Article | Marketing

Customer Retention Isn’t Enough: How to Grow Customer Advocates

Patrick McCullough
Growing Advocates
Growing Advocates

The most basic business tenet is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago: businesses need new customers and they need to retain current ones. Coming out of a somewhat lingering recession, how do you go about doing this? How is it different today, than it was last year?

People don’t trust advertising. They trust what other people say about your company’s products or services. Brand reputation is created more by human conveyance than by Super Bowl commercials, magazine ads and self-promotional YouTube videos. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, 66% of the economy is being influenced by personal recommendations.

At Hallmark Business Connections we understand true customer retention and advocacy generation begins with a connection. By building meaningful connections with your customers that withstand the test of time and challenges that will undoubtedly arise, you can create something more than just loyal customers. You create advocates.

Any channel or method that enables a customer to convey a personal perspective, or research another person’s personal perspective is critical to business success today.  Successful companies leverage digital platforms to expand the brand experience and effectively integrate it with the offline customer experience and vice versa.  To effectively impact online reviews and ratings, social sentiment and create proactive, word-of-mouth customer advocacy, companies must act differently.  So how do you envision your company moving beyond customer retention to create customer advocacy?  Here are some examples of businesses that are skillfully executing advocacy tactics:

Sephora’s Facebook Fan page offers the latest beauty buzz and offers to fans and encourages them to post questions, suggestions, and advice on their page

Sephora: Facebook Customer Service

A beauty retail concept founded in France, Sephora opened its first U.S. store in 1998. It boasts a comprehensive website as well as a strong social media presence. What stands out about Sephora is their quick response time to Facebook questions. Looking at recent posts, you can see they respond to store complaints, website issues and inventory questions in a timely and helpful manner.

Virgin Media: Integrated Social Engagement

Virgin Media is a great example of a comprehensive online approach to customer engagement. The Customer Help app located on its Facebook page features team members who customers can message directly, a link to their help and support forum, and a link to their Twitter account that encourages additional engagement.

Wells Fargo: Encouraging Customer Advocacy

What Wells Fargo shows us is even highly regulated industries can find ways to employ customer engagement tactics. Through the @Ask_WellsFargo account, Wells Fargo not only monitors conversations and conducts any needed damage control, but also reaches out and engages with new and current customers. One way it accomplishes this is by celebrating customers when they tag Wells Fargo in posts.

Intuit: The Personal Touch

Intuit’s Twitter account provides a channel for small businesses to share news and resources. While similar to the Wells Fargo Twitter account, it also offers product information. Not only does it engage customers, but the channel also educates. To encourage customers to share personal experiences, employees sign their tweets to give them a personal touch.

Bar-Maids’ mission is to provide customers with eco-luscious products packaged in eco-friendly (reusable and recyclable) containers

Bar-Maids: Surprise & Delight

Bar-Maids is a small body products company that often includes samples of new and seasonal scents in their shipments. This makes for a pleasant surprise for their customers and serves as a great way to promote new products. Bar-Maids also includes a pre-stamped postcard with shipments that requests customer feedback in the form of a Mad Lib-style fill-in-the-blank. This is a great example of a fun and engaging way to connect with customers.

MicroPact: The Human-to-Human Connection

Looking for a simple way to connect offline with your customers? B2B software company MicroPact calls customers twice a year just to “check in.” Vice President of Marketing Bob Ragsdale says customers love the personal touch the gesture gives.

Washington Nationals: Give Customers Truly Special Offers

To acknowledge and sustain current relationships with valued customers, the Washington Nationals baseball team sends season ticket holders “Nats Bucks” ($100 or more of free food and gear at the stadium). This simple “thank you” acknowledges customers who invested in the team, and motivates them to continue doing so. Added bonus for the Nationals, what better way to thank your customers than enabling them to wear more regalia promoting the team?

While online and offline engagement strategies vary in many ways, they all share the ability to impact not only customer retention, but also customers’ willingness to say something positive about your company, product or service.  People will continue to trust what others say more than they trust advertising, making your ability to impact the customer experience in a way that leads them to advocate, vital to revenue growth and increasing the bottom line.