In 2013, Forrester did a study into which forms of content were most trusted by American shoppers. In short, Forrester found that if content originates from a customer or 3rd-party source, it is far more trusted than any content that originates from a brand.
The most trusted form of content was product recommendations from friends and family (70% of shoppers trusted). Second was professionally written online reviews (55%) and third was consumer reviews (46%).
Communications directly from the brand were far less trusted:
- Text messages from a brand – 9%
- Ads on websites – 10%
- Information on mobile apps from brands – 12%
- Social media content from brands – 15%
- Emails from brands – 18%
Clearly, the most trusted forms of content originate from the customer, the least-trusted forms of content originate from the brand. So why do most brands spend billions on creating the least-trusted form of content, while all but ignoring the most trusted form (content from customers)? Why don’t more brands let their marketing messages flow through their customers?
In my experience, there’s two main reasons why most companies don’t leverage customer to customer communication:
1 – Most brands prefer to advertise for customers because they want total control over messaging. It’s that simple. Even if the messaging is far less effective (driving up costs exponentially), most brands will pay more to have more control over what the message is and how it is delivered.
2 – Most brands don’t understand their customers well enough to trust them to communicate on their behalf. Almost all interactions that the average brand has with its customers flow through customer service, and then it is a numbers game. Get the customer off the line as quickly as possible and move onto the next call. A wonderful chance to better interact with and understand its customers is often lost.
So the most trusted content originates from customers, the least-trusted content originates from the brand. How does your brand manage this disconnect?
By building a brand ambassador program that lets you manage the message that your customers share with other customers. A brand ambassador program is a program that allows you to have an ongoing working relationship with your most passionate customers. This comes in many forms, but one of them includes working with your customers to help them better promote your brand. Your best customers are already promoting your brand naturally, by working with them directly you can give them the tools and guidance to improve their efforts and make them more effective and efficient.
Which also improves your ability to acquire new customers, since customer recommendations are the most trusted form of content, by letting your customers engage with other customers, you gain new customers. And the best part is, the customer acquisition comes at a much lower cost than if your brand invests in traditional advertising. Plus, a brand ambassador program allows your brand to have more control over its marketing messages between customers.
Look at Patagonia’s Worn Wear program that we discussed here yesterday. Think of the positive word of mouth that this program creates for Patagonia. Patagonia has created a way to connect directly with its customers, and during its road trip stops, it also gives Patagonia customers a way to connect with each other and share their love of the Patagonia brand.
This is a great example of why it makes sense to create a customer-centric program like a brand ambassador program. You bring your customers in touch with the brand, and with each other. Those connections spark understanding, which sparks trust, which sparks advocacy.
And that creates word of mouth. Which means your happy customers are acquiring new customers for you.
Want to create happy customers by optimizing your digital and content strategies? Check out my Digital Optimization Playbook!