This is Day 7 of 28 Days of Building Fierce Loyalty. Yesterday, the uber-fab Shelley Kramer took us out on the limb of being human. Today, one of my oldest, dearest and most business savvy Twitter friends, Jeffrey Summers, takes our conversation in a new and challenging direction. Be prepared to think. 🙂
Building A More Social Experience
By: Jeffrey Summers| @JeffreySummers
Just as a great photograph isn’t simply taken, it’s created, so does the story you tell about your business and the experience you offer those who have or have yet to, choose to do business with you. Consumer’s mindsets have gone through a recalibration in terms of how they perceive, establish and value – value, trust and loyalty, as well as how they now define their overall relationships with brands. Gone are the days of endless push marketing tactics. Today’s successful marketers understand “social pull”. Therefore, understanding how to create a compelling story and then communicate that story to those who would feel compelled to participate in it, is extremely critical in successfully defining effective marketing and a successful social business. The most effective means of communicating these values, now happens within communities.
So when considering the question of how to build deeper (real, organic) loyalty and trust (not the frequency scheme kind) with your customers through the creation or participation in a community, you have to consider the strategic nature of four critical issues.
Listening Or Know Your Customers
Sorry, but the Golden Rule no longer applies. Because it’s not about you. It’s about your customers (and employees!). You don’t treat others how you want to be treated, you treat them how they want to be treated. Huge difference. Obviously, the key is in knowing how they want to be treated.
Secondly, how can you add the right value to your customer’s experience with your brand if you don’t understand what drives their interest in the first place? Too many rely on anecdotal evidence and internal likes and dislikes.
It’s also, despite previous posts on this theme, not about simply being human, but about what kind of human? What values, traits and characteristics does your business identify with, that reflect your core target market? What about your experience is calibrated or engineered to reflect, support and facilitate those very attributes?
So it’s critical that you do some fundamental work toward understanding better, the who, what, when, where, how and why of what makes your customers, be customers as well as what makes them continue to be your customers.
Just who are they? Where do they get their information about products and services? Whom do they trust and why? What are their communication preferences? How do they establish trust? Who influences them? Whom do they influence? Why? What values do they subscribe to and how do they differentiate among them?
Whatever you think about how abused this word is, it still has powerful meaning.
The adage, “If you build it they will come” is a prescription for mediocrity and failure. You must go where your customers are and engage them on their territory and on their terms. Which is why it is important to have listened to the point of knowing and understanding where your customers (and others like them) hang out, what interested them, what they talk about, who the influencers are, etc…
Then you can formulate a plan for inserting your experience into the conversation, where doing so adds enough value that it creates customers – which we know to be the only goal of any business.
Provide the focus and platform for your own conversations (and their direction). Don’t try to control the conversations – because you simply can’t (there’s more of them than there are of you!) and you will come off as simply another ‘push’ marketer. Ask questions. Dig down into what your guests value and what values they consider most important when choosing whether or not to do business with you. Ask for feedback. Ask for references and testimonials that celebrate those common values that bind your community and allows your business to thrive in their presence. Nothing is more valuable than someone who influences others (trust) giving their community a sincere testimonial on your behalf.
What if you don’t have any communities around your brand or products & services? Simply create them. Whether through a forum on your existing website or even a completely separate one which allows for and encourages interaction, open and honest comments about your experience, etc… And don’t forget the offline events and activities that can leverage and support real loyalty.
This is a powerful point. Not many brands today are as open and honest about the value they provide – most because they don’t understand it from their customers perspective. Mediocre brands focus internally, not externally. They are not “community-centric.” And heaven forbid they encourage participation from their customers in refining and supporting their products and services. So the first one to do so will win every time.
Say what you mean and do what you say. Communicate to a power of 10. Add “meaningfully differentiated value” at each and every touchpoint in your experience. Map out your entire customer experience from start to finish (is there a finish?) and look at each and every touchpoint and ask yourself how you can maximize the meaningfully differentiated value you offer. You should also identify real opportunities to creatively add personalized value at the point(s) of engagement with each customer. Coach every employee on this every day.
Social Business is simple, it’s just not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it right? It takes coordinated effort and strategic thinking to make it work seamlessly. Consumers reward businesses that create more social brands with both their heart and their wallet. So the question you need to ask yourself, is how are you creating a more social business? Now it’s my turn to listen to your thoughts. Leave a comment and further the discussion. It really is too important to ignore.
Jeffrey is a 30 year veteran of creating, operating, Coaching and consulting with successful restaurant & hotel concepts that include national, international, franchised and independent brands. He is also the president and founder of the Summers Hospitality Group a full-service, national and international, Restaurant & Hospitality Coaching and consulting firm based in Fort Worth, Texas.