While turning your target market into prospects and then into customers is critical, the mission doesn’t end there. You also need to influence customers so they decide to become fans. That’s because your marketing program on its own is not enough to reach critical mass in your customer base. You need to leverage fans to accelerate the pace and the rate at which prospects turn into customers in order to gain a solid footing against your competitors.
A fan is someone who goes beyond using your products and services to also advocate on your behalf— whether it’s through social media, blogging, testimonials, or one-to-one referrals with colleagues. To convert a customer into a fan, it’s important to realize you can’t incent them with offers, you need to earn their fandom.
“Customers choose to become fans by appreciating the value you deliver and which they think is unique in some way,” says Darren Zwack, Vice President of Marketing for Nureva—a company that offers audio conferencing solutions to make it easy for online participants to hear people in conference rooms.
“Perhaps you create more time in their day or simplify a process in a way that no one else can,” adds Zwack. “They are excited about what your product or service does, and they want to tell others.”
Fans Play Vital Role in Reaching Prospects
Fans play a critical role in the growth of a company because prospects rely on their peers as their most trusted source in evaluating products and services, and the information fans communicate will find its way to those prospects.
If ABC Company touts the capabilities of its widgets, prospects first react with doubt. But if Joe or Mary tells the story about how the widget made it easier to run their business, prospects begin to believe, and they want to know more.
“An authentic recommendation from a fan is worth so much more than anything a marketing team can produce,” Zwack points out. “It influences buying decisions heavily and is accepted much more readily than an overt effort by the company selling the product.”
Nureva presents a prime B2B customer experience case study. Zwack shares how the company nurtures customers to turn them into fans by interacting in various ways, such as following up after customers purchase a product to see how it’s working and if there’s anything the company can do.
“This process helps us identify who our fans are based on their feedback,” says Zwack. “We also take the time to learn more about what they’re doing with our product and if there are any issues to follow up. This prompts them to become even bigger fans, and they will perhaps offer to participate in a customer success story.”
Fans Also Create New Fans
Other tactics used by Nureva include reaching out to its reseller channel to see if partners have identified potential fans.
One of the biggest fans the company uncovered works for the IT department at a college.
He set up a test lab for hybrid classrooms to compare the Nureva microphone solution to several competitor solutions in the audio conferencing space.
“This customer appreciated that our product delivered all the capabilities that we market,” Zwack says. “So we offered to help him tell the story of all the thorough reviews he conducted through a webinar that we hosted.”
During the webinar, this Nureva fan shared his insights with other higher-ed IT resources, and because he was a fan, he was happy to do this. The information he provided promoting the Nureva solution will likely turn many members of that audience into customers who eventually become fans.
B2B Customer Advocacy a Powerful Vehicle for Increasing Your Base
For other companies launching programs to turn customers into fans, Brandy Alvarado-Miranda—the
CEO at BAM! Marketing & PR Agency—recommends tracking fans through a database and identifying the buyer personas of fans. “It’s also a good idea to create a rating system with tiered levels of fans,” adds Alvarado-Miranda.
“You want to make sure your star clients who turn into raving fans always receive great service.”
These comments by Alvarado-Miranda raise a good point:
“While repeat customers are usually major fans, raving fans take it a step further.
“They promote your products for you, essentially producing testimonials that prospects will trust. This gives you a powerful vehicle for increasing your customer base—and hopefully developing even more raving fans!”