Your Customers as Brand Ambassadors

Much of marketing communications entails companies talking about themselves in terms of their products and services, why they are better than competitors, their financial performance, etc.   But many of these efforts miss an important dynamic of brand messaging: Using your customers as brand ambassadors.  Depending on the nature of the purchase, customers have invested time and effort in the purchase decision.  In general, the more often the repeat purchase, the more the customer is emotionally invested in the brand.

Beyond the social media “likes” and fan pages, here are a few ways you can use satisfied customers as brand ambassadors in your B2B branding efforts. Some are also useful in consumer goods branding.

Testimonials – These can be very persuasive if the person and/or company are known and respected.  When a testimonial states a specific benefit derived and has the customer’s name, title and company it makes me pay attention.  Identifying the brand ambassador’s title and company without using the person’s name can be helpful because people will assume the company approved the use of its name.

Don’t bother with totally blind testimonials.  Most people will assume they are made up and that you did not have a strong enough relationship with the customer to allow the use of the name.

Case studies – Closely related to the testimonial is the case study.  These usually present a challenge the customer faced, how they used the product/service and the results they achieved.  It is always best if the result can be quantified (additional revenue, cost savings, time savings, increased quality or customer satisfaction, etc.).

I have created many case studies during my career.  In fact, I used to produce a quarterly case-study publication for a training and consulting firm.  The beauty of the case study is that it allows you to tell a story using the company name and the names of the key executives and managers.   It says a lot to me when a customer participates in a case study because I know the time commitment and the difficulty in getting approval.  So how do you get a customer to participate in a case study?  Appeal to their ego; the manager or executive and their company produced outstanding results and you want to tell the world about it.

Hosted contests – In the training and consulting firm where I worked, we conducted a contest every other year to recognize the best use of the firm’s processes.  Customers submitted extensive data about how they used the processes, an independent panel judged the entries, and the winners shared their stories at a biennial client conference.  This gave us a great supply of case studies for future use in our publications and public relations.

Proprietary events – Having customers present at your proprietary events is a great way to say “we work with quality companies”.  If they talk about results you helped them achieve, all the better.  In addition to the formal presentations, build in plenty of “schmooze time” when brand ambassadors can network with other customers and non-customers.  In an insurance company where I led the marketing group, we hosted a number of events during the year that provided the opportunity for clients to build relationships with one another.  Many of these customers subsequently established their own informal networks to keep in touch.

One-on-one communications – This can be time consuming, really requires a true brand ambassador and can be very tricky to manage.  It entails understanding your brand ambassador’s network and sphere of influence.   As an example:  You may be entering the final stages of the buying process with a new customer.  If you have a brand ambassador who knows the decision maker well, it can be helpful to suggest to the buyer that he or she call your brand ambassador to talk about his or her experience with your company.  You obviously have to clear this with your brand ambassador first.  I know of an example where a brand ambassador had a conversation with an established customer who was considering switching vendors.  The brand ambassador persuaded the customer to stay by talking about all the “above and beyond” things the vendor had done for him.

These are just a few examples of using brand ambassadors in B2B branding.  There are plenty of brand zealots in consumer products (Apple, Nike, etc.), who are happy to talk about how much they love the product.  The most effective brand ambassadors in consumer goods are those who command the attention and respect of the target audience because of their celebrity, success and/or knowledge.  Just by wearing or using the product they establish a positive perception of the brand.

© 2011-2017 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved