F A L L 2 0 1 8 3 BUSINESS connections Brand Advocates are Your Raving Fans Your business can win big by encouraging these customers Customers who buy your products are great, and those who tell a few others about you are even better. But the most valuable type of customers are your raving fans, otherwise known as brand advocates. These customers can have a huge impact on your business since they love it so much they regularly want to sing its praises. Brand advocates will tell glowing stories about your products and services during conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. They will also post enthusiastic recommendations on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Since potential customers tend to believe messages that come from other customers more than messages directly from companies themselves, brand advocates are a valuable tool for bringing in new business. While some people will naturally be more excited about your offerings than others, you can take steps to help encourage and develop brand advocates. Here are seven ideas to get you started: 1. Hire employees who are passionate about your products and your mission. This enthusiasm will naturally spread to customers with which they interact. 2. Provide great products with desired features. It may seem obvious, but product features are the factor that advocates mention most when asked what makes them want to rave about a company. 3. Find out what your customers are passionate about, and create promotions that drive those factors. For example, many consumers are passionate about outstanding customer service. Nordstrom and Zappos are two companies that have taken note and created exceptional customer service —and many brand advocates. 4. Make it easy for brand advocates to cheer about you. Provide social links on your website product pages, articles, blogs, and any other content you post online. 5. Consider offering rewards. Acknowledging brand advocates with discounts, freebies, and special services can ensure they continue spreading the word. However, proceed carefully with this since other customers may be turned off if they believe you are “paying” advocates to share their enthusiasm. 6. Make it easy for advocates who create their own content to share it with the world. You could create a section on your website devoted to customers who want to post photos of themselves using your products. 7. Track and measure advocacy for your brand. Research the best online tools to use to determine what people are saying about you, and use the information to build future promotions. Loyal brand advocates are more than just customers; they are actually an informal extension of your marketing department. Nurture them and watch your business score!