Competition is always fierce and loyalty often a moving target. To make a lasting impression on customers, marketers need to do more than provide excellent service and create a stellar product. They need to turn those customers into marketing machines.
Only 23 percent of customers say they have a ‘relationship’ with a brand, according to a study reported in the Harvard Business Review. But there’s a silver lining. With the right strategies, that leaves 77 percent of customers who can potentially be converted to brand advocacy—if you make the crucial emotional connection.
Brand advocates are customers who are so passionate about your product or service that they happily spread the word about it. With social media sharing and countless review sites, customers have more power than ever to impact your brand’s online reputation. In fact, more than 8 out of 10 online customers say they trust recommendations from friends and family members more than any type of advertising, according to Nielsen.
Personalizing the impersonal to create emotional connections goes a long way toward building brand attachment and breeding advocacy, which can have an exponential impact to your bottom line. Following these key strategies to create loyal brand ambassadors.
1. Understand Motivation
Emotionally connected customers are twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers, according to the Harvard Business Review. The emotional connection starts with relating and knowing what motivates. Maybe your customers want to be different and stand out from the crowd—or perhaps they prefer to be a part of a team or a member of a “tribe.”
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Motivations will inevitably vary depending on the industry, brand and the customer’s current position in the buying journey. With all of these factors, it is crucial to rely on data insights and analytics to determine motivation, rather than mere guesswork.
Once you have determined what drives your customers’ motivation, offer a clear path that will attract those who are a strong fit for your brand. Be genuine at all times, and ensure that all messaging and interactions consistently align with your brand’s value proposition.
2. Gather Your Brand’s “Tribe”
The hallmark of a strong community is being well-connected, with members sharing common goals and ideologies. As Seth Grodin explained in his book Tribes, membership in these brand communities should be voluntary, dynamic, partisan and noisy.
A powerful technique to build a tribe is to create a term to refer to all your customers. Tie it back to your brand and promote the idea that they are joining an exclusive “tribe” of likeminded individuals. Create a special celebration or recognition to praise them for joining your tribe—and get them excited to be part of something bigger than a transaction.
Provide your customer advocates with unique ways to communicate with you as well as each other. Online forums, polls and apps work well, but also consider organizing live gatherings and other experiential events. Proximity is highly influential in strengthening your tribe’s bonds and building customer advocacy. Continuously engaging your brand community helps strengthen their sense of ownership. When they know you hear them and respect what they have to say, they will reciprocate by spreading the news about your product or services.
3. Offer Immersive Experiences
According to research from EMI and Mosaic, 74 percent of customers have a better opinion about a brand after attending an experiential marketing event.
Experiential marketing helps cut through the clutter that defines the digital age—and is essential for instilling an emotional connection. Design unusual, creative event experiences that attract and entertain attendees; then encourage brand interaction and social sharing.
While live experiences require more resources and their impact can be tough to measure, they literally bring people together, which can be highly impactful. Creating a space where your tribe can network and connect helps establish trust and strengths the bond with the brand.
4. Building Relationships with a Lasting Emotional Connection
Increased brand advocacy translates to less price sensitivity, more recommendations and a louder voice in the marketplace. It’s a great way to generate new business and diversify the people you reach and the ways in which you reach them.
Once you’ve carved out your identity in the marketplace, be vigilant about your continuing communication. Back up your claims with tangible actions, as well as a commitment to quality and excellence. If you can deliver results to people over the long haul, they are motivated to become advocates who not only choose your brand—but also critically market it to others.
Maura McCarthy is vice president, communication solutions, ITA Group, Inc.