Knowing where the customer decision-making process starts and ends let alone how and when to start engaging with customers is more than a challenge but a necessity.
During the last few years the customer decision-making process has been turned on its head.
Gone are the days of fixed customer planning and budgetary cycles where the customer had little choice but to come to you. Buying has gone from a static process to a dynamic rollercoaster of decision-making. The web and social media now offer a rich seam of intelligence for customers to do their own research on vendors, putting them firmly in control like never before.
So what do you do about it?
All routes lead back to the customer, Nurturing your customers as advocates helps you build credibility and attention with prospects at every stage of the buying process.
Customer advocates represent a vital means of articulating and evolving your customer experience. All we need to do is listen more to our customers.
So what is a Customer advocate?
A customer advocate is a customer who buys multiple products and services and has a variety of contacts within your organisation. Most importantly, a customer advocate has an emotional attachment to your brand where they are willing to ‘act’ on your behalf, they have a loyalty.
What’s in it for the customer?
With the disruption in buying behaviour as a result of the web and social media, there is an even greater need for authentic, customer-led content. Customers realise the need for a social presence to make themselves stand out. So if your organisation can facilitate their profile-building with genuine storytelling, many customers now see their personal brand as well as building their organisation’s brand. These drivers can help get their next job and bigger budgets.
What’s interesting is how organisations are now using customer advocacy to articulate and differentiate the customer experience.
Here are my top 4 tips on working with customer advocates to build your business and listen to then to create a better customer experience too.
- Map customer advocates to your business plan: You can’t be totally prescriptive in deciding who your customer advocates are, at the end of the day that comes down to their emotional attachment to your brand.
- Build a community of customer advocates and make them feel special customer advocates are passionate and proactive, so harness them.
- Let your customers do the talking, customer advocates add credibility, gravitas and authenticity so work with them to do the talking so they shout about you from the rooftops.
- Work with customer advocates to be and ‘extended salesforce’. Customer-centricity is an over-used term however, with decisive action from the top down, it can become reality with commitment and hard work.
In a nutshell then, the lines between decision makers have blurred where there are far more decision makers in the mix. Also, the differences between these decision makers is far less distinct due to a more fluid and dynamic decision making process. This represents a sizeable opportunity to work in partnership, Their authentic conversation on and offline is a powerful weapon to guide prospects along their customer journey.
Ultimately, customer advocacy is a catalyst for more customer-centric organisations. It can make a measurable difference to the bottom line with an improved customer experience to make you truly stand out from the crowd.