While 3-D movies and printers get all the press, there’s another 3-D phenomenon taking place that’s quietly changing the business landscape. 3-D customers, better known as brand advocates, are changing how consumers learn about brands and spread the word. Are you seeing your customers in 3-D? We’ll show you how – without the funky glasses.
A one-dimensional customer lives up to his or her name by being a one-time deal. If you run a gas station convenience store, you get your share of these – typically out-of-towners looking for a fill-up, a soft drink and, in the days before GPS devices, directions. At a minimum, you get their money, nothing more.
The same station, however, gets its share of regulars – people who live nearby and stop in for a weekly fill-up, some gum and maybe even a lottery ticket when the jackpot gets way up there. From these two-dimensional customers you’ll get repeat business until a new job, home or road construction puts them on a different path.
The 3-D customer at the same station not only fills up each week, he or she does so exclusively, will go out of his or her way to do so, and doesn’t shy away from telling family, friends and colleagues about you on Facebook. This customer feels a strong connection to your brand and represents countless dollars in word-of-mouth marketing and toward your bottom line. This 3-D customer is a brand advocate.
Brand advocates are slowly shifting marketing from a business-to-customer (B to C) model to a customer-to-customer (C to C) model. While word-of-mouth advertising isn’t new, today’s brand advocates, equipped with social media, have the power to exponentially spread the word about your brand and put your business in front of far more customers who are likely to buy your product than can be reached by traditional advertising. And savvy businesses are using social platforms to make sure the word spreads far and wide.
The more proactive your business is in social media, the more likely you are to win loyal, vocal brand advocates. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are just a few of the platforms businesses use to keep customers talking and their brands out front.
The key to success on any platform is to keep the dialogue going and keep the content fresh. When you post about a product and someone responds favorably, respond. Push out the good, minimize the occasional naysayer, but don’t ever sit idly by. Some tips for making Facebook work for your business can be found here.
While using loyalty programs to gain brand advocates may seem mercenary, it’s a two-way street. As long as there are perks, customers are willing to sing your praises, even though they’ll likely stop if the perks stop coming. So, everyone wins in an effective loyalty program, and the stakes are high.
According to the Mintel study, Retailer Loyalty Programs – US August 2013, loyalty program participation in the U.S. reached 1.2 billion in 2012, with participants citing savings as the main reason for signing on.
If you’re considering one for your business, Millennials are a particularly attractive target as they’re more willing to spend than other age groups. Engaging them now will increase the likelihood of retaining them later on when they’re wealthier and more profitable. Non-white consumers are also a growing market for loyalty programs. Developing a loyalty program that takes these factors into account will increase your chance of gaining vocal brand advocates.
No matter what type of business you run, it pays to look at your customers differently. Turning them into vocal brand advocates – and seeing them in 3-D – can open up a whole new dimension for your business, your brand and your bottom line.