The digital age has created massive shifts in the way we build and operate our businesses and nowhere is that more evident than in the field of marketing. Now that customers can be found on countless social media sites, search engines, and in every corner of the web, it can often be confusing trying to figure out where exactly you should be trying to reach them. This confusion often leads brands to throw money at social media marketers advertisements. What these businesses don’t realize that their most effective marketing tools are right in front of them and have been all along. Your own customers are an amazing marketing resource just waiting for you to unleash their potential.
Potential Customers Trust Their Friends More Than Brands
When scrolling past the posts and advertisements on my newsfeed, I tend to trust the advice of my friends 100 times more that a brand’s advertisement. Whether they’re recommending a movie, a restaurant, or even their favorite place to buy jeans, I know I’m getting the unbiased truth when I turn to my friends, and I’m not alone! According to a global report done by Nielsen, 84% of people trust a friend’s recommendation. What this means is that your customers have the potential to be turned into a powerhouse for traffic referrals. By investing in and incentivizing your customers (we’ll dive deep into that later), the network effect will grow and you’ll have plenty of influential marketers in no time.
Shoppers are Filtering Out Traditional Advertising
I don’t think I know anyone that actually enjoys sitting through a 15-second YouTube commercial or having their Facebook video interrupted by an ad. More and more customers are becoming fed up with the swarm of targeted ads following them everywhere they go. This oversaturation is so drastic that 92% of internet users claims that they pay no attention to online ads. In addition to that, 11% of global internet users got so tired of advertisements that installed an adblocker to remove them completely! Reaching your customers through Facebook and Google advertising is quickly diminishing in value. Since consumers are losing trust in traditional advertisements, they will more than likely turn to their friends for a genuine recommendation. With this strong trust in a recommendation and the faltering effectiveness of ads, word of mouth marketing will become a more and more important pillar of online marketing.
Your Customers Are the Most Cost Effective Marketing Tools
Effective marketing isn’t always easy. It takes time and effort to get it right and if a brand isn’t willing to spend the time, sometimes they have to spend some money instead. For reference, social media consulting can often cost between $2000-$5000 per month. For any company that isn’t a Fortune 500, that can be a hard bill to stomach. On top of the upfront cost, traditional advertising techniques just aren’t as effective anymore. You’ll be paying exorbitant fees to reach a small group of people that hold a much smaller value. If you look at it from the perspective of your return on investment, traditional advertising just doesn’t seem to make sense. Instead, you could provide an amazing experience for your customers and then provide them with incentives to do the marketing for you. Building brand advocates is an incredibly cost effective method of spreading the word about the quality you provide.
Rewards Programs Can Help Convert Customers into Marketers
So how exactly can you start turning your customers into the acquisition army you know they can be? Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to unleash the marketing potential of your customers is by running an incredible rewards program. How, you might ask? Allow me to answer your question in three parts…
1. Reward Customers for Inviting Their Friends to the Site
As mentioned before, a friend’s recommendation means much more than any other form of advertising. This puts it heavily in your advantage to encourage customers to share your site with their friends. A rewards program is a perfect way to do this for two reasons: a) rewards elevate the current customer experience and b) rewards encourage newcomers.
We’ve all had that one incredible experience with a brand that turns us into loyalists for life, whether it was visiting Disneyland or receiving a Starbucks Gold Card in the mail. A rewards program, like the one Starbucks runs, is a fantastic way to elevate the customer experience and increase satisfaction. By rewarding your customers for shopping with you, you’re giving shoppers a reason to get excited. So long as you gave them a great experience worth sharing, there is a good chance you’ll earn stellar recommendations amongst friends.
A rewards programs also allows you to specifically reward customer referrals. Most programs will allow you to reward the receiver of the referral with a discount of some sort and then reward the referrer with credit to your store. This is huge because it gives an incentive for your customers to advertise for you, it entices new customers to shop with you and it encourages your current customers to shop with you again as they’ll now have new store credit.
2. Reward Customers for Sharing a Product or a Purchase
About a year ago I came across a phone called the Nextbit Robin. Its distinctive look really caught my eye but it was $400 and I already had a phone. I kept up to date on the phone, watched some reviews and even some unboxing videos, as it turned out, the phone was pretty great. The only problem was I still had a perfectly functioning smartphone. That weekend, one unfortunate canoe accident later, I no longer had a smartphone leaving me free to pull the trigger on the Robin. My new issue was that I had to wait 5 days for shipping. In that time, I must have watched every video on the internet about that phone. When it finally arrived I was so excited, I showed all of my friends, filmed an unboxing video, bought accessories and filmed a review video for those!
When people buy amazing products, they like to share their experiences, recommend them to other people and brag about the cool new stuff they get. A rewards program can help you harness this powerful excitement by rewarding people for sharing on social media. You can reward for a Tweet or a Facebook share, for example. This further encourages people to share their purchases, convinces others to buy from you and rewards your most enthusiastic customers!
3. Reward Customers for Telling Others What They Think (Reviews)
It’s pretty well agreed upon that people love having their their opinions heard.That’s why we’ve seen the rise of review sites like Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp and Google Reviews. When I finish a book, one of the first things I do is to rate it on Goodreads. Then I immediately tell my friends about it and if the book was any good, I recommend it.
This desire to have your opinions heard and valued works hand in hand with reviewing products. When a customer makes a purchase from you, a good portion of your customer base will receive the products, be pleased with them and want to leave a review on the product, giving you feedback. Getting reviews on your site is a great way to encourage future buyers, as 90% of online shoppers claim they are influenced by reviews.
On top of that, it’s also a great way to boost your SEO as many reviewers will use terms that other shoppers are searching for! Luckily a rewards program can often be the perfect solution to encourage customer reviews! Just simply give them credit or points each time they leave a review and you’ll get more user-generated content on the site, the customer will feel like their opinion is valued, and more than likely it will even lead to a couple new and repeat purchases!
Encourage Loyalty, Build Brand Advocates
I hope it’s become clear now that you’ve got an potential acquisition army at your fingertips. Your customers are ready to share your site, products, and brand with the people in their lives. All you have to do is give them an amazing experience that makes them smile and a little nudge in the right direction. If they’re your customers then you’ve obviously done something right and they see value in your product or service. By elevating your customer experience even further and using a rewards program to turn your loyal customers into brand advocates, you’ll be taking advantage of your highest potential marketing tool. It’s simple: if you reward your customers, they’ll reward you right back!