Every day another new term is cropping up to describe how we connect to customers—and I bet you could add to the list. We’re told to leave behind broadcasting and push marketing to become trust agents in the world of viral videos and permission marketing as we join the thank you economy to build a fiercely loyal community of brand evangelists. Whew! What's with all of that?
In the spaces between the words lies the same question that's been building businesses since business building began: Are you looking for more customers?
Let’s be clear about that. I don't mean more traffic in your store or more pageviews on your website. I'm not even thinking about that wonderful word attention. We give attention to many things and never act on them.
What builds a thriving business is a community of loyal, engaged and participating customers—real people who want to be part of what we do. If that’s your goal, these five strategies work.
1. Make an environment where people feel they belong
People don't stay where they aren't valued. Design your online and offline environment so that people recognize their values everywhere they look. Everyone wants to have a home. When people feel at home, they connect.
2. Give people a reason to come
Make every offer and every ounce of content relevant and engaging to the people—living, breathing, individual human beings. Don't sell me your products and services. Teach me how to buy them. Show me how they will make my life and work easier, simpler and more meaningful. Be critical to my mission, and I'll be ready to invest in you.
3. Offer authentic conversation and ongoing relationships
Let them know a real person is there to greet them. Leave room for folks to add their perspective. Listen more than you talk. Learn more than you teach. Data might tell you what customers are doing, but it won't tell you why. Customers will tell you what they're thinking if we ask them one at a time. If we start with a beginner's mind—admitting we know hardly anything about our customers—we'll find that our customers are brilliant about showing us what delights them and what makes them change their mind.
4. Offer unexpected, exciting experiences that they get to design
Invite them to suggest, design and even lead new initiatives. Let them teach. Let them learn. Let them play and...surprise them. Customers are people who help build our businesses. Those are the things that make folks feel good about who they are.
5. Celebrate your heroes—the people who bring you great business ideas and great business friends
Tell them why you value their business by pointing out the values you share. Be unforgettable, grateful and more generous than anyone might have imagined. You’ll find that you’ll attract customers who reflect those attributes right back.
It's not hard to see that what attracts and keeps customers today is what has been attracting and keeping customers since business began: caring about them. Customers are the people who build our businesses. They fuel our growth even fast with their loyalty. No asset outweighs the value of a community of fiercely loyal customers.
Loyalty is a relationship. If you want to attract customer fans, be a fan of your customers as best you can.
How do you attract and keep customers by being loyal to them?