With the time and situation in favour of the startup culture, we are witnessing hundreds of new startups coming up every day. However, not every startup makes it to the top. Each day, fresh ideas are formed and new companies are launched, and yet – 90% of startups fail. And it is an absolute no brainer that as a startup founder you want to be in the 10% that succeed.
In the startup realm, certain principles stand out as essential to lasting growth in a company. Customer retention, for instance, trumps customer acquisition in terms of overall value, and brand loyalty is one of the most important elements that lead to higher customer-retention rates. While gaining customers is important, it is even more important to retain them.
We have compiled 10 ways to turn you customers into your brand advocates:
1. Identify your customers well
Understand your product well and market it to the right target audience. Customers don’t become advocates without reason. They have to identify with and feel affiliated with your brand. Whatever you do – and no matter how hard you try – you won’t be able to turn every single customer into an advocate. Some customers will arrive, make a single purchase, and leave. Some will become regular customers, but do little else to benefit your brand. And some – a handful, in fact – have the potential to become brand advocates. So, it is very important to find such brand advocates and focus your strategy to loop in more such customers.
2. Differentiate your brand from others
Be it an individual or a brand, it is very important to differentiate yourself from others. Only when you differentiate and have better value adds to your products, will the customers get attracted to your brand. Give your customers a diametrically opposed product/service that they are used to and you’ll steer them into being more likely to vocally and deeply align themselves with your brand. Take advantage of this, by sharply differentiating your brand from those of your competitors’ — not necessarily making enemies of them, but still making the average customer experience dramatically different.
3. Build customer loyalty
There are several stages to this initiative, as loyalty warrants its own article, but the basics should be under your control; give users a great experience, keep them coming back for more and be consistent and visible in your branding efforts. Try putting in place a loyalty program – if repeat business will earn the customer a bonus or reward, it makes sense to return to the same company instead of switching to a competitor.
4. Attract individual attention
If you really want a loyal customer who advocates your brand, it is very important to give them stand-out experiences. That means doling out individual forms of attention to make memorable, unique brand impressions on certain members of your community. For instance go out of your way during especially tough or unique customer service cases, or call out specific social media followers and promote their material to show your appreciation. Those people will remember you.
5. Keep it simple
If your loyalty program is points-based, make the conversions as simple as possible. Ideally, offer a straight points to cash conversion. This works well in a shop environment where customers are likely to make frequent purchases of varying value. Hence, along with providing a loyalty program it is very important to keep it simple.
6. Create your own community
Man is a social animal and it feels great to be part of a community. Brand evangelists’ loyalties deepen the more they feel that they’re truly a part of something. As users on your app or website, they have a certain degree of personal investment. It helps create a social group and hence, creates a better bonding between the brand and the customer.
7. Charge a fee for special services
This might sound vague but it is true. Take for instance the case of Amazon Prime. Customers pay a fee in return for special privileges – they enjoy the benefit of “free” super-quick delivery, while Amazon benefits from the increased customer loyalty that comes with paying to “commit” to a brand. This helps build a better brand image.
8. Incorporate feedback
Feedbacks are going to help your company on all three levels of brand relationship. Collect and really listen to feedback about your brand, products and services, and when you encounter pieces of information that make sense, implement them. This shows that you listen to your customers, which in turn inspires more loyalty. You can even give shout-outs to the individuals who submitted those pieces of feedback, to make them feel like an even more ingrained part of your brand community.
9. Offer a referral program
Referral programs can go a long way. It can help your brand in two ways:
- Acquiring new customers
- Turning your existing customers into brand advocates
By offering your existing customers an incentive for sending a new customer your way, you encourage them to talk favorably about you to their friends and family. A referred customer is even more valuable than a customer acquired by other means.
10. Surprise your customers
Brand loyalty is all about having happy customers. One of the most effective means of making your customers happy and converting them into brand advocates is by surprising them. Give your customers a (nice) surprise and they’re going to want to talk about that surprise and, more importantly, its sender. Some of the surprises that you can offer are:
- Upgrading a customer for free (if you offer SaaS this could mean bumping a customer up to a better package, or on an ecommerce site, could mean upgrading them to next-day-delivery).
- Literally sending your customer a surprise gift. I once had a friend rave to me about their phone provider because they had sent them a goodie basket in the mail. All it took to turn this person into a brand advocate was a bag of sweets (and a small one at that).
- Send them a thank you note (more on this shortly…).
It is unrealistic to expect each customer to become an evangelist. However, it is important to know that a few nudges in the right direction can make a huge difference for your customer enthusiasm — and your bottom line.