Turning Loyal Customers Into Brand Evangelists

Shaun Kanary is one of the many marketers who say that his company’s best source for leads is customer referrals. So, he’s built a customer referral program that rewards loyal customers who get their friends to sign up for his company’s lawn care service.

“We have a referral program, and we made a direct correlation between people who are very pleased with our brand and people who get their friends and neighbors to try our service,” says Kanary, director of marketing at Weed Pro Lawn Care, a Georgia-based landscaping service. “We put great customers up on a pedestal to help us generate leads.”

Weed Pro Lawn Care identifies loyal customers using Net Promoter Score (NPS), which helps organizations rate the likelihood that customers will recommend them. Because those who give a mark of nine or 10 (promoters) also tend to be the best brand evangelists, Weed Pro built an engagement program to encourage these customers to share their good experiences with their friends.

Working with marketing software company HubSpot, the lawn care company’s automated nurturing program places promoter customers into a marketing cycle that includes multiple touchpoints. These customers receive targeted emails encouraging them to refer friends, as well as a call from customer service thanking them for their business.

Since they began the referral program last October, the company signed up 49 new customers, 10 of whom have come out of this nurturing program. “This [is] early in the season, and with snow on the ground we’re far ahead of where we would usually be for the number of referrals we typically get,” Kanary says.

Engaging a broader audience

Large enterprises with greater reach often have to take a more expansive approach toward finding and cultivating advocates. Turner Broadcasting works with Chute, a provider of customer engagement solutions, to identify its most influential customers. Turner, whose

brands include CNN, Cartoon Network, NBA Digital, and TNT, among many others, uses social media to encourage content sharing and advocacy across its properties.

“We try to create doors and windows outside of our system to get consumers to come back for our premium services,” Balaji Gopinath, VP of emerging technology at Turner Broadcasting, says of its social engagement strategy. “We find lower acquisition costs among people who are highly engaged with the brand.”

Turner measures the influence of its customers by tracking interactions and looking at how long a fan interacts with its content and if they’re sharing this content, as well as how often they upload photos or repost messages.

“Advertising outward has disappeared,” Gopinath says. “People want to engage and be part of the conversation. If you want to get your message out there, you have to find ways for your audience to participate and spread the word to their social networks.”

Turner’s initiatives include a recent promotion for NBA Digital that took place online and at the NBA All Star Jam Session in Houston during All Star weekend in February 2013. The broadcast media company used Chute’s customer engagement solutions to harvest the social Web and find fans across the world. The effort targeted its influential fans and encouraged them to share photos.

“We’re very happy with the outcome and are currently discussing additional collaboration opportunities in other areas with Chute,” Gopinath says, though he declined to give specifics on metrics and on how Turner evaluates success.


Dianna Dilworth, freelance journalist

A former Direct Marketing News staffer, Dianna Dilworth has been covering digital marketing for eight years. She’s a regular contributor to DMN and is also the editor of Mediabistro’s technology blog AppNewser. She has been published in the Architectural Record, Businessweek, California Home & Design, Consumer Reports, Dwell, GalleyCat, MediaPost, PRWeek, and more. She has written white papers for marketing companies and has also produced dozens of videos for the likes of Direct Marketing News, Current TV, HarperCollins Publishers, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and Bazillion Points Books. And she has directed two feature length documentary fi lms—one on Michael Jackson fans and the other on the Mellotron, an analog keyboard made popular by The Beatles. As a consumer, she hates it when she sees targeting gone wrong. 

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