In marketing, brand awareness is a significant focus—in fact, it’s likely one of your main goals. But it’s all too easy to get so wrapped up in reaching and acquiring new customers that your current customer base gets left in the dust. This is where customer marketing comes in.
Customer marketing is one of the most powerful ways you can forge and feed connections with your current audience base. Investing in your current audience leads to building trust with them, as well as prospective customers.
In this article, learn how to build your own customer marketing strategy, how it creates customer trust and see some stellar customer marketing examples from brands who are getting it right.
What is customer marketing?
Customer marketing refers to marketing methods, campaigns and activities designed to build connection and loyalty with existing customers by elevating their experience with your brand or products. This can be done through re-sharing customer content, responding to reviews and going above and beyond with your social responses.
Investing in a customer marketing strategy doesn’t mean you’re taking away from building brand awareness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Investing in your current customer pool builds loyalty and connection. And that can turn them into advocates who can help you gain trust with new customers.
Customer marketing examples from 7 brands getting it right
Your social channels are a direct line to your customers. And that makes social the perfect outlet to grow your customer marketing strategy through three of the big social media “C’s”: content, conversation and creators.
Here are a few customer marketing examples from brands who are celebrated for creating connected audiences and loyal customers.
Utilizing user-generated content: Aerie, Glossier
The only thing better than happy customers is happy customers who post about how much they love a brand. Reposting user-generated content (UGC) rewards customers who post it while also boosting authenticity on your channels by putting your audience at the forefront of your brand.
Clothing brand Aerie has made authenticity a core part of its brand—and naturally, this includes featuring posts from their real customers. They regularly post UGC, and use their branded hashtag #AerieReal to find creators to reach out to. This effectively makes their audience feel seen and connected to the brand. And, according to Marketing Brew, this strategy has truly “turned people onto the brand.”
Makeup brand Glossier also turned to UGC to build their “Dew it Yourself” series based on content their community was already organically posting about. “What makes this series so special is that it was spurred organically from our community—it was something they were already posting about,” Glossier’s Senior Manager of Social Media and Digital at Glossier Jamie Dinar explained in a Sprout webinar. “We tried to reframe the conversation around beauty, offering our platform to the people using our products to tell their stories, rather than having it come from the brand. Ultimately, we didn’t want to tell them how to use their products—it was their story to tell.”
Learn from these methods
Learn from Aerie and Glossier’s strategies by bringing user-generated content and community ideas into your social channels for more authentic content. Just ensure you ask for approval before you post.
Creating customer-inspired content: McDonald’s
McDonald’s shines in their ability to post extremely relatable, customer-inspired content.
The content they share—from text posts to videos—and responses they leave in the comments demonstrate a deep understanding of their audience, down to how customers order in a drive-thru. Which was the basis for viral Posts that tap into everyone’s relatable drive-thru ordering experience…
And Posts that feature products and how people use them—like this Post when McDonald’s asks their audience, “remind me to take my mcflurry out of the freezer in 13 mins” so it doesn’t get too frozen.
McDonald’s also brings the customer experience to life through the user-generated TikTok content they repost on their own channel. As well as relatable videos, and even TikTok text videos like this:
They pair these videos with funny, personal responses in the comments section.
Learn from this method
You can’t successfully carry out customer marketing without a deep understanding of your customers. Get to know who they are, what they’re interested in and what they respond to by looking at your post data, comments section and by tapping into the conversation.
Authentic customer demos and routines: Zara
There’s a reason why 81% of social marketers describe influencer marketing as an essential part of their strategy. Creator marketing and using real people to bring a brand to life is only going to become more important. And Zara’s robust creator strategy is a great example of how diverse creators can provide actionable and personal “how-tos” using a company’s products.
Zara diverse creators to show off their makeup routine, using Zara makeup products. This format empowers creators to express themselves creatively and authentically.
Each makeup routine is different and highlights products while inspiring viewers to bring Zara makeup products into their routine too, bringing awareness to Zara’s makeup line.
Learn from this method
Grow your creator strategy for an authenticity boost. But, like Zara has, give creators you partner with room to be creative.
Using a dedicated influencer marketing platform, like Tagger by Sprout Social, to manage and foster your creator partnerships can streamline your strategy.
Getting more life out of customer reviews: National Parks Service
Positive reviews build trust with customers by showcasing a real person’s experience with your brand or product. But you can take your reviews a step further and use them in your content to build trust and reward customers who left positive reviews.
