As marketers, we often spend our days hunting down new customers and trying to get old customers to come back. We also spend a lot of time (or at least we should) making our current customers happier. Wouldn’t it be a dream scenario to have our users doing that for us?
Now, I’m not talking about viral marketing, which does some of the above. I’m talking about creating active users. Active users are users who are interested in your company, involved with your products, and interacting with your company and your other users. They are folks who fill out your surveys, try your beta stuff, tell you about potential problems with your products or your customer service, and assist other users in using your products.
Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program is a good example of the power of active users. MVPs are users with expertise in different categories of Microsoft products. They participate in newsgroups and help other users with technical questions. These newsgroups see almost 350,000 questions per month, with Microsoft’s active users providing crucial support to visitors, along with building trust and interest in the company’s products. Microsoft got a taste of how important this was when it considered shutting down its MVP program. Thousands of angry user emails flooded Microsoft’s offices. Three days later the program was back up, proving that active users can make other users active.
I recently saw a commercial about a health insurance company. Part of its push was that it had satisfied customers who would explain the company and its benefits to you.
As users, we are more inclined to trust and listen to other users than to a company. They know the “troubles we’ve seen” and can be trusted to give honest answers and not wrap a sales pitch around their advice. We also feel more open to asking them questions.
So, how do you get your users active?
First, show them you care. Send your users thank-you emails. Ask them how they enjoyed their experience. If they give you feedback, act on it. This makes people feel important. It makes them happy, and it shows them that you care about what they think.
Show them you’re interested. If you’re busy trying to understand them, they can see that you’re trying and will let you know how you can improve. Behind every negative comment is someone wanting the next person to have a better experience (either for them, if they’re coming back, or for someone else, if they’re not returning).
Provide good products and great customer service. If you don’t make the effort, it’s likely that your customers won’t either. They need to be able to trust you and know that you support them.
Reward users who are active. Don’t make the mistake Microsoft almost did and shut out active users. Instead, do what Microsoft did and provide avenues for these users to utilize their knowledge for the betterment of others. And go back to the first step — show them you care. Give them things: thanks or praise, maybe a title or a venue. But give them something.
You want users filling out your surveys. You need active users out there helping others use and enjoy your products. You can benefit from users letting you know you’ve got a problem — like your site isn’t working or your customer service isn’t up to par. Active users may be the only ones who give you the benefit of the doubt. So treat them extra nicely, and you may reap the benefits for years to come.
Active users can be the people who bring you new customers, who help those new customers, and who create a positive image of your company. And almost all you have to do is not let them down.
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