Having satisfied customers is an admirable goal. However, having customers who love your brand so much they not only keep coming back, but feel so passionate about it that they feel compelled to share its promise with others, is a more fulfilling and potentially rewarding one. As Ken Blanchard explained in his best-selling book Raving Fans, “If you really want to ‘own’ a customer, if you want a booming business, you have to go beyond satisfied customers and create Raving Fans” – i.e. brand evangelists who essentially act as walking, talking billboards. To achieve this, your mission is not simply to satisfy clients – it’s to exceed their every expectation so that they won’t consider going anywhere else. Customers have to be so thrilled with the respect shown and treatment you deliver that they’ll be floored by the prospect, and so enthusiastic about the benefits conveyed, that they simply can’t help but tell everyone else how amazing your business truly is.
Sounds complicated, right? Not so much… this wow factor is actually easier to achieve than you may be thinking. The trick: Always asking yourself what’s in it for them and striving to create massive value for your audience. And, of course, by recognizing the power of your customers and the magnitude of their voice in the age of social media, the world’s largest echo chamber, realizing that the secret to providing great customer service is simple: Spoil everyone. In other words, instead of simply living up to your word, you want to go far above and beyond expectation, providing small touches, signature flourishes and surprising coup de graces that fulfill the promise of the exchange far beyond merely delivering to the letter of formal contracts.This is where the concept of UPOD comes into play. UPOD is a concept described by Wall Street Journal writer Mike Michalowicz which urges businesses to “under-promise, over-deliver.” Given the tightening business environment, customers are increasingly coming to expect underwhelming experiences from enterprises who make little secret of their constant striving to ruthlessly maximize output while minimizing costs. When you go the extra mile, and give them more than they expect, such as faster service, personalized help, more purchasing options or faster shipping, you don’t just reinforce that their business matters. You end up with customers who – more times than not – are unexpectedly surprised and delighted, and more than just satisfied with their decision to buy from you.
This strategy works on the simple premise to change the shape of your promise as a service provider. By modestly setting more reasonable expectations up-front, you not only minimize sources of potential confusion or error. You also allow ample cushioning to account for any steps of the fulfillment process which are inadvertently delayed or stand the potential to go awry. As a business, less lofty expectations may seem like a counterintuitive goal to set. But here’s the key: So long as you’re reasonable and realistic with such repositionings, and make a goal of clearly and consistently outperforming the initial metrics set, delivering far beyond base requirements and exceeding anticipated performance, your organization will just as frequently raise eyebrows, prosper and pique continued interest. Goals such as creating more manageable processes and workplaces, and improving employee retention efforts and associates’ quality of life may come at a short-term profit loss, but provide significant long-term gains. Invest in creating a better business environment and supporting infrastructure, and you actually set your organization and associated up to succeed more frequently, and take a greater sense of responsibility, pride and ownership in their work.
Why do these shifts matter? From their first impression to the end of their purchase transaction, you have several opportunities to encourage your customers to become raving fans of your product. For enterprising companies and workers looking to connect with clients, every touchpoint provides an opportunity to delight and amaze. If you’ve provided yourself and your team greater leeway and latitude to provide more personalized service and a better than anticipated experience or end-result, results can quickly add up. In fact, many of today’s most successful organizations realize that methodologies and processes exist for a simple reason – to solve problems and generate positive results, the best of these providing win-win scenarios for shoppers and businesses. And once a customer knows you’ll go above and beyond what they expect every time he or she orders from you, they become a great candidate for a potential brand evangelist.
But just how do your customers transform from loyal buyers to people who are willing to adopt your brand as part of their personal identity? And how do you inspire such brand loyalty that these individuals won’t just be willing to chat about you on social media services, but potentially wear your logo on their tee shirt or lug around a bag branded with your name on the side? The key is to steadily and surely grow expectations over time, yet universally surpass them.
In other words, you need to understand just what it is your customers expect from your brand or business. To find this information out, you’ll need to inquire, observe and translate their aspirations into actionable responses. Both internal motivators like needs, self-image, wants and external motivators like social acceptance and social status come into play when determining whether a customer will fall in love with your product. Moreover, if you hit the bull’s eye and can transform key tastemakers into vocal fans of your product, chances increase dramatically that others will notice and follow suit. A great example of this principle occurring is when a celebrity – like Duchess Kate of Cambridge, for example – wears a specific article of clothing. Within days, it’s often sold out everywhere because of her status, tacit endorsement and what the article of clothing then comes to mean and represent to the wearer. While you may not get celebrities to fall in love with your brand, you can always focus on courting key influencers that are major fans and keeping lines of communication clear and open.
Another way to turn your customers into brand evangelists is to offer them a completely unique experience. Take the gas station shake beverage brand f’real for example. In consumer taste tests, which the brand often engages in, the product stands on its own, surprising many people who didn’t expect such rich taste. Its machines are also fun to use, featuring customizations that give the consumer some control over the experience and videos to watch while your shake is being made. This adds a fun element to purchasing their product. Their brand experience is then paired with an active social media presence that encourages fans to share photos, testimonials and the surprise messaging the customer finds under the lid of each beverage. In this sense, collecting photos of the sayings almost becomes a game amongst fans, who become eager to share their discoveries.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of spotlighting and celebrating your community, core evangelists and repeat customers. This includes rewarding and showing your appreciate for your own employees who vouch for you on a daily basis and serve as ambassadors for your brand through daily customer interactions. If neither of these audiences truly love your company, or are neglected, it’ll be hard for them to convey enthusiasm and promote its value to others. Rewarding loyal fans needn’t be an expensive proposition – sometimes, acknowledgement and letting them know their voices have been heard are enough. Saying thanks with special discounts and vouchers, or asking for active contributions in the form of product suggestions or feedback are just a few of many ways to make them feel loved and appreciated.
