It seems that it is a commonly held belief that a highly satisfied customer is one of the strongest marketing assets a business can have.
Despite this accepted assertion, I have recently been in contact with a surprisingly large number of businesses that haven’t given any thought to how they can leverage this asset. These businesses have been hoping that word of mouth will be an inexpensive, effortless method for growing sales and their customer base. To a degree, they are right; positive word of mouth will help. But they could grow so much more if they thought about how to activate their satisfied customers.
What I mean by activating customers is very simple: motivating customers and giving them tools to enable them to spread a brand’s message easily and authentically. Customers generally like to share information that they acquire through their experiences with products/services and brands. By activating this inclination, a business has a greater chance of having customers share their experiences with others and spreading the news or information that the business wants them to pass along.
There are many ways to activate customers. Some of these are unique to certain industries, business models, or customer segments. However, below are a few ideas that should be applicable to most businesses. None of these has to be complex or expensive, but these suggestions do require some thought, planning, ongoing management, and measurement to have the greatest impact. Take a read through these to help spark some ideas on the best ways to activate your customers.
5 Activation ideas
- Create a program to formally recognize your best customers. Acknowledge and thank them for being good customers. Make them feel valued and appreciated with special offers, ‘sneak peaks’ of new offerings, etc. These customers will feel more loyal, and hopefully so special that they can’t help but tell their friend about their special treatment and great relationship they have with your business.
- Give your customers a voice and solicit their ideas and opinions in low or high tech ways. The medium isn’t as important as the act of listening to your customers. The important aspects of this are that you can ask your customers what they think, give them a chance to respond, and consider their responses in the future to improve your products, services, or overall customer experience. These things can be accomplished through social media tools, but they can also be accomplished through face to face discussions, phone conversations, focus groups, customer events, and other outlets. The medium you choose really should be driven by your customers’ preferences.
- Keep your customers informed. Whether it is a new product launch or your next tradeshow appearance, ensure your customers are ‘in the know’ so that they can anticipate their next experience with your brand. By keeping them updated on a regular basis on your news (such as through a newsletter, email, or blog), you can stay top of mind with them and further help them spread your news to other potential customers.
- Arm your customers with exclusive ‘marketing materials’. Ideally, this would be something that they can use in their daily lives, but that also happens to tell your brand’s story for you when they use it around others. These ‘marketing materials’ could be product samples, special catalogs, or any other collateral that customers would find useful and better yet, would be proud to share with their friends because it is so unique or exclusive, and it has made them feel special by receiving it.
- Implement a ‘tell a friend’ referral program. For every person a customer refers to you resulting in a strong lead or a sale, give a ‘thank you’ in some form to the referring customer. There are two things about the referral program that are very important. First of all, the thank you has to be sincere. The customer should believe that you really are thankful. Secondly, the program should motivate the customer to continue to refer people to your brand. This motivation typically means rewarding the customer in a way that is meaningful and valuable to them. The hardest part about this is figuring out what that is (and this is where you refer back to #2).
I hope that these ideas encourage you to think about the ways that you are activating your customers currently and inspire you to develop some additional methods you can give to your satisfied customers to leverage. And if you have some other suggestions of ways to activate your customers, please share them. They would be much appreciated!