KNOW HOW

4 Ways to Create Superfans for Your Brand

Want to create fans who would travel miles, sit in the cold, and drop loads of money just to see you? Consider these tips.
Bruno Mars and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show at MetLife Stadium.
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If you’re looking for the ultimate personification of loyalty, you don’t have to look much further than the recent Super Bowl. Thousands of NFL fans, many from faraway Denver and Seattle, flooded New York City and New Jersey for an action-packed week of events and parties culminating in the big game--the most watched TV event in the world.

Fans flock to these events partly for their sheer entertainment value--enhanced by the top-shelf musical acts and performances. But the connection is rooted in the joy and pain, pride and heartache, euphoria and disappointment that fans experience everywhere. They absolutely care for and are loyal to "their" team.

But what if you're not the Seattle Seahawks or Bruno Mars? What if, instead, you're a retailer, a consumer packaged-goods brand, or even a fledgling company looking to create an audience from scratch? How do brands build loyalty when they can’t rely on built-in or inherited emotional connections to fuel a relationship over the long run?

Here are some consumer-engagement and -loyalty rules to live by:

1. Don’t be a one-hit wonder.
Everybody remembers a good, catchy song, but if it’s the only one ever produced by the group, people are not going to remember the band. The same is true when attempting to become memorable to customers. Although one-off promotions and arbitrary discounts can be good ways to make an initial impression and acquire customers, they aren’t the foundation of meaningful relationships. Just as in the real world, lasting engagement comes with time, investmentm and consistency across every consumer interaction.

With the help of technology, brands now have more avenues than ever before to generate these consumer interactions. In today’s world, brands can produce online videos and games, mobile apps, and compelling and sharable content for social media. Combining these engagement tools with incentives and promotions can be the catalyst for loyalty.

2. Get feedback directly from fans.
Though it’s important for teams and musicians to know what reporters and reviewers are saying about them, it’s even more important for them to hear directly from their fans. The same is true when it comes to learning about your audience’s experience with your brand.

Thanks again to technology, this feedback is now readily available on a number of platforms--including in stores, online, and via mobile and social media. Integrated loyalty programs have been quick to capitalize on this, allowing brands to capture and measure these diverse interactions with customers across this multitude of channels. Because this customer information is provided voluntarily and collected in context of your customers’ experience with you, it provides far more insight than data gathered by third parties.

This direct knowledge about individuals not only allows you to understand exactly whom you’re engaging with; it also reveals valuable insight into their interests, passions, preferences, and much more. If used effectively, that information can form the foundation for deeper relationships--and eventually loyalty.

3. Make your one-man band a supergroup.
From John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, people can be great talents in their own right, but they can become transcendent when onstage or on the field together. This same concept can be applied to using brand partnerships to enhance and improve loyalty programs for your customers. By including partners in your loyalty program, your business can provide a more diverse and exciting array of rewards and incentives and can also provide another medium by which to create value for partners by exposing them directly to your audience.

As one example, Pepsi [full disclosure: a CrowdTwist client] does a great job of creating a win-win for both fans and partners. Whether it’s an opportunity for a free cruise, signed NFL jerseys, free Papa John’s pizza for a year, or tickets to Beyoncé’s latest tour, Pepsi leverages its partnerships to provide fans with exciting and unique rewards. This works to increase brand engagement and subsequently loyalty. On the flip side, Pepsi’s partners benefit from the direct exposure to a self-selected and enthusiastic segment of customers.

4. Vary your playlist.
The same rules apply to rewarding loyalty as they do to earning it in the first place: Make each experience personal and every interaction memorable. For some, a discount or a coupon may be exactly what they’re hoping for. For others, status, experiences or special access may quickly trump any financial incentive. When it comes to rewards, one size does not fit all. Offering different types of rewards will allow you to build a program that appeals to various segments and customers and that keeps them engaged over the long haul.

Building a fan base is never easy, whether you’re a sports team, a musician, or any other kind of business. It takes time to build a self-sustaining culture. But if earning customer loyalty is an important goal for your brand (and it should be), your company must show customers that your business has a heart and that you’re willing to reciprocate their loyalty in uniquely personal ways.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Feb 11, 2014

IRVING FAIN | Columnist

Irving Fain is the CEO and co-founder of CrowdTwist, the provider of omni-channel loyalty and analytics solutions for brands such as Pepsi, Nestle, Vizio, the Miami Dolphins, Sony Music, and Zumiez. Fain previously served as director, digital marketing and content at Clear Channel, and before that was an investment banker specializing in raising capital for early stage companies. He holds a B.A. from Brown University.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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