Turning Customers into Your Company’s Brand Advocates

[tweetmeme]Customers can become valuable brand advocates for your products and services, according to a McKinsey study.  I’m a firm believer that companies can leverage their own employees on social networks to advocate for their brands and I’ve written about that.  But the McKinsey study,  “Four ways to get more value from digital marketing,” is convincing in its point of view that traditional advertising and point-of-sale promotions, one-way channels to customers, are losing potency to the power of interactive communications with customers who then become your brand advocates.

Viral marketing gains new customers

Not surprising.  “Moving from a one-way, company-driven sales mentality to a two-way relationship with consumers requires core changes in the way marketers do business,” the study learned.  Digital technology has changed the way consumers make purchasing decisions.  Instead of asking friends and families for recommendations, consumers now read online reviews, compare features and prices on websites and discuss options on social networking sites.  This is a golden opportunity for companies to find out what customers are looking for and to respond to their needs directly one-to-one.

“Marketing to the One”

The term “marketing to the one” became a buzzword a few years back.  But now it has become a reality.  Among leading companies that have leveraged this two-way conversation are Comcast, Dell and American Express.  They constantly monitor what their customers are saying about their products and service. Smart companies are also revamping their websites and launching online promotions that engage their customers in a way that was impossible just a short time ago.

But most companies are, unfortunately, still mired in their old ways, spending most of their marketing spend on paid advertising reaching the many.  Digital marketers reverse this, focusing on a smaller core of engaged people who spread their message.

Inspiring customers to help stretch your marketing budgets

Back to customers as brand advocates.   Digital marketers let “customers do more of the heavy lifting as they decide what to look at, play with content and forward it to their online communities,” says McKinsey. I would call them brand advocates for the companies that treat them well and provide outstanding products and service.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk, in his book “Crush It,” offers a powerful example of the effectiveness of viral marketing.  For his wine business, he spent $7,500 to offer free shipping codes via three traditional advertising channels:  a billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike, direct mail, and radio.  The billboard brought in 170 orders, radio 240, and direct mail 300+.  Then, at no cost, he sent out a free shipping code via his Twitter account and received 1,700 orders in 48 hours.  No doubt, many of his followers retweeted the offer to their friends.  They became brand advocates for winelibrary.com.

Is your company engaging your employees and customers as brand advocates?  I would love to hear your stories.

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  1. The Film industry has been utilizing customer advocacy for more than a century as a means to generate revenue by driving box office sales. The industry may not recognize this activity as customer advocacy and the industry has yet to talk about the role moviegoers play in tactical marketing. The example of the Film industry makes an excellent case study.