It’s no secret to PR professionals that customers are a client’s greatest asset in articulating a brand’s worth. In today’s review culture, where people more often than not want to hear about new products and services from those who have tried them rather than the companies selling them, customer testimonials are the best tool for validating a brand’s offerings while helping them reach their business goals. Brands can influence new customers by leveraging old ones.
Understandably, given the current climate, some brands may be hesitant to ask customers to speak on their behalf. But when executed with sensitivity and genuine support for consumers’ wellbeing, reaching out to customers during this time can affirm a company’s commitment to them as well as underscore its products or services’ timely value.
To guide these interactions, V2 recently published the e-book 5 Ways to Turn Your Customers into Brand Ambassadors, which details how companies can effectively transform their customers into brand advocates and influence audiences. For PR professionals looking for new ways to boost their clients’ business, here are the key takeaways on how to help brands devise dedicated customer programs:
Set expectations early
Companies should negotiate the possibility of a customer becoming a brand ambassador when they first sign them on, aiming high with their asks for involvement in media opportunities. This includes requesting full participation for quotes, testimonials, case studies, blog posts and Q&As—opportunities PR teams can outline for their clients so that they in turn communicate them correctly in the pitch. A key part of these negotiations is convincing the customer that, because they are using your client’s innovative products or services, they in turn will also shine as forward-thinkers who can attract positive attention to their own platforms. Once all options are on the table, brands can work with customers to find the level of involvement they are most comfortable with.
Enlist the sales team
Who better to source customer success stories than the members of brands’ teams working closest to them? The relationships that sales staff already have with clients can be leveraged to communicate opportunities available and help clients get comfortable with the idea of being in the spotlight.
To best position sales forces for this task, executives need to educate them on what makes a customer use case pitch worthy. Part of this involves articulating how creating customer brand ambassadors is also in the sales team’sbest interest—not just the overall company’s—as these stories will speak volumes to prospective customers and help lock down future sales.
Create a customer advisory board
Fostering enduring customer relationships requires a good deal of attention, which is why companies should elect customer advisory boards to facilitate and nurture those relations. Having a designated team—and this doesn’t need to be an overly formal body—to hear out customer feedback shows those customers that their business is valued.
And while treating customers like thought leaders will make them feel appreciated and encourage further company participation, the feedback they give can provide brands with valuable insight on their products and services, thereby identifying areas for improvement while highlighting the companies’ strong points. Especially now, as consumers everywhere combat the fallout from the coronavirus, hearing out customer needs—as well as the areas in which they feel supported by the brand—is a critical step for companies trying to sustain thoughtful customer relationships
Include the C-suite, too
While sales teams are the ones who will most often interact with customers, it’s also important to have the cooperation of brands’ C-suites to encourage customer engagement throughout all levels of the organization. C-suite executives themselves should also act as ambassadors, sharing key messaging and value propositions internally and externally and promoting customer successes as a demonstration of all that their brands can deliver.
Conduct a customer survey
Despite a company’s best efforts, customers just may not want their moment in the spotlight. If this is the case, brands should opt for an anonymous or blind survey to gather data on the value of their products or services and get responses out of customers who are otherwise adamant about remaining tightlipped.
If the findings from these surveys are interesting, PR agents can use them as jumping off points for media coverage, blog posts or social media. In order to maximize their impact, PR teams should connect the survey results to current news or industry trends. The benefit of presenting branded surveys in the media is twofold: it showcases the value of the brand’s products or services while also asserting the expertise of company personnel, positioning them as industry leaders.
For PR professionals looking to improve their client’s industry standing or raise the public’s awareness of its offerings, sourcing and repurposing customer testimonials is a strong method for maximizing efforts. Strategic media placements won’t matter if the content within them is lacking, but with persuasive customer quotes, that coverage is more likely to make an impact on audiences. Working with their clients to build up customer programs, PR teams can design a resource that benefits all parties through its authenticity—which, for brands looking to make sales in this current climate, matters now more than ever.