All owners want brand advocates. It relays a lot of positives. For one, a brand advocate is also a repeat customer. Secondly, an advocate supports the brand, telling other consumers of their fandom. Lastly, the notion of having advocates signals your business is doing well in providing value to the consumers. You want all these things for your company; but, how do you build advocates?
Fill in the Blank
Fill in the blank. I started a business to… Complete the sentence. If you did not fill in “provide value” or something similar, you are doing it wrong. A number of owners fill in “make money.” Of course, money is needed for one’s livelihood. No one will argue your right to make money away from you. However, a business makes money in exchange for providing a valuable product/service, warranting consumer dollars. If you’re setting out to give and not get, it’s a lot harder to build advocacy to your brand. Owners who get advocates understand the business’ focus stays on the customer.
As identified, advocates maintain an ongoing relationship. Owners can initiate the long-term sentiment by offering memberships or issuing savings cards. Have you ever noticed grocery-chain cashiers inviting you to save money through a club card? It saves you money; it also assumes you’ll be coming back as a regular customer, now that you own a club card. It’s a subtle gesture that makes a lot of money for grocers. Most grocers don’t dramatically differ in offered goods. Planting the seed of saving money creates a distinction in the minds of consumers.
Give and Take
Advocacy is a process of reciprocity. The more you give to your consumers, the more likely they are to become advocates. Focus on the giving. You can’t give so much away to the point of threatening your business; however, you don’t always have to think about short-term profit. Understand an investment is not always directly related to money. If you invest resources, time, and some profits into creating advocates, in theory, that money and attention should come back to you. Every interaction counts; that person you excused for not having the extra $.15 for the sandwich is going to come back next week with five friends to have lunch at your establishment.
Great customer service comes from listening to consumers rather than guessing, assuming, or making broad guesstimates based on a small data set. Always invite your customers to share, and listen to what they have to say. Great advocacy comes from the notion of wanting to improve the level of service. Your business future relies on pleasing your target market. No one knows their needs and wants better than them. Ask and listen to them.
In-store interaction is crucial. It allows an owner to better express genuine sentiments. However, owners can also interact online through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many owners are perplexed as how to use social media to accelerate business. Use it to communicate. Use it to listen. Use it to build relations. Advocacy spawns from better relations.
Not One-Time, All-the-Time
Building advocacy needs to be a part of an owner’s ongoing strategy. Building advocacy is not a tactic, but a mindset. Share the mindset and its importance with staff. Ensure your staff understands the importance of providing value to customers. Some news organizations host an editorial calendar, identifying upcoming stories of focus. Create an advocacy calendar, initiating to-be stratagems facilitating the notion of advocacy.
About the Author:
Valerie Cecil is a research coordinator, marketing specialist and writer for Outbounding.com. Her work allows her to investigate many topics, ranging from online consumer relations to effective communication in the workplace. When she is not working, she enjoys kayaking, watercolor, and scouting out the perfect giftbag for every occasion from RetailPackaging.com.