Every business has fans; at least every good business. And as a savvy CEO, executive or store manager, you need to know how a few small business marketing tips to help turn those fans into brand advocates willing to spread the gospel.
It's not a plug-and-play process, however. There's no blueprint you can follow or secret sauce you can slather on to get instant results. Yet a few tried-and-true techniques can get you, your business and your super-fans moving in the right direction.
3 Tips to Encourage Brand Advocacy
Brand-advocacy programs traditionally used retail associates to connect with customers in a more experiential way. Not only would they explain the benefits of a product or service, but they'd also provide detailed information on a brand's past, present and potential future, as well as on the overall marketplace and the competition. It's kind of like sales on steroids, minus the nasty side effects.
In today's tech-oriented world, brand advocacy has moved to the Web. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and countless other social media platforms give consumers an even stronger voice. In an instant, Larry in Toledo can tell his friends and followers that he absolutely loved (or loathed) the new triple deluxe bacon burger that your business launched last Tuesday.
To get Larry (and thousands of other people) to advocate for your brand, to spread the good word about your biz and to provide you with honest feedback early and often -- which can be a life saver -- start with these three tips:
1. Give your advocates the inside scoop
Planning a new product? Send your biggest fans a free sample to demo. Opening a new location? Give your advocates a sneak peek, and then ask them to share what they see with others.
Social media marketing in action: Word-of-mouth marketing firm, BzzAgent works with businesses to identify appropriate fans and send them freebies and coupons. They then encourage those fans to share feedback and brand expressions on their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and personal blogs. The firm then tracks fan activity, and the fans who share their feedback through multiple channels are more likely to receive future freebies.
2. Let your advocates shine
Advocates like to be recognized as a good source of information. Give them a chance to be the go-to distributors for your latest and greatest deals.
Social media marketing in action: The casual dining chain, Chili's distributed an offer for a free appetizer through its advocates. According to the brand advocacy firm Zuberance, Chili's fans shared 320,000 offers with their social networks, and the initiative generated 315,000 inbound clicks to Chili's.
3. Reward your brand advocates
Keep your advocates feeling valued through special rewards or perks. These may include invitation-only sales, pre-launch parties, complementary business tours or Christmas and birthday coupons.
Social media marketing in action: Random House Publishing created a special community site for Dean Koontz fans to gather. The mutually beneficial site allows fans to post book reviews and connect on discussion boards while providing Random House access to a receptive audience for future marketing and promotions.
Brand advocates can be more than your biggest fans; they can also be one of your best small business marketing tools. Start with these strategies to reach potential customers far beyond your own social network.
Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.
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