Building a great company isn’t just about making great products. It is about working to make every interaction with a customer a positive experience. From  marketing emails to the in-store experience to websites to 1-800 numbers to Facebook, there are more ways than ever for customers to connect with companies. All these touch points define what customers think of a brand.  For companies, they  are opportunities  to turn customers into brand advocates that actively spread the word about the company and its products. 

One brand that is doing a great job of using online interactions to build a cadre of brand advocates is the online clothing retailer Bonobos.  Beyond simply having a great website, Bonobos is using a myriad of tactics to recruit new customers and to deepen its relationship with existing ones.

  • Any new customer can get  $50 off their first order of $100 or more by simply sharing their email address and zip code.  Further, Bonobos allows for all products to be returned at any time and pays for shipping on returns.  These steps make it easy for customers to try the company’s product.  It also shows that Bonobos is confident in the quality of its products.  
  • Bonobos runs a unique referral program that encourages customers to spread the word about the company via word of mouth.  Existing customers can send their friends and family $50 off coupons through the site.  If your friend buys more than $100 in stuff, you get a $50 store credit.   The site includes tools you can use to email friends the discounts and post links about the discounts to Facebook and Twitter.  
  • Bonobos customer service representatives (called “ninjas”) are extremely responsive and encouraged to show actual personality.  I had an order get screwed up one time, and in addition to correcting the problem right away they sent a free shirt for my trouble.  Mistakes happen, and dealing with them proactively and transparently is a great way to build brand loyalty.
  • The company utilizes social media very well.  They have an active Facebook community and encourage employees to interact with customers through their Twitter accounts.  The company frequently posts Twitter or Facebook-specific discounts as a way of incentivizing customers to follow them.   They also write a blog that is much better than what you typically see from clothing companies.
  • Bonobos continually runs games and contests aimed at engaging with brand advocates.  Promotions have ranged from photo caption contests to product naming contests to an NCAA tournament bracket where customers compete against employees. 
  • The company does a great job with their email marketing.  In addition to simply sending out compelling emails (see example email below), they also segment their email list based on the customers engagement with the brand.  Bonobos sends out a weekly email to casual customers, while hard core brand advocates receive daily emails.  This kind of list segmentation is a smart way to satisfy loyalists while not turning off casual fans with too many emails. 

What Bonobos is doing is clearly working.  The company reports that sales tripled in the last six months of 2010.  Obviously having a good product is the most important part of Bonobos success.  But Bonobos proactive efforts to identify and reward brand advocates has also been a critical contributor to the company’s exponential growth.


About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.