A Satisfied Customer Is a Powerful Asset For Your Business
It’s one thing to have satisfied customers. It’s still another to have satisfied customers who keep you on the top of their mind the next time they make a purchase. And it’s still another to have customers who will recommend you to friends. And it’s still something else again to have customers who love your product or service so much that they become a product evangelist and can’t wait for the opportunity to gush about how cool your product or service is.
Related: Strategies to Build Customer Loyalty
The Internet Gives You Powerful Ways to Encourage Customer Referrals
With the advent of the Internet, email, group email, and especially social media, developing a pool of satisfied customers—let alone a group of product evangelists—has become infinitely more powerful.
In his book I published, Streetwise Relationship Marketing on the Internet, author Roger Parker offers further thoughts on this important topic. Parker notes that the Web gives you powerful ways to encourage word-of-mouth referral business and make it even easier for those referrals to take place. Combining promotions that are a win-win for the existing customer and his or her friend will help your customer base grow without excessive incremental costs.
The advocacy, or community, stage of Web marketing is important from two perspectives. One is that this stage offers you an opportunity to create a feeling of community among past customers and website visitors. This feeling of community can create feelings of loyalty that transcend any temporary pricing or availability advantage your competitors might offer. By creating a feeling of community, you can encourage your visitors to become your advocates, making return visits to your website a regular habit. This also provide visitors to your website with the tools they need to recommend your business to an ever-increasing pool of new prospects.
More important, the advocacy stage offers the potential to change your business model to take new advantages of the speed and information density that the Web offers. Rather than having to start all over with a new business model aimed at the transaction stage, the community stage provides you with an opportunity to explore new avenues for safely evolving and transforming your business instead of “rolling the dice” and possibly losing everything by trying to embrace e-commerce too early.
Advantages of Referral Business
There are two main advantages to business generated by word-of-mouth referrals. First, similar to the previous reinforcement stage, the advantage of community marketing is that it offers you an opportunity to create something out of nothing. At the community stage, there is little obvious end-user demand. Your previous buyers are presumably satisfied. Yet, by approaching them during this period of relative calm, you can convert inactive customers, and their friends, into active buyers. Using social media and email, you can ignite an urge to buy where none presently exists.
Because social media, email, and the Internet do not involve expensive telemarketing, printing, addressing, or postage costs, your pricing can be extremely competitive at this stage as your customer acquisition costs are so low. Instead of acquiring a customer by running an expensive magazine, newspaper, or television ad, your only cost is in posting a special page on your website and sending out emails to your previous customers directing them to send their friends to your page.
Second, word-of-mouth advertising benefits from credibility. Advertising is always viewed as, well, advertising. It is never completely trusted. This is in contrast to recommendations from a friend who has previously purchased from a firm. Because word-of-mouth recommendations are so trusted, prospects who visit your website or place of business are presold on your competence and professionalism. There is likely to be less resistance to your prices to recommendations. They’re easier sales, in other words, which might, in some cases, translate into higher margins.
Selling Tools for Your Customers
The starting point for converting customers into advocates is to think in terms of providing selling tools for your customers. This involves providing previous customers with both the tools they need to recommend your business and the incentives that make it worth their while to recommend your business to their friends.
These selling tools might be as simple as social media or email announcements sent to previous customers that you invite them to forward to their friends. The email would contain a link to premium content pages on your website that contain money-saving coupons.
Related: 5 Ways to Build Your Brand Online
For example, the premium page of a restaurant could contain special menu items and allow two couples to eat for the price of one. Visitors would be invited to print out the coupon and bring it in. Vacation destinations, too, could provide similar incentives for couples to invite along another couple.
Another example of advocacy in action would be email sent to previous customers offering discounts or other incentives when their friends register their email address on a special page of your website or make a purchase based on the forwarded email. The key is to develop a system that makes it easy to track new visitors to your website who were recommended by a current customer and reward the customer for the recommendation.
Takeaways You Can Use
- Community-stage marketing can create advocates who open doors to new prospects.
- Word-of-mouth advertising builds credibility.