For your business to grow and thrive in 2019, it’s not enough to have satisfied customers. Your customers need to be brand advocates, influencers, that sing your praises at every opportunity. To make this happen, you will need to build long-term relationships with your customers and clients. You will also need to leverage the snowball effect whenever possible, continue to nurture your relationships, but stay genuine. Finally, you will need to earn stellar online ratings and reviews. Here I explore each of these best practices in detail, and how they work together to inspire customer enthusiasm.

Relationships, rather than transactions

Today, taking care of your customers and clients means more than providing industry-leading customer service. It means thinking about your customers and clients in terms of long-term relationships, rather than short-term transactions.

Beyond reward systems

A long-term, relationship-building plan should not rely solely on a systematic reward system, such as a referral or loyalty program. Don’t get me wrong. Many of these battle-tested rewards programs can drive sales and forge long-term bonds. But if you want to create enthusiastic influencers, your company’s automatic incentives are not enough. You need real-world, relationship-building conversations and interactions with your customers and clients. Over the years through a lot of hard work and dedication, I can confidently say many of my own clients have become great friends and ambassadors for nvision.

The red carpet

I’ve noticed that some of the best opportunities for relationship-building actually come when a customer or client is upset. Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience with a product or service. When faced with this situation, I always resist the temptation to argue or go on the defensive. No matter how rude or wrong the customer may be, always take the high road. Sincerely apologize to them. Explain any misunderstanding in detail. Then tell them exactly what you’re going to do to make it up to them. If it’s a small technical issue, have a lead developer engage directly with them. If it’s a larger issue, have the CEO reach out to them directly if at all possible. This will let the customer or client know how important to them you are. Using this approach, I’ve found that fuming, dissatisfied and disgruntled customers can quickly turn all the way around. They may even redirect all that negative emotion toward singing your company’s praises.

Leveraging the snowball effect

A tiny snowball rolling down a snowy hill will quickly gather mass and momentum as its surface area and speed increases. By the time it reaches the bottom, it’s often a snow boulder. This phenomenon, known as the snowball effect, has been used as a natural analogy for word-of-mouth. Through the snowball effect, a single public mention of your product or service can turn into a gigantic win, or fail, for your company.

Alerts

Let me be the first to admit that the snowball effect is by its nature unwieldy. To bring some order to the chaos, I’d recommend putting sophisticated real-time alerts in place. These alerts should notify your team to any and all new mentions of your product or service anywhere on the Internet. We leverage SweetIQ’s review notifications which helps us manage the good with the bad in real time.

Existing influencers

I recommend paying close attention to pre-existing influencers, such as well-established bloggers or Twitter users. These are the ones whose mentions of your company, product or service are most likely to snowball. Jump in with a follow-up as early as you possibly can to accelerate a positive snowball effect, or stave off a negative one.

Amplifying positive ratings and reviews

According to Podium’s 2017 State of Online Reviews report, 93% of consumers maintain that online reviews impact their buying decisions. To see where you stand in your customers’ eyes, try performing a Google search on your company name. Next, search for the name of key products or services you offer. Then look at the first two or three pages of results. Quite often you will find ratings, reviews, blog posts, Tweets, and so on about your product, service or company. Some of these posts will give you the opportunity to comment. Depending on the situation, you can thank the poster for their praise or engage with them to rectify a bad experience. Chances are that any prospective buyer of your product or service that reads these posts and reviews all the way through will take your comments into consideration.

Know your review sites

The type of review site that you will need to keep an eye on strongly depends on the type of business you run. Are you a brick-and-mortar shop or franchise? Then I’d recommend staying on top of your reviews on Google Reviews, Yelp, and in some cases the online Yellow Pages. If you’re providing local contracting services, in particular, reviews on Angie’s List may play a key role. If you’re an online store using Amazon as a platform, I’d recommend that you watch your Amazon ratings and product reviews like a hawk. Have a mobile app? Then I’d recommend keeping close tabs on your ratings and reviews on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Niche review sites

If you’re in a line of business that has its own popular review site (think TripAdvisor) then I’d emphasize that site accordingly. Conversely, every business in the U.S. will want to keep an eye on their customer reviews at the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Facebook is another source of ratings and reviews for most every business in 2019.

The five-star scale

When it comes to ratings, there are two things you don’t want: bad ratings, and no ratings. So I’d encourage you to ask your best customers to rate your company, product or service at every opportunity. According to Podium’s study, prospective buyers generally won’t consider buying any product or service with a rating of less than 3.3 stars. So you may want to use that figure as the absolute bare minimum. All the same, you should always aim for an average well into the 4+ range.

Transforming customers into advocates

I can’t emphasize enough that you need more than satisfied customers to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive climate. For your business to grow and thrive in 2019, your customers need to sing your praises. Do you want to inspire that kind of love and loyalty? Then you will need to think in terms of long-term relationships rather than short-term transactions. You will also need to leverage the snowball effect to its maximum extent. Finally, you will need to earn rave reviews and the highest possible ratings on every major platform. Only then can you transform casual customers into enthusiastic advocates that can drive your business into the stratosphere.

To learn more about how you can transform customers into strong influencers, contact us.

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