Building customer loyalty in the technology industry can be quite the challenge. The industry marketplace is crowded and this creates a very competitive environment for customer attention, much less loyalty. Unfortunately, the days of simply building a better mousetrap and reaping the financial rewards are long gone. Over two decades ago, Apple carved a niche in the music industry for itself with the iPod. Despite being a technically inferior product to competitors, Apple better understood WHY customers would want its product, and that made all the difference.
The reality is that today, you need a superior product AND a focus on designing superior customer experiences. Couple a great product with a great customer experience, and you can create genuine brand loyalty and turn current customers into passionate fans that love your brand. Let’s look at 7 ways that your technology company can tap into digital experiences to increase customer retention, loyalty and advocacy:
Leverage Social Media to Its Fullest Potential
Social media optimization is an easy starting point for a better digital experience. Still, you don’t want to simply create a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and call it a day. Remember that technology customers tend to be more analytical. They are more interested in diving deeper into topics and 101 level content that can be found on some social media sites may not be their cup of tea. For instance, if you want to stay up to date on the latest technology news, you are more likely to hang out on Reddit and LinkedIn than you are on Facebook and Instagram. No matter what industry you are in, always keep in mind what type of content your customers are looking for, and where they would expect to find it. Ditch the boilerplate when it comes to planning your social media strategy!
Here’s some tips to optimizing your social media efforts:
- Responding promptly to comments, queries, and feedback shows you are listening. Don’t let mentions go unanswered. Warning: Make SURE the information you give is correct, and if you make a mistake, own it and apologize. Technology customers will often know your product as well as you do. So if you give incorrect information, they will call you out on it. However, if you can quickly correct any misinformation and act on the customer’s feedback, you will often win their approval and advocacy as a result. I’ve worked with technology companies like Dell that realized the benefits in real-time of connecting with customers and utilizing instant feedback from customers and acting on it. It can create big loyalty and advocacy wins for your brand.
- Proactively highlighting and thanking followers who post about your brand or share content. I have a saying I tell all my clients: Reward the behavior you want to encourage. There is no easier way to encourage customers to create MORE positive content about your company than thanking them. Whenever you see any customer on any social media channel saying ANYTHING positive about your company, thank them immediately. You would be amazed at how many companies ignore customers who positively promote them. It’s the lowest hanging fruit in social media. Learn to say ‘Thank you!’ early and often.
- Featuring user-generated content like reviews, unboxings, or creations showcasing your products. User content builds authenticity, and it is viewed as being more credible than content that comes from the brand itself.
- BONUS TIP: Don’t be afraid to promote content from your customers who are promoting your brand. If a customer has written a blog post that includes an endorsement for your company, then promote it on your social channels! Ford used one of my tweets waaaay back in 2010 as a Promoted Tweet! The automaker was using content from fans and enthusiasts, as a way to draw attention to others who were talking favorably about the brand. As I said, it’s all about rewarding the behavior you want to encourage.
The more you reward and spotlight social media advocacy, the more it will grow.
Optimize User Experiences Across the Entire Journey
Every touchpoint that customers have with your technology shapes their loyalty. Ensuring seamless, frictionless experiences is crucial.
This means obsessively optimizing key user interactions like:
- Onboarding – Making the setup, installation, and initial usage intuitive and simple. Remember that the first experience that customers have with your technology product or service will greatly impact their perception of it.
- Education – Providing easy to follow instructions, tips, and how-to’s guide users in becoming experts. Additionally, giving customers easy access to help can not only divert customer support inquiries, it can help boost customer loyalty and advocacy!
- Support – Fast, effective technical troubleshooting and customer service keeps users happy when issues arise. Make sure your CS department has easy access to Subject Matter Experts who can provide more technical support if necessary.
- Upgrades – Migrations, new releases, and added features should build on the familiar and avoid disruption. As long as the upgrade feels like an improvement, it will be welcome and lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction. But if every upgrade feels like ‘starting over’, it will lead to a frustrating experience for the customer, and could even prompt them to explore competitor’s offerings.
