Posted Mar 25, 2015 by Aimee Millwood

How to Turn Your Customers Into Brand Evangelists

You worked hard to setup your store, curate your products, build your brand, and share your story — but, gone are the days of “if you build it, they will come”. While it’s important to attract new customers as you start out, don’t make the mistake of prioritizing customer acquisition over customer retention. It can cost up to five times more to acquire new customers — the likelihood of a current customer buying is 60-70%, whereas for a potential new customer, the chances of purchasing are only 5-20%. This is why it’s important to give consumers a reason to come back and give them reasons to become your biggest fans.

Word-of-mouth marketing in the digital age

Word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new. Many businesses rely on word-of-mouth to bring a consistent and reliable stream of traffic and sales. It’s a good tactic and the number one tool businesses can use to get new customers. As consumers become less trusting of brand advertising and marketing, they’re turning to the authentic opinions of fellow consumers to get a better understanding before purchasing. Marketing expert and author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”, Jonah Berger shares that “whether compared to traditional advertising, media mentions, or promotional events, word of mouth is more useful in creating new users and customers”.

Yet too many businesses today are forgetting that word-of-mouth marketing, while up to the customer, can be guided in their favor. By taking actions to turn customers into active brand evangelists, businesses can increase the amount of word-of-mouth traffic their customers are bringing.

How to motivate your customers to become brand evangelists

In an ideal world, brands would have a solid base of loyal consumers absolutely dying to share how much they love the brand. Of course, some brands have achieved this. But even though brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have a dedicated base of brand evangelists, they are the minority. The vast majority of consumers are apathetic. Even if they love your brand, they’re probably not evangelizing it of their own accord.

Make them happy, and then keep them happy

Deliver great customer service and an amazing experience both to keep your current customers and also to create extraordinary relationships with customers who will go on to advertise your brands to others. It’s not enough to simply slide along with a good-enough base of happy customers — you need to constantly strive to be better.

Understanding what your customers want is simple: just ask them. Regularly ask them for feedback and reviews about their experience with your online business, and respond individually to let them know you appreciate what they said.  Asking for your customers’ feedback does more than give you a better base to understand how to keep them happy, it makes customers feel involved and know their input matters. When customers feel they are important to your brand, they are more likely to view their relationship as personal and evangelize.

Turn unhappy customers into incredible PR

By handling complaints with tact, an unhappy customer can turn out to be your best brand evangelists. Consider this: people most often write reviews when they had an exceptionally positive or exceptionally negative experience. Lukewarm experiences normally go undocumented. Next time a customer is unhappy, reach out to find a way to right their experience and turn them from dissatisfied into impressed at your exceptional attention to customer service.

For example, if a customer writes a review or calls you out on social media saying their order did not arrive on time, you can comment back publicly apologizing and offering free shipping for their next order. In other words, handling online complaints with tact is a great way to improve your brand image. This not only makes the customer happy, but can be used to publicly show potential customers how much you care. Stores like Zappos and Nordstrom are pros at this — by prioritizing customer service, they’ve earned a dedicated customer base and a solid foundation of brand evangelists.

Motivate Evangelism: Reward and Repeat

You’d be surprised by how many customers are willing to evangelize your brand — you only need to give them the push to do it. Brands normally have a very small segment of extremely passionate brand evangelists who absolutely adore their brand. The much larger segment of customers are those who like the brand, and would endorse them, but most likely not of their own accord. This segment is key for targeting with incentives, such as coupons, VIP programs, discounts, or gamification techniques. People are motivated when they benefit.

In fact, 58% of people say they believe they should be rewarded if they talk positively about a brand on social media. The key to rousing the energies of the masses of satisfied-yet-inactive customers is providing a reason to participate.

Online businesses who integrate coupons in their requests for customers to write and share reviews have higher conversion rates than those who simply ask without incentivizing. These coupon campaigns lead to higher conversions and sales.

Don’t forget that evangelists won’t always stay evangelists. Reward the customers who love you by offering them exclusive VIP specials or publicly thanking them. Consider creative ways to motivate brand evangelists to stay your biggest fans so that you won’t lose them.

Get users involved with user-generated content

Grow an active community by gathering customer-created content. Identify customers who are evangelizing in these communities and reward them accordingly. For example, online businesses can offer discounts in exchange for customers writing and sharing reviews with their social networks. The word-of-mouth impact is built in, and they can then track the new traffic that the business drives as a result by studying spikes in general traffic and social media traffic after customers share.

Big brands have shown the efficiency of building up customers’ emotional connection to their company by asking for user-generated content that celebrates their relationship with the brand. Rather than simply asking customers why they love Coke, Coca-Cola asks unique questions, like how Coke tastes to them or how they feel when they drink Coke, to gain an emotional response. Similarly, Dorito’s decade-long, successful Super Bowl campaign fueled by user-generated content puts the freedom of expression in their customers’ hands. They give customers free reign to create commercials showing what Dorito’s means to them. Leveraging emotion not only takes a user-generated content campaign above the level of simply asking for a photo submission, but it also gives brands valuable feedback about what makes fans connect to their brand.


You don’t have to choose between getting new customers or keeping the ones you already have. Engagement and growth can go hand in hand. The key is using your already happy customers to spread the word to bring in highly targeted and qualified traffic. Your customers are your biggest ally. Learn how to use them as natural advocates for your brand and reap the word-of-mouth benefits.

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