By Jacqueline Hinchcliffe—The best things in life are free—especially when it comes to advertising. By recognizing a customer’s or end user’s value, delivering your best work, knowing when to ask them for ratings/reviews and engaging with them regularly, retailers can effectively utilize consumer feedback in their marketing efforts. FCNews reached out to several industry experts for their advice on how to turn customers into brand ambassadors.
Listen and learn
A tried-and-true way to ensure your customers are happy is to do some good, old-fashioned listening, according to Chris Ogden, director of marketing at QFloors. “I think listening is powerful,” she said. It’s so powerful that QFloors has created a Facebook page exclusively for its customers where they can interact with one another and ask questions that can be answered by both QFloors employees and fellow customers.
QFloors also utilizes its developmental roundtable during its user conferences as a way to learn more about customers’ needs when it comes to QFloors’ range of software.
“We would have this dialogue with all of our customers and they would vote on the most important things for them,” Ogden said. “And so they had a voice in what features we added and how our software continued to develop. It was through their voice, and they saw things getting fixed.”
Showcase your work online
One surefire way to attract new clients is by showcasing the work you’ve done with past clients via your website. For example, why not give a glimpse into what your company offers by posting before and after photos of successful installations.
“We have some retail customers that are very, very diligent about getting into the consumer’s home and getting photos of the before and after,” said John Weller, CIO, Broadlume. “The retailers that do that the best and work with us to feature the before and after photos on their website have the best results. People have a really hard time envisioning what things will look like.”
Others like Jim Armstrong, FCNews columnist and founder/president of Flooring Success Systems—a retail consultancy—recommend non-professionally produced photos as they create a more personal connection between the business and the customer. “I’m talking smartphone [photos], testimonial, a quick, 30-second video,” he said. “I’ve seen the unprofessional, off-the-cusp, snapshot-type approach versus highly polished, distributor supply ad-type things and the personal stuff just performs the best.”
Proactively ask for reviews
One of the most obvious ways to get customers to market for you and your business is to solicit online reviews. Whether it be via social platforms or a review platform like Yelp, a customer’s brief account of their experience with your business can give it the boost it needs to reach new clientele while increasing credibility.
“Whether it’s asking them to share their experience with you, write a review or tell their friends…I think that you do have to [ask],” QFloors’ Ogden said. “Some people are just going to naturally do that, but then we all know the statistics: When they’re unhappy, they tell however many people. When they’re happy, they tell fewer people.”
As for when to ask, Broadlume’s Weller said the perfect time for retailers is right after installation. This is when the customer is most excited about their new floors and is less likely to nitpick. “The closer to the time you install the product to a happy customer is the absolute best time,” Weller stated. “The excitement that someone has of walking into a home with brand new floors is going to be the highest likelihood of them leaving a solid review for you, and we’ve tested that out a thousand different ways.”
According to Broadlume, one of the ways comes from a retailer in Chicago who sends an employee out to every completed job to inspect the work and ask the customer to leave a review on the spot. This has resulted in over 10,000 reviews, the most reviews Broadlume has seen for any of its retailers.
Engage with customers on various platforms
While receiving reviews and ratings can be a great start, there’s more to turning a customer into an advocate, according to Carole Cross, founder and CEO of Mobile Marketing. Mobile Marketing has helped retailers run successful contests, for example, asking customers to share their latest projects or greatest rooms. “You can engage customers to advocate for your store in a creative way,” she said. “Retailers can ask customers if they can share their project on social media or if they can share it and tag them in it.”
The best thing about social media, according to Cross, is it enables the retailer to form stronger ties with customers. “It allows you to build relationships with existing customers while simultaneously building credibility with potential customers,” she noted.