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Put Your Clients to Work
By: Bill Lee
Posted: January 30, 2013, from the February 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
No one can truly understand your clients or genuinely share their aspirations without being a client themselves. If you can harness the knowledge, natural enthusiasm and peer influence of your very best clients, they’ll market and sell products and services for your skin care facility better than your internal resources can—at a fraction of the cost. But it does require some new thinking.
Often businesses think their best opportunity is with the biggest spenders or the most loyal clients. Not necessarily. Loyal clients don’t always promote you—in fact, it’s likely they’re not—and big spending clients may not have a good story. So who are your potential high-value clients? First, they’re loyal. Second, they have a story to tell about how your product or service helped them, and they’re eager to tell it. Third, they have access to influential networks that contain more clients like them.
Even clients who say they’d be highly likely to refer your facility to a colleague or friend aren’t actually doing so. You have to make it easy. New technology allows clients who identify themselves as promoters on surveys to immediately provide a recommendation on the spot, which then can be shared with their Facebook friends, LinkedIn colleagues, or Twitter followers automatically.
Think benefits, not bribes. Avoid giving rewards and prizes; it detracts from the authenticity of a recommendation. Instead, help your clients build their peer or professional networks, and gain access to valuable knowledge. The beauty of this approach is that you’re helping your advocates by allowing them to tell the story of how they successfully achieved their goal because of your product or service.
Traditional approaches hinder customer advocacy. Forays into Web-based and social media marketing often fail to engage clients because they lack credible, regularly refreshed content. Traditional corporate messaging—such as information about the spa, and its products and services—isn’t going to cut it in such an interactive medium.
Keep in mind social media’s unique requirements (don’t try to control the conversation) and its opportunities (clients are starved for credible, relevant content). Short, well-told customer story videos are powerful, exponentially increasing engagement and lead-generation opportunities.
Most people will talk to their friends, neighbors, colleagues or other peers for recommendations on products and services. Find local clients who are well-connected in their communities and provide them with access to new product and service launches—give them “insider knowledge.” Getting known through established area residents is faster—as well as more affordable—than traditional marketing approaches.
Be the influencer. Be the thought leader in your market. You already have happy clients, plus you have experts on your team who work with these clients on a regular basis. This alone gives you far more valuable knowledge than the usual outside influencer. Unleash an internal expert to do live seminars or set up a blog with a dynamic mix of expert tips, customer examples and information about products and services, to position your spa as the go-to source for skin wellness, particularly in your area of focus.
The best thing about high-value clients is that they already exist, quietly thriving under the radar, waiting for you to discover them and put them to work. Don’t miss this opportunity—or undermine it by offering poorly disguised bribes to get clients to advocate for you. Existing clients can drive organic growth and bring in new clients who will benefit from the benefit you provide. Engage these clients to build a remarkable new exchange of exceptional value that creates powerful evangelists for your skin care facility.
Bill Lee, author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers and Mavericks in the Workplace (Harvard Business School Press, 2012), is president of Lee Consulting Group, helping organizations reinvent customer relationships and accelerate growth through the creation of engaged, passionate customer advocates and communities.