Now more than ever word-of-mouth (WOM) recommendations increase the growth of a business over traditional forms of marketing. WOM recommendations have been shown to improve marketing effectiveness by up to 54%. Brand advocates are customers who are extremely satisfied with a brand and actively promote and recommend that brand to other consumers without an incentive. Essentially, it is free publicity that promotes your brand and engages future customers.

Why are brand advocates so important?

Organic advocacy is priceless and is more influential than any type of marketing campaign. Developing strong brand advocacy allows your store to spend less on traditional marketing and become a more effective retailer overall.

Advocates often share their experiences with a brand in the form of recommendations to family, friends, and colleagues. Most (84%) consumers say they trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products and services. This increases brand awareness, traffic in-store and online. Rob Ruggetta, author of Brand Advocates, sites that brand advocates are 50% more influential than an average customer. They also prove to be very loyal; once someone is an advocate, they typically become a lifelong customer; often going out of their way to shop your brand versus a competitor.

How do you create brand advocacy?

Start off on the right foot. Ensure that you build trust with your customers by demonstrating reliability and integrity through the shopping experience. Exceeding expectations from the first contact with a customer is a sure-fire way to quickly create a relationship that will prove to be both financially beneficial as well as further brand development.

Continue to build on the newfound trust by delivering on promises and maintaining reliability. It will secure that strong relationship for years to come. It all comes down to doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. It will provide the best possible outcome for your customer.

Striving for consistent customer experience. Customer experience defined in its simplest form is the overall quality of all the interactions a consumer has with a company, its products, and its services.

Providing a consistent customer experience is the responsibility of your entire company. As a whole, your company should build, enhance, and more importantly deliver that consistent experience across every channel.

A consistent customer experience starts with a well-trained staff, consistent branding throughout your retail store and website, and the quality of service you provide customers. Training and empowering your staff to make decisions is the quickest way to set the customer experience bar high. If a customer contacts your store and gets an answer right away, the first time, they will continue to do business with you knowing that your store is a resource and values its customer relationships.

High customer satisfaction is key. Creating and maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction is truly the cornerstone to creating brand advocates. 92% of potential customers trust recommendations from product users they don’t know personally over content provided by the brand. With that being said, a high level of customer satisfaction is sure to drive positive recommendations by brand advocates, thus turning prospective customers into customers, and eventually brand advocates.

How do you maintain brand advocates?

Although brand advocates tend to be loyal, it can still be difficult to maintain the relationship. It is important to keep advocates happy! Nurture the relationship and maintain the same level of experience that they have come to expect from your store. Incentives and contests are great to show your appreciation and keep the customer engaged in your brand. As you expand your loyalty base, keep advocates engaged through loyalty programs, discounts, company news and free training.

The best place to begin developing brand advocates is to start small. Make simple, low-cost changes that have a big impact. Once you gain traction, begin to add new strategies and tactics to grow your following. While these relationships take time to develop, they will significantly improve your brand awareness and drive more traffic to your store.

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