Imagine customers recommending your products or services to their contacts, and actively campaigning for you on social networks. This is as good as promotion gets, and it’s totally free.
For small businesses, getting such endorsement from your existing customers works better, but is even harder to achieve than any endorsement by popular figures. Your customers’ friends, peers, or anyone else in their social circles will instantly find such recommendations more believable and trustworthy than anything money can buy.
But how can you find these special customers who voluntarily vouch for your products or services? The answer is – you have to earn them.
Not all customers are the same
As an online business, or an eCommerce store, you shouldn’t just aim for converting a visitor into a customer. That’s a very limiting objective as some customers are worth a lot more than just one or two sales. They have the potential of becoming your business’ advocates and best spokespersons, only if you prove you deserve it.
You can’t really expect a first time visitor to start campaigning for you straightaway. It takes patience and adopting a step-by-step strategy.
These are your first time visitors, and neither them nor you are yet sure that they are potential customers.
In a first step you have to separate the suspects who could be potential customers from all of other visitors. It takes some heavy-lifting as it involves investing resources and marketing efforts to engage them and build trust.
That’s why it’s so important to engage shoppers in meaningful conversations across different touchpoints and make sure they have all the information they need to identify with your brand, understand who your are, how you do business, how your values and culture look like, and how good the products you sell are.
When a prospect comes to your website, it’s not a coincidence. They remember that you are a potential vendor that’s right up their alley. Your primary goal shouldn’t be pushing random products to them, but using the data and information you have to create value for them. Applying personalization methods effectively allows you to create more interesting, compelling customer experiences.
You can use Guided Selling approaches, such as a product finder or a quiz as the center piece of your personalization initiatives as they let you find out directly from the prospect what they are interested in. You will be able to understand their intent, situation and expectations to suggest products they really want and need.
Once you have successfully converted a prospect into a customer, your job still isn’t over. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship that needs some attention.
Many online businesses make the mistake of focusing entirely on acquiring new customers. It is not bad per se, but economy-wise it is 5-10 times less expensive for businesses to generate repeat sales than first-time sales and existing customers also tend to spend 67% more than new customers.
As soon as someone purchases from you, you should start nurturing your new relationship by sending a thank you note, and following-up with personalized messages and offers to find out how you can serve them better.
4. Loyal customers
According to a recent Nielsen study, 78% of consumers stated that they are not loyal to specific brands.
In industries where customers show low loyalty to companies, it may pay off to implement a loyalty program. Especially the fashion industry has brought forth creative ways to offer their customers actual value in exchange for their loyalty and to motivate repeat purchases. The rewards can include discounts, freebies, early access to sales, exclusive first look at new products, lower shipping costs, and more.
However, at the core of any loyalty program has to be a deeper understanding of customers and their values to ensure that the rewards are at all desirable.
Once you have taken a suspect all the way to down here to become an advocate for your business, the first thing you should do is to listen to them.
They are satisfied customers who have the power to influence their networks and spread the word about your company and products. Empower them and share exclusive information with them. As social media is all about relationships, it’s a good tool to stay in touch with them: follow them, re-tweet their comments, and make them feel special, but – and this is important: don’t be phony about it, but only show interest and communicate in ways that are genuine and honest. It would show and considering the influence that advocates have, you might risk setting off a sh*tstorm.
Remember, you don’t just get advocates, you earn them.