“Your fans can be your best marketers, provided you do everything in your power to enable them,” says Lior Arussy, founder and president of Strativity Group and author of several books, including Customer Experience Strategy from which this post is adapted.
The Web provides an incredible opportunity to generate leads and referrals, and yet most of the corporate world has barely begun to leverage this potentially powerful resource: the chance to create and host authentic brand evangelism. Stop thinking of your customers as utilitarian transactors and start thinking of them as partners. This isn't just opportunity… there’s easy and immediate payoff.
It’s one thing to ask a customer, “Are you willing to recommend?” It’s another thing to actually generate a recommendation from them, which you can actually do quite easily on the Web with everything from voting on products, polls, giving services “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” etc. Because customers are already connected to their friends, colleagues, and acquaintances on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, and so on, these links collectively form a massive recommendation engine, and tapping into that engine creates a positive forces that validates your company brand.
The people who will speak positively about you are out there, and you can help give them a voice. To build a movement around them, design your Web experience with collaboration in mind. For example:
* If you’re delivering a great experience online, invite customers to read what their peers are saying in an objective environment.
* Provide customers with a forum for discussing products, services, and/or your company itself among themselves. Don’t censor feedback.
* Finish positive customer contacts by saying “Don’t forget to link to us on your Facebook fan page.” or “We’d love to be connected on Twitter.”
* Encourage customers to contribute ideas for improving products, services, operations, and support. Celebrate customer commitment to making your company better. Reward and recognize customers for their ideas… for example, place a picture and web URL link of a contributing customer on your corporate site. Call them the “Customer of the Day.”
* Celebrate 1-, 5-, 10-, and 15-year customer-relationship anniversaries right on your web site. Show these individual customers involved how proud and appreciative you are of the continued relationship. Give them some public star treatment, and demonstrate to your other customers how much you value those who do business with you.
* Create referral program and enroll everyone who interacts with your company. Reward all references and referrals. Hype the program by hosting an “Annual Referral Drive” during a specific week and surprise the top referral customers with added incentives and recognition.