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Attracting new customers is not an easy thing to do. In fact, for many entrepreneurs, it’s one of the most time-consuming and expensive parts of trying to grow their businesses. Research shows that it costs approximately eight times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one.
That said, no business ever grew simply by holding on to the customers they have. Over time, some customers are bound to leave. It’s a normal part of life and not something you can avoid. That means that you need to dedicate some of your time and resources to finding affordable ways to attract new customers to your business. One of the best ways to do that is to get your existing customers talking about what you have to offer. In other words, you need brand ambassadors.
What Is a Brand Ambassador?
In the world of diplomatic relations, an ambassador is someone who adheres to protocol and helps to pave the way for the treaties, deals, and negotiations that are an essential part of politics. An ambassador lives and works among the locals, learning about them and helping the two countries – his home country and the place he lives – to come to a meeting of the minds.
A brand ambassador plays a similar but not identical role. You probably already know that online reviews play a big part in a majority of buying decisions. In fact, 88% of all consumers say that they look at online reviews before purchasing, and most of those say that the reviews they read have a direct impact on whether they buy.
A brand ambassador is like a reviewer, only better. An ambassador is a person who openly advocates for your brand. They talk about it, and when other people ask for a recommendation they’re quick to jump in with a push for people to buy from you. In other words, a single brand ambassador is like a free ad – one that’s aimed directly at people who are in the market for your product and looking for advice.
How to Create Brand Ambassadors
It would be wonderful if you could simply sell a product and be sure that everybody who buys it will turn into an ambassador for your brand. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The mistake some brands make is thinking that if they deliver the basics – meaning high value and a low price – their customers will become ambassadors.
What you need to remember as a business owner is that delivering high value and a low price is the bare minimum you can do. It’s expected. Your customers, like it or not, are going to take those things for granted. That means you have to take things a step further.
Where do you put your focus, then, if you want to turn your customers into brand ambassadors? The answer is simple:
If you provide your customers with a high level of customer service – and particularly if you make the effort to go above and beyond what they expect – they will not only be happy with their additional purchase, they’ll buy from you again and again, and they’ll go out of their way to recommend you to people they know.
If you need proof, look at a company that’s famous for excellent customer service. Online shoe retailer Zappos has earned its reputation as a stellar example of how to treat customers. A simple Google search reveals hundreds of stories of how Zappos’ team has delivered exceptional customer service, and they have the profits to show for it.
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Your customer’s experience has to be a good one from beginning to end if you want them to advocate for your brand. A typical customer experience has seven steps. If you can shepherd your customers through these steps, then you can create a string of brand ambassadors who will help you grow your business. Here are the steps.
- The first phase is the assessment phase, when the customer shops around and tries to decide which product to buy.
- The second phase is the admitting phase, when the customer makes a commitment to your company by buying your product or signing up for your service.
- The third phase is the anxiety phase. The customer has made a commitment but has not yet received the product or availed themselves of your service. This might also be known as buyer’s remorse.
- The fourth phase is the activation phase, which occurs when your customer receives their product or meets with you to kick off their services. It is usually at this point that the customer is feeling excited and optimistic.
- The fifth phase is acclimation, during which the customer learns how to use your product or begins using your services. It might also be called adjustment, as the customer is still not fully committed to you and your company.
- The sixth phase is adoption, which is when the customer takes ownership of the relationship. That might mean that they’re fully comfortable with the product or service, and it certainly means that the benefits you promised have started to take effect.
- The seventh and final phase is advocacy. This is when your customer is thrilled with your product or service to the point that they want to tell everyone they know about it. You might also call it, appropriately enough, the ambassador phase.
What’s interesting is that research shows that most companies never get to the advocacy stage. They think their role ends once the product is shipped or the service is started, and they never bother to follow up. But the follow up is key because it’s what helps people acclimate to your product and get the full benefits of it.
If you follow up with customers after they buy, either directly or indirectly, you can ease them through the acclimation phase and into adoption and advocacy. For example, you might place a follow-up phone call, reach out with an email sharing some information about how to make the most of their purchase, or schedule an in-person meeting to make sure they’re getting the most out of your services.
The bottom line is that you have a great deal of control over whether your customers become brand ambassadors. If all you do is ship your product and then turn your attention to your next customers, very few of your customers will become ambassadors. If, on the other hand, you continue to shepherd them through the process and provide them with excellent service, the probability is high that they will be eager to talk about you and your company to anybody who will listen.