today.
This same following of brand champions not only kept Apple going during the lean years, they also were a cornerstone of the company’s comeback. We think back on the original candy-colored iMacs, the iPod, and the iPhone, and Apple’s return to its present form seems inevitable. But it wasn’t. Good ideas alone didn’t bring back Apple, nor Steve Jobs. It was the dedicated customer base led by brand champions that helped the company come back once it did start making great tech again. Without brand champions, Apple probably wouldn’t be here today.
We all know that our business is better with brand champions; pundits have long argued that happy customers spread the word and create the momentum that sells product. As small business owners, however, we don’t always know how to create these much-heralded brand champions.
Well, here’s how. We’re not promising your customers will be as rabid as Apple’s fans were back in the late 1990s, because that also requires amazing products.
But we can say that you probably won’t reach your business goals without brand champions.
So read on.
1. Encourage Customers to Participate in Social Media Discussions
Apple didn’t have the advantage of social media back in the day, but you do. Social media is one of the easiest ways that you can cultivate brand champions. And it starts with getting participation from your customers on social channels.
The key to building brand champions on social media is discussion and support; you encourage discussion on your social channels, you don’t just broadcast marketing material or self-serving sales Tweets. Then, once you’ve gotten your customers interacting with you on social media in a two-way discussion, you support them by making them feel special with advance company information, freebies and praise as beacons in your community.
Give your customers love, and they will return the favor.
2. Request Reviews, Testimonials and Guest Blog Posts
Many book authors have rocketed to number one position on the Amazon bestseller list by gaining massive positive reviews for their work (Tim Ferriss, for one). Your company may not be promoting books, but it can do the same by actively encouraging customers to positively review your products on blogs and shopping sites. Make it easy for them by including review calls-to-action in marketing emails and on social media; this can be done easily with Agile CRM’s automation features, which can be configured to automatically send buyers a follow-up email asking them to review your product after the sale.
Similarly, seek testimonials from happy customers whenever your customer support operation hears positive comments in a support conversation or on social media, and you might even consider asking these happy customers to write a guest post for your blog. Nothing makes a customer feel more attached to your business as when they’ve become part of the business via some small contribution like a guest post to your site.
3. Actually Listen to Your Customers
Make sure that you have a good feedback system where customers can voice comments and product improvement recommendations. Then, crucially, listen to this feedback and make changes.
When you do make a change that were prompted by a customer comment, don’t forget to let the customer know. This is a great way to make the customer feel important and give them a stake in the success of your company–and a sure road to building a brand champion in the customer.
Tools like UserVoice can help you integrate feedback with your CRM.
When you surprise your customers by giving more than was expected, you’re doing something that is truly rare in business. Your customers will remember this magical moment when you gave more than was expected or necessary.
There are many ways you can overdeliver.
You can overdeliver by having exceptional customer service, such as lightning fast response times and complete issue resolution with a bonus gift thrown in for good measure, like a discount on the next purchase or a free upgrade. You can overdeliver with price, giving a surprise discount or an add-on when none was expected or sought. You might overdeliver with unexpected new features if you’re a software-as-a-service company.
You also can overdeliver by including peripherals or spare parts that are useful but not strictly necessary. I’ll never forget the day I bought a vacuum, for instance, and the package came with extra air filters and replacement bags. My vacuum didn’t have to come with these items, but they was an unexpected touch that made my life easier. I loved it and the company had an advocate in me for the next decade.
These are some of the most common ways that you can build brand champions, although of course there are others. When building brand champions, just ask yourself: What would make me an excited, engaged, dedicated customer? Then go out and do it for your customers.
Apple built good products. But it also supported and took care of its customers, building loyal brand champions in the process. Do the same.