The best businesses put a customer-centric spin on just about everything they do. They know that, at the end of the day, they are nothing without their customers. Your customers know that, too. Just as public signs of support can really boost a business, a lack of it can kill the same business dead. So, using your customers as part of your marketing strategy is always a good move. It’s about more than just telling them to tell their friends, however. Here's how you squeeze those customers of every drop of marketing juice they got.

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Service is essential

The good will of the customer is absolutely key to any of the following strategies working. They might very well love your products or services, but a company can have a very different reputation from what it provides. Besides avoiding anti-consumerist policies where possible, getting that good reputation amongst existing customers is about providing better customer service where possible. Over the phone, over the internet, or in store, you need to be able to provide prompt solutions and a pleasant experience even when dealing with matters that are less than pleasant to the customer. Otherwise, that one time they had a terrible experience over the phone is going to play a role in whether or not a customer goes along with any of the strategies below.

Be a community

The market, in general, has become a much more social place. That is undoubtedly thanks to the influence of the internet. Not only does news (both positive and negative) travel faster, but the veracity of it is often judged by how many people are sharing it. That goes for support of a business, as well. If your business has a thriving social media community built around it, then others will look at that as proof that it’s a company worth supporting. Consistently interacting with your followers, sharing quality content whether you write it yourself or curate it from elsewhere, and showing your company’s human side are essential in building the online following you want.

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Show the proof in the pudding

That community is going to become particularly useful when you make use of a customer satisfaction tool to solicit their opinions and feedback on the business. Not only will that data help your overall strategies, as we’ll cover later. The positive feedback becomes a tool that you can use to show that you have the support of your market. Your site can proudly display testimonials and positive feedback results, providing the proof that individuals on the fence might need to go to the next step of the customer journey. If you do get good results, make sure you keep the positive feelings going by taking the time to thank your customers.

Even the bad can be turned good

What about when you get bits of feedback that aren’t happy? Poor service, unwise business decisions, unhappy customers. They all happen and they can all leave a poor taste in the mouth of anyone who sees them if they’re made public. Resist the urge to go on the defensive and deny or devalue the opinion of the one leaving the feedback. Respond publicly to let them know you’re considering their feedback and get in touch with them privately to try and resolve issues. If the market is reacting negatively to a change in the business, then take it back to the drawing board. If you can genuinely implement customer feedback to make a change in how you do business, it can serve as proof of your dedication to your customers. You can make a case study, publicly addressing the problem and how you fixed it. If you get it right, then what was a potential crisis can be one of the strongest moments in your marketing strategy. People like seeing that they’re being listened to and taken seriously.

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Roll with it

When you don’t have as much content to share and no feedback to solicit, then make sure you’re still active on your social media channels. A lot of businesses are getting better at reactive marketing nowadays. This means creating genuine moments between business and customer, whether it’s for comedic effect or more heartfelt positivity. Allowing your employees some freedom to be personable on social media can create a genuine bond with customers.

Incentivize them

All of the steps above are going to help you spread word-of-mouth. Happy customers referring your business. Customers sharing your content. Customers amused or impressed by something your business said on social media. These are all great ways to nudge them in the direction of spreading positive word-of-mouth. But you should consider whether you can offer them something more concrete to achieve the same effect as well. A lot of businesses make use of referral programs that rely on customers telling their peers about the business in order to earn deals or rewards. The benefit of referral systems is that it doesn’t ring false, either. People who refer others to your business do it because it helps them further their own relationship as a customer.

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Know them better

In a more general sense, your customers are key to designing better marketing strategies, as well. Those customer feedback tools mentioned above allow you to also collect a lot of data on them. But you should look for that data everywhere. Your website analytics. Customer purchase history. Any mailing lists you might have set up. You can build a better picture of what your market looks like, what their needs are, where they are, and how to best communicate to them. With that information, you can craft marketing materials that much better suited to have the emotional impact on them that will keep them coming back.

There are a lot of ways to make use of existing customers to win more. But you have to be smart in how you do it. Don’t interrupt their journey as customers, don’t be overbearing, and don’t be too obvious. You want them to collaborate gladly, not begrudgingly.