Usually, when one thinks about marketing, it assumes it is about the first interaction with a prospect, lead, or future client. It makes no difference if it is a big company, or a freelancer, all focus, energy and resources tend to move towards that first intersection.
However, as studies show, it is equally important to pay attention to your existing clients or former clients. And not to mention, much cheaper. To shed some light on the topic and tell us how to turn our clients into our advocates, we invited Remeny Armitage from Brilliant & Human, who has over 20 years of experience working for a variety of businesses in client insight research, client advocacy, marketing and new business. Ultimately, she helps businesses turn their clients into advocates. Her experience has helped build relationships between businesses and their clients in a human-centric way.
What is the most important thing in your business, besides you?
What is your greatest marketing asset?
What makes your business a success?
For all businesses, the answer to this question is the same. It’s your customers.
With this in mind, is it not critical to nurture your customer relationships so that your customers are loved so much that they become your greatest advocate for your business?
Do you know what your customers really think about you and whether they are your advocates or could be?
I run customer advocacy programmes for my clients. The core part of my work is interviewing my client’s customers to find out what is working well and, perhaps, not so well. By being an impartial ‘listener’, customers get a chance to give feedback on their honest views of their supplier as well as suggestions for improvements, which is so much more in-depth than an online form or NPS (Net Promotor Score) can ever be.
Once I’ve spoken to a selection of customers, I then feedback and give recommendations, enabling my client to make improvements to their business and engage with their customers better. I have been called a marriage counsellor for businesses…. and have found all sorts of incredibly valuable insights from customers that have helped my clients to improve and grow their businesses off the back of these interviews. Some of the intelligence that has come out of interviewing their customers has enabled my clients to:
- Encourage better communication and conversations with their customers, developing trust and loyalty;
- Identify at-risk customers and develop plans to improve relationships with them;
- Develop new services and products;
- Improve marketing, positioning, and tone of voice;
- Build credibility with investors;
- Increase the pipeline (new and existing business) and grow revenue!
Ultimately, the interviews have improved customer relationships, retention, and loyalty and opened up new job opportunities. It’s also built a huge amount of trust between customers and suppliers, which of course leads to a stronger, more effective business with an increase in revenue; and a greater number of client advocates who are being serviced with care and humanity.
It’s worth remembering that it’s far more cost-effective to keep your clients happy than to sign up new clients. According to Amy Gallo of the Harvard Business Review, “Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
Steps to turn your customers into advocates
Here are some of the strategies I recommend to my clients and help them action:
- Develop better communications with clients. Be intentional in all your communications. Look at how you are engaging with them — digital, insights, events, and human interaction. Is there any part of this engagement that could be improved? Understand who your current advocates or fans are: What makes them love you and your brand? What do you do for them that you could do for other clients?
- Ask for feedback from your clients. Implement a client advocacy programme. See what is working, and what is not working, establish what your clients want and how you can improve your service. Start by reaching out to all your clients with an online form to get the maximum number of responses, then follow up with interviews with a selection of clients who have given mixed results. Ideally, have someone outside your organisation interview them, so your clients feel they can be open and honest in their feedback. Be open, respectful, and welcoming of client feedback (even if it’s not what you want to hear). Try to do this at least yearly and follow up with them to tell them what changes you may have made as a result of the feedback. Be accountable to your clients. When I do this for my clients, I interview a selection of their customers at different stages of their relationship with the business and those that have different levels of satisfaction (good and bad). I identify the patterns that may emerge, as well as pull together ideas for the development and improvement of the business. Obviously, the interviews yield a huge amount of amazing qualitative feedback, but I include a quantitative element to the feedback too — it makes it easier to compare results in the future and see in a nutshell what the big issues are.
- Put a client advocacy journey into place. Once you know where your touchpoints are, review them and make sure you have regular contact with your clients, beyond your every day expected working standard newsletters and social media interaction. Make sure you are reaching out to them at different stages of their lifecycle with something of value, to ensure you are giving them what they need or want. Make sure you speak to all your clients with intention — personalise your communications, depending on what stage they are at, such as new clients (why did they choose you?), advocates (why do they work with you and how can you do more?), to the unengaged clients (what can be done to make the relationship more engaging and valuable to them?), even those who have finished working with you (what could you do to work with them again?; or why did they leave?). Think about what each type of person may want from you at that stage.
- The bottom line — be more human… think about encouraging human engagement and interaction throughout your organisation.
- My biggest tip: When interviewing customers over the years, there are three things that are complained about most. These are:
- lack of processes
- lack of proactivity
- lack of communication
I’d recommend every business focuses on improving these three areas and they will have the tools to make massive improvements in their business and in their customer relationships.
I believe that if a business proactively looks at how they can turn their customers into advocates they can only do better and improve overall!
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