In Creating Customer Evangelists, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba taught us that one way to encourage word of mouth was to create a community and bring customers together. Communities create a sense of belonging for customers, of being part of something bigger than themselves.
Because it can be too costly to create customer events, user groups, or clubs, small businesses often struggle with how do this. One very effective way for a small business to create a community is to form an advisory board: a group of customers or community leaders to advise your business.
A great example of how effective an advisory board can be is the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. This article from TriCities.com explains how BMS got it’s fans involved with an advisory board. Not only did the fans become more involved with the Speedway, BMS also received valuable feedback to make improvements to the facility.
When you get customers involved in something like the advisory board, they mentally take ownership of the business. The board members then begin soliciting feeback from other customers on your behalf. They become your evangelists. You will also find that your advisory board members become more powerful spokespersons than you could ever be. The reason: credibility. Customers are not surrounded by the pall of self-interest they way that you may be.
I have had an advisory board for The Marketing Spot. My board was composed of community and industry leaders that provided me great feedback, but they also provided me with conversation about my business. Advisory boards are great tools for small businesses because: they are relatively cheap to implement, they provide great feedback and ideas for improving your business, they get people talking about your business!
A good explanation of advisory boards can be found in Marketing Without Advertising by Michael Phillips and Salli Rasberry. This weekend, think about who you could put on your advisory board and take action on Monday. Use this idea to bring your customers together.
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