Your best salesforce is your happy customers. I’ve build a business on this reality, I wrote a best-selling book on the process. No one does a better job of marketing your technology brand and driving revenue that leads to real bottom-line growth than you most passionate customers.
This article explores six proven strategies technology leaders can leverage to encourage online reviews, referrals, and vibrant community engagement across the user lifecycle.
Conduct Comprehensive Sentiment Research
A granular understanding of current user perceptions, frustrations and delights is crucial. Approaches may involve:
- Journey mapping key touchpoints and interactions to reveal pain points and moments of value. This should apply to standard customer journey mapping to track the purchase process, but also include loyalty mapping. You need to identify potential pain points and bottlenecks in both journeys, at the same time.
- Conduct surveys and interviews to gather direct feedback from users. Surveys are vital, given that feedback collected is accurately assessed and improvements applied as a result. Surveys of customers as well as members of your loyalty or brand ambassador programs should be done as these are different customers and both groups can provide valuable feedback.
- Social listening across forums and platforms to analyze patterns in sentiment. Don’t focus simply on social media channels. Today’s technology consumer is frequenting message boards and forums to do product research. Make sure you monitor all online chatter around and about your brand, regardless of where it happens.
- Review analysis to uncover systemic issues affecting satisfaction as well as product strengths to highlight. Look for trends across all feedback collected, regardless of the source. Examining all feedback will reveal consistent positive and negative traits and brand associations. These can be addressed in the case of problems, and amplified if they are positive.
Armed with rich insights, you can develop targeted advocacy initiatives addressing user needs and amplifying customer advocacy.
Incentivize Authentic Reviews
Reviews directly from users provide credible organic advocacy that fuels growth. But review generation requires motive. Consider:
- Follow up on support tickets or onboarding by asking for a review and direct link for ease. Make a special attempt to solicit reviews from any user that communicates a positive experience or association with your tech brand.
- Offer perks like free months of service for leaving detailed positive reviews. However, these can also be used as a reward for an existing online review. For instance, if you identify a blog post that promotes your brand or product, reach out to the blogger and say thank you, and offer them a perk such as a discount or swag as a reward. Remember that rewarding existing behavior is more powerful in creating advocacy than incentivizing new behavior.
- Develop reviewer leaderboards and recognition for top advocates. One of the keys I always stress to clients is ‘reward the behavior that you want to encourage’. If you want more online reviews for your technology brand, then look for ways to reward customers for engaging in that behavior. Leaderboards are a great way to spotlight your best advocates, and it makes them feel like the rock stars that they are.
- Highlight customer feedback on your site, and also highlight how that feedback was implemented at your company. This is incredibly powerful as it communicates to customers that you take their feedback seriously, and you act on it. This encourages customers to leave MORE feedback once they see that you take their feedback seriously enough to act on it.
It’s a marketing reality: We trust our fellow customers more than we trust brands. Do all you can to encourage your happy customers to sing your praises, and spotlight them when they do.
Launch a Referral/Affiliate Program
Referrals are a great way to attract new customers and reward your current advocates for behavior they are already engaging in. Formalize advocacy through:
- Create referral landing pages that highlight the value proposition and call to action. This helps increase referral conversions, which helps both your brand and your customers who are driving referrals.
- Tiered rewards for referrers based on conversion rates, from discounts to premium services. These can also be integrated with your customer loyalty program to amplify the perks that members receive from participating.
- Promotion of the program through email, in-product, social media, and community channels. If your tech brand has a community forum, highlight your referral program there, as forum participants are a great pool to draw from for your referral program.
- Streamlined sharing tools such as custom referral links and social share buttons. Give your customers the tools they need to more easily drive referrals, and track their progress doing so.
- Leader boards spotlighting top member advocates and referrers. Reward the behavior you want to encourage. Spotlighting top referrers encourages them to increase referrals and the recognition they receive prompts others to engage in the same behavior.
Leverage affiliates to expand reach beyond your owned channels.
Encourage User-Generated Content
User content like tutorials, use cases, and product demonstrations serve as compelling proof of value. Encourage UGC by:
- Identifying key customer success stories to request content development support around. Work with your customer support team to identify tickets that could serve as the basis for a positive case study.
- Making it simple for users to contribute content through built-in creation and submission tools. Have your content marketing team work with users to take their submissions and craft compelling stories that highlight the user and their positive experience with your tech brand.
- Promoting contributed content across your social channels when approved. Make sure that your promotion content is spoken in the voice of your customer as often as possible.
- Spotlighting user content creators through badges, rewards, and campaigns. It’s a broken record, but reward the behavior you want to encourage.
UGC reaches buyers with authentic peer perspectives that resonates with customers in a world where we trust ourselves more than we do brands.
Build Vibrant User Community Interaction
One of the best ways to accelerate customer advocacy is to create ways for your happy customers to engage directly with each other. Ways to foster community include:
- Hosting active user forums for knowledge sharing and feature discussions. User forums and message boards are vital to success for tech companies, they serve as a way for user to do product research, to self-diagnose problems, and simply connect with others who share a common interest.
- Facilitating user groups organized by interest, experience level, geography or use cases. As you begin to build an online community, you can further segment that group to better connect users with their peers. An additional perk of this approach is that more experienced users can become candidates for moderator duties in your community. This can make the task of community management easier for your brand, but it also makes the community more likely to participate if ‘one of their own’ is involved in overseeing the direction of the forum.
- Supporting meetups, events, and virtual community hangouts enabling users to connect. In-person meetups among your happy customers are wonderful ways to build advocacy. For example, here’s a recap of a customer meetup event I helped coordinate for Dell.
- Engaging power users with early access privileges or advisory council roles. This is another perk that can be tied into your loyalty program. Early access is a great way to provide a low-cost perk to customers that drives appreciation, engagement and positive reviews, all at a low cost.
Relationships between users amplifies loyalty, retention, and advocacy for your brand.
Track and Optimize Initiatives
A data-driven approach ensures advocacy efforts deliver measurable impact. Key metrics span:
- Review volume, ratings, product sentiment and category benchmarking. Determine what are the common traits associated with reviews, such as sites used, content of the reviews, what prompted a review, etc. By analyzing reviews you can determine trends and how to encourage more positive online reviews.
- Referral traffic and account creation driven by links. Custom links should be given to all referral participants so the number of referrals they create can easily be tracked by them, and your brand. Each participant in your referral program should have their own unique link.
- UGC contribution growth and user engagement rates. Track your most frequent contributors and reward their behavior to encourage more submissions. Collect feedback on what UGC is driving engagement, and share that feedback with contributors so they can improve their own UGC efforts.
- Renewal, retention, and frequency metrics within advocate groups. Identify potential bottlenecks to review and content creation. Study your most successful contributors, and find ways to distill their success down into easily shared bits that can help other contributors improve their own efforts.
Continual optimization and injection of creativity sustains momentum over time.
Turn Customers into Confident Advocates
With user trust in brands declining, transparently earned advocacy provides a competitive edge. By championing customers first, technology leaders can build communities and spur authentic referrals that fuel sustainable growth. Remember, technology users trust fellow users more than your brand when it comes to product communications. Accept this fact and lean into UGC and online reviews from your users.
What’s your biggest obstacle to unlocking advocates? Identifying friction points? Incentivizing reviews? Enabling UGC contribution? Prioritize progress on one front then build from there.