As most companies work to grow their businesses, they spend an abundance of time on product development. They want to build a product that meets an unmet need, get it on the market as quickly as possible, and then iterate over time to make it better.

While innovation is an essential part of what sets one company apart from the next, it isn't the only thing businesses should focus on.

Because even if you have the absolute best product in your niche, you could still have a problem with keeping the customers you work so hard to earn. Not good.

In addition to investing a ton of energy in building a product your customers don't want to live without, you've got to pay special attention to a more intangible factor that will help you earn their loyalty.

Why emotional connections keep customers coming back

According to researchers Alan Zorfas and Dan Leemon, creating emotional connections with your customers is great for your bottom line:

On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more - everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do.

Your customers connect with you on a deeper level through your people, your products, and your processes. I've seen this play out time and time again as I've evaluated why I'm loyal to certain brands.

I frequently go back to the restaurants where the staff knows my name and makes me feel like I belong there. Kind of like Norm, from the 80's sitcom Cheers. Good food is the expectation, but the relationship is what sets the experience apart.

When I shop at Whole Foods, in addition to getting healthy food, I like the feeling of knowing where the food I'm buying comes from and knowing that it was sustainably farmed and raised. Their processes align with my values.

And when I go for a run, I always make sure I log into Nike Run Club. The way they track my progress, highlight my achievements and incorporate social elements help support and encourage my quest for self-improvement.

I go to the place that gives me the emotional reward when I show up, in addition to the product they offer.

The product gets me in the door. The emotional connection is what keeps me going back.

How to create the emotional connection your audience craves

Build moving beyond the transaction into your company's culture. It must be part of the DNA of your business. That way, your customers feel that special bond every time they interact with your company, even if one of their beloved team members moves on to another opportunity.

To do this, first establish the standard of how you want your customers to feel when interacting with any part of your business. For example, Zappos' goal is "to deliver wow through service."

Next, ensure every person on your team is trained on how to operate in a manner that delivers this kind of experience for your customers. That way, no matter who your customer comes in contact with, they are able to get the same feeling.

You've also got to empower your team to engage in activities that support building a lasting bond with your customers. Instead of scolding a team-member for staying on the phone too long with a customer, Zappos highlighted the representative who stayed on the phone with a customer for nearly 11 hours. Here he is talking about how the customer responded:

Make it a point to reward your team for demonstrating behaviors that deliver the standard you set forth. This will demonstrate your commitment to creating emotional connections with your customers. And it will also help keep it top of mind for those on your team as well.

Creating quality products is an essential part of building a business that thrives. But it isn't the only part of the equation.

Take the time to figure out how to transcend the transaction and create an emotional bond with your customers. It is possible even if your business operates entirely online.

It takes more consistent effort, but the rewards that come from creating loyal customers are more than worth it.

Published on: Sep 22, 2017