What do TOMS, SoulCycle, and YETI Coolers all have in common?
They all have a powerful cult following of devoted customers ready to talk about the brands they love to anyone who will listen.
Leaders in their respective markets, these brands have successfully cultivated fans who drive profit through repeat business and create new customers through word of mouth. Brand love constantly spawns new customers at no additional expense to the company.
Here’s a look at four proven ways you can help transform customers into walking advertisements for your brand.
1. Leverage communities, not influencers.
Over recent years, budgets have shifted from traditional advertising to bespoke influencer marketing campaigns. While these campaigns can be effective, they can also be costly and without proper planning they run the risk of appearing inauthentic.
Consider going beyond finding a few influencers to transform into brand ambassadors. Instead, find satisfied customers and grow that existing relationship.
Create an exclusive brand ambassador program and invite repeat customers to partake. Ask for social media posts and mentions and in return offer them exclusive swag or discounts. Over time, you’ll create an entire community of brand fans.
2. Score with reward programs.
Prior to their infamous E. coli outbreak, Chipotle was very much opposed to reward programs. In 2015, Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief creative and development officer said in an interview, “We don’t believe the general supposition that loyalty will make less-frequent customers more frequent.”
Fast-forward to today, the Mexican chain is currently rolling out its first reward program and giving out free burritos in an effort to win people back after its food safety problems drove them away.
Loyalty programs have become as important as having a company website for many businesses. Your program should be complimentary and easy-to-follow. When developing your program, ensure there is also a component that offers rewards for referrals. This will encourage customers to promote your program and drive registrations.
3. Strike up a friendly conversation.
One thing I tend to do is talk directly with our guests. As the co-founder and CEO of VERTS, an award-winning fast-casual concept that serves chef-inspired fresh Mediterranean food, I’ll visit restaurants and ask them about their food, but also their feelings regarding the brand. From menu items to packaging suggestions, guests will offer their input and I take every comment into consideration.
In fact, earlier this year our company underwent an entire rebrand prompted from feedback we received from guests who referred to us as “VERTS” as opposed to our original name at the time, VertsKebap. We listened and decided to shorten our company name and update our logo. Your customers want to be heard and by engaging with them you will fuel brand devotion.
4. Impress for success.
Create personal experiences customers will remember. We recently launched a test kitchen in one of our restaurants where we offer guests complimentary samples of off-menu items. It’s an unexpected surprise they wouldn’t typically receive at a fast casual restaurant chain.
If your customers are spread across the globe, consider sending them personalized thank you cards or small gifts. The impressive gestures will create a lasting connection between your brand and customers.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Michael Heyne is the Co-founder and CEO of VERTS Mediterranean Grill, a fast casual chain with over 30 restaurants across Texas and an upcoming expansion to the East Coast this Summer. Just two days after graduating with his MBA degree in 2011, Heyne and Dominik Stein launched VERTS with the simple idea of recreating the popular food they missed from their native Europe and making it available for American consumers. An expert in non-traditional marketing, Heyne helps fellow business owners lead in their industries by offering unique strategies to grow their business. Connect with @eatverts on Twitter.
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