Create Advocacy and Increase Referrals Using CRM
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Is it possible to do PR and marketing for free? When fully-utilised, a customer relationship management program can help identify customers who are likeliest to become advocates of your brand based on how much they spend, how often they spend and for how long they've been buying from the company. These people won't expect payment for their services, and the amount you'll need to invest will be nominal in comparison to the potential returns.
The problem most marketers face in a recession is marketing budgets shrink and as a result, public relations efforts can take a hit too. In the old business model, a decrease in advertising and a dip in customer spend was unavoidable; now with social networks, interactive e-commerce sites and web forums, word of mouth is an advocacy channel with global reach. With this in mind, you should be focusing your efforts on cultivating loyalty and advocacy in your most profitable customers.
People buy on the strength of recommendations from trustworthy sources. 50% of consumers have stated that a lack of trust is a chief barrier to making a purchase. With consumers becoming more concerned over their spending, this is having even more of an impact on sales figures.
Combat this by targeting those customers who are most loyal with special communications and offers that drive home how valuable they are to you. Do this consistently and they will spread goodwill and positive feedback over their communication networks, which will be picked up by other people (the same principles apply to both B2B and B2C markets). Then when referrals are coming in on the strength of word of mouth, cuts in the marketing budget will feel like less of a handicap.
Take care not to neglect the rest of your customer base though; you should be transparent about your reward schemes and what customers can do to benefit from it, otherwise you risk losing customers who feel as though they are being unfairly ignored. Develop reward schemes and email campaigns that reflect the level of business you are receiving from them and send notifications if they have achieved a higher band of 'loyalty'.
Advocacy can never come too soon so kick start it today by rewarding your most loyal customers. Take a look at your customer / client list and create a VIP list: these are the people who will help carry your brand through difficult times simply on virtue of their liking and talking about your products and services.