When was the last time you purchased something without doing some research first? In today’s digital age, you don’t have to go far to find the information you’re looking for. Whether it’s a review on Amazon, a blog post or a candid video on YouTube, there are endless ways to figure out if your money will be well spent on a product or service. And you’re not the only one doing that type of research. Research by the U.S. Ecommerce Foundation found 88% of consumers research their purchases on the internet before buying them online or in-store, and another study by MarketingProfs revealed that 85% of customers will read customer reviews before making a purchase.

As a businessowner, you might feel vulnerable knowing that negative reviews could pop up from your customers. But, if you think about it the other way, satisfied customers can work in your company’s favour. Here are five ways you can use your customers in your marketing strategy:

1. Leverage customer reviews

Let’s start with the most obvious—leverage those customer reviews! It’s important that your ecommerce platform or website has a space for your customers to write reviews. Not only does it empower your customers to feel heard, whether they’re satisfied or not, a positive review is an immediate marketing play. You can use a good customer quote on your blog, in print collateral, on the front page of your website or on social media. You can also follow up with a customer if they left a positive review to expand on their experience for other marketing tools.

And if they left a bad review, you can get in touch to make things right immediately, as well as respond to negative reviews publicly so other customers can see that you take problems seriously and provide dependable service. According to a study by Nielsen, two-thirds of customers trust consumer opinions that are posted online.

2. Get referrals

Word of mouth referrals are the original social media. When you buy a product or try out a new restaurant, you’re likely to tell a couple friends who then tell two more friends.

That chain continues. A study conducted by the American Marketing Association and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association showed that word of mouth marketing is especially relevant in the social media age. “Word of mouth” can be considered a consumer-to-consumer brand conversation that occurs online or offline. The study showed that word of mouth has a more immediate impact than traditional media. About 90% of online word of mouth interactions had an impact in the first two weeks, while 73% of offline word of mouth conversations had an impact in the same time period. So, even in the digital age you can’t discount what people are saying about your company offline.

3. Engage with customers on social media

When customers are happy (or not) with your product or service, they will naturally post about it on social media. There are several platforms customers can engage with and their positive comments can be used for your marketing efforts. A simple retweet, repost in an Instagram story or mention on Facebook will make a customer happy and reinforce the quality of your brand on a public platform.

It’s also important to be open and honest on your social media accounts. If something goes wrong or you need to update your customers, it’s a great place for an immediate update. A study from SocialSprout found that 86% of customers think brand transparency is more important than ever, and, there’s no better way to be transparent than on your company’s social channels.

4. Create success stories

When you find an interesting customer who has had a great experience with your product or service, leverage your relationship with them and turn it into a success story.

At EDC, I speak to customers every week who have had great experiences with our products and want to share their success. Learning about these unique Canadian businesses allows me to see how EDC makes an impact every day. Success stories not only work for great content marketing and SEO tools, they can also be used by your sales team to help close a deal or demonstrate how a similar company used your product or service.

5. Turn customers into advocates

Your long-time customers who rave about your company and promote it to others are more than just customers, they’re advocates.

An advocate can be an invaluable asset to your marketing strategy. Not only can you quote them in marketing collateral or short film clips and commercials, great advocates can be brought to promotional events and trade shows. They can stand at your booth and speak to prospects about their positive experience or speak on stage on behalf of your company. It’s important to nurture advocates once you get them, as they can be your greatest marketing champions.