There are so many cliched phrases about size; size doesn’t matter, the bigger the better, small is beautiful; that sort of thing, and for the most part when it comes to marketing size doesn’t matter.  You can have a marketing department of 1 or 100 as long as what you do is effective.  But imagine if you could have the best of both worlds and be effective and large – or largely effective, overnight.  Any size marketing department can easily double, triple or even quadruple in mere minutes by using a tool that is available to them all – their customers.

You might remember from last week’s blog that I referenced your customers as a secret weapon, or the unsung heroes in your organisation’s success. I thought that this deserved more attention and a little bit more explaining, so thought I’d give kudos to our customers by giving them their very own blog.  So if you are sitting comfortably then please let us begin…

I’m going to  illustrate 4 key ways that you as a business can use your customers as part of your marketing mix to subsequently improve business performance and further satisfy your customers whilst improving customer retention. From promoting your business, being your biggest critics and becoming part of your feedback process, customers can be your most important asset in your marketing and help grow and improve your business for the better.

1. Customers as Brand Advocates

When I first started in the world of Marketing, I remember being told that the best advert you could ever have was one you could never book or control ; the best advert you could ever have was your customers telling others about you and how good you are. Word of mouth marketing  is key in getting your name out there, especially if your business is small and doesn’t have a huge budget.

If a customer has a good experience they are likely to want to tell their friends who then tell their friends and so on and so forth.  And as you would expect from this day and age, the literal act of word of mouth marketing naturally progresses to online chat and this is where your “audience” hits the big figures.   To find out who is saying what about you online there are many tools at your disposal, but to capitalise on what is being said you need to have a good presence on social media and encourage your customers to both interact with you and share information and relevant things about your business. Facebook is a great way to do this by creating content that people can share in order to spread the word.

Some say it is taboo to ask your customers to do this, but it’s all about give and take and making them feel valued as a customer and part of your business.  Don’t be frightened to ask your customers to share posts and recommend you to their friends, recommendation schemes can be worth their weight in gold.  They are a great way to grow your database with sound leads so be prepared to incentivise customers to do this.  By asking your existing customers to formally recommend friends by giving you their names, addresses and email addresses for you to market to and by giving them a reward for a conversion you are showing your loyal customers that they are important to you.

2. Customers as product endorsers

Testimonials are not just rewards given to footballers who have been at the same club for 10 years, they are a really crucial communication tool in marketing. Testimonials are where your customers endorse a product or you as a company through a review, quote or other such statement of endorsement.

Customer testimonials, if used correctly, can be a really significant tool in gaining the interest and trust of potential new customers. Consumers are more sophisticated and dubious  than ever these days, so simply claiming to be “the best” is not enough anymore, you need proof.  Testimonials offer an independent indication that you have done a good job and can help reassure new or nervous buyers, as well as distinguishing you from your competitors.

An endorsement from a customer about a product that shows it in a positive light will be more significant in helping a product or company succeed than thousands of words from the company about how good they are.

The best way to generate testimonials is through customer reviews or regularly speaking to customers. Just don’t forget to ask permission from the customer to use their quote in your marketing material.

3. Customer reviews

Similar to testimonials above, make sure that if you operate in the online channel your website has product reviews available. In terms of reassurance over a purchasing decision, online reviews are a huge driver in conversion and selling your products online.

Just think, how many times you have been on a website and really liked the look of something but then didn’t purchase it because of negative reviews?  Similarly, how often have you bought something based on positive reviews even if you haven’t been fully convinced?  A 5 star rating does the world of good in the sales of your products and services.

Independent review platforms such as Feefo and Trustpilot even score businesses on service and quality of product so your customers now, more than ever, can make, or break, a product or your company’s reputation based on reviews.

4. Listen to your customers

The final point is perhaps an obvious one and a bit clichéd, but in my opinion is the most important. Simply listen to your customers. If you want an honest reflection of how your business is performing and how it could improve then ask your customers and listen to their feedback.  Listening to your customers and letting your customers shape and influence your business will help you become a better business.

Whilst watching a recent BBC documentary on the online giant Amazon, I loved the phrase their founder CEO, Jeff Bezos, used to signify the importance of their customers to their process,he said “Start with your customer, and work your way back”.  Amazon, even at their size continue to put their customers first, and as such conduct lots of research and canvassing of their customers in order to listen to their feedback so that they may continue to make improvements.

But how can business do this? There are many ways to gather opinions and data from your customers.

Conduct a survey – this can be done relatively quickly and easily or in a more complex manner depending on the size or how you wish to conduct the rollout. It can be as simple as telephoning a few customers to ask how their service was and to get their feedback, or it could involve conducting a larger scale survey with multiple questions on a range of topics. A really inexpensive and effective way to gather such information is to ask your customers to rate your service/product at the end of their transaction, so maybe  2 or 3 quick questions at the end of the checkout on your website could help you make valuable changes. Just like leaving a field for comments can provide valuable insights from your customers.  Additionally, focus groups, or one-to-one customer reviews depending on your business scale, can help give you an overview into how you are perceived and where you can improve.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to utilise your customers as part of your marketing team. Next week I want to look at the tools available to you to check what is being said about “you”…  big brother is always watching, see you then.

How to use your customers as part of your Marketing Team

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