MARKETING

How to Get Fiercely Loyal Customers

You want your customers to not just love your brand--but be absolute fans of your company. Here's what you need to know.
Thousands of Chinese customers queue up outside an Apple store in Beijing's upmarket Sanlitun shopping district, in Beijing early morning on January 13, 2012.
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Who wouldn't want to have customers and clients that are fiercely loyal?

Sarah Robinson, business strategist, speaker, and author of Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities, says that's not only possible-- she says it's vitally necessary in today's competitive landscape.

I caught up with her recently as she took a break from her busy speaking and consulting schedule to share more about Fierce Loyalty with Inc. readers:

What is "Fierce Loyalty"? Aren't you talking essentially about what happens when you give great customer service?

Great customer service is a critical element of Fierce Loyalty, but only as part of a much bigger picture. Fierce Loyalty is the unshakable commitment we give to companies that we feel are an integral part of who we are, who we can’t imagine life without - companies that become an essential part of how we define ourselves.

Developing Fierce Loyalty with customers requires a deep commitment to more than great service. You’ve got to be willing to listen for and acknowledge the specific needs your customers have, and, most importantly, you’ve got to invest in a way to meet those needs. In my experience, this means building a community for them. Think of how Zappos and Apple, for example, have done just that.

Give me a couple of examples of companies that exemplify Fierce Loyalty, and why you like them.

Harley Davidson is a great example of Fierce Loyalty. Everyone wants the kind of customer loyalty they’ve cultivated. Harley owners don't just ride the bike, they wear the t-shirt, the hat, the tattoo. They understand each other, even if they’re meeting for the first time. Being a part of the Harley community is an integral part of how they define themselves. Harley riders won’t consider replacing their motorcycle with another brand. Why? Because that would mean giving up their place in the Harley community, and that isn’t going to happen. They are just too invested.

Uber, the on-demand car service, is rapidly building Fierce Loyalty. They deliver an exemplary product in a spot-on way: their customer service is unparalleled (just check out how they handle complaints on Twitter), and their innovation just never quits (they deliver “on-demand roses” on Valentine’s Day and “on-demand ice cream trucks” in the summer.) And, most importantly, they create conversations among members of their rabid followers-- which makes a real difference when, as often happens, they have to fight state and local agencies for the right to operate. Think of the impact when their Fiercely Loyal community (including drivers) takes to social media to fight for them in cities they're looking to expand in.

What happens when you generate Fierce Loyalty--what's the benefit to a business owner?

As I show in my book, there are here many benefits in creating Fierce Loyalty. Here are five of my favorites:
1. Empowered Evangelists. Empowered, rabid, Fiercely Loyal brand evangelists are the Holy Grail in today’s loud, crowded marketplace.
2. A Grassroots Research and Development Team. Want to know if the product or service idea you’re working on is going to hit the mark? Test it out with your most Fiercely Loyal community members and pay attention to their feedback.
3. A Hungry Customer Base. By involving your customers in product development and product testing, you give them a stake in the product’s success. They will be waiting on the edge of their seats to buy the product they helped design.
4. Reduced Customer Attrition. We all know that it is far easier and far cheaper to keep the customers you have than to go out and beat the bushes for new ones month after month. A Fiercely Loyal community of brand advocates who feel deeply connected to your business aren't going to leave you at the drop of a hat.
5. Happier Customers. This is probably my favorite. According to all of the happiness research out there, building the right community for your customers will make them happier. I do better work with happy customers, and I bet you do, too. Happy customers complain less, buy more, and pay their bills on time. What’s not to love?

How does the owner of a small business start building Fierce Loyalty?
Start by knowing what you want-- very clearly. The clearer you are about your goals, the easier it will be to see how to get there.

When I first sit down with a client, before I pull out the Fierce Loyalty model to begin work, I ask them to spend time thinking about their answer to one question: “Why do you want a community?” The answer to this question determines every choice and every action you will take as we move through building your community.

If you’re a small business owner and you like the idea of having Fiercely Loyal customers, spend some time with this question. Come up with several possible answers. Discuss it with people who are vital to your business. It’s the single most important thing you can do to begin the Fierce Loyalty process.

 

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Sep 4, 2013




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