Earning dedicated customers who choose your brand over all others is the mark of a successful marketing and branding campaign, but it is the dedicated brand evangelists who have an even greater impact with their positive commentary about your business to new and potential customers.
How do you create brand evangelists? Does it take a half-century and millions of dollars? Is it something only the biggest companies can accomplish? In fact, it's a process that might not cost you a single cent in extra marketing costs.
Creating Brand Evangelists Through Communication
The bold customer today believes he can speak to a business whenever he wants and on his terms. This might mean interacting on a social media site like Facebook or making a phone call to the customer service department. In all communications, there is the opportunity for your employees to create brand evangelists.
Survey Gizmo shares:
"Customer feedback is essential in learning what your audience sees as the best and the worst aspects of your product. They will tell you why your product is better than everyone else’s already, and what you need to do to make your product better than the rest of the competition."
A customer who believes his input is valued by a company will take that to heart and let other people know of the experience. With the ease of ordering products from the internet, consumers today have their pick of businesses from which to buy, and they don't tolerate unresponsive companies or shoddy customer service.
On the other hand, a good customer service experience may be just what a customer needs to make a recommendation about a business to a friend.
Desk.com offers further guidance in this area with a helpful list of ways you can improve the performance of your customer service employees (even if your business is just a single employee – you – working out of your home office).
- Know how to articulate your brand.
- Make sure everyone at the business is well-versed in customer service.
- Respond quickly to problems, particularly if they're made public.
- Engage customers with online or local, real-world events
Even after your customers have become brand ambassadors, it's essential to remain vigilant and keep these four guidelines active as you train new employees.
Don't Confuse Brand Evangelist with Paid Spokesperson
One of the important distinctions to understand is the concept of the brand evangelist versus the paid spokesperson. If you think about it, the difference is easy to understand, but it remains a source of confusion for many business owners.
"...authenticity matters. While evangelists may benefit from advice about how to tell their stories, they almost never need to be told what to say. If you’re telling someone what to say, they are not an evangelist, they are a spokesperson. That’s a big difference."
Employees can become excellent brand evangelists, but they must do so from personal experience with the company rather than a script that is fed to them as part of customer service training. It's very common for employees to make purchases from the company for which they work. Employee discounts often fuel these purchases.
With personal and direct experience, employees can become organically grown and natural brand evangelists rather than stiff and studied paid spokespeople.
Rely on Social Media for Creating Brand Evangelists
Today, the average business will have a presence on social media that features "likes" and "shares" from customers. However, consumers today often "like" a great many different companies and are, at best, dedicated users and loyal customers.
Consider the companies you "like" on your personal social media account. Are you passionate about any of them? You might like buying items from the same companies over and over, but you might not have any companies for which you could realistically act as a brand evangelist.
The same is likely true for your own business and its customers. Creating a loyal consumer is actually pretty easy in today's social media environment. Finding people who are passionate about your company is much more difficult, but it's a worthy goal to cultivate.
The answer may lie in tracking the habits of your company's fans, customers, or clients. There are a variety of ways to measure customer engagement, including tracking customers who refer others, tracking customers who interact with the business in a public place, and tracking people who talk about the company in areas that aren't the company's own website or social media page.
However, Fast Company explains that tracking the numbers isn't the only thing you have to consider as a business owner who wishes to create brand evangelists:
"These are all perfectly useful, if not important, criteria and filters. And they are far better metrics than simply adding up the popular vote. But looking beyond the sheer numbers is one only challenge. The other challenge is to understand what ignites evangelism—from the point of view of psychological affinity, message content, stylistic posture, communication cadence, and of course, financial rewards."
Pay Attention to Casual Users and Customers
Every brand ambassador was once completely unfamiliar with your business, and there was a time when they were a first-time buyer. Some customers may have become loyal users of your company's products, and others may have become casual fans with a "like" or two on Facebook and Twitter.
These casual customers offer an important place to start for creating brand evangelists. Social Media Today explains the importance of building brand evangelists from your loyal customers:
"64% of marketing executives say word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands. 74% of consumers use social media to make purchase decisions."
A variety of ways exist for connecting with customers including crafting personal messages to customers, having managers or the company owner maintain an active and personal social media presence, and making sure company posts on websites like Twitter and Facebook are sincere and say something more than "how are you today?" or "how's everyone's week going?"
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