Influencer Marketing: How to Turn Customers Into Brand Evangelists

Online influencers consist of the industry lovers, brand believers and avid followers of your business’ products and services. They can easily be detected through their interaction with your brand’s content via comments, links and shares. Because they value what you’re selling, acknowledge you as a credible source of information, and recognize the value you bring to the marketplace, they can ultimately aid others in discovering the benefits of becoming your customer.

Therefore, identifying these key influencers is a paramount, yet straightforward process. First, locate who’s mentioning your brand through social media, blogs, forums, message boards and other websites. Through the power of word-of-mouth online marketing, engaging with these possible customers will reap more benefits than just monitoring their activity.

Next, make a list of those who are constantly sharing and talking about your brand, as well as those who show the most passion. Reach out to them to find out what they value most, what types of content they enjoy, and what they dislike. Services like PeerIndex and Klout help to make locating them easier. Once you’ve found your influencers, it is essential to begin motivating them. Here are five basic ways to encourage influencers to build buzz about your business.

1. Show Appreciation

Be sure to value your customer base at all times. Express genuine care for your influencers by sharing their comments, offering praise and acknowledging their contributions. Be specific about why you think a particular influencer’s comment was valuable, while offering a little bit of extra insight to show that you’re listening. Give a shout out by tagging or tweeting local customers on social media sites. If you are connected on LinkedIn, write a recommendation or endorse their skills. Be the first person to recommend and write about their contributions. Bloggers also love the extra publicity of being added to blog rolls and having their comments and links shared. Plus, nothing gets more attention than kind words and sincere thanks.

2. Offer Something Special

People love a good bargain or promotion and luckily, they are terrific tools in driving revenue and increasing your customer base. Offering unique campaigns or exclusive offers are cost-effective ways to keep your influencers’ attention. They will not only enjoy taking advantage of such special opportunities, but will also remember you for offering them. According to the Small Business Administration, an excellent way to do this is making promotions available exclusively via your social media sites. Large retailers such as Macy’s and Target sometimes offer coupon codes and offers only to their Facebook fans. If your influencers “like” or share these offers, they make your promotion visible to their friends, which will ultimately bring more visitors to your site. Some businesses offer in-store free samples in order to bring customers inside, while others give invitations to industry events. Any of these methods are great ways to provide special services to your influencers.

3. Ask for Opinions

Obtaining customer feedback is an important part of making your business better. The Forum of Private Business suggests including comment cards at the point of sale, sending feedback forms with every purchase, and providing online survey links to all customers. Setting up exclusive test panels or performing consumer studies are additional methods for online influencers to share their thoughts and opinions about your products or services. Oftentimes, consumers relish the chance to feel important, so asking for their opinion is a great way to strengthen your relationship and make them feel valued and understood. In addition, their comments or criticism will give you the information you need to make your services better.

4. Build a Real Relationship

It’s easy to reach out to influencers when you have something to promote. However, by doing so, you’re simply creating a transaction instead of an actual relationship. Chris Brogan, bestselling author of The Impact Equation, advocates talking with your influencers about their interests long before you mention your company. Show that you’re interested in them even when you aren’t endorsing something. Make comments on their new activity posts, share their videos, or invite them to an industry event. Brogan suggests asking new customers if you can follow them on Twitter and suggest they “like” your Facebook page. Invite them to communicate with you through these outposts. To make your gratitude even more personal, reach out privately through email or telephone. During this time, you could also ask if you can add them to your press list so they can receive information on continual basis.

5. Give them VIP Treatment

Add loyalty programs to your company that will pleasantly surprise your best customers from time to time. Offer them a free product or service with their next online purchase. Send free merchandise that promotes your brand – just because. If you receive a great review from an online influencer, feature them on your website, newsletter, or blog. Give your top consumers their 15 minutes of fame by writing up a feature story about them and why they love your product or services. Internet marketer Lynne Saarte gives a unique example of a yogurt company that allowed their clients to “adopt a cow,” which encouraged frequent purchases while providing education and information to children consumers. This process made them feel like they were the real owner of their specific cow who produced milk for the yogurt company. Sales increased and the company received publicity from their VIP treatment. Overall, making your influencers feel very important will maintain their allegiance to your business.

Since you know your influencers already love your merchandise and/or services, giving them the recognition and deals they deserve is imperative in maintaining their loyalty. If consumers are happy, they will reach out to their friends, online and off, to share their excitement. Continue to motivate them on a regular basis by following the above suggestions. Your business will appreciate the results.

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