The next time you’re watching a TV show with several other people, pay close attention whenever a commercial comes on and someone in the room says something similar to, “Oh, yeah, I’ve tried that before.”
Instantaneously — sometimes involuntarily — every head in the room turns to listen to whatever that person says next.
Assuming that the product or service did not just meet but exceeded expectations, the setting is ripe for that customer to become an impromptu brand evangelist. You can always spot these types by their surprising level of exuberance.
The key difference between loyalty and brand evangelism
Some people use the terms “loyal customer” and “brand evangelist” as if they’re interchangeable, but they’re not. Brand evangelists take things to a whole new level.
Loyal customers may consistently choose your brand over the competition, but brand evangelists are so enamored with your company’s track record that they’re going to do more work on your behalf. They’ll recommend your brand to others, enthusiastically promote your products or services, and generally act as unpaid marketing and advertising ambassadors whether they realize it or not.
We’re all naturally curious to find out if someone else’s lived-out experience matches up with what advertisers claim. This is particularly true whenever a new product or service is launched … does that shiny new thing live up to the pre-release hype? Most people trust reviews from other customers as much as they trust recommendations from friends. The dynamic of encountering a thrilled customer in real life is incredibly powerful.
So … how can you tap into that power, given your existing loyal customer base? The three phases listed below provide a rough outline that can be adapted to just about any business. The core idea can best be summed up as paying careful attention to feedback at every point in a customer’s experience of your brand.
Phase 1: Set up an empirical data scheme
Before making any attempt to move someone along the path from loyal customer to brand evangelist, you’ll want to first set up a reliable, objective system for measuring and analyzing the sentiments of your target audience. Data will be your best friend here.
For example, measuring a net promoter score (NPS) is one such metric that can help you gauge customer satisfaction and loyalty. Short, convenient, and customer-focused surveys contribute to an overall NPS score. These help you get a better sense of an individual’s existing brand loyalty and overall willingness to promote your business to others.
Whatever metric you decide to use in your evaluation process, make sure you start off with empirical data for each market segment. The key is to be able to compare apples to apples at all stages of the process, especially after survey results begin to come in. Gut feelings coupled with intuition won’t cut it.
Once you have segmented your customers, you can zero in on those who have demonstrated authentic enthusiasm for your brand. These folks are most likely to become brand evangelists and should be the primary focus of those marketing efforts.
Phase 2: Encourage and reinforce brand evangelism
Next, you’ll want to introduce new strategies and tactics to encourage loyal customers to become brand evangelists. Listed below are four simple ideas to help get you thinking about what might work best in your setting.
1. Set up an incentive system to reward loyalty and referrals
Providing customers with an incentive to keep using your product or service — and perhaps send new customers your way — is one of the strongest win-wins in marketing. You reinforce behavior that a person is already engaged in and simultaneously make defections to your competitors less appealing. As just one example, you might offer a $50 gift card or one month of free service for each new customer who names you as a referral.
2. Provide service that underpromises and over-delivers
Make it a top priority to give your customers exceptional service. Not “good” service, mind you — exceptional service. Go above and beyond expectations to make sure every touchpoint with your business is memorable. Chances are good that if they’re impressed with your efforts, they’ll speak highly of you to others.
3. Toss in a few fun surprises
Surprises have interesting effects on the human psyche, primarily that they’re much more memorable than everyday events. People also tend to share their surprises with others. If you include some fun surprises for your loyal customers, such as an unanticipated free gift, they’ll almost certainly talk about it with others and evangelize your brand.
4. Create, monitor, and sustain multiple outlets for fan interaction
Brand evangelists achieve their greatest marketing power when they’re interacting with new fans and prospective customers, so give them every opportunity to do it. Create outlets for fan interaction such as interactive forums, fan-submitted blogs, and of course, customized social media groups and threads.
Phase 3: Reanalyze and regroup
After experimenting with a few different approaches, you’ll do well to set aside time on the back end to reanalyze and regroup. Expect to tweak the process regularly.
Has the net promoter score of your average customer improved significantly? Which campaigns seemed to yield the best results? Have you identified any individuals working to promote your brand? How are they developing? What feedback do they have?
Over time, you’ll come up with new and innovative ideas for how to turn more customers into loyal customers and turn more loyal customers into brand evangelists. Patience will serve you well as this is a process that takes months to fully develop and years to continue nurturing. Keep after it, and don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.