Imagine your most satisfied customers generating new business for you. That’s what advocacy marketing does – and we’re here to tell you how you can leverage your most enthusiastic customers into selling your products for you.
First off, what is customer advocacy?
The increasingly competitive landscape, coupled with the growing distrust for brands and advertising have led marketers to turn to their own customers. The concept of customer advocacy banks on the opportunity to turn customer’s positive experiences into an authentic, and therefore, powerful sales message for new buyers.
Why email marketing?
Despite the plethora of developments, email marketing continues to produce the best ROI among other digital marketing strategies. That is why according to the 2017 ‘Email Marketing and Marketing Automation Excellence Report’, email marketing earns the top grade for effectivity vs. other digital channels as told by marketers.
And as noted by Oberlo: “Email marketing is one of the fundamental channels for keeping engaged with people who have already expressed interest in your brand.” So when it comes to enticing your customers to become your brand ambassadors, having them subscribed to your emails already makes you a step ahead.
Declining trust and the importance of customer advocacy
Ultimately, customer advocacy comes back to the matter of trust. It’s been found that 88 percent of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as opposed to advertising from brands. And it’s not just advertising that has bred distrust. According to the Edelman 2017 Executive Summary, peers rank above CEOs, government officials, and financial analysts when it comes to information credibility during the buying process.
There’s just far too much vendor-driven content being pushed to buyers for them to just continue trusting what they say. And that’s why reviews, and word of mouth recommendations from peers should be prioritized.
How to use email marketing to turn customers into advocates
Before we get into this, it’s important to note a key difference. You can have loyal customers (those who are personally loyal to your brand) who aren’t advocates. The difference is in how advocates engage others in promoting your brand. And the importance of having loyal customers lies in their potential to become advocates.
Here are some of the ways you can use email marketing to turn customers into advocates:
An email sequence is defined by digital marketing firm Web Profits as a series of targeted emails sent based on pre-set time intervals, trigger-based automations, or both.
- Time-based – examples of pre-determined intervals are: after opt-in, two weeks after a purchase, three months after subscribing.
- Trigger-based – these are sent based on the actions (or lack thereof) of the recipient like clicking an email link, not logging into a platform after a period of time, clicking a link in the last five emails.
Why email sequences work
A major reason why email sequences work is because they’re automated, which in itself saves you a lot of time, and keeps customers who have opted-in engaged. Another reason is it works in a myriad of ways – brand awareness, capturing leads, driving sales, etc. Whatever your marketing goals are, there’s an automated sequence that’ll help you achieve it.
Here are some of the types of email sequences:
These emails are designed to introduce the brand to your subscribers. It could either be short message to let them know exactly what it is your do, or contain a shareable explainer video of how your company works.
Netflix does an excellent job at this. You’ve probably gotten one, with personalized recommendations on what to watch next. They also put in clear CTA to either watch now, or add a show to your list.
Abandoned cart recovery
Sometimes shoppers abandon carts because either the website crashed or it timed out. Other times they’re simply still thinking about the purchase. An abandoned cart sequence email helps convince them to make that purchase. It could leverage FOMO by saying that the item is almost sold out, or that a special sale is about to end.
Post-purchase ‘Thank you’ email
Oftentimes, companies become so fixated on customer acquisition that retention becomes an afterthought, when the reality should be the opposite. As noted by a LinkedIn article by Colin Shaw, the probability of selling a product to an existing client is around 60-70 percent. The chances of selling to a new client is only 5-20 percent.
This is where post-purchase engagement emails come in. And one of the most straightforward ones is the post-purchase thank you email. Following a purchase, everyone sends an email with the order confirmation, shipping details, and other similar information. Thank you emails provide you with an opportunity to continue engaging an existing customer.
Whether it’s by providing valuable content, an incentive to purchase again, or following you on social media for special offers – the goal is always to personalize customer engagement, and build brand loyalty.
Customer satisfaction survey
Another way to show customers you care is by asking for their thoughts and feedback. And one of the most straightforward ways to do so is with an email survey. Surveys not only make customers feel like you value their feedback, it gives you a wealth of data to provide your customers with better experiences.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when planning a successful survey:
What are you hoping to learn? – Surveys should be centered on accomplishing a single goal. As pointed out by Shopify, every question should act as a puzzle piece in helping you understand how to better serve your customers, one step at a time.
Who will you be asking? – Similar to having a clearly defined goal, you need to determine whether you’ll be sending the survey to your entire list, new customers, or longstanding clients.
Ask the right questions – When you gave an established goal, and know who you’ll be asking, you can focus on coming up with questions that’ll help you achieve your goal. Your questions need to be direct, simple, and easy to answer. A number of available tools can help you make one-click surveys, making it even more convenient for your customers to give you their feedback.
Choose potential advocates based on survey results
One goal of a survey could be to find potential advocates. In the simplest of terms, you can ask customers how likely they are to recommend your business to another – for example, on a scale of one to 10. You can also add other questions determining how loyal and enthusiastic they are to your brand.
Depending on the system you set up, you can identify promoters based on their scores, and funnel them into a separate sequence designed to introduce them to your referral program.
Incentivize promoters to make referrals
Once you’ve already identified customers willing to refer your business to others, you can up the ante by offering incentives every time they do so. It’s another way to nurture customer advocacy, and build continued trust.
Here are some samples of good referral programs:
- Uber – Riders are offered credits for referring a friend (who also gets their own ride credit). Uber also offers a similar scheme to the drivers, allowing them to refer both fellow drivers, and riders. For example, when a referred driver completes X number of trips, the driver that referred them gets $100.
- Amazon – In a similar way, Amazon offers its customers $5 in credits for their next purchase every time they refer someone who joins Amazon Prime and spends $5.
These kinds of incentives not only encourage customers to refer others to your business, they’re also designed to have both of them spend even more on your products and services.
Even with all these things get planned out to perfection, none of these will work if your emails get considered by readers as spam. With thousands of businesses sending out millions of emails every day, people are becoming savvier with filtering out spam from those who are not.
Your email subject line is the key. If you can’t make your customers open your emails, you can’t inform them of your advocacy program.
Here are a few words/phrases you should avoid in your email subject lines, according to RedStag:
Measuring customer advocacy ROI
Track the value of leads
According to advocacy marketing platform Influitive, studies show that referred leads have a 16 percent higher customer lifetime value. When tracking the value of referral leads, you can consider factors like how much they spend, how fast their sales pipeline is, and if they refer even more new customers.
Value of online reviews
Studies say that 88 percent of people trust online reviews written by other consumers. This is a trend that only looks to grow, making encouraging customers to write reviews a high value priority for brands looking to accelerate their pipeline.
Customer advocates not only spread the word about products they’re loyal to, they also have the tendency to share content from those brands. Conferencing company ReadyTalk found that more than 750 leads were generated through their content.
One way you can pinpoint if content was shared by a customer advocate is by creating customized links and URLs to the content emailed to them.
It is important to remember that ultimately, advocacy marketing, at its core, is about nurturing customer relationships. And if you want to turn your customers into advocates, not only do you have to meet their expectations – you have to go above and beyond it.
Have you started considering putting an advocacy marketing campaign in place? How does email marketing figure into that equation? Take advantage of your loyal customers, and continue to foster your relationship with them. They could very well then be your next advocates.