Let your customers help

This is a guest post from Drew McLellan, CEO and Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

There are some human truths that, if you allow them to, can dramatically impact your marketing efforts and focus.

  • Human Truth #1: We want to be helpful
  • Human Truth #2: We like being part of an exclusive group
  • Human Truth #3: We like to be perceived as smart and in the know
  • Human Truth #4: We like being asked for our opinion
  • Human Truth #5: We like it when other people know that we’re a part of an exclusive group and in the know

help buttonWhen you add all of those together, you create an opportunity to incent your regular customers to go beyond buying your product or service and actually become your advocate.

I recently saw a study commissioned by the Corporate Executive Board that found 60% of the sales cycle is over before a buyer ever speaks to a salesperson. That’s a staggering statistic, and it is a cold, hard slap in the face reminder that a host of factors including word of mouth, social media, your website, and review sites are having a powerful impact on your business — whether you know it or not.

When you consider that much of your sales process is actually occurring in advance of what you can control, it makes leveraging your best customers and giving them ample opportunity to sing your praises an even more vital tactic. It’s your best shot at moving the prospect along the spectrum.

How do you activate your customer army? Here are some ways:

User generated content: Get your customers to submit stories, photos, artistic renderings, or videos that talk about how they use/love your product or service. Better yet, make it a contest where votes matter. Then, not only will they upload their own content, but they’ll also ask their network to vote for their entry, exposing each and every one of them to your brand as well.

Create an advisory board/online brainstorming: Whether you want to choose a small group of best customers to create a formal group (like an advisory panel or open this up a little for some groupthink), you can pick their brains for new ideas, variations, and even parallel products and services. Who is better positioned to know how to make what you sell even better?

Exclusive events with a twist: Remembering that your existing customers want to feel like they’re part of something elite but that they also love sharing access, you can throw some sort of an exclusive event. It might be a ticket holders-only sale, a highly sought after speaker, or something else that would appeal to your audience. Offer admission to your best customers — but with a twist. To get in, they must bring someone who is not a current customer.

Let them decide: Give your best customers a chance to impact your brand. Conduct a poll that allows them to truly change an element of your business. It might be surrounding a new product launch or a pricing issue or something else. But trust their judgment, open up the voting, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.

Proctor & Gamble believes so strongly in this method of marketing, they’ve developed their own formula, which is:

VIP vote + Sneak Peek + Inside Scoop

The psychology behind all of this makes perfect sense. We care more about something when we’re a part of it. The more you can relinquish some of the control/power to your customers, the more you can make them feel so much the insider that they’re invested in your success — just as if they worked for you.

Try one or a combination of these marketing tactics to turn your customers into your most active cheerleaders.

About Drew McLellan

Wall Street Journal calls Drew McLellan’s blog, DrewsMarketingMinute.com, "one of the ten blogs every entrepreneur should read." His passion is helping clients discover their story so they can create authentic love affairs with their customers. He's also an author, national speaker, and has owned his own marketing agency in the Midwest since 1995.

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