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Identify, Encourage, and Thank Your Advocates

hurwithheadshotThis guest post was written by Jacob Hurwith, Marketing and Social Media Manager, WOMMA. You can connect with Jacob on Twitter at @JacobHurwith.

Whether we like it or not, the marketing realm is always changing. What works today is not a sure bet for tomorrow. The only consistent thing we can count on as marketers is the unmistakeable value of customer advocates.

The internet has made buying, recommending, and reviewing, and marketing and selling easier in so many ways, but with growing audiences, it can be a handful to manage customer expectations. Brands need advocates to help us when we are down. When an advocate sees a bad review, they are the ones who respond. Rod Brook’s, VP and CMO at PEMCO, said it best in a recent All Things WOMM blog post.

“An advocate is the customer who will defend your brand privately and publicly,” Brooks said. “They’ll defend it without being asked, without compensation and, most importantly, they’ll defend your brand when you aren’t in the room. While small in number, these are the people that must be identified, encouraged, and thanked.”

But how can we identify, encourage, and thank our most loyal customers? Let’s start with identifying.

This past December, I went on my annual holiday vacation. All 13 of us headed south to the Dominican Republic. The weather and resort were great, but sadly, the entire trip was overshadowed by our horrendous travel experience (eight hour delay going there and one-day delay coming home). Needless to say, Apple Vacations and Frontier Airlines had some explaining to do.

customer advocates

As you can see, two über-Apple Vacation fans, Melissa and AnnaLynne, came to the rescue. In order to identify these advocates, all Apple would have had to do is check their own Facebook. It can be pretty easy sometimes.

Now, let’s jump to encouragement. The first brand that comes to mind and is really a thought-leader in online customer service, word of mouth, and beyond, is Zappos. They make a buyer’s journey as easy as 1-2-3.

Last week, I purchased a new pair of Lacoste shoes, but unfortunately, I ordered the wrong size. I went back online, live-chatted with Zappos (a very nice perk) to find out they didn’t have my size. The online rep then searched for similar pairs and stayed online with me for 30 minutes until we found a reasonable solution.

I found a pair in my size and Zappos was able to exchange the ones I already got. The new order was put in motion before I even returned the old pair. In addition, after speaking with the online rep, she upgraded me to VIP Zappos status. All for ordering one pair of shoes.

Three days later I received a very short (five question) online survey that I was happy to fill out. They didn’t bombard with me emails. They didn’t ask me everything in the world. They nicely asked for my opinion and I was happy to give it to them. It is encouragement in the purest sense.

Finally, and probably most important, the “thank you” stage. Jumping back to my Apple example, Anna and Melissa deserve some recognition from Apple. They defended the tour operator for no reason other than their pride in Apple Vacations. Apple could send them personal thank you cards. They could send them special deals on their next vacation. They could send them bonus miles through Frontier.

Everyone likes appreciation and if Apple were to give some to AnnaLynne or Melissa, chances are they would defend them again in situations such as mine.

Many brands think it takes an excess of time and money to identify, encourage, and thank their most loyal fans. As shown above, that is not always the case. Set up those social media monitoring tools, open your ears, and find those advocates we all desperately seek.