It’s no secret.
When people we trust speak highly about a brand or product, we are more than likely to try out their recommendations. People looking for new ways to get fit often turn to their close friends for recommendations on their favorite fitness studios or gyms. Likewise, people who are committed to the sense of community provided by their favorite fitness studio are likely to share their experiences with friends and followers in daily conversations.
Those people who influence others to engage with their favorite studios, gyms, and sports facilities are called brand advocates. It’s critical that fitness and sports businesses generate buzz around their brand and turn their members into brand advocates in order to build a community of loyal clients and build their customer base.
Building a Base of Brand Advocates
Step 1: To have brand advocates, have a brand worth advocating for
People will only advocate for brands that are exciting, unique, and engaging. Brands create a company’s personality and culture. For advocacy to be effective, customers need to find themselves “in the brand”. They need to feel as if they are a part of the brand, as if they contributed to building that brand. The more personal alignment with a brand, the more loyal, interested, and happy your customers will be.
Perhaps most importantly, customers will only become brand advocates for brands they understand on a deeper level. The best brand advocates promote the why behind a company, not the what. Instead of saying, “they have a great product,” they could say, “they believe in creating a welcoming and friendly environment based on mutual respect for all customers.” These sentiments arise from visibly strong brands, and are more attractive to new buyers.
Step 2: Engage with customers on multiple levels
An effective way to convert customers into brand advocates is to engage them with the company on a level more intense level than a simple exchange of resources. This value-adding practice creates higher customer involvement, and the more involvement, the more comfortable a customer becomes with publicly advocating. Common examples of multiple level engagements are social media promotions, customer testimonials, and special offers.
When cultivating brand advocates, marketing should be at the forefront of any strategy. Offering retail options will increase public exposure and profitability of your company. Anyone wearing your gear inherently becomes a brand advocate.
Step 3: Build a sense of community
People want to feel connections to their favorite companies. They aim to emotionally invest in companies that cater to their needs, and make them feel as if they are important. Knowing frequent customers, knowing their name and their interests, will inspire them to come back again and again. Eventually, they will tell their peers of the great experiences they have at your business, and will bring them along. By placing personal interest in customer, you slowly turn them into a brand advocate.
Likewise, every customer should be treated like royalty, at all times. Customers will not advocate for something that is average. When it comes to customer service, everything should be dialed up to 100. The quickest and most cost effective marketing tools are your customers. Treating them with anything less than the utmost respect will damage that resource.
Step 4: Create (more) value with loyalty programs
Customers will be more likely to advocate on your behalf if there is something they can gain, as well. Recognition of advocates shows you value them as an asset, as part of the company’s success. In order to deliver concrete value to your brand advocates, consider implementing loyalty or referral programs.
Business often spend too much money on marketing and ambassadors, while never considering the potent capabilities of their own customers. Loyalists return because they identify great value in the company. As such, they will want to talk about it, they will want to be the one to grow the brand. Before hiring a brand ambassador, evaluate the advocacy status of your current customers.
By using these small tips, you can start growing your community of brand advocates and see your number of members grow. For more tips on branding successfully, be sure to check out our full Guide to Branding!