Last year, we had our windows washed at the office. The serviceman arrived with his squeegee in hand and a massive tattoo on his arm reading, "I love windows." Like a bumper sticker on a bicep, his passion for his work was literally written on him - permanently - for the whole world to see. While most people wouldn't exactly brand themselves on their flesh like he did, many brand communities have equally passionate advocates who are so engaged and in love with your brand that they will go lengths to help you be successful. This kind of advocacy can't be bottled, but it can be utilized in new and interesting ways to magnify the impact of your community and the power of your brand.
Here are a few quick ways to channel this passion for business good:
Share their passion internally. Received an email from someone about your brand? Did your Facebook page light up with posts praising your most recent product, service, or corporate action? Grab these headlines and share the love internally - as frequently as possible. Create a monthly "news from the field" newsletter or pass it along to your internal communications team to share with your larger company. Does one of your advocates live in the area? Have them stop by your office to share their product experiences with your employees or interview them for your company blog. The more you share your customers' feedback with your employees, the more successful your company will be at meeting your customers' needs.
Meet-and-greet. Connect with your most passionate advocates in real time. Heading to a meeting with clients in Detroit, New Orleans, or Tallahassee? Schedule a quick meet-and-greet with some rabid fans in the community. These meetings don't need to be elaborately planned - they can simply be a group email to your advocates in the area to rendezvous at the local coffee shop. You're bound to have a few attend who can share ideas on where to take your brand, and meeting face-to-face to do this will strengthen their emotional connection with you, leading to deeper customer loyalty. Make sure to snap a few photos when you're there - upload the pictures to your social media channels to keep the buzz of your event going long after it ends.
Community advisory board. Select your most vocal advocates to join a community advisory group. Use them selectively to provide feedback, vet ideas, and help generate buzz around community or product ideas. Make sure to have a "job description" with a list of roles and responsibilities so the group stays productive. Reach out monthly or even quarterly via email, forum, or conference call. These groups are usually driven by passion and don't need to be compensated, but love getting related products and a title they can share with others. By listening to these passionate customers, you not only gain valuable insight into your brand, but also convert these advocates into evangelists.
Advocates as volunteers. Some advocates are so enthusiastic about your brand that they want to volunteer to assist your efforts. Customer evangelists are often experts of your product, so encourage them to take over moderation of your customer message boards or help forums. Your new customers will find the help your advocates offer as a credible, unbiased source of valuable product information. Mobilizing volunteers can also help alleviate the pressure on your support organization and will be great points of contact for your employees when they need quick customer feedback. If you go this route, just make sure to regularly recognize your volunteers and offer them titles or product-related swag.
Try one of these engagement techniques this quarter (minus the tattooing idea in the intro). They are easy to implement because they require little, if no, capital investment and produce brand affinity that money just can't buy.
Laney Whitcanack is Federated Media Publishing's chief community officer. Prior to joining FM, Laney co-founded BigTent in 2006 and focused on innovating online and offline ways to connect people with communities they care about. She spent the decade previous to BigTent coaching and training hundreds of community leaders, in the U.S. and Mexico, most recently as the director of community programs for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.
A published author and speaker on entrepreneurship and community organizing, Laney received the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2008. She is currently a board member of Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum and The Princess Project and is involved in even more community groups after the birth of her daughter, Campbell, last year. Laney has a B.A. from UCLA, and MBA from the Simmons School of Management, and an Ed.M from Harvard University.