Mastering end-to-end user experience removes adoption barriers and frustration while exceeding expectations. Delighted users then pay it forward with referrals. Remember, your best salespeople are your current, happy customers!
Build an Engaged User Community
What’s the difference between an audience and a community? With an audience, all the interaction is one way, from the stage toward the seats. With a community the interaction is happening from person to person. Creating a community around your products and services is one of the best ways that a technology company can build loyalty and advocacy from customers.
Consider digital community building strategies like:
- Hosting user forums and groups to share tips, product hacks, feedback, and more. Let users help each other. BONUS: Over time, elevate the most proficient contributors to your group to the role of Moderator. This encourages more engagement from the group, and it signals to your user group that its users will share ownership of the group along with your company.
- Promote user-generated content and reviews. Even if it promotes the creator as much as it does your brand. Also, don’t be afraid to highlight 4-star reviews. Most customers actually view 4-star reviews as being more credible than 5-star reviews. If a product or service has all 5-star reviews, it looks suspicious. But if the reviews are excellent overall, a few 4-star or even 3-star reviews sprinkled in can actually make all the reviews as a group seem more credible.
- Holding live or virtual events and meetups to cultivate relationships between fellow users and the brand. These can be intimate gatherers with a few customers, or massive user conferences like Adobe Summit. Remember, any time you can get your passionate customers and users together in the same place and interacting with each other, it’s good for your brand loyalty.
- Private community groups on Facebook or Slack for power users. VIP access builds exclusivity, and is viewed as a perk or reward for your most passionate users.
Bringing users/customers together is a wonderful way to build affinity and loyalty toward your brand. Look for ways to connect your most passionate customers to each other, it will pay for itself every time.
Develop a Customer-Focused Content Strategy
Can I let you in on a secret? (Leans in) Content that’s useful to your customers makes it easier for them to trust you. If you constantly create content that’s relevant to your customers, then they will actively seek out your content and it will reflect positively on your brand. It will also make your customers more receptive to all your brand’s communications.
Valuable types of loyalty-focused content include:
- “Insider tips” or “pro tips” articles with advice for power users. This is content that’s targeted at your current customers, who have a higher degree of awareness and knowledge of your products and services.
- Step-by-step how-to tutorials for maximizing capabilities. Become users’ go-to resource. Let’s say you buy a graphic design program for your mac. After a few weeks of using it, you feel like you have the basic functions and usage down, but you want to learn more. So you will start to seek our deeper dives and more detailed how-tos. Why not give your customers and users the content they will be looking for? If you don’t give them this content, they will find it from another source, or another customer. And that customer might suggest using a competitor’s design program instead. Something to think about.
- Sharing inspiring user stories and creations featured in the community. Applaud their innovation. Remember earlier how I talked about rewarding the behavior you want to encourage? This is a perfect example of doing so. When your users create amazing content or art or whatever by using your products or services, put the spotlight on them! Make them feel like rock stars, because they are. All this will do is encourage and inspire more users to create more content with your technology.
- Insights from product designers, founders or engineers. Pull back the curtain, make your SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) accessible to your community of users.
- Sneak peeks and early access to new features or product roadmaps. This will be viewed as a perk by your users and they will greatly appreciate your brand giving them access that the ‘general public’ doesn’t have.
Content acts as fuel for loyalty when it highlights common user pain points and fulfills unmet informational needs.
Launch a Formal Loyalty or Brand Ambassador Program
Once you have identified your most passionate users and customers, it may be time to create a formal program to manage your ongoing relationship. This can be a loyalty program, or something more in-depth such as a brand ambassador program. In either event, you want to create an ongoing relationship with these customers where you can more easily access feedback from them as well as stay connected. Being in closer contact allows your brand to leverage these special customers to more easily communication key messages to the larger marketplace, as well as collect valuable feedback from your customer and userbase.
