Want to promote your brand and spread the good news across the web? You need to build an army of loyal customers, and one of the best ways to drive customer advocacy is through rewards and incentives. However, turning customers into advocates for your brand takes much more than just handing out prizes randomly — it requires a deeper marketing strategy.
Before you start planning out your incentives program, it’s worth asking, “Why do I need a customer advocacy program?” The answer is simple: People buy from brands they trust. According to a Salsify survey, almost 90% of customers will fork out more money for a product or service when it comes from a brand they trust.
When used correctly, rewards spark trust and turn your customers into walking billboards for your brand. And when customers spread positive messages about your company through word-of-mouth or online endorsements, it can lead to a sales explosion.
Reward and incentive programs are a simple yet effective way to transform customers into loyal advocates for your brand. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you set up your initiative.
The last message you want to send through incentives is that you’re entering into a quid pro quo agreement. Bribery isn’t an effective way to build brand loyalty, and the strategy is downright shady and even prohibited in many cases. Instead, gifts should be just that: gifts. Hand them out as rewards to show your appreciation.
It’s best to think of rewards and incentives as a resource within your company’s customer advocacy bank. Whenever your customer writes a review, gives a testimonial, or makes a purchase, it’s like they’re leaving a deposit. But you don’t want to overdraw from that account.
For instance, it probably doesn’t make sense to frequently ask a client for multiple acts of advocacy (reference calls, case studies, media interviews, etc.) without sprinkling in a few deposits. This is where rewards can come into play. Remember, even though you aren’t directly asking for anything in return for rewards, you should give them strategically — with an aim toward building long-term advocacy.
Once you’ve nailed down your customer advocacy strategy, choose an incentives management platform that supports your unique needs. Whether you’re planning to manage and track a substantial amount of rewards volume or plan to use them for only a few campaigns a year, a service like Rybbon can streamline the process by integrating with customer relationship management (CRM) and survey platforms, including HubSpot, Marketo, Qualtrics, and SurveyMonkey.
Once you’ve nailed down your plan, there are six simple ways to drive customer advocacy using rewards and incentives.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of landing a sale, handing a customer off to your client success team, and moving on. But the more that customers are delighted after they sign on, the stronger their loyalty will grow. You can show how much you value customers by sending a reward to recognize milestones, such as their one-year anniversary with your company or 100th time doing something with your brand. For us, that might look like the 100th blog we published for one of our clients.
Want to make a stellar first impression? Send new clients a gift card or welcome package. You can send swag with your logo and branding, but also consider a digital gift card for lunch or coffee, or let them choose the digital gift card that they prefer from a curated list. Digital gift cards are easier to send and likely to be a more compelling reward for customers. It’s a great way to show your company cares about more than just securing an initial sale.
Surveys give you a direct window into your customers’ or users’ experience. Why not incentivize those valuable surveys? That can mean sending something as simple as a $10 reward as a thank you for filling out a survey.
It’s no secret that online reviews can boost sales. After all, just last year, 93% of consumers used the internet to track down information about local businesses. By offering customers a reward, you can give them that extra nudge to complete their review and broadcast their positive experience to the world. (Check out these additional tips for increasing online reviews.)
Just because a client had a poor experience doesn’t mean they’ll never come back. And repairing those negative relationships can keep unhappy customers from bad-mouthing your brand. You can rebuild trust by sending gifts along with messages that show you care about their experience. For instance, you might say, “Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. We want to make it right, starting with a $15 gift card.”
Your company will benefit from education, especially if you’re at a software-as-a-service company or selling a product. When customers understand your product more, they’ll be more likely to use it — and that drives advocacy. You can use rewards to get customers to build their knowledge of your product. For instance, you could offer a $10 gift card for scoring higher than 80% on your product training exam. Or you can ask your advocates to answer questions in your product community forum, and then reward them as they contribute.
Remember, as a marketing leader, your job isn’t over once customers sign on the bottom line. If you want customers to fight for your brand, they need to trust your company, and that requires a push to delight current customers. With that mindset — and incentives propelling your efforts — you’ll have everything you need to turn your customers into your most enthusiastic advocates.