Last month, Mail Dog had the pleasure of conducting an online webinar for a few hundred of our preferred association members called “The Buzz: Achieving Marketing Success in 2011″ (you can download the webinar below). During the webinar, Brad Wendkos, founder and CEO of TrueFire and Mail Dog made this valuable statement:
To survive in 2011 and beyond, small and large businesses alike MUST provide a way for their best customers to become advocates of their products and services.
Are your best customers already advocates? Do you have the right tools in place to encourage and measure advocacy? Glad you asked! Let’s unpack this concept of advocacy and put your customers to work for you.
An advocate is a loyal customer who loves what you do, believes in your products or services and happily tells everyone they know about those products and services. An advocate can be anyone… if you know how to win their loyalty and give them a way to share their positive experience with their circle of family and friends.
There are 4 main steps to make advocates out of your customers:
Have a Good Product/Service/Offering!
It’s true. If you can’t provide this first step, don’t even bother reading on. No amount of persuasion will turn an unhappy customer into an advocate. However, if you aren’t interested in having a good product to offer, you probably won’t be interested in advocacy (unlikely) in the first place, so on to step 2…
Keep Customers Informed
That means telling them what’s going on in your world. At the very least this is accomplished by having an up-to-date informative website. Be sure that your site accurately represents the current state of your business…products, happenings, online video demonstrations, client testimonials, etc. (see step #4 on how to make that website easy for customers to share).
If you don’t have your own website or the budget to create a fancy one from scratch, no worries! There are some great, easy to use (and inexpensive) website building tools. Without one, you are simply lost, yesterday’s papers, cold leftovers (or other sad condition). There’s simply no reason for this state of affairs.
DYI Website Platforms
- Weebly: free website and blog creation tool
- Wix: free flash website builder
- WordPress: a semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability
Next send out a monthly email newsletter. Yes, monthly…you have to keep your business in front of your customers’ face at least once a month for them to remember you. And don’t just “sell” them something in the newsletter; rather send out industry relevant content. The more relevant the content, the more likely they are to share it with others.
Best Email Service Provider
- Mail Dog: permission email, online video, RSS & webpage publishing tools
- Mail Dog: 250+ of the best design templates in the biz!
- Mail Dog: free and unlimited customer service reps to jump through hoops of fire for you!
Be Real and Honest
The best way to communicate as a “real” company is to create a blog and join social networks. I know some companies are a bit scared of this idea, but customers want to know that there are real people working at your company. Joining a social network and/or starting a blog helps to bridge that gap.
And no, I’m not recommending that you tweet about what you ate for lunch or how excited you are for the next Justin Bieber CD…but what you can do is post about new product(s) being released, incentives for the month and how your company is making strides in the local community.
Plus you can get an idea of what people are saying about your company online and join in the conversation. Thank people when they talk great about your company, and if someone complains, use it as an opportunity to work through their complaints and change their mind. Your customers are all online, in fact 80% of the US is currently active in a social network, it’s time you joined them.
Now setting up a blog and a social media network does take energy and man-power. So we wanted to help streamline the process a bit. Here are some easy websites that can help you create a company blog:
Create Your Own Blog (easy to use blog)
- WordPress: a semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability.
- Blogger: weblog publishing tool from Google, for sharing text, photos and video.
- Typepad: create a blog in minutes – with stunning designs, reliable hosting, real-people tech support, and lots more.
As far as the social media aspect, you can’t expect to jump in all at once. So we’ve itemized the social networks you should at least be working with…
Social Media Sites You Should Use
- LinkedIn: a MUST for B2B businesses
- Facebook: great for B2C businesses
- Twitter: connect to Facebook so you only have to post to one location to send out content on both places. Check out these easy how-to steps.
Make Advocacy Easy!
Once you’ve laid the groundwork and created a company worthy of your customer’s love and admiration, give them the tools to easily share the love online. There are so many easy (and FREE) plugins you can insert into your website to allows your customers to “Like” you on Facebook or share a web page online. Here are some top widgets to try out…
Likewise you can (and should) include these same tools into your email newsletters and blog. Give your customers the opportunity to share your message with their friends.
If you’re a Mail Dog client you can add these social media share tools and Facebook Like button into any email with just a click of a button… and if you’re not, what are you waiting for?!?
You have to get your customers to work for you. In today’s economy you no longer have the benefit of spending thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing. But the good news is you no longer have to. By following these steps you can get your customers to work for you by helping promote your brand online. I guarantee your advocates promoting your message online will generate more buzz and income for your company then any pay-per-click or blind shot in the barrel advertising ever would.