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The third-party endorsement is everything. That’s not news. In fact, in our crowdsourced world, most marketers would say that a happy customer is your company’s single most valuable asset. You love when they say great things about you. And you know that your prospects listen with a trusting ear when boots-on-the-ground customers weigh in on what they like and what they don’t.
Research by the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University shows that “the purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% greater than the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews.”
But how can you best leverage your customers for marketing and — here’s the tricky part — make it as powerful and beneficial for them as it is for your company?
1. Showcase your customers where it counts.
Invite them to speak or be part of a panel at an industry conference, ideally one in which their peers attend. This allows you to highlight your offering and the customer’s success to an audience that matters to both of you. Plus, you double the positive vibes when you have a great customer associating with a great brand, and it makes them look smart for choosing you. Have the customer stick around for a meetup or informal Q&A so interested attendees can dig into the specific issues they are trying to solve.
We recently invited a team from the Netflix show Stranger Things to join our client, Adobe, on a panel at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas. Netflix is an Adobe customer, using the company’s software for those amazing visual effects you see in the show. It was a standing-room-only session named “One of the Top 10 Things to See at NAB,” and within just 24 hours, the livestream post had more than 10,000 hits. Having a customer of this caliber on stage is powerful, and the credibility from having a customer tell the story is unmatchable.
2. Parlay what your customers are saying about you online.
For instance, you can share posts on social from delighted customers or feature them in your stories. It’s a humblebrag that allows you to thank your customers publicly for their kind words. Plus, it puts a spotlight on your customers.
If you want to give them more time in the sun while affording you better control over the message, feature the customer in a social or blog post (or ask them to write a guest blog). Make it “snackable” (brief and easy to scan) and personal (use headshots or day-in-the-life photos), and, if possible, focus on the quantifiable benefits the customer has enjoyed as well as their overall success as a business. Remember that dollars and percentages speak much louder than “we really like it.” And don’t forget about LinkedIn, another terrific place to feature customers, which has the added benefit of spreading the word about both companies to job recruits.
3. Feature the customer in more traditional, sleek marketing pieces.
Once the bread-and-butter of the customer testimonial world, written and video case studies remain a vital marketing vehicle today. It will likely take more of your customers’ time than some other activities, but they’ll be rewarded with a valuable takeaway piece.
Customers can, in turn, share it with their own sales prospects, use it in PR efforts and tout it on social media or their company website. Done right, it’s a free, high-quality marketing tool with a relatively long shelf life and a host of potential outlets in which to showcase it.
4. Have happy customers talk directly to sales prospects.
Whether your prospects are clamoring for customers to talk to or not, be prepared to serve one up. Offer your happy customer a dinner with the CEO or similarly enticing VIP treatment to show you appreciate they’re taking valuable time to talk to your prospect.
By facilitating, say, Google talking to Microsoft, you allow them to candidly drill down to their shared pain points, solutions and things to watch out for. You may not like everything your customer has to say, but it’s sure to be a powerful, credible interaction — and, as I’ve witnessed over the years, has a good chance of resulting in a sale.
5. Use the right influencers wisely.
Influencer marketing has recently reached a point of maturity. What was once a giddy celebrity trolling for freebies, tweeting, “I can’t live without this foundation!” is now considered a legitimate arm of content marketing. Even cynical consumers are hungry to hear from these folks. Just a word of warning: Even if an influencer’s audience is temptingly huge, make sure it aligns with your target market.
Your customers are hands-down your best ambassadors; treat them as such. They can accomplish things for your company that advertising never will. Let your prospects hear their words directly — online and in real life — as often and in as many ways as possible. You’ll find they often tell your story better than you do.