Research shows that the positive word of mouth (WOM) surrounding brands outpaces negative by a 6 to 1 ratio. But this doesn’t happen on its own! Whether you’re a B2C or a B2B business, nurturing relationships with your customers is one of the most important factors for leveraging positive referrals and decreasing customer attrition.
Far and away the most critical factor in creating positive word of mouth is human interaction. That’s right, human. This may sound a bit strange, given that your customer base is, for the most part, located entirely online. But thanks to today’s amazing social media tools, businesses can make a personal connection with their customers that was unheard of even a couple of years ago.
Ready to get started? Here are four ways to build extraordinary relationships with your customers and a strong base of brand ambassadors now:
1. Listen First
Interacting with customers online is supposed to be a two-way conversation. It’s important to hear what your fans are saying about you either before or while you’re speaking with them via social media channels. Be sure to take into account what type of feedback you’re getting and how you can shape your strategy to best accommodate customer wants and needs.
Keep abreast of how and why customers are interacting with your brand by tracking Facebook posts and shares, tweets, and direct communications. You might also try using simple surveys, emails, or Web forms. But the goal is always the same: listen and take notes. Communicating with your customers and fans is the best way to optimize your referral marketing strategy and continue generating positive word of mouth.
2. Provide Personalized Customer Service
Your opportunity to build brand ambassadors doesn’t begin at the point of sale, but much earlier in the process. Providing excellent customer service on an ongoing basis is a huge factor in converting sales to brand ambassadors.
Keep your interactions personal. If a customer asks a question via Twitter, be sure to respond using the Reply feature or by sending a direct message. And be quick about it! Your customers will appreciate being treated like real people, as opposed to feeling like just another cog in the sales machine.
3. Be Transparent and Genuine
We wrote some guidelines for how to humanize your brand, and the point still remains: In today’s marketing environment, potential customers are looking for personalized interactions with brands. It’s easy to tell when you’re being marketed at versus interacting with real people—this is what makes referral marketing such an effective tool.
Be transparent and open about the happenings of your company. Encourage feedback from your online community. And always keep the channels of communication open for advice and compliments. Craft your message and interact online as if you’re communicating with real people—because you are.
4. Treat Your Customers as Valued Partners
The most effective referral marketing programs work because they recognize the value and importance of satisfied customers. In essence, a customer should feel as though he or she has a personal stake in the success of your brand.
Take customer feedback seriously and act quickly when you receive requests or questions. Provide fans with avenues for discussion and keep tabs on what they’re saying. The more engaged a customer is with your brand, the more likely he or she is to go out and refer friends and family back to you.
A brand that focuses on building truly human interactions with online communities will build trust, loyalty, and a constant stream of positive word of mouth.
How are you interacting with your customers online?