Before kicking off a season filled with holiday-themed display ads, email campaigns and PR stunts, marketers have an opportunity to work on a less visible, yet equally important effort for Q4 success: nurturing customer loyalty.
Building campaigns that are designed to keep shoppers coming back is certainly nothing new for marketers. But when it comes to leveraging effective marketing tactics for getting products or services in front of prospective buyers, engaging loyal followers who also have influence over their friends’ and families’ purchasing decisions is arguably more important than ever before. In the last year alone, ad blockers have increased in popularity, email marketing has looked as saturated as it’s ever been, and there’s mounting evidence that consumers are becoming numb to any type of promotional content. In contrast, word-of-mouth is still widely considered to be the most effective tactic for attracting new customers.
As marketers explore opportunities for optimizing their holiday campaigns, they can pursue initiatives to not only help create more loyal customers, but encourage their most influential customers to be vocal about their brand loyalty. Here are four ways to accomplish both:
Engage active shoppers in-the-moment
Whether a shopper has just bought her first item from your e-commerce site or simply walked into your store, make sure you’re encouraging social sharing in ways that actually enhance the customer journey and promote word-of-mouth.
When thinking about how to do this, get creative and think experiential. If you have a brick-in-mortar shop, go one step further than simply putting up small stickers on your windows reminding people to post about their purchases. Consider creating spaces in the store that lend themselves to engaging customers with social influence, and encouraging them to promote your brand via Facebook, Yelp or another network. For Black Friday and beyond, one fun in-store option is having holiday-themed cutouts that people can take pictures of themselves in.
When it comes to online purchases, don’t just ask customers to share their purchase via social media in your confirmation email. Sweeten the deal by offering a percentage off their next purchase in exchange for a tweet or Instagram. You could even track the conversions from these social shares, and consider reaching back out to the customers who actually drove sales with additional incentives to continue talking about your brand.
Create an exclusive customer community
Even when customers aren’t actively shopping, there are many ways that marketers can continue to enhance loyalty and promote word-of-mouth.
If your company doesn’t have a customer loyalty program, it’s not too late to get one up and running before the holiday season kicks into gear. At a basic level, your loyalty program should feature exclusive sales, and first access to popular products. You can also implement an always-on rewards scheme where each social share gives the person in your loyalty program a certain number points towards a future store credit or free item.
For marketers that already have a customer loyalty program in place, take the time to optimize the program in ways that more effectively encourage customers to talk about your products and services. One area to consider is segmenting the people in your loyalty program based on their social influence, and offering your most influential customers larger incentives if they choose to post.
Give them a voice
Loyal customers want to feel like the company they’re supporting is equally dedicated to them. Brands can help convey their commitment by creating channels that truly give customers a voice, particularly for those loyal customers who are also influential ambassadors for your brand. This might mean offering early product access to select customers in exchange for feedback, or creating quarterly or annual surveys that ask customers to reflect on their experience with using your brand’s products.
While you don’t want customers to share their complaints or concerns with the general public, in select instances you should ask them to voice their appreciation for your brand during these feedback exchanges.
For instance, at the end of a multiple-choice product survey in which a customer has given high marks, you can include a call to action that asks her to post, and offers an incentive for doing so. If you’re sending a customer a pre-launch product to review, you can encourage him to talk about what they like most about the new product in your follow-up emails for feedback.
Surprise and delight
When you surprise your customers, it doesn’t just build loyalty. It greatly increases the chance that they will tell their friends and family about how much they like your products or services. In an age where there’s such fierce competition for consumer products in virtually every category, consider going the extra mile to excite the influential people who are dedicated to your brand.
Let’s say you notice a few people who have a significant social following recently tweeted about how great one of your products or services is. You could just send them a “thank you” tweet. Or, because you see these customers are influential, you could do something that most brands wouldn’t – thank them publicly, ask for their email addresses and send them a free gift or discount code.
Remember, a valuable customer is more than a repeat shopper. Rather, it’s someone who is vocal about their appreciation for your brand and can help drive others to act. Following these four initiatives will take you a long way towards not only enhancing customer loyalty, but also driving more sales through word-of-mouth referrals.
Mavrck specializes in word-of-mouth marketing.