There’s one thing about clients that’s difficult not to love and that’s a client that brings you more clients. Those people you have impressed so much, they’re happy to go out and do your advertising and selling for you. I’ve worked with some companies that secure half of their new business through clients like this, their advocates. As you can imagine their marketing budgets are low.
But how do you get people to that golden position of being an advocate? What tactics can you employ with your clients?
Let’s first of all look at the customer journey from becoming a prospect in the first place. To help, picture the customer journey to advocacy in tree form. I know, you’ve probably heard of the more simplistic advocacy ladder, but it’s worth looking at this a little differently. Besides a change is as good as a rest sometimes…
The first step then is to align the different stages of the customer journey with the structure of a tree. The roots are your broader audiences, the trunk is your sales funnel from prospect at the bottom to customer at the top, the branches are your clients i.e. those who have bought from you and are prepared to buy again, and ultimately and the flowers are your advocates.
How do you plan to move people through the advocacy tree to reach become flowers?
The first step actually is to evaluate whether striving for advocacy is as good as it sounds. You need to do your homework. Are the efforts you go into achieving advocacy actually worthwhile from a profitability perspective? Is the cost of improving your customer service and quality standards actually worthwhile i.e. will your margins cover an increased cost of sale? If you tick that box, are you prepared to effectively segment your customers to ensure you’re targeting only the more profitable customers? If you have a second tick, let’s get back to the Advocacy Tree.
To start with think about the roots. They are plentiful and with the earth are the source of the precious nutrients a tree needs to survive. This is your pool of prospective clients. The richer the soil, the healthier the tree.
What can you do to invest in your soil? How about some education led campaigns, for example if you are selling a cloud based file sharing product, do you need to educate your target audiences of the importance of compliance and meeting data protection regulations? Perhaps some PR to reach your targeted trade press integrated with some Payperclick advertising and whitepaper promotion via a media partner?
Once you are past the roots, the tree becomes a trunk. This is your sales funnel, the core strength of your business, where prospects are absorbed and transformed into customers. This is where the money is made and where your business builds its strength. Of course there are lots of marketing tactics you can employ to move clients through the sales cycle and that’s a whole book, rather than just a blog post (although you could read a recent blog post here that introduces the subject a little more).
But let’s continue the cloud based software product a little.
Can you take the prospects you’ve developed and start to qualify any sales leads through a targeted email campaign with a telemarketing follow-up? Or how about a direct mail campaign to drive attendees for a webinar / event where you talk about the benefits of a cloud based file sharing system? Don’t forget of course the strong call to action for customers to take a free trial for your product which leads onto a paid account.
Once you’ve sold your product and you now have customers, you are into the branches of the tree. There are lots of opportunities to keep your customer happy, something you want to strive for at all times. Not just because a happy customer pays his bills and requires less looking after than an unhappy client, but because branches lead onto to twigs which carry flowers – yes, you guessed it, your advocates.
Continuing the cloud based software example, how do you ensure your customers remain happy, outside of simply providing an excellent product or service? It’s the extras that count, perhaps a series of webinars or video lessons on how to ensure you follow best practice file and document management techniques?
Back to the tree.
The flowers are your advocates, because they start to spread your message. At some point they will fall from the tree, scattering their seeds into the soil, creating richer soil with more prospects for your roots to pick up (of course, we hope they do not form as competitors as trees do).
You need to encourage these customers to do this and a great example of how to achieve this is FreeAgent Central, an online accounting package. They do this very simply and very well: you get a 10% price reduction for each person you refer, up to a 100% price reduction for 10 people. Great idea. But of course you need to think up other incentives to encourage your happy customers to reach the top of the tree and start selling for you and that work for your business model.
What’s great about advocates is they require very little resources on your part to reach those new prospects. In fact, the best advocates are those that require no work at all, but who are happy to keep referring clients. These surely are the brightest and most beautiful blossoms on your Advocacy Tree…
Please let us know what you have been doing to encourage your customers to become advocates.
Tree image courtesy of Joisey Showaa’s Flickr Photostream