We’ve had a lot of rain here of late and I mean a lot of rain. It was officially the wettest December in history in the UK. The track to our house is just a farm track and there’s been a lot of traffic over it in the last 6 months due to a building project our landlord is doing. The result of these things combined is that the track is in a very bad state and the landlord doesn’t seem to be putting our needs to the forefront, even though we are his customers. Landlords don’t always see things that way and this one doesn’t seem to think that our inconvenience, damage to cars, mud being trailed into the house etc is his problem. The upshot of that is that I wouldn’t recommend him to anyone else looking for somewhere to rent or wanting to do business with him in any capacity.

Contrast that with the small garage we use to get our cars fixed and MOT tested. I saw that the owner had an old Volvo (yes another one) for sale and asked him about it. The price was very low and I thought it would make a good replacement for our old Mercedes A class. The garage owner personally took me for a test drive and put the car up on his garage lift for me to inspect it. It needed a repair to the exhaust and although the car was being sold as seen for less than £300, he repaired the exhaust and put the car through a new MOT test without being asked and without looking for extra payment.

Two businesses in the same geographical area. I’m a reluctant customer of one and a mad screaming fan (or advocate) of the other. Which do you think is which?

We’ve already recommended upwards of 10 friends and family members to the garage.

Turning customers into advocates for your enterprise.

There are many types of customer your business can have, these range from just a customer who possibly only buys from you once and once only, up to an advocate, or someone who recommends you to others without incentive.

There’s a series of steps in between the two and I like to think of these steps like a ladder, a customer loyalty ladder if you like. Now, pick up just about any business book and you’ll read that it’s 10 times harder to gain a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. This is why you should have a customer loyalty ladder for your new enterprise and your minimum goal should be to turn prospects (the bottom rung) into advocates (the top rung). The steps are like this:

Suspects: Everyone out there in the marketplace for what you do. You need to find them and convince them that you’ve got something interesting to say and that’s expensive (marketing, advertising etc)

Prospects: someone who has been influenced in advance (perhaps by your marketing), knows about you, is in the market for what you sell, hasn’t bought anything yet but has some level of self motivation to do so. You still have to convince them that you’re the right business for them (Selling)

Customers: someone who has bought from you once only and won’t necessarily come back. They still buy from other businesses who sell stuff like yours too. You have to treat this person like royalty and find a discreet way to keep in touch and encourage them up to the next rung of  loyalty ladder.

Clients: They buy exclusively from you. Instead of getting complacent about this, you should be pushing the boat out for these people as they could easily be turned into advocates, the most valuable kind of customer.

Advocates: These are the customers that most businesses dream of having, but don’t have a clue how to get. The truth is, these people aren’t found, they’re made…sort of. Advocacy, or speaking up for you without incentive is encouraged by the things that you do. This will be a mix of great, reliable products, unbeatable support and service after the sale and special treatment at all times. If this sounds like too much, over the top maybe, then you probably need to think again about having a business, as it will get very frustrating for you to continually mine for new customers.

Next time we’ll look at how you can set up your business to be customer focussed like this right from the get go.




Photo Credit: Rodrigo Soldon 2 via Compfight cc

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