How to recruit brand advocates

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Creating brand cheerleaders

There are some companies that seem to successfully attract a loyal army of brand advocates, customers who will happily share their experiences and champion the brand at every opportunity. But how do these brands effectively engage advocates and what motivates them?

In an age where consumers often complain about long wait times for customer service calls or long contracts from their mobile network provider, Giff Gaff has managed to forge strong customer relationships. When the company was set up, the founders saw an opportunity to build an online business; they decided that customers didn’t necessarily need or care about the retail experience of a traditional high street business dealing with customers face-to-face. Giff Gaff talk about members rather than customers, which positions them as one of the team rather than just the provider. Members are incentivised to get involved with product development and problem solving, they're also happy to answer questions in the forum or submit ideas to the Giff Gaff Labs platform. Giff Gaff has built a community. This is a platform that not only works, but appears to be outperforming some of the other providers who offer a more traditional service.

Beauty emporium Sephora launched a members’ forum back in 2010, which actually boosted sales thanks to member customer recommendations. Online makeup tutorials and beauty product reviews have become a big thing on social media and video platforms. Bloggers and reviewers will always state which products they are using, often providing detailed product information so viewers can easily make a purchase. Sephora recognised the power of influence and created a members’ area on their website. This provided a place where satisfied customers can share their experiences and offer recommendations — new customers are only a click away from a purchase, and there’s nothing more powerful than a personal recommendation.

In the case of both brands what’s really important is authenticity. The Sephora Beauty Talk forum does contain some posts complaining about the customer experience, but they have not been removed or edited. Sephora understands the importance of an authentic brand experience, which ultimately builds trust and loyalty. Giff Gaff knows that by encouraging conversations they are building a space where members could post negative reviews, but if they didn’t allow negative feedback they couldn’t address those issues effectively and improve the service they provide.

What does this mean for your brand? By being open, inviting genuine feedback and providing customers with a space to communicate their experience, you begin to cultivate a natural pool of brand ambassadors. This might mean you experience some negative feedback, and it may take a little trial and error to get the balance right, but this is the age of the consumer so it’s important to cultivate and nurture customer relations. If you deliver an authentic customer experience, your brand advocates will take to the many digital communication platforms; forums, social media channels and champion your brand — and as we all know, peer to peer recommendations are priceless.

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