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6 tips for treating your customers like friends

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Maker’s Mark bourbon elicits some very passionate responses from its fans. While the company isn’t known for its social media marketing per se, you’d be hard pressed to name a company that does a better job of creating a sense of community with its fans. If you can do that much, you know 85% of everything you need to know about using social media for marketing.

The company’s fan initiative is called the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program. The idea is to get fans to agree to represent the company wherever they go and encourage others to embrace the drink whenever possible. Doe-Anderson’s Todd Spencer recently spoke at Gaspedal’s Word of Mouth Supergenius conference about the program, getting a little help along the way from Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels Jr. Together, they explained that the program only works because it’s a two-way street. Members get their name on a cask of bourbon, and then get updates about their batch over a period of six years. They get little gifts from the company. They get insider information and invites to special events. The company’s marketing materials all look conversational, not at all like a sales pitch. Spencer said that buddy-buddy vibe is no accident. The trick to getting your customers to talk about you is to treat them like friends instead.

Spencer offered up six tips for injecting a little humanity into your customer relations:

  • Give them ownership. Maker’s Mark doesn’t talk about “their” bourbon when talking to Ambassadors. They let the ambassador know what’s going on with his or her batch — the one that’s even got their name on the cask. Little word choices matter when you’re talking to fans. Use language that gives them a sense of ownership over the brand. Don’t shut them out.
  • Be fearless about asking for help, then give fans the tools for the job. Spreading the love about your company should never be any harder than absolutely it has to be. Convincing someone to do your marketing for you is tricky enough — nevermind asking them to do all the leg work, too. Are you creating content people would actually want to share? Are you giving them tools that make it easy to share that content ? How about suggesting template messages they can easily personalize? If there’s a way you can make it easier for your fans to say “yes” to helping you out, do it. And be upfront about what you’re asking them to do. Don’t be pushy about it — but don’t be shy either.
  • Make it company wide. You cannot do this alone — unless you’re the only employee your company has. Everyone — from the CEO down to the guys in the warehouse — is a customer service representative, all of the time. Your fans are special. Make sure everyone at the company knows that and treats them accordingly.
  • “Surprise and delight” your fans. Don’t tell them you’ll send them a cake on their birthday. Just do it. If your fan outreach is scripted, it isn’t worth talking about. No one ever tweets about a company doing the things they promised to do. When you do something unexpectedly wonderful for a fan, that’s when you earn their love.
  • Use special information to keep them talking. Everybody likes to feel smart. When people have a hot little nugget of information that no one else has, they’re much more likely to mention it to a friend. If you’ve got big news, don’t call the media. Call your fans. If you’ve got little news, don’t keep it to yourself or just file it away on the company blog and forget about it. Tell you fans first. And then use that information to start a conversation. The special feeling your fans get from that heads up is what makes your news worth sharing.
  • Keep it simple. Nobody remembers boilerplate communications with anonymous flacks. But they will remember you, if you talk to them like a person and don’t try to hide behind the corporate veil. Your communications should be as simple and straightforward as possible. “Your friend doesn’t embed flash in their e-mails,” Spencer said.

Image credit, chang via iStock