There are five phases to the customer buying journey – awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, advocacy – and many experts believe that the final one is the most difficult to get right.
As Kathryn Jubrail, strategy director at creative agency ODD London, says: “It's difficult. We are increasingly seeing fatigue among consumers with brands that ask them to upload a selfie, to share X, do Y and so on, without offering any real reward. Within fashion, consumers seem more eager to engage with brands, compared with, say, a FMCG brand, but still it isn't easy.”
How can you turn customers into advocates without harassing them? Here are five ideas to try:
1. Offer rewards
One of the simplest, although not necessarily the least expensive, ways to encourage advocacy is to reward customers for recommending you. Jubrail at ODD points out that value can mean just promotions, incentives, prizes; it can also mean emotional value where consumers feel part of the brand.
2. Turn complainants into advocates
Neil Taylor, managing partner at The Writer, says: “A brilliant way to improve customer advocacy is to improve how you deal with complaints. Take a brand with a distinctive, if divisive, tone of voice like Innocent. Some of their customers are such devotees that even when something goes wrong, they write funny emails, virtually in the brand’s tone of voice. They get a reply in the same tone, and some free smoothies, and Innocent actually get to strengthen their advocacy through some real one-to-one contact."
3. Understand and empathise
Robin Collyer, marketing and decisioning specialist at CRM consultancy Pegasystems, says: “As consumers, we provide more than enough information for organisations to be able to know us and engage positively through multiple phases of advocacy. Financial service providers can proactively suggest improvements to the range of products held, based on their knowledge of you as a customer – recognising that you have duplicate cover for travel insurance, for example.”
He continues: “The travel industry is awash with opportunities to delight. Even a simple recognition of the hassle you encountered with delayed flights – when you arrive at the resort – will demonstrate that the organisation does know you and does care. Think of how many people you’d tell those stories to if that happened to you.”
4. Surprise customers
Olly Honess, partner at social communications agency Cubaka, says: “The element of surprise can be an extremely potent tool for inciting passionate advocacy from your customers. Look at what Taco Bell has done to turn around its fortunes by clever tactics, like airlifting tacos via helicopter into locations that lack a Taco Bell branch. Like any good relationship, it’s this element of surprise that keeps the passion alive.”
5. Be authentic and likeable
Sarah Stratford, executive strategy director at creative agency ais London comments: “Advocacy shouldn't be hard for brands to achieve. People become advocates of things they are happy to be publicly identified with – be that people, organisations or brands. So, the key to building advocacy is authenticity; do what you say you're going to do, do it well and do it consistently.”
She adds: “Look at First Direct, a brand built on the simple premise of removing the absurdities and injustices of banking, and a brand that offers the sort of service customers deserve. The result? One in three of their new acquisitions come through customer referral.”