Yes, ultimately, they’re responsible for your company’s success. After all, what is a company without any customers? But your customers have a lot of power and can make an impact beyond revenue. Companies have recently begun to realize how to tap into that potential.
Customer reviews can be used to benefit a business, but reviews are only a subset of customer advocacy marketing - a strategy that utilizes customers across multiple marketing channels.
Customer advocacy is best exemplified by the advent and adoption of social media among all brands, large and small. A strong social media presence has proven to be a major asset for brands. When customers take the time to talk about your product or service in a good light, other potential customers listen because they may be looking for a brand with a reputation they can trust.
To learn how to start implementing a customer advocacy strategy and learn from the brands who have succeeded doing so, check out a recording of our webinar below.
What is customer advocacy marketing?
In a nutshell, it's basically letting your customers tell your story through user-generated content. When you put this in your marketing, the goals of your marketing are still the same, you still want to drive traffic, drive conversion, sales, whatever it might be. But when you're letting your customers tell your story, you're probably going to see a higher conversion rate, more traffic, and just overall a better brand reputation. Customer advocacy can look like a lot of different things, you might be most familiar with customer quotes that you're putting on your website or better yet, reviews that are timestamped and from a third-party review platforms such as Trustpilot are great.
Also, video testimonials are increasingly popular, case studies are super popular for B2B companies as well, and last but not least, social media posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, but also maybe on some other consumer destination sites like Cora or other channels that might be more specific to your industry, are amazing too.
Why is customer advocacy important?
In reality, traditional advertising just isn't enough anymore, 84% of consumers don't trust advertising anymore, that was actually a key stat from a McCarthy Group research report. The reason is that we're basically just inundated with advertisements all the time. When we walk around, when we're on public transportation, on social media, on websites, all of these things are really kind of diluting the effect of advertising, so marketers really need to evolve. Implementing a customer advocacy strategy is one of the best ways, not only to engage with potential customers but also helps you build a customer relationship. So you can see that customer advocacy really works both ways in terms of helping you get more customers but also helping you keep your customers.
50% of small businesses say that having a relationship with their customers is their primary driver of repeat business, and repeat business is essential to keeping a business alive. Having repeat customers, having one customer make multiple purchases, and be responsible for a large amount of revenue is a pretty true and tested strategy for the long-term health of a company. Also, customers are really looking at brands who care, the reason why that is, is that with the advent of online e-commerce companies and the fact that essentially any company is easily accessible on the internet, you need to find new ways to differentiate yourself. Being a brand that customers trust and feel that care about them is a huge difference-maker, 76% of consumers say they view customer service as a true test of how a company values them.
Why online trust matters
Trust is actually one of the really important aspects of a company now that we're moving really far into e-commerce and digital marketing. Word of mouth, which has existed for a very long time, now has an online presence and it still matters very much for a company, and it's still the most popular method of recommendations for consumers, and we all know it. We talk to each other and we get movie recommendations, book recommendations, product recommendations, word of mouth is really compelling and really important and that also matters on digital channels. Social media is one of the best examples of how customer feedback really plays into an overall strategy. On average, a consumer will look at 10 information sources before making a purchase, social media is really one of them.
You can look at different Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter accounts, you can see what people are saying about companies, what people are saying about specific products. A lot of companies are also leveraging these social platforms to kind of promote experiences, if you're a company that provides a service rather than a product, and this has proven to be really successful, we will touch on that a little later. Customer reviews directly also affect how a company's perceived, 92% of consumers now read online reviews and 40% of consumers form an opinion of a company by reading one, two, three reviews. It really matters what other customers are saying about you, again, we've talked about this before, traditional advertising and marketing, which is when a company's talking about themselves doesn't really work as much anymore.
So what really matters is to get an authentic review from a customer who can tell another prospective customer what they can expect from a company, what can they expect from a product, what can they expect from a service? These things really matter.
How to start implementing customer advocacy in your marketing
Let's check out some brands who rock customer advocacy, and the first one is Lululemon, a popular active wear line. What they did was they asked customers to tweet or Instagram photos of themselves exercising or wearing Lululemon clothing with the hashtag #sweatlife. Why this worked is first off, athletic wear and athleisure wear, it's just really popular right now and people are already posting pictures or videos of themselves working out on Instagram and Twitter quite often anyway. So they started to capitalize on this trend and gave the power to their customers to post these photos and they started to repost them on their profile, which got a lot of great engagement.
They also picture real people in real situations, they're not photo-shopped models that you might be used to seeing in your advertisements, and it just makes it seem more real. This helps provide that credibility that people are consistently looking for a lot of times on social media or from friends and family. What it brought them was over 2 million followers on Instagram alone, which is really awesome, more sales, and a better brand-customer relationship.
Another brand that does a great job of this too is actually Coca-Cola, and they're a huge brand so you might be familiar with the share a Coke campaign, which was hugely successful because it just made the product feel more personalized.
As people started to purchase a Coke with a friend's name on it, share it with them, and upload those pictures to social media with the hashtag #shareacoke. Why it worked is it helped them connect with consumers, again, they're such a big brand so this was a really unique way to go about doing this and just reminded customers why they love Coke so much, and that it is a social brand and it's something that you can share with friends and loved ones. What it brought them was more followers on social media accounts, it had a great buzz of fact, there was a lot of media posts about it, it had a big splash with it as well, and more sales.
Staples is another huge brand, I think they're about the third-largest e-commerce business right now, and they use reviews in their overall rating and a variety of different email campaigns.They put it in their email marketing, on their website, and Google shopping and Facebook, so definitely leveraged customer advocacy across multiple channels. It worked because they used the reviews to drive engagement and again, used that third-party validation to ultimately drive more conversions, more click-through rates on their email, more traffic and engagement from social media, and more sales from Google shopping. So all around they did a really great job of incorporating these reviews through multiple channels to ultimately drive more sales.
Then, Ikea... Another great brand that did a good job at having people post images of their products on social media, and then had the cool concept of creating a catalogue just from pictures from their customers. How it worked, again, they encouraged people to share these posts on social media, like Twitter and Instagram, and chose one winner each week. They saw a huge increase in social media following, got a lot of great word of mouth strategy from this too, and some more traffic coming to their website in the end, which drove more sales.
Get to know your customers
So we have a couple of tips here, the most important one is to get to know your customers to build a customer relationship, that is absolutely necessary before customers can really advocate for you. The most important thing, which we'll get into in a little bit, is also the fact that this customer relationship and continued engagement really drives business insights for you to be better as a business for your customers, which will kind of have its own snowball effect and improve your business overall. So, that's why you'd want to involve the whole company, everybody in most of the departments have a touchpoint with a customer, whether that's customer marketing, sales, customer support, customer success.
So, really make sure you're incorporating them in a customer advocacy strategy because they will be able to provide specific perspective and will be able to help you encompass customer advocacy in a more holistic way. Lastly, you need to make it fun, as you saw from the other examples, many of these campaigns and strategies kind of played into the motivations of customers already. For Lululemon, working out, being healthy, and exercising has its own inherent motivation, so Lululemon really just capitalized on that. For Ikea, people really wanted to showcase how beautiful their homes were using that Ikea furniture, so they were motivated to send a picture of themselves.
So, you really need to think about what's in the customer's best interest and how you can make it not only fun but easy for them when implementing a customer advocacy strategy.
Learning from customer feedback
Now, a big part of customer advocacy is actually managing customer feedback. You really want to leverage your best reviews, your best social media posts, but in reality, you might not always get completely happy posts or reviews. So here are a couple of tips to really manage them, make sure you're paying attention to all your social media channels, and really listening to your customers. Three out of four consumers consult social media before buying, so it's really important whether or not a consumer is happy, and you're really paying attention to what they're saying and what is being displayed on the social media platform.
Using customer feedback to stand out from the competition
If somebody's leaving a review about your company on your social media channel, that review only pertains to your company, so it's nothing any competitor can say. Managing customer feedback and reviews is also a way to engage with your customers, 95% of unhappy customers return if their issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. We've seen that in our own examples, we had ThriftBooks a client, they responded to an unhappy customer and really changed around their opinion to the point that that unhappy customer changed their review, went from one-star to five-star. It really exemplified why you should be replying to your customers, but also taking care of what their issue is and what their concern is, and that is really showing transparency.
If a potential customer is seeing on a social media channel or on a review platform that this company is replying to unhappy reviews and really trying to resolve issues quickly, that will make that potential customer really trust in that company and see, "Oh, this company really values what we're saying." Once you get all that working, you really have essentially a mini-marketing team where you're really taking advantage of actual customers saying good things about you and leveraging that across social media channels, email platforms, even digital marketing, and it really helps in boosting your overall digital marketing performance. So on responding to customer views, make sure you're accentuating any positives, you may have one, two, or three-star reviews that say something like, "The delivery was quick, but ..." Or they can say something like, "The product was great, but ... " So make sure you are highlighting the positive things they say.
Always apologize for anything that may have gone wrong, whether or not it was your fault, or whether or not you were responsible you never want to place the blame on the customer, you always really just want to listen to them and understand why it is that they had a problem.
Trustpilot success stories
Our first customer success story is JustFab, and this is one of my favorite stories. It's all about their surprise and delight program, and the mission of this program is to get customers talking about their positive customer experiences on social media and using the hashtag #xofab and #xoshoedazzle. They leverage their customer reviews to identify both happy and unhappy customers in order to learn, improve, innovate and turn happy customers into advocates, and equally important, by identifying these unhappy customers, turn them into happy customers. The best part about it, of course, is getting a lot of this great content on social media to just extend their reach, drive more traffic to their site and just improve their overall brand reputation.
So another really awesome example is a company called Upad, and what they do is they basically connect landlords with renters, so think like Airbnb, but for longer-term renting arrangements. What they did was they collected reviews with Trustpilot and they put these throughout multiple marketing channels, an ad here shows just an example of that. What it did was it drove a 10% increase in conversion rates, and they also started to do a survey afterwards, too, to figure out how people were finding out about them. They said that 60% of new customers ended up reading a Trustpilot review before using the service. So that's what actually encouraged them to start to put reviews on their website and their different advertising, and just make sure that they were anywhere where people were looking for information about them.
Let your customers do the talking
As we've been saying, you should let your customers kind of do the selling for you. By incorporating some reviews from Trustpilot throughout the buying journey, you're showing potential new customers just how trustworthy you are, and how much you care about your customers' satisfaction and feedback.
If you'd like to learn more about the importance of customer advocacy, check out the piece of content below!