Tactics such as:
- A tiered-points system with points/credits earned for actions like reviews, referrals, UGC. More engagement means more perks.
- Early access to new products and sales. This could also include special access to your brand’s SMEs, designers, engineers, etc.
- Swag, discount and free services. Also, create free swag just for your members. It will make them feel special to get a piece of clothing or device that the ‘general public’ doesn’t have, but it also creates word of mouth. People will ask where they got that special item, which then gives the user a chance to brag on themselves for being a member of your program and having ‘special access’!
- Free products to review or prime positioning in marketing content. One year I worked with a tech company to facilitate an on-site customer event at its world headquarters. As part of the event, a camera crew was on hand to record the sessions and discussions. The following year we had the group back again, and I was again on hand to moderate the event. Part of the event included a sneak peek at a new commercial that the brand would be releasing that included some of the video that had been shot at the previous year’s event. While showing the commercial, one of the attendees suddenly burst into tears, and exclaimed ‘I just saw myself in the video!’ The brand had included a short clip of her speaking at the previous year’s event. Needless to say, it made a VERY positive impression on her!
Creating a well-structured brand ambassador program can greatly amplify your ability to engage your most passionate customers and boost customer loyalty. BONUS: Here’s how a brand ambassador program can work for a technology company.
Get Creative with Contests, Games, and Activities
Gamification, when done right, can tap into users’ competitive spirits and drive more active engagement with the brand.
Some examples can include:
- Photo contests for fan art, or video contests for best product demo. Let users showcase their skills, let the larger community vote on the winners. Promote winners on the brand’s main marketing and social media channels, and use entries as repurposed content throughout the year.
- Leaderboards and badges for top forum contributors. This is a great way to encourage more community involvement, plus badges and ‘digital flair’ serve to drive online word of mouth. For instance, give top forum contributors a badge they can display on their blog.
- Referral and feedback quests with prizes or charity contributions. Increase advocacy behaviors.
- Easter eggs hidden in products, packaging or content. Add an element of surprise and delight.
- AR experiences along with virtual quests. These help add entertainment and functionality to your technology, along with giving unique digital experiences.
With a little creativity and strategic planning, your technology brand can develop endless quests and challenges that not only entertain users but get them more invested in your brand. And a deeper investment leads to higher levels of loyalty.
Pull Data Insights to Refine Your Loyalty Strategy
The beauty of digital channels is the ability to closely track activity and glean actionable data insights that fuel constant optimization.
Analyze key metrics like:
- User retention rates (churn rate) over time and after milestone actions. Keeping a close eye on churn, and what is prompting it, let’s you identify bottlenecks in the brand loyalty journey.
- Web traffic source patterns showing top referral channels. This data gives you insights into where your most loyal customers and users are spending their time. This also helps you refine where your brand spends ITS time, so you can better connect with your customers where they are.
- Behaviors that correlate to the most loyal vocal advocates. By constantly tracking and engaging with your brand advocates, you can build a persona and understanding of who they are, and the behaviors they engage in.
- Touchpoints users frequently interact with. By mapping all touchpoints along the customer journey, you can identity where conversions are happening, and where churn is as well.
- How advocacy amplifies at different customer spend levels.
Crunching user data identifies what is moving the needle on loyalty so you can double down on what works and change course when needed.
The Never-Ending Quest to Earn Customers for Life
True brand loyalty and advocacy cannot be bought. Consistently exceeding expectations and nurturing community are the digital building blocks for creating passionate fans that love your technology brand. While challenging in competitive, noisy tech environments, putting the customer first both on and offline establishes genuine connections.
With people increasingly turning to peers for product recommendations, earning customers for life through loyalty and advocacy is the most powerful marketing strategy you can pursue. Once again, your best salespeople are your current, happy customers. The strategies and tips listed in this article will give you the framework to begin cultivating an army of customers who are also advocates for your brand.