5 Tips to Turn Your Customers Into Your Marketing Department

As you’re reviewing your sales and marketing budgets, and wondering what you can do to optimize sales and get the best ROI for your marketing spend, how much emphasis is given to spending time and money on word of mouth? About a month ago, Neilsen published a marketing study that stated that 92% of respondents reported that a positive recommendation from a friend or someone they trust is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service. This is by far the biggest influence on a purchase decision. Additionally, in a different study, 67% of consumers reported that seeing as few as three negative reviews is enough to prevent them from buying a product or service.

Here are five suggestions to create a positive experience for your customer, so that they create positive word of mouth, and help you further generate sales.

1) Make sure you know who your customer is
At times, we want our customer base to be much larger than it is, throwing the net out wide to anybody that has a heartbeat. Forget about that. Get as intimate as you can with who is buying your product or service right now. Understand why they buy, what influences the purchase decision, and what is the experience and emotion that you provide. Determine how to create loyalty with this group.

2) Exceed expectations
Look at the entire customer experience with your product or service. Is information about your product easy to understand and easily accessible via any method the customer chooses (store, web, mobile, etc.)? Is the purchase process easy and enjoyable? Are the barriers to usage low, with easy, clear instructions? Does the packaging provide the appropriate level of experience for the product (Apple is a great example of this)? If your product is used in conjunction with other products, is the entire product experience easy, intuitive, and accessible? Do you always under-promise and over-deliver on expectations?

Exceeding expectations is essential in obtaining positive word of mouth. Over-promising and under-delivering, regardless of the product or service, is business suicide.

3) Empower customer service/support to create happy customers
Zappos was built around customer service. In his book ‘Delivering Happiness,’ Tony Hsieh gives the example of proving how good his customer service was by calling them to order a pizza (Zappos sells shoes, not pizza). The customer service representative couldn’t deliver him a pizza, but quickly looked up where they could order pizza in their neighborhood, and provided them with that information. It may be an extreme example, but customer service representatives should be trained and empowered to create a positive customer experience. This is one of the few times, for most companies, when you create a one-on-one experience with a customer. Also, the customer service/support organization should be a prime feedback loop for improving the product and the customer experience.

4) Leverage social media build relationships
Social media is here to stay, in one form or another. In the past, companies could tell consumers what they wanted them to know, and it was normally a one-way communication. With the advent of social media, there is a two way street of communication, where the customer’s voice is just as important as your own. Some keys to being successful with social media are:

* Be authentic- Say what you do, and do what you say. Companies are made up of people, so be a person.
* Be transparent- Let people know what’s going on with your company. Ask questions. Get involved with your customers.
* Be responsive- With both positive and negative posts, respond quickly, be gracious, and resolve issues.
* Add value, don’t sell- Find complementary topics and items of interest to create stickiness to your posts and streams. Give first, to receive later.

The focus of social media should be on building relationships and learning more about what is important to your customer. Also, through social media, you have a good opportunity to identify who your biggest customer advocates are. Once identified, these people should be given extra care, as they have the potential of having greater influence than even your internal sales people.

5) Create a referral program, when appropriate
For some organizations, especially with higher priced products or services, a referral program is a great way to extend your sales force. For example, Fishbowl actively promotes their referral program that gives referrers an average of $1,300 just for referring customers to them. This is great for both the company and the referrer, because it’s a commission-only type of sale, and the process of referring a potential customer is made easy through their program.

Stop thinking like a marketer and think like a customer. It only takes a little extra effort to go from ordinary to extra-ordinary when creating a great customer experience, and yet the benefits and dividends can completely change your company. It starts by having a relentless focus on the customer, from the very beginning when creating a product, all the way through the purchase and usage of your product or service. When you know who your customer is, exceed their expectations, and keep an open dialogue with them, you extend your marketing department into the hands of those people that your future customers can trust– your current customers.