The National Parks Service does this in a unique way on their social channels by featuring some of their funniest positive reviews. Their brand voice is light and humorous, while also providing educational captions. The posts highlight different Parks, while also entertaining their audience.
Learn from this method
Repurpose and use positive reviews in your visual content, captions or Stories to build trust and social proof.
Showcasing customer success with case studies: Drift
Sometimes, the best way to showcase your business is by highlighting the customers who have found success with your product or service. Case studies are a tried-and-true way of creating a story out of customer success stories—whether those stories are in the form of blog posts or videos.
Drift has a robust collection of customer stories on their website. The AI-based conversational platform features success stories of customers who use and love their product.
This form of customer marketing not only rewards existing customers by putting them in the spotlight—it also provides social proof to prospective customers who may be interested in more complex products, services or softwares.
Learn from this method
Reach out to happy customers who would be willing to be featured in a case study about how they use your product, service or technology.
Taking customer connection to the next level: Chewy
Chewy’s customer care and engagement is a stand-out example of stellar customer marketing.
You may have heard about Chewy’s surprise-and-delight strategy to send bereavement packages to customers who have recently lost a pet. Or their recent habit of sending surprise pet portraits to customers. They bring this level of personalization and care into their social channels and content, too. The majority of their posts come from UGC, making the pets they serve the stars of their social channels.
Their team is also extremely engaged on social. They often go beyond providing an answer or “thank you” to customer comments. They make an active effort to start conversations with their audience, asking them questions and posting fun prompts—while of course responding to as many comments as they can.
Learn from this method
Chewy’s social channels are a sign to go above and beyond when you engage with customers. Post prompts that encourage your audience to engage, but only if you can be responsive. And bring customer marketing outside of the digital world too by creating tangible surprise and delight moments to keep current customers happy.
Benefits of customer marketing
Here are a few major benefits of creating a customer marketing strategy, and why it’s integral to growing your brand.
Increase brand loyalty
Brand loyalty is precious. And it’s only become more important to foster it—according to PwC, 26% of consumers stopped using or buying from a business in just the past year.
Investing in a customer marketing strategy on social enables you to foster and grow a connection with your existing customers—not just reach new ones. Connection is key to loyalty and trust. In fact, PwC found that younger generations are more likely to express loyalty to a brand by recommending it to friends and family.
And businesses are catching on. According to The 2023 State of Social Media report, 66% of business leaders say increasing brand reputation and loyalty is a top priority. A customer marketing strategy through social content and connection is your ticket to success.
Turning your customers into advocates and garnering social mentions
Word-of-mouth recommendations and social mentions are some of the most authentic promotions your brand can get—but you have to earn it. In fact, we’ve often had Sprout customers ask how they can get more social mentions from their social audience.
Your customers have the power to make or break your business—and not just through their wallets—a customer marketing strategy can turn your customers into brand advocates. The methods we highlighted with brand examples above—engaging customers, going above and beyond for them, encouraging and posting user-generated content, tapping creators—all encourage your happy customers to talk about you, and reward them for doing so.
Increased social proof
When it comes to where to shop, people trust the experience of real people. They need social proof, like reviews or posts about the brand, to trust a business or product—you’ve likely sought out this type of proof yourself.
A stellar customer marketing strategy encourages the type of brand connection that inspires customers to post, talk about and write positive reviews about your brand. And reposting customer posts or reviews puts the social proof directly on your channels.
And reposting social proof isn’t a faux pas—on the contrary. According to The 2023 Sprout Social Index™, UGC and customer testimonials are one of the top content types consumers want to see more of on social.
Creators serve a similar purpose—to pair a trusted voice and perspective with your brand. This is one of the reasons why unboxing content is what 42% of marketers say they hire content creators to produce. There’s an inherent authenticity to the “first impression” expressed in these posts.
How to create a holistic customer marketing strategy
Here are a few easy ways you can bring customer marketing into your daily social media strategy and presence.
Regularly tap into the conversation
Part of connecting with your customers is by being social and joining the conversation. And this means finding and responding to conversations you’re mentioned in—even when you’re not tagged.
Brooklinen does a stellar job of this. They uncover customers discussing them, their products or simply related topics, even when their brand isn’t directly tagged. This empowers them to engage and connect with existing customers who advocate for the brand…
…to encourage and upsell fans who have yet to purchase…
…or just to join the conversation and give their audience a laugh.
