In this fourth and final part of our series on “How to Increase Retail Sales,” we’re going to highlight some examples of customer advocacy.
Customer advocacy is the invaluable word-of-mouth marketing that your customers propagate to their family, friends and the general public.
No amount of marketing you deploy will be more effective and actionable to a potential customer than an honest recommendation from one of their trusted friends or family members.
You can think of customer advocacy as the culmination (and prosperous reward) of a consistently positive customer experience and effective customer loyalty program.
Ideal Customer Lifecycle From Initial Experience to Advocacy
On the stairstep graphic above, you can follow the progression of customers from their initial experience, through their growing loyalty and onto becoming true brand advocates. In a sense, you want to enable customers to “graduate” into advocates.
As you’ll see in the examples of customer advocacy below, consistent, positive experiences are the lifeblood of obtaining and sustaining a strong advocate base and word-of-mouth marketing.
Example #1: Kareo Medical Software
Medical software provider Kareo is an excellent customer advocacy example. Kareo started a project called ”Friends of Kareo” that engages with their software users to collect valuable feedback. Through the program, Kareo quickly increased their sales references as well as other KPIs, such as software reviews, case studies and testimonials.
The program worked so well that Kareo reintroduced it in 2015 with the goal of refining their outreach. They moved away from sending mass emails to all their participating customers to a more targeted approach that meant emailing specific customer demographics or only the most dedicated advocates.
This enabled Kareo to truly identify exactly who their brand advocates were and then deepen the relationship between those advocates and the brand. Within just four months of relaunching, Friends of Kareo gained 390 new advocates.
How Can SMB Retailers Do This?
Customer engagement is an obvious requirement in the steps toward advocacy, and Kareo did well to personalize their customer outreach. As a small retailer, consider the avenues through which you can reach out to advocates. If you have a retail customer relationship management (CRM) platform in place, you should be collecting email addresses and other contact info for your most valuable customers.
that tracks purchase history and loyalty points
Social media is also a viable channel for identifying and reaching out to your advocates. Do the same people always “like” and share your posts? That’s a great place to start. Just remember to always keep in mind how your engagement enhances the relationship between the customer and the brand.
Example #2: Duane Reade Drug Store
Duane Reade is a New York/New Jersey drug store and subsidiary of Walgreens. They approach advocacy by empowering their loyal customers to have a voice in representing their brand online. Their VIP blogger program gives customer advocates a dedicated platform for sharing their experience with the brand and products.
The store treats their advocate “VIP bloggers” as quasi-employees. They manage them and incentivize them to put out new content by offering first-looks on initiatives and new products. This user-generated content is authentic and organic… and abundant. Duane Reade’s VIP bloggers have put out over 2,000 pieces of content.
How Can SMB Retailers Do This?
Duane Reade’s empowering VIP blogger program is an engaging way to deepen customer relationships while ramping up marketing content.
You can do the same with your advocates, and you don’t even need a blog. You can recruit and incentivize your advocates to publish content on their own blogs. Or, you can forgo actual text content and operate a VIP Instagram account.
If you choose to incentivize customers to create content about your brand by offering free products for them to feature, keep in mind the return on investment for those products. You should be seeing a return worth much more than the cost of that free product.
Example #3: CA Technologies
CA Technologies is one of the world’s largest independent software companies. As such, they’ve got a ton of employees who can share and promote the CA Technologies brand. Enter SocialU, an online crash course for employees to learn how to properly represent their brand message and voice to the masses on their personal online channels.
The goal of SocialU is not just to teach employees what they can and can’t post on social media. The point is to empower employees (from all departments) to advocate for the brand on social channels by training them on proper social marketing tactics.
Companies can leverage employees that have a baseline understanding of social marketing best practices. They can serve as advocates given their keen front-line perspectives. This is a valuable way for employees to engage potential customers. CA’s participating employees seem to really dig it with over 13,000 employees taking part.
How Can SMB Retailers Do This?
Let me begin by saying this example is meant to demonstrate that employees can be an untapped advocacy channel sitting right under your nose.
While CA Technologies’ training seminar is quite in-depth, a small retailer such as yourself doesn’t need to set up a formal class to train a few employees. You will however need to lay out a few best practices for your employees to follow when posting about your store/brand.
This requires having your own baseline understanding of social media best practices. Luckily for you, we have a whole series dedicated to the subtle tactics of social media marketing. Give it a read, and then think about what makes sense for you (and your employees) to do immediately, a few months down the line and then perhaps a year from now.
You don’t need to conquer the entire world wide web in one week. You want your social posts (and especially the ones from your employees’ accounts) to be authentic and honest representations of your store, brand and products.
What to Do From Here…
If you’re interested in graduating some loyal customers to true advocate status, giving them a platform from which to advocate is key. As stated above, this can be as simple as letting them know you’ll share their blog posts about your store and related photos.
Of course, this all assumes you have some knowledge of social media and are actively updating your accounts. If this isn’t the case, then it’d be best to spend some time deepening your understanding of social media. You don’t have to surrender your desire for customer advocates though. Continue delivering an optimal experience and engage with customers whenever possible throughout their journey.
Our retail social media marketing series is a great place to start: