Marketers have a tough job to do. As advertising becomes more sophisticated — not to mention noisier — it’s increasingly difficult to capture a consumer’s attention, wallet share, and loyalty. While they may not necessarily trust the typical advertising efforts long employed, they do trust people they know have experience and knowledge about a product or activity. And this is where a marketer’s job can be really exciting.
In order for you to win over consumers and keep them coming back, you need to think beyond the traditional consumer buying journey, by leveraging word-of-mouth, and investing in relationships.
The new buyer’s journey
McKinsey describes the modern buyer’s journey as a circular one, where loyalty is lost easily as new brands creep up. Every time a competitor runs an ad targeting your consumer, they have a choice: stick with the brand they previously purchased, or give the new option a try. Because we live in an age of numerous options, consumers are loyal to brands who provide more than just a great product. And because consumers now seek out information on their own as never before, brands can no longer rely on their tried and true methods to increase awareness and repeat purchases. Technological innovation provides better clarity into how campaigns are performing, but nothing instills trust and confidence in a consumer looking to purchase quite like a personal recommendation from someone they trust.
All eyes on consideration
Everyone has the potential to be an influencer. Your mom who has used the same stand-up mixer for 35 years. Your best friend who swears by a certain brand of dog food. Your coworker who evangelizes about her ultra-packable rain jacket. But that doesn’t mean all influencers are created equal. Influencer marketing supports your product launches and your brand awareness campaigns; advocates are an even deeper level of connection for the consumer. To make word-of-mouth really work for you, invest in your advocates.
Chances are you already consider bonafide pros to be great advocates, but one group that is often forgotten is the easiest group of all when it comes to reaching and engaging: retail sales associates. Both of these groups have the knowledge and experience necessary to make trusted recommendations, but the sad reality is consumers don’t trust retail sales associates who don’t provide a good experience. If a retail sales associate isn’t empowered with product experience and product education, then they won’t be ready to have meaningful conversations with consumers. These conversations are some of the most impactful word-of-mouth conversations for your brand; giving advocates what they need directly impacts the most important part of the consumer’s journey: consideration. As they weigh their options, whether between multiple brands or simply multiple products, advocates provide specific recommendations tailored to a consumer’s actual needs, and ultimately instill confidence in the purchase.
Once that purchase is made, reaching back to the consumer isn’t just about maintaining a presence, but about forming a relationship. Because consumers now enter the consideration phase more often, loyalty is tougher to come by. Once again, however, this is where advocates are extremely valuable. That feedback loop you want to maintain with a consumer is even more valuable with an advocate. As they tend to be more in-the-know about the latest products and brands, their insights not only keep you honest as to the viability of a product, they keep you innovative in new product formulation.
Launching new products, winning over consumers, and maintaining loyalty are already difficult; today’s consumer journey makes those initiatives even more complex. Even the most loyal consumers are willing to consider new technology or brands. Brands who target, educate, and engage advocates like retail sales associates and category pros win in consideration, time and time again. By leveraging word-of-mouth and the feedback from both consumers and advocates, they’ll not only win the consideration battle, they’ll win the loyalty war.