First, consider your typical brand advocate. This person is going out of their way to sing your praises to other customers. They view themselves as owners of your brand, so they are acting in what they perceive to be the brand’s best interests. Here’s four examples of how your brand advocates are saving you money:
1 – Brand advocates lower your marketing costs. Marketing communications are utilized to generate sales, typically via acquiring new customers. But brand advocates do that for you. Brand advocates are spending every day promoting your brand to other customers, and encouraging them to buy from your brand. And given that it costs your brand 6-7 more to acquire one new customer than it does to retain an existing one, the marketing cost savings add up quickly.
2 – Brand advocates lower your customer service costs. As brand advocates interact with other customers, they are also answering their questions and helping them with any issues or problems they have. Additionally, brand advocates create content that can help solve questions or problems that other customers have. Every problem that another customer solves for a brand saves your brand the time it would have taken to work with that customer individually to help them. And since time is money…
3 – Brand advocates can help you diffuse or avoid a social media crisis. This is a critical benefit that your fans provide that most brands miss. If your fans encounter people attacking your brand, they will defend it. This greatly decreases the chance of other people ‘piling on’ and it also tends to ‘scare off’ the people that launched the attack. Think of your advocates as having a guard dog in your yard. If someone comes into your yard starting trouble, they will start barking and scare them off!
4 – Brand advocates lower your market research costs. Advocates proactively connect with your brand, They look for reasons to reach out to your brand, and often they do so while providing feedback. They tell you what they like and dislike about your brand. Remember that advocates view themselves as the owners of your brand, so if they see something ‘wrong’ with your brand, they will notify you of that problem. Of course, since they love your brand they will also offer a solution to the issue and want to work with you to make that solution become reality.
Why working directly with your brand advocates makes sense
Take all of these benefits that your advocates provide for you naturally. Now if you had a program in place to work directly with your fans, you accelerate each of these benefits. And since we are discussing cost-savings, then you increase the amount of money your brand saves by working with its fans. So the effort can easily pay for itself!
Here’s a few examples of how brands are working directly with their fans to see big benefits:
Pitney Bowes set up a user forum were its users provide customer service directly to other customers. PB has tracked that every 5 visits to a forum question averts one customer service call, which PB places an internal value of $10 on. You can do the math, but this is a huge cost-savings to the brand, that only happened because Pitney Bowes created a forum that allows its fans to more effectively help each other (see point #2 above).
Paper.li has set up a program where its members are given advance access to new features that the publishing platform will be rolling out. The advantage here is that when Paper.li makes these new features available to everyone, its fans can go out and help other members realize the potential of the new features and why they make Paper.li better. So this generates a marketing cost savings (point #1) as well as a customer support benefit.
The Red Cross avoided a potential disaster of a social media crisis a few years ago when an employee made a mistake and accidentally tweeted a personal tweet from the Red Cross account! But since The Red Cross does such a great job of engaging its fans on Twitter and quickly addressed the situation, it turned out to be a big positive for the brand.
Not sure if it pays to connect with your fans? Try this very simple experiment: For the next five people that tweet something positive about your brand on Twitter, reply to them and tweet the following: “Thank you so much, we really appreciate that!”
Now track the responses you get to those 5 tweets. The responses you get were generated by you responding to your fans. It’s that simple to do, and even if you only have 1 response, if you do that every time then you’ve just increased positive tweets about your brand by at least 20%.
Love the people that love you. It really does pay off.