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Brad Langdon


How to turn your customers into a free sales force

You can’t fake authenticity. That’s why you should make sure the values you espouse are being ‘lived’ throughout your business before you let the world know about them.

It’s also why word of mouth has always trumped planned and paid marketing. As humans, we simply have an inclination to believe what other people just like us have to say about their experience with a product or business. Especially when those good stories come in bulk. 

If a customer likes buying from you, for whatever reason, that’s a win. If they like it so much they make the relationship exclusive and buy only from you, that loyalty is gold.

But what’s priceless to any business is when a customer is so excited or enamoured with what you do and how you do it that they start telling all their friends – and anyone else who’ll listen.

This sort of genuine advocacy from people who are willing to market for you can be more effective than almost any other type of media.

That’s why brand advocates are the secret weapon of business marketing. Here are four principles to turn your everyday customers into the strongest sales force you can ever obtain, for free! 

You have to be impressive to make an impression

Let’s start with a reality check. It’s a fact of life, and therefore business, that people are far more likely to vent about the smallest frustration or inconvenience than they are to rave about something pretty darn good.

That means the basic starting point is delivering customer experiences that are so positive that customers can’t help but share them. Not just pretty good, but outstanding experiences that make people’s day.

Customers are savvy enough to recognise when a business has put that little bit extra into their transaction and whether that’s the standard of service for that business. That’s the sort of thing that gets people talking.

Give them something to talk about

Even before the proliferation of social media, people felt good about themselves when they were the first with the news. If you find out something good and find yourself in the position to tell other people, who appreciate the positive heads up you’ve shared, that’s a point of personal pride.

The more people that recognise you as the source of the good oil, the more your chest puffs out (and your head swells)!

So, the first step toward getting organic positive word of mouth is giving them something that they’ll be busting to share. Get creative. Get to know your customers well enough to know what will give them that little thrill. Any innovation is likely to create a bit of buzz, but you might need to try a few things to hit on something that really resonates.

Encourage sharing … of feelings

There’s a difference between someone saying that you sell a good product and sharing the positive emotional reaction that dealing with you made them feel good.

The feels are real. That’s the authenticity we started out encouraging.

This might take some prompting on your behalf, in other words you might have to ask them how they feel so that they are, firstly, conscious of it and, secondly, consider telling others.

There are a lot of good feelings you can try to engender in your customers. Simply making them feel valued is a good start. But you should also ensure they feel respected, cared for, and happy. If you can manage all of these, you’re likely to have won them over.

And one more thing. Make them feel comfortable. If they have a high level of comfort in their relationship with you, they’ll trust and value you, and that’s a true recipe for advocacy.

Belonging is powerful

One of the best ways to make someone feel comfortable is to bring them into your inner sanctum. Create a community for like-minded people (your customers), invite them in, make them feel welcome, and reward their loyalty.

It doesn’t have to be a run-of-the-mill loyalty program, though … as exciting as it is to get the 10th one free!

Consider gamifying your loyalty program, with points for more than just purchasing. People have a natural attraction to completing a quest – and, yes, “buy nine and get the 10th one free” is a quest – as long as it’s not asking them to make a significant extra effort.

If you can encourage a bit of friendly competition between your loyal customers, that’s even better. An extra reward for the first five customers to make their 25th purchase might not get everyone hurrying to buy from you 25 times, but some will (and others might enjoy being ‘spectators’ of this unique sport). Plus, that’s ideal fodder for social feeds.

It’s simple psychology

In the end, encouraging advocacy is simply about understanding human behaviour.

People are, by nature, social creatures. We want to share our opinions and insights with friends, colleagues, and the wider world.

People also want to feel good. And feel that they’ve done something good. Telling their friends and followers about something that made them feel good amplifies the good feels.

And people want to feel valued. If that’s all you do, do it consistently and you’re well on the way.

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