This is where using a social listening platform, like Sprout Social’s, is crucial. Social listening enables you to widen your net across the social space, empowering you to find relevant conversations about your keywords, product mentions and brand misspellings—even when you’re not tagged.
Double down on customer and audience engagement
Good customer engagement involves simply checking social for questions and providing answers. But stellar customer engagement means going above and beyond.
Using Chewy as an example again, they show customers they care by asking them questions and conversing in the comments.
Double down on your customer care and audience engagement to foster stronger relationships, and to show your audience you care. This starts with evaluating your customer care effectiveness. Use customer service metrics like reply time, reply or response rate and sentiment analysis to understand where your customer care excels, and where it needs work.
Staying on top of your inbox to ensure you respond to comments and questions quickly is also crucial. So much so that 36% of consumers say they’ll share a negative experience with friends and family if a brand takes too long to respond, according to The 2022 Sprout Social Index™.
Finally, make it easier for your team to never miss a message. A social media management tool that funnels all of your social comments, mentions and DMs into one hub—like Sprout’s Smart Inbox—streamlines your process, by organizing your social messages, storing canned responses and looping in customer care team members in one place.
Stay on top of your reviews—the good, and the bad
Your reviews are not a “set-it-and-forget-it” tool. Reviews need to be, well, reviewed by your team regularly. Leaving these unchecked might mean you miss customer feedback at best. Or, at worst, could mean you miss a flurry of negative reviews that spin up a brand crisis.
Beyond checking your reviews, ensure you respond to them—the good and the bad. Responding to positive reviews rewards the customer who took the time to sing your brand’s praises. And responding to negative reviews can provide you with helpful feedback and, when done empathetically, may even win you back a customer.
Make checking your reviews part of your monitoring and social analysis process. And create canned responses you can adjust and customize for different reviews to speed up your response process.
Regularly check on posts you’re tagged in to source UGC
People are likely already tagging your brand—in a mention or through a hashtag. Regularly check posts you’re tagged in and your mentions. This is one of the best ways to find UGC to repost and posts to engage with.
Make sourcing this content even easier by creating a branded hashtag. Think: Aerie’s #AerieReal. Figo’s #yesfigopets. Savers’ #thriftproud. Branded hashtags are a unique and fun way to make sourcing customer marketing content easier. They may even help you identify creators to partner with.
Just remember to make your branded hashtag known by including it in the bios of your social channels. And remember to check these hashtags accordingly, as well as your tagged posts. Not every piece of user-generated content will use your branded hashtag. But you want to ensure you’re not leaving people out who do use it.
Streamline your approval process—with internal and external stakeholders
UGC and creator content is stellar, but it will likely require extra approvals from creators you work with, or from another team.
Streamlining your approval process is a key piece of a good customer marketing strategy. Sprout’s external Approval Workflows simplify your approval process so stakeholders can review content before it gets published—even if they don’t use Sprout.
With external Approval Workflows, directly share a link to a post that needs approvals from outside of your team or org. People can leave comments, and you can review feedback and approvals all from one hub within Sprout, keeping feedback consolidated—no messy spreadsheets or confusing threads required.
If you’re curious about how Sprout can empower your customer marketing strategy, and your entire social strategy, reach out to us for a demo.
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Create a community space to source content and conversation
Social media builds a connection between your brand and audience. But creating your own space to foster a true community enables you to spark audience involvement, provide exclusive events and promos, start conversations with mega-fans and source content ideas.
You can easily create a community space where you have an existing audience—like creating a Facebook Group. Groups are a great way to create unique spaces for audience members with different niche interests and to create a place for audience members to connect with you and each other. For example, if educators are part of, but not all of your audience, creating an educator community enables you to speak directly to this niche.
You can also create an entirely new, custom community space, like Sprout’s community hub—The Arboretum. The Arb creates a space for social media and marketing pros to connect with each other, grow their own careers by joining exclusive events and sharing job postings and to talk to and ask questions to us.
Build trust and forge connections with your audience by building your customer marketing strategy
Building trust with your customers doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, dedication and persistence. But all of this effort pays off and wins you loyal customers and a connected audience.
Doubling down on customer marketing is your first step toward creating a better connection with your existing audience. For more inspiration, check out a piece of our own customer marketing—dive into how Plaid grew their audience by 60% in one year and what you can learn from their strategy.