A recession is coming. While no economist can predict its severity or length, the cost of living squeeze we’re already feeling is set only to worsen. Meanwhile, the modern marketing stack is close to toppling. With each new widget, each new software solution, and each new channel, the pile continues to grow.
And with every addition, brands risk simply finding new ways to bombard consumers with offerings they’re not interested in or can no longer afford. As more people tighten their purse strings, this risk grows.
In some ways, the situation is reminiscent of the Covid-19 pandemic, when brand winners and losers quickly began to emerge. Those who adapted to the evolving situation, showing genuine empathy for their customers and supporting their needs, prospered. Those that brazenly carried on, tone-deaf to the stark situation around them, were rapidly called out and derided.
Brand trust is always important. When times get tough, this is truer than ever. With consumers carefully considering how they spend every penny, buying from brands they know can live up to their expectations is paramount.
So how can brands earn that trust? And once they have it, how can they activate it to sustainably grow their business?
Turn Your Customers Into Brand Advocates
The answer is simple: through existing customers.
Consumers trust referrals from friends or relatives more than any advertising. They’re much more likely to listen to – and act on – the glowing recommendation of a friend, than that of an influencer or targeted search ad.
Putting customers at the heart of your business isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s imperative to business growth. If you’ve built a great brand offering quality products and service, there’s a good chance customers are already talking about you. Effectively engaging with these brand fans will create a powerful community of advocates who market your business better than you ever could.
As well as increasing the number of your customers, this word-of-mouth marketing will also enhance their quality.
Compared to the average customer, referred customers spend 11% more on their first order and are 5x more likely to refer onwards – creating a powerful cycle of sustainable growth.
But turning advocacy into growth requires the right data and technology. Without it, there’s no way of knowing who your most valuable customers are (those who refer the most) and treating them accordingly to nurture further advocacy.
Amplify Your Go-To Marketing Channels
Rather than complicate your marketing technology stack, an effective customer advocacy platform will amplify it.
Social media is a compelling example of this. Despite being one of the modern marketer’s most invested channels, the death of third-party cookies has seen this channel deliver fluctuating returns that can be near-impossible to predict.
With first-party referral data, however, brands can target referrer lookalike audiences that are highly likely to convert and have high lifetime value – scaling their businesses without increasing spend. Menswear trouser SPOKE is one example of a brand using this to great effect. Using referral data to build audiences on paid social, it’s driving 30% higher return on ad spend (ROAS) and 12% lower cost per acquisition (CPA):
Overlooking Your Most Powerful Growth Driver
In the words of the former CEO of Amazon UK and former Chairman of ASOS:
Brands must now evolve or die.
Speaking at Advocacy Engineered 2022, he emphasised the importance of keeping customers front and centre of every business decision. It sounds simple, but the temptation to be drawn towards shiny new things, finding data in the wrong places, will doom a burgeoning tech stack to failure.
The numbers speak for themselves. Despite referral being the most trusted source of advertising for consumers, just 4% of senior marketers polled by Mention Me in its first Customer Advocacy Gap report invest most in this marketing channel – missing a significant opportunity to grow.
Becoming A Winning Business In The Times Ahead
In the tough times ahead, marketing teams cannot simply plough on with the same strategies and hope to survive.
Instead, brands must shift to an advocacy-first approach that genuinely fixates on nurturing customer love. Done right, this will see customers spend more, return often, and bring their friends. It’ll provide a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for tired channels. Ultimately, it’ll earn your customers’ trust. And that’s what will keep them coming back, long after this challenging period is behind us.