If you’ve been wondering how to take your company to the next level, the answer is to focus harder on your customers. Your loyal and passionate customers are the key to growing your business in a sustainable way, because when you deliver amazing experiences, your customers will become your biggest advocates. They’ll do your marketing for you by leaving five-star reviews, referring their friends, and sharing and engaging with your social media posts. 

In this article, we’ll explore a few simple ways to turn your customers into raving fans who will spread the word about your business far and wide. From asking for Google reviews and referrals to developing a customer-centric culture, these advocacy strategies can help your small service business gain more visibility, build trust, and ultimately boost your bottom line.

What is customer advocacy and why does it matter?

Customer advocacy is when your customers serve as ambassadors and loyal promoters of your business. It’s also used to refer to the mindset that puts customer needs first in every aspect of the business, with the goal of delivering a customer-centric culture that nurtures and advances customer advocacy among your audience. 

As you can imagine, when you achieve customer advocacy you build a team of enthusiastic fans who’ll spread the word about your business on your behalf. Advocates can significantly impact your reputation and recognition through recommendations, reviews, and word-of-mouth marketing. Their voices are powerful for raising brand awareness and credibility, making them key to growth and success.

How to build customer advocacy

Now that you’re eager to integrate customer advocacy into your business strategy, you want to know how to achieve it. Here are some fundamental steps for implementing customer advocacy:

  • Prioritize customer experience. Go above and beyond to delight your clients with perks like free shipping, discounts, and VIP programs to make customers feel valued.
  • Deliver frictionless customer support. When issues (inevitably) arise, resolve them quickly and courteously. Aim for one-touch issue resolution, and offer plenty of communication channels so that it’s easy for customers to get in touch.
  • Listen to your clients. Send a short survey to ask for ways you can improve, and then implement changes based on the feedback to show that you listened to their opinions.

But this is just the beginning. Keep reading to learn more about what goes into building customer advocacy across your business. 

Creating a customer-centric culture

Customer advocacy rests on the foundation of a customer-centric culture, where the customer experience receives top priority. By listening to your customers, aligning your values around them, training employees to serve them well, and asking them to spread the word about their positive experiences, you’ll build loyal relationships and a thriving community around your brand. 

Research has found that businesses that focus on the customer experience enjoy 1.5x higher customer retention, repeat purchase rates, and customer lifetime value, and they see 8% more revenue than other businesses in their industry. 

Here are some key ways to building a customer-centric culture:

  • Promote active listening. Really pay attention to your customers’ needs, wants, and concerns, and reach out regularly with surveys and messages to initiate meaningful conversations that help you better understand them.
  • Align your core values around the customer. Ensure that every part of your business, from hiring to operations to marketing, focuses on the customer experience.
  • Hire and train for customer service. Look for employees with a customer-first mindset, remind them to address customers by name and be friendly, and offer professional development courses in skills like empathy, active listening, and conflict resolution.
  • Develop customer personas. These are fictional figures who represent your target customer. Give your persona a name and as much detail as possible. Then use your persona in every business decision, like asking “What would Brenda want us to do?”

Focusing on customer experience in this holistic way requires effort, but pays off tremendously. The only way to get genuine top reviews is to first provide amazing experiences that delight your customers. Little things like remembering a regular client’s name or favorite product can make a big difference. When you make customer happiness a priority, they’ll be eager to spread the word about their positive experiences.

Putting customer advocacy into motion

Once you’ve provided great service, don’t be afraid to encourage customers to serve as advocates. Ask for referrals and gently nudge happy customers to leave you a positive review on Google or Yelp. Asking for reviews is one of the easiest ways to boost your online presence and build brand credibility, and word-of-mouth referrals are key to growing your business.

Ask for Google reviews

Set up a Google My Business profile and ask customers to leave a review of their experience with your company. Those reviews build social proof that attracts new clients. Just one positive review on Google can increase your ranking in search results, and drive more traffic to your website. You could offer an incentive, like a discount on their next visit, as an extra thank you for customers who take the time to review your business..

Request referrals

People are far more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend or family member than to respond to your marketing, so word of mouth recommendations can be very powerful. Even after a “job well done,” most customers won’t refer you without being asked, so you need a strategy to request referrals. Let them know how much you appreciate their business, and ask if they know anyone else who might benefit from your services. You might even set up a referral rewards system to show your gratitude for recommendations that lead to new customers. 

Follow up and stay in touch

Don’t disappear after the job is done. Follow up with customers to make sure they’re still fully satisfied, and to remind them to leave a review and/or refer your business to their friends. Sending a quick email or handwritten thank you note builds goodwill and keeps your business at the top of their mind. When another need arises or someone asks for a recommendation, your business will be the first one they think of.

Customer advocacy will help your business thrive

Cultivating customer advocacy by establishing a customer-centric culture and going above and beyond for your customers is key to growing your small business. When you deliver an amazing experience, your customers will become your biggest fans and advocates who spread the word about your awesome service or product. Reviews and referrals are the best form of marketing for any local business, so make your customers the focus of your attention to winning new loyal customers and growing your business.