Creating a reputation as a subject matter expert in a specific area is both simple and difficult. On the one hand, some say it takes 10,000 hours of study and hands-on experience to become an authority in any given field. On the other, others would argue that all it takes is a little marketing and social media savvy, so long as you’ve got something unique, insightful and important to say.
Astute observers will often note that in the age of disruptive innovation, leaders often boast only two defining qualities – the ability to solve problems and create results. Happily, there’s always room for the ranks to be swelled. Read the books, taken the classes, and watched all the video clips, and feel you’ve got something relevant and singular to add to the conversation? Here are seven ways to establish yourself as a thought leader online, share your knowledge, and let the world know you’re someone worth paying attention to – all of which can help you shave a few zeroes off the time it takes to enter the ranks of the elite.
Publish a Book – Writing and marketing an eBook is a beneficial way to demonstrate your talents, establish credibility in any given topic, and generate interest and awareness. Nor does it have to be a strenuous one: Thanks to the rise of Kindle Singles, short-form works and free giveaways, the average size of these volumes is rapidly shrinking, with some reaching just 20-30 pages in length. Can’t seem to find the time to pen original volumes? Many authors simply anthologize or republish preexisting articles or blog posts into digital or print-on-demand works using services like Lulu, SmashWords and CreateSpace, while services like Hyperink will actually assign journalists to write the work for you. Simply choose your topic du jour, create a title that contains popular search engine keywords, submit it to iTunes, Amazon, Kobo and various self-publishing solutions (total time typically clocks in at under 15 minutes per platform) and you’re off to the races.
Start a Podcast – Dream of starting your own radio or TV show? Podcasting’s just a fancy word for recording audio or video programs and uploading them for sharing onto the Internet. All you need to get started: A smartphone or audio/video recorder, many of which are perfectly capable of taping crisp video dictation or capturing high-definition film clips. A great solution for do-it-yourself aficionados, segments can quickly be recorded and distributed with only an Internet connection and some inexpensive AV equipment. Once you’ve recorded your first few sessions, try sharing them through online aggregators, and promoting them on your website, blog, social media channels and via email – whether you aim for 3 minutes or 30 in length, segments are easy to download, consume, and share at audiences’ leisure. Trade secret: All let you create concise, yet engaging clips that are great for showcasing organizations’ and individuals’ personality – and, since they’re designed for short-form consumption, can often be recorded or filmed in cost-effective batches.
Host a Webinar – Looking to educate audiences, providing teaching and training, or boost awareness for various topics? Webinars let you cram in all the ideas, content and insights viewers would get from learning seminars while eliminating geographical and financial barriers that would prevent them from attending. Since webinars can be cost-effectively produced and streamed online, as well as recorded for later archiving and republishing, they provide a uniquely efficient way to connect with customers. Best of all, they can be attended by anyone, anywhere, whether at home or the office, and provide fans a chance to engage with you directly.
Write a Whitepaper – A white paper is persuasive report or guide from a reputable source designed to educate and inform readers about an issue, give them the information they need to solve problems, or provide the expert learning required to help facilitate better decisions. Usually five pages in length, a white paper is not a direct sales pitch, but rather offers information, ideas and insights designed to deliver audiences with valuable information that can help them craft better solutions. As a marketing tool, these documents often present facts and logical arguments that build a favorable case for the sponsoring company. There are three distinct types of white papers starting with the backgrounder, which explains the benefits of a certain vendor’s product and services. Problem- and solution-oriented white papers, on the other hand, recommend new answers to problems, while a numbered list white paper contains a set of points, questions or tips about certain business issues.
Create an Online Newsletter – Dozens of online email marketing services such as ConstantContact, AWeber and MadMimi let you craft custom communications solutions or draw upon template designs to build unique digital mailers and newsletters. Using these tools can help you provide a one-stop source for information on issues concerning various topics and fields, and establish a regular pattern of communication with readers. Not only do they provide a handy and cost-effective way to compile a variety of thoughts and insights in one single solution, but also curate and aggregate content of importance to your audience. Bearing this in mind, many of the most successful may even contain little original writing – they simply serve as a one-stop shop for the latest details on new topics and trends that save readers the time of separately hunting down each story.
Become a Curator or Connector – There’s an entire community of millions of individuals just waiting to be entertained and informed online – if only someone can help them sift through all the pointless white noise. Thousands of articles, videos and announcements are competing for audiences’ attention daily: Helping them filter out the chaff by serving as a trusted source and aggregator for news, information and opinions presents an opportunity for you to become not only a valued curator, but also powerful connector. Want to quickly gain visibility? Pick a topic that matches your areas of interest, reach out to supporting audiences, and begin sharing links, posts, videos, photos, podcasts and more of pressing interest. Likewise, consider starting your own groups, communities and forums online, where like-minded individuals can congregate and share opinions – all, of course, under your sage oversight and aegis.
Speak Out and Be Heard – Volunteering to speak at conferences, industry events, and other public engagements can help you promote your name and brand as a recognized thought leader. Getting in front of key influencers in the industry and its supporting community consistently not only boosts empathy and awareness. It also lets you put a personal face on your brand, showcase your singular talents and helps prospective clients better comprehend the expertise you bring and values you stand for. The trick in both the online and virtual worlds is to become a trusted, welcome presence that travels wherever your audience goes, and consistently be demonstrating singular insight and worth.