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Customer Journey Part 5: Turning Loyal Customers into Advocates

This is the big one.

Advocacy is the last step of the Customer Journey.  It’s the stage where you have customers who love your product and business so much, they tell everyone they know about their experience with your company and convince them to make purchases from you.

Businesses that succeed in this stage will grow dramatically faster and more consistently than ones that don’t. It’s also the hardest stage to succeed.

Every step in the customer journey has built on the steps before it. Advocacy is harder because you don’t just need to pass the previous stages, you need to excel in the previous stages.

You need to perform at the absolutely top-level of everything in the Loyalty stage. Some customers might refer you after their first purchase. Some might take more before they trust you. But they will only refer you if your product, service, and performance are outstanding.

That said, planning to reach Advocacy is a great idea. Start there, with the mindset of “what product can I make or sell with amazing service that customers won’t be able to sleep unless they tell their friends about it?”

Plan for Customer Advocacy from the Beginning

Everyone from business strategists to self-help authors to productivity authors will tell you: begin with the end in mind. Customer Advocacy really is the end goal.

  • Precise product-to-market fit – the most important aspect of your business shows up again in building Advocacy. The product needs to be designed to meet your market’s needs; designed so well that when they buy it, they want to show it to their friends who would love it as well.
  • Design products that work best with friends and family (also known as the Network Effect) – some products work better if multiple people have one. If you’re the only person you know with email, a fax machine, or on a new social network, the product isn’t worth as much. It becomes better when everyone you know has them, so you try to get them to use it too.
  • Excel at every Loyalty-stage tactic – the previous post on Loyalty had several ways to make loyal customers. The more loyal they are, the more likely they are to rave about you to their friends.
  • Excel at EVERY Customer Journey tactic – while Loyalty tactics have the most direct influence, the smoother the process is for the customer from the very first time they heard from you to the time they use your product for the 50th time, the more likely they are to refer you.
  • Start with “advocacy” and work backwards – when you are selecting or designing products and services to offer, think about what ways you can offer top-shelf service and what kind of products are easier for customers to share (in person or online), that are easy for you to sell, that you know have clear benefits and advantages, and you know how to reach the customer.
  • Market to people who are more likely to share – you’ll sometimes see them referred to as “sneezers”, people who tend to share everything they see, buy, and think. They are influencers by nature, and it’s a good idea to specifically try to sell to them. This isn’t about a specific influencer, but a personality type.
  • Give away marketing materials – any time you go to an event, make a sale in person, or have someone visit you business, have useful stuff to give them that they are likely to leave out at their house or office for other people so see. Be creative. Everyone else gives away pens and t-shirts too. Give away something that people will notice.
  • Referral program – make it worthwhile for someone to bring in customers or clients for you. It could be a flat rate, such as $10 per person who they refer and buys from you, or a percentage of what they buy, such as making 3% of sales they bring you. There are plug-ins for Shopify and WordPress that let you set this up (and reduce the risk of people abusing it).
  • Track referrals – by using specific promo codes, UTM codes, and hashtags, you can see how many people are referring customers to your business. If the percentage is low, then it’s something to look into how you can fix it.

Make your business easy to share

This group of tactics is focused on making it easy for people to share your business once they decide to do so. You don’t want to make it difficult or confusing.

  • Get the easiest-to-remember website you can – the shorter, simpler, and more common your website name is, the better. If you added “shop”, “designs”, “boutique”, or anything else to your domain name so you could use the name you wanted, most people are going to go to “the other person’s” website instead. The “.co” extension still isn’t that common and leads to confusion. You might have a sales pitch to help people to remember your website… your customers telling their friends won’t.
  • Make share-able content – Create social media content that’s so great, people want to “share” it, not just “like” it (and no, I don’t mean the goofy “share” games people play). Make sure the “Share to social media” buttons are active on your blog, website, and catalog.
  • Have a Hashtag strategy – Twitter and Instagram run heavily on hashtags. Make sure you have unique hashtags for your business and for any special attributes or concepts you want to promote. Then use them heavily and ask your customers to do the same.

Closing

Small businesses fail at an alarming rate. By constantly monitoring your Customer Journey, you can see if your business is starting to struggle, where the problems are, and take action before it becomes a major problem.

When your business succeeds in the Advocacy stage, you have created a sustainable business. It’s a huge accomplishment.

As you constantly bring in new customers, a percentage of your existing customers keep buying from you and a percentage of them will bring in new customers for you. That lets your business grow and keep on growing.

To review the Customer Journey, see the overview post to see how they all tie together, and think about how much your knowledge and perspective have changed since the first article!

Next Up: Building the “Business Bridge”

Think of the Customer Journey as the road surface of a bridge.

Most of your customers only see the surface, but there is a lot of support structure holding up the bridge that they might not know about. That support structure is what we’ll be talking about next.

The bigger and more robust the structure is, the bigger you can make your bridge and the more traffic you can get across it.

The Customer Journey “bridge” has three main pillars that support it:

  • Product-to-Market Fit – defining a market, finding out how to reach them, determining why they buy (their “problem”), what they look for in a solution, coming up with ideas of what to sell them, and validating the product idea. Whew!!
  • Business Communications – all the ways your company talks to the market place, including email campaigns, social media posts, product descriptions, packaging, and branding.
  • Business Operations – the things your company does to stay in business. Accounting, marketing, finance, billing, production, sales, and so on. They might not be glamorous, but they are necessary to keep your company running.

I first mentioned these in my post on The Successful Business. Each “pillar” is too big to cover in a single post, so I’ll break them down into smaller pieces each week.

I hope to see you here for them!

If you want to keep the discussion going and get several tips on running your business every week, join my Facebook Group (and be sure to answer the admission questions… I only admit new members who answer them).

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