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How to turn customers into fans

From Customers to Fans: Creating Brand Loyalty

The energy was palpable. You felt it walking into the building, up the elevators, and leading into the office. Everyone was into it.

Tonight was  the  night.

In a previous life, I used to work in the sports and entertainment industry. Regardless of whether it was the first game of a season filled with high hopes, the start of the playoffs that were loaded with expectations, or a huge multi-show concert, the energy from the office was the same. Yes, we were employees working to support the business, but first and foremost, we were fans.

All the way up to the CEO. That’s why we joined. It was to pour our heart and soul into something we love. If you weren’t willing to do that, you wouldn’t succeed in that type of environment.

Now, fandom isn’t only reserved for sports and music. Some of the biggest brands in the world have this kind of loyal following. The same can be said for local restaurants, hair salons, golf courses, clothing stores… the list can keep going.

They may not congregate in front of a giant TV or the bright lights of a stage, but they have the same passion for a brand that gives them strong feelings. And that feeling is nothing short of joy because they’re getting more than what they paid for.

There’s a single distinction between a customer and a fan. A customer is simply exchanging money for a product or service. Sure, a fan does that, too, but it goes well above and beyond. Fans show their loyalty by advocating for the brand they love. No matter who cares. It might be in person or on social media. They are your best source of marketing, and nothing’s more powerful than word-of-mouth marketing.

Ask Hollywood.

If you’re looking to turn your customers into fans, it revolves around surprising them with delight when they least expect it. Exceeding their expectations of what you – or your competitors – offer.

The Welcome

This isn’t about pouncing on customers with a hundred “how can I help you’s” the moment they walk through the door. It’s using the introduction to your brand experience to blow their mind. Ideally, it happens after a purchase. Why? Because once they’ve purchased, they’re committed to you, and now you’re doubling down on your commitment to them. And this takes empathy.

Put yourself in your customer’s position. How can you elevate a basic experience to an exceptional one? A restaurant can offer free charging stations at the table. A golf course can offer a few tees and balls in a golf cart they’ve rented. A hotel can have an Alexa in every room. There are so many initiatives and ideas that can be built into the cost that fans won’t even calculate but will rave about after the fact.

The Follow-Up

A simple follow-up shortly after a first purchase can go a long way. It can be by phone, email, or even text. It’s rare these days to have a business reach out to see whether everything went as you had expected or where things can be improved. Using this opportunity to delight will not only be appreciated by customers but will also provide you with areas of opportunity to improve or delight.

The Freebie

There once was a quote from Marc Cuban back in my sports days that goes something along the lines of, “Even millionaires jump up for the free t-shirt at a basketball game.”

It’s not about the t-shirt. It’s about the delight of getting something for free. We’re all human and love getting something for free, especially when we least expect it. When you buy a $2,000 computer, what comes with it? A free sticker. Fans love to show their loyalty, and if you can curate an exceptional experience, while providing something to help them promote that love, everybody wins.

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t take much to start turning your customers into fans – just a little creative thinking. Sometimes, the executions are free. They just need a little bit of passionate, out-of-the-box thinking. If you’re too in the weeds of the business, leverage your team. I’m sure they’re bursting with ideas. You just need to ask.

As you start, the challenge will be that the more personalization, the better. Something tailored specifically towards each individual. When I asked a group of professionals what their best brand experience had ever been, a common theme seemed to revolve around the hotel industry. In a highly competitive environment, hotels know that storytelling matters. If they create an unforgettable experience for a guest, that guest will be telling people for years to come.

Sometimes, what they do can even turn it into a case study, like in the case of the  Ritz Carlton  and a little boy’s lost stuffed giraffe.

Now,  that’s  how you turn a customer into a fan.

Matt Coyle is Chief Customer Experience Officer, at Purpose Unlimited in Toronto.

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