“Brand advocates are your new sales team: yes or no?”
That was the final question from our most recent webinar, How to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates. And spoiler alert: the answer is yes.
We got together with G2 Crowd, a Chicago-based company that provides peer-to-peer reviews of business solutions, to talk about what it means for customers to advocate on behalf of your brand. After all, who do potential customers trust more than their peers?
Jillian Falconi, our VP of Customer Experience, and Dino Kuckovic, our Customer Experience Manager, sat down with G2 Crowd’s EVP of Partnerships and Chief Crowd Officer Adrienne Weissman to talk about channeling customer experiences into customer testimonials, reviews, and more.
The webinar was chock full of valuable insights, and we highly recommend checking out the whole thing. But since we don’t want anyone to miss out due to lack of time, here are five key takeaways from our talk with G2 Crowd on turning customers into brand advocates:
1. The wisdom of the crowd—why reviews matter
In The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, the author relates an anecdote from statistician Francis Galton about an ox-weighing competition at a county fair. The audience was asked to guess the weight of the ox, and so was a livestock expert. To Galton’s shock, the average of the audience’s guesses was more accurate than the expert’s opinion.
What’s the takeaway there? In many cases, it makes sense to trust the “wisdom of crowds” over professional opinions, and product reviews are no exception. It seems that consumers agree, too–after all, 85% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Think about it—whether you’re looking for the perfect bahn-mi on Yelp or poring over dozens of fedora reviews on Amazon (before deciding that’s really not your style and giving up on the idea), you probably rely on aggregated review scores from hundreds of verified customers more than individual expert opinions.
So, customer reviews are powerful—and in aggregate, they tell a story about your brand. Not only that, they also prove that your brand is trustworthy.
That leads us to our next point:
Trust is a crucial factor in moving customers from consideration to decision.
Not only are customer reviews often just as valid as professional opinions, they’re also crucial to building trust with potential buyers.
As Jillian says in the webinar, an online review means your brand “is being rewarded with trust currency”. Customers who have had a positive experience with your brand act as brand advocates by sharing feedback that builds trust among other consumers. And in the digital economy, customer trust is often more valuable than a single sale.
Customer feedback is also a form of social proof, the psychological process that causes people to change their behavior based on the actions of others. In a marketing context, social proof comes in the form of reviews, data, or testimonials which demonstrate that other people have bought and enjoyed your brand’s product.
People are more likely to purchase a product that others are already buying, and they’re more likely to trust a brand that others already trust. So a customer review is more than just feedback you can learn from—it’s also a crucial way to accumulate capital in the trust economy.
3. Customer advocacy needs to be authentic
Customer advocacy can be an amazing way to promote your brand. That being said, savvy consumers can smell out inauthentic reviews and testimonials from a mile away.
Potential buyers likely already have access to reviews of your product or service, so if you’re only highlighting your best reviews, they’ll know you’re not painting the full picture.
Instead, it’s better to include a range of responses so customers know exactly what they’re getting. Plus, giving a realistic spread of reviews will build trust with your brand.
You need validated and authenticated reviews from a third party or consumers will question if your brand advocates are even real people. Focusing on authenticity and putting a human face on the customer experience of your product is the ideal way to move customers along the journey from consideration to decision (and from customers to brand advocates).
Adrienne puts it perfectly in the webinar when she says “seeing a product having all 5 stars is a true indicator that [the brand] only aggregated their best or happiest customers.” And that leads us to the next takeaway: negative reviews can be a positive thing.
4. Negative reviews present an opportunity
As a marketer, your first reaction to a 1- or 2-star review might be to dig a hole and bury it as deep as possible. But when you fail to acknowledge sub-stellar reviews, you’re missing a major marketing opportunity.
Negative chatter is an opportunity to engage with customers and improve your offerings. Instead of ignoring the 3-star review saying your dresses are overpriced, why not use it as a public forum and offer that person a coupon code, or explain in the comments why your fair labor practices mean higher costs? You’ll come out looking like the good guy and show potential buyers that you care about their experience.
Bad reviews are also giving potential buyers crucial information and improving customer experience down the line.
Imagine you’re selling warm winter jackets and you get a lot of 4- and 5-star reviews, but then get a 1-star review from someone who says the jacket didn’t work well on their mountain climbing expedition.
This tells future customers with the same use case that they should maybe consider a mountaineering jacket instead, preventing them from buying your product only to be disappointed with it.
It also helps you narrow down exactly who your target market is, refining your niche for your next marketing campaign. And the better you target your future customers, the more likely they are to become new brand advocates.
5. Customer feedback in user generated content
User generated content is great at stimulating discussion on social media. It’s also a very powerful form of social proof. And guess what? Customer feedback is user generated content.
The reviews are in: sharing customer feedback does wonders for conversion rates. Source: Yotpo.
A study by Yotpo Data found that social ads which included customer reviews saw conversion rates that were 40% higher on Facebook, 5.3 times higher on LinkedIn, and 8.4 times higher on Twitter. On top of that, Yotpo also found that Facebook ads with user generated content had a click-through rate 300% higher than other ads.
Those numbers should speak for themselves. Sharing user generated content builds trust in the quality of your products, and it’s one of the most effective ways to harness feedback from brand advocates.
After all, of course you’ll speak highly of your own brand. It means a lot more if real customers have had a great experience with you that they’re willing to share.
For more on customers as brand advocates…
…be sure to watch the webinar by clicking the link below. Jillian, Adrienne, and Dino discuss more critical insights on how to move your customers from being passive purchasers to passionate promoters. It’s definitely worth watching all the way through.
In today’s trust economy, customer feedback is solid gold. By learning to effectively employ that feedback as user generated content, you’re tapping into a gold mine. So grab your pickaxe and shovel and come dig in to How to Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates: