There’s a little secret that those of us in the marketing world know about increasing revenue: Very often, existing customers are your best source of new business.
Why are referrals so valuable? It all boils down to trust. As a marketing professional, I can develop compelling messaging, target a prospect with online ads, write a helpful ebook - but while all of that might get a person’s attention, it won’t necessarily get him/her to buy.
To take that step - to actually pull the trigger on a purchase - the prospect needs to be confident that what I’m selling them on is as great as I say it is.
When the goal is to validate your value proposition, existing customers have a vital role to play. They may be the best resource you have for enhancing trust among prospects - because they’re already familiar with what you sell and how it works.
And though it might seem counterintuitive, it’s in the moments that your existing customers need support that you can tap into their insight to sell more effectively to others.
The trick is to connect customers on the right platforms, have the right systems in place to capture customer know-how, and align incentives so everyone benefits.
First, consider where you can converge customer service and referrals. Identify the platforms that people use for both service questions and product research, and ask how you can leverage those platforms to connect your customers with your prospects.
One solution is an online customer community. The Sonos community is a great example: It’s used by existing Sonos customers to get help with their home audio systems, and also by those new to Sonos who want to know what to get.
Communities like Sonos’ demonstrate the power and relevance of peer-to-peer connections. People want to make informed purchase decisions, and peer advice helps them do that. Meanwhile, existing customers want insight from people like them - not a chatbot or support agent who doesn’t truly understand their problem.
Another benefit to communities is that they’re full of the kind of user-generated content that search engines love. Communities get people the information they need quickly, whether they visit the standalone community or simply use Google.
Plenty of companies provide software to assist with referral marketing, and in some cases, it can be highly effective. Yet these platforms deputize your customers to sell your product - putting them in a position they may be uncomfortable with.
Instead, consider how you can incentivize your customers to help each other - rather than sell to each other.
By appealing to a person’s better nature, you change the entire dynamic of referrals. Existing customers feel better, because they’re getting rewarded for a positive action. Prospects become more confident in both your product and the advice they receive, because they’re not being sold on anything.
Simple gamification tools like ranks and badges can help align incentives for your customers and prospects. Gamification, included in the inSided community platform, rewards people for answering others’ questions (or adding their insight to an existing conversation).
Thanks to social media and review platforms, it’s easier than ever for consumers to get real, unbiased information on the products they’re thinking about buying.
The challenge for brands is that these conversations are taking place on platforms that they don’t own or manage. Social platforms have a vested interest in keeping it this way, because they can charge brands to engage consumers who are talking about them.
An important benefit to an owned social platform - like a customer community - is that your representatives can interact with users as often as you need.
In best-in-class customer communities, users will answer many of each other’s questions. Still, it’s valuable to be able to verify these answers as correct.
The reason for this is that connecting your customers helps you build a knowledge base on the fly. When you verify a customer answer as correct, that answer lives on the web for both your customers and prospects to seek out.
That adds value long into the future - and increases prospects’ confidence by showing them that they have a peer group offering advice and support.
Learn more and the power of conversations via our webinars, case studies and other resources.