If no-one talks about your company, then you don't exist. According to a survey by The New York Times, 65% of a company's new turnover is the direct result of recommendations from existing customers. But the digital context means that it's not easy to build up traditional customer loyalty. Consumers can compare products and services very easily online. The competition is literally one click away. What's more, customers communicate very fast and often bluntly via social media. That involves a risk, but it's also an opportunity. A satisfied customer speaks up for you online, recommends other people in his network to use your products and services too, and thus becomes an ambassador for your brand.
These ambassadors are the mainstay of strong brands. The brand succeeded in fulfilling or even exceeding their expectations. That creates brand loyalty, so the customer is less likely to be tempted to compare products and services. The price weighs less heavily in the purchase decision, too. After all, customers are choosing more and more on the basis of their previous positive experiences and the resultant added value: fast delivery, assurance of quality, etc. As their enthusiasm for the brand grows, customers come to a point where they share their experience and so act as a sort of external staff member for Sales and Marketing.
That's the moment when you officially make these brand ambassadors part of the story. Via an online group - for instance on Facebook or LinkedIn – you gather these ambassadors around your brand. Keep the objective of the cooperation firmly in sight. It may be anything: from more sales and media attention to an online helpdesk where customers answer one another's questions. Depending on your goal, you provide regular reports - news, photos, videos – that they can easily share with their own network. Until recently, word-of-mouth advertising by customers was limited to colleagues, family and friends. With social media, the range is far wider.
What is more, success sometimes lies hidden in small details. Apple puts a logo sticker in its product packaging which then appears all over the streetscape. Coolblue likes to surprise customers, too, for instance by sending a text to say that an order has been packed. The Koffergigant luggage web shop goes one step further with a hand-written card which the company addresses personally to customers, thanking them for buying the suitcase and wishing them a good trip.
These are all examples that bring a smile to the face of the customer. And any colleagues or neighbors who ask them where they got their new suitcase hear a great story. That's the role of a brand ambassador.
So never be afraid to think outside the box. Give your brand ambassadors the visibility they need – both on- and offline.
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