CPG Marketers are constantly seeking to put their brand’s product or message in front of consumers. However, the opportunity to build a one-to-one relationship with their most loyal consumers is often missed. Every marketer wants to turn their customers into brand advocates, but many skip the first step: listening.
Brands that listen to their consumers build trust and, in turn, consumers that feel heard will go to amazing lengths to share their experience with others. This move generates valuable word of mouth marketing that is necessary to reach younger audiences. A survey from Morning Consult showed that over 80% of Gen Z and Millennials trust their friends and family to give good advice about brands and products. While many brands might use influencers to build trust, authentic brand loyalty begins with listening and engaging consumers directly.
80% of Gen Z and Millennials say they trust their friends and family to give good advice about brands and products.(Morning Consult’s Influencer Report, November 2018)
Listen to Your Customers — They’ll Tell You Amazing Things
Nathan Sheets, the CEO and Chief Steward of Nature Nate’s Honey Co., has always gone the extra mile to listen. This includes putting his personal cell phone on every bottle of honey they sold during their first 14 years. He spoke with thousands of people and knew exactly what they were looking for in their honey. What they told him helped grow the company and gain national distribution. It was also named the best overall honey by Spy.com.
“Our customers tell us what they want. We just need to listen.”Nathan Sheets, CEO/Chief Steward
Sheets has made listening to consumers a priority. He empowers his marketing team to do the unexpected. Their in-house customer care team not only monitors feedback on their own social channels, but also across other retailers’ online platforms like Walmart.com. Sheets says, “If you post a comment, we are always going to reply. If you send us a thank you note, we are going to send you a thank you basket. People tell people that tell people and eventually, the momentum will outgrow any expense.”
Becca May, VP of Marketing, has taken this to heart and by intentionally making the customer care team part of the marketing department. While it would be easy to hand over this responsibility to a call center, May believes having one-to-one access to their consumers to address their problems directly is imperative.
The information they gain from their consumers has helped with quality assurance and helps navigate where they should place their financial investments to grow the product category. They learned their consumers were looking for honey on-the-go to use as a sweetener, snack and even as an energy supplement. This feedback led them to create a line of single-use honey packets — and motivated the company to enter the natural energy supplement market. Sheets added, “We are meeting people where they are not usually buying honey. 5Ks, point of sale, convenience stores, gyms, outdoor stores…that’s how we have grown the category.”
Love Your Customers — They’ll Embrace Your Brand
Multiple studies have confirmed that the most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust — our family, friends, and colleagues. Over 70% of marketers surveyed believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing. While many CPG brands have shifted their paid media investments to influencers in the hopes of gaining access to a celebrity’s large network of followers, Nature Nate’s made the decision to seek out unpaid brand ambassadors to spread their message. After announcing to their fans that they would open registration for a brand ambassador program, they received 10,000 applications. May’s team took care to personally interview 2,500 people to ensure they understood their role and were committed. They selected 1,200 engaged and loyal fans, and expect that number to grow to over 2,000 in 2020.
The marketing team created a private Facebook group so that they could communicate directly with the ambassadors. They provided the group with branded specialty items and product samples to distribute. They do regular check-ins and make themselves available by phone and email with each ambassador to see how they are engaging with their community. May sees them as an integral part of their marketing team and is inspired by how they work together on the Facebook group to share ideas with each other.
“Ambassadors are part of our marketing team; they have access to our team and how to best promote the products.”Becca May, VP of Marketing
Sheets and May recognized early on that targeting millennial moms and families would be ideal to grow household penetration with their target audience. And they were right to focus on this group, as 73% of millennials consider it their responsibility to guide friends, peers, and family toward smart purchase decisions. Ambassadors share direct feedback and advice on how the brand can continue to reach people like them. They provide insight into how people have responded to their samples and recipes. “Arming ambassador networks is an untapped tool and channel that, frankly, I don’t think a lot of the big CPG brands do,” said May.
May’s team also works to identify what the brand ambassadors are doing well and attempt to amplify with marketing efforts. “Our job is to identify the organic things that consumers are doing and throw gasoline on it,” May says. “Our consumers are SO smart and they are going to tell us where we need to go.” The Nature Nate’s team listens to the ambassadors and responds with custom content or with new products to meet their needs. As many of their consumers also love to give their minis to their children as a sweet treat, the team decided to package minis in bags alongside Halloween and Valentine candy in Target stores across the nation as a healthy option to candy and chocolate.
“Our job is to identify the organic things that consumers are doing and throw gasoline on it. Our consumers are SO smart and they are going to tell us where we need to go.”Becca May, VP of Marketing
How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by a Brand
By always listening to their customers, Nature Nate’s ensures that they are grounded by the people that love their products. It lets them learn how consumers are already using them daily to educate others to enjoy it in the same way. Simply engaging a loyal group of followers with product samples and advice will grow a brand’s reach. Food and Beverage CPG brands have a great opportunity to empower ambassador networks to leverage their trusted networks. Just by listening and showing their love, they can expand their business in ways they never expected. It is a match made in honey.