The Word of Mouth Marketing Association found that word of mouth drives an estimated $6 trillion in annual consumer spending. It is no surprise that every business dreams of achieving this state of nirvana: converting every customer into a passionate brand advocate.
What is a brand advocacy
Brand advocates are customers who passionately and proactively recommend your brand to anyone and everyone within their circle of influence, without any expectations in return. Brand advocates:
- Are 83% more likely to share information than the average internet user
- Their satisfaction and customer experience determines 80% of reach of marketing campaigns
- Spend at least 2x as much as average customers, and spend 3x as much as average customers over their lifetime of their relationship with a company or brand
Brand advocacy is an ambitious goal indeed. Is it possible? Definitely.
Before the brand starts selling itself through word-of-mouth, it needs strong foundations of delightful customer experiences.
What really goes into building brand advocates
Brand advocacy is truly something to be proud of, especially if a business has people advocating their company’s services.
The journey of creating brand advocates starts much sooner than most business leaders would expect. Brand advocacy starts at the very first interaction with your business, and continues with every further interaction.
From these experiences, we formulate positive or negative emotions about a brand.
When we want to capitalize on making the customer experience truly delightful and give ourselves the best chance of creating brand advocates for our business, we need to understand the link between how past experiences influence future decision-making. This should help us get to the root of why some people recommend a brand, and why others do not.
Of the multiple studies on decision-making, there was one that caught my attention: Pfister and Böhm’s framework.
Emotions in Decision Making
Emotions impact human decision-making a great deal. For example, we decide which movie to watch based on how we feel about the actors in the movie. We pick a restaurant for a date based on how the place made us feel last time. Or, we might go on vacation back to the same place because of the memories we created during our previous visit.
We try to be rational and practical while making these decisions, but subconsciously we are already biased towards a particular decision based on our emotions – and then we try to justify it with a logical explanation. In economics, this is known as being “irrationally rational”.
Pfister and Böhm’s framework goes a level deeper into explaining how emotions drive decisions. Their framework suggests that our emotions play four key roles:
Emotions provide information
Information triggers either a positive or negative emotion depending on the options that are being considered by the decision maker. The extreme ends of this emotion’s spectrum are taken by pleasure and displeasure.
Emotions improve our decision-making speed
Making a timely decision is equally important as making a good decision -sometimes even more so. When one or more options are perceived as potentially dangerous, in situations like fear, anger, hunger, and despair, emotions can encourage quick decision-making.
Emotions help us assess relevance
The decision maker’s choice can vary depending how the relevance of certain elements of the decision are perceived. State of the mind, background, and even social conditioning can impact the perception of relevancy. Regret and disappointment are perhaps are two most studied emotions owing to this peculiarity.
Emotions enhance commitment
The inherent bias of humans make people perceive the best decision for themselves as the best decision overall. However, the civic sensor keeps a tab on considering the greater good. Emotions like love and guilt provide the guiding framework for decision makers, in such situations.
It comes as no surprise that a study by Kayako found that almost 60% of consumers said they were unlikely or very unlikely to return to a business that they had experienced poor customer service from – even if a trusted friend said the service had improved.
But what does it really mean to “recommend” for a brand advocate?
- Advocates put their personal reputation on the line – By recommending your product or service, advocates are putting their personal reputations behind your brand. Brand advocates certainly hope to be thanked for a valuable recommendation at a later time. But they also fear an inevitable backfire, in case your product or service turns out to be a bad investment for any person who took their recommendation.
- Recommendations are never casual – Recommendations are never a casual affair for any brand advocate. That is why, in spite of the ease of sharing and recommending on social media, not everyone is a public advocate. While the act of recommending might be easy, it is the past experience that is needed to build the confidence required to make a recommendation.
- Personal experience is the best proof of value – This may be a little obvious, but personal experiences by customers form the basis of any future brand advocacy. It is this confidence that motivates them to put their personal reputation to back your brand.
How to identify hidden brand advocates in your customer base
Now we know how important emotions, confidence, and advocacy impact the decisions that potential customers have to make. Now, the task at hand is to figure out how to go about finding those hidden brand advocates within your company.
It’s not made easy by traditional business structures and sales processes that are not designed to nurture customer relationships once they have purchased from you. When you look at the traditional marketing and sales funnel, customers are generally labeled as “closed” as soon as the transaction takes place.
This highlights a huge flaw that most companies are omitting in their customer onboarding.
Customers who have both the potential and inclination of becoming your brand advocates, need to be engaged, activated and guided through their journey to become an advocate.
But even before this, it’s crucial to identify those hidden current customers who will become your brand advocates.
There are two ways to identify your potential brand advocates:
- In Sarah Chambers’s excellent Elevate Summit talk, she highlighted a method of collecting and analyzing your NPS and CSAT score. This will highlight everything from potential churners to brand advocates. But this is a manual process, and it requires your customer support team to use extra resources that they may not have while supporting your current customers.
- Use a predictive analytics model to identify potential brand advocates. This model tracks a customer’s digital footprint, and allows you to view the impression your brand has left with them over their lifecycle of lead to customer. A predictive analytics model weighs up which customers are most excited about your product, and puts their likelihood of brand advocacy right in front of you
Brand advocacy starts with great customer experiences
When it comes to building a great reputation for your company – one that drives plenty of word of mouth recommendations and wins you new business – it’s important to give your customers the best customer experience possible.
Great customer experiences lead to positive emotions associated with your brand, and these positive emotions drive brand advocacy. But finding brand advocates within your customer base is difficult. Sometimes, you need to use the right tool when your support team doesn’t have the resources necessary in order to uncover one of your most valuable assets to drive new business.
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