In yesterday’s post, we made the business case for why connecting with your existing brand evangelists is better than trying to reach influencers. Now I’m sure some of you were reading that post and thinking that your company doesn’t have a lot of brand evangelists, especially not online. If this is the case, can you create brand evangelists?
I think you can, and here’s 5 tips for doing just that:
1 – Start internally by exciting your employees. This will foreshadow a bit what’s to come with engaging externally with customers. But so much of the affinity that people have for brands, comes from the people that represent that brand, especially in a retail setting. How much of the devotion that Starbucks evangelists have for the brand is tied to the friendly service they get from baristas? I recently read a blogger (wish I could remember who) that joked that when they were feeling down, they liked to call Zappos support cause they always made them feel better.
So it stands to reason, if your employees aren’t excited about your brand, your customers won’t be either. One way to excite your employees is to listen to them, and to empower them to share their ideas and voice internally. A perfect example of this is Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation, which is basically an internal socnet for Best Buy’s employees. It’s a central place where the employees can come together, collaborate, share ideas, and see those ideas acted upon by management. As co-founder Gary Koelling points out in my interview with him, this works because many of BBY’s employees are in their 20s, and fluent in using social media and expressing themselves via these tools. So Best Buy, perhaps somewhat by sheer luck, has found a way to create a wonderful tool to let employees express themselves, and help each other.
2 – Understand who your customers are, and what draws them to your brand. You likely have already done some research into who your customers are, and why they buy from you. Are you tracking them online? Do you know what they are saying about your brand? It’s important to understand the good as well as the bad.
One of the quickest ways to create an evangelist for your brand is to quickly resolve a problem that a customer has. And the wonderful thing about social media is that it has not only given customers all these sites and tools to express themselves, but companies have access to the same sites and tools. If a customer vents online about a brand, the brand then has the opportunity to interact with that customer, and change their opinion of the brand. And this often happens, companies such as Dell have seen firsthand that interacting with online customers and solving their problems, improves online perception.
3 – Interact with your customers on their level and in their voice. As mentioned above, one of the attributes that many customers value in a brand is its voice. We don’t want a stale and corporate voice, we want one that we can more easily relate to. This is where the ‘be human’ advice comes from. If a company is talking in a voice that’s consistent with the customer’s own, then the customer is more likely to listen.
This is where interaction is crucial. The more engagement and interaction the brand has with its customers, the better both groups can understand the other. And this engagement can be something as simple as interacting with customers on their blogs or Twitter pages. But this engagement helps put both parties on the same level, which increases understanding, which increases trust, which increases the chance that a customer will become an evangelist for that brand.
4 – Monitor what customers are saying online, and respond. If you aren’t already, you should get a monitoring system in place to track what customers are saying about your brand, as well as where they are saying it, what they are talking about, etc. This will give you great insights into how your customers are thinking.
But also, as you engage with your customers, that will encourage them to interact with you more. Which gives you more feedback, and more chances to interact with customers, and improve their perception of your brand. And give your customers multiple channels to leave you feedback. It’s great to encourage blog comments, but give them your phone number, give them an email address. By giving your customers multiple ways to talk to you, you are communicating to them that you DO want to talk to them. That tells them that you actually value their opinion and feedback. Which definitely helps improve the customer’s perception of your brand.
5 – Embrace and empower your existing evangelists to market for you. The idea here is to make it easier for your biggest fans to do what they are already doing, singing your praises. If you have customers that are singing your praises, then you need to give them a microphone, right?
And let’s be honest, who will be a better salesperson for the average brand; that brand, or an extremely satisfied customer of that brand? We tend to trust fellow customers more than brands. This goes back to the idea of speaking to customers in a voice they recognize. We can relate to fellow customers more than we can relate to most brands. Because customers speak in a human voice that we can relate to, where most brands speak in a salesy and promotional voice.
So those are some tips for how your brand can connect with your customers and create more evangelists for your brand. To extend on this theme, tomorrow we’ll look at how one of the biggest brands in the world is going directly to its customers and evangelists to get the good, bad, and ugly from them. And if I’ve sold you on the power of engaging and empowering your brand evangelists, please email me as I’d love to talk to you about how we can launch an evangelist engagement program for your brand.