(Ping! Zine) – You wear their team colors and refuse to wear those of their greatest rival. You cheer for them win or lose but are always full of advice on how they could improve (just in case the coach ever gives you a call!). You’ll do what it takes to watch them play whether that means braving icy weather or missing yet another Sunday lunch with the family. These are the makings of a true sports fan and the factors that connect you to tens of thousands of like-minded strangers.
Yes, sports fans are loyal and passionate—so much so that, for many, their team seems like a close friend or family member. Marketing expert Maribeth Kuzmeski says this intense emotional connection to what is essentially just another brand begs the question: What can today’s business owners do to make their customers as passionate and loyal to their products as sports fans are to their favorite teams?
“I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan,” says Kuzmeski, author of the new book …And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-60176-1, $24.95, www.AndTheClientsWentWild.com). “I learned about football, the Packers, and what it means to be a fan from my football-loving grandmother. We cheered for our team when they were terrible and basked in the glow of the wins when they were better. But we never considered moving to another.”
While Kuzmeski now lives in a different football town where another big NFL franchise gets all the attention, she insists that the Packers are still “my team.” And it’s that level of loyalty that she strives to help her clients create in their customers.
“Fan loyalty is an emotional connection that’s often stronger than any other loyalty, frequently due to generational or family-based connections—or, for those who fiercely cheer for their college, or even high school, alma maters, connections based on nostalgia,” she adds. “Many business owners today might assume that there is no way they can elicit such passion from their customers, but with the right strategies, it is possible.”
In her new book, Kuzmeski explains that in order to truly get clients to “go wild” about your business, there must be an overriding and strong emotional connection—similar to the one you might feel for your favorite sports team.
“Success is all in what you offer and how you offer it,” she says. “You can get others to connect to your company, product, or service by passionately delivering whatever you have to offer. This is a true differentiator, because so few people and businesses actually act with this kind of enthusiasm. Thus, when you exhibit it, your customers and potential customers will take notice.”
If you want to learn how to create a die-hard-sports-fan level of loyalty among your customers, read on for Kuzmeski’s four absolutes for inspiring that kind of passion:
Offer something unique. Whatever you’re offering your customers can’t just be better; it has to be different. In order to gain exposure, it helps to be or to offer something unique—or do something that no one else dares.
A great example of a company that understands the “different is better” mantra is Buc-ee’s gas stations. They have focused their number-one offering on what people dread most about stopping at a gas station: the bathrooms! Each of the thirty locations has incredibly clean, substantially sized bathrooms, along with full-time attendants to keep them in tip-top shape. And happy customers regularly post testimonials on the company’s blog. Buc-ee’s built their entire business around the bathrooms—a feature they knew they could use to differentiate their business.
“This is a great example of how looking at things from a different perspective can really pay off,” Kuzmeski says. “Instead of focusing on what clients liked about their industry, they chose to plan their strategy around what customers liked the least and improve upon it. Think about what people dislike most about your industry, service, or product offering. What solutions can you offer? It’s a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition and to create some buzz in the process!”
Create something valuable (and viral!). This strategy is two-fold. First, you must have something valuable to say—a message your customers will want to pass on to others. Then, you have to make it easy for them to pass that message on. When it is really easy for customers to pass along information about your brand, they will.
“You might kick off this strategy by creating a simple, repeatable message,” suggests Kuzmeski. “People have an average attention span of only seventeen seconds, so you have to get their attention quickly. A short, clear message will certainly do the trick. Think about Google. For the most part, the company does not advertise, and certainly did not advertise its initial offering of its web search site.
“Do you remember how you found out about the search engine?” she adds. “People were just passing along the straightforward message that you can ‘search for anything and everything on the internet for free at www.google.com.’ The message became viral, and the company’s growth notoriously exploded. It’s truly a great example of a simple, repeatable statement of value that was so easy to pass on that it spread like, well, a virus!”
Understand the difference between features and benefits. Too many businesses accentuate the features of their products or services rather than the benefits—which are what your clients really care about. Benefits are value statements about the features of a product or service, with an emphasis on what the customer gets. For example, “Open 24 Hours” is a feature. The benefit is that the business will be open whenever the customer needs it. Or say you’ve been in financial services for twenty years. That is a feature. The benefit for your clients is the experience, working knowledge, and years of training that result from your length of time in the business.
“Too many companies leave it up to their prospects to figure out the benefits of their products or services,” notes Kuzmeski. “Remember, you may be steeped in information about your products and services, but they aren’t. When you try to sell them on features alone, you’re asking the customer to do all the work—and she probably won’t. Bottom line: It’s in your best interest to draw a crystal clear picture of a product’s or service’s benefits for a prospective buyer.”
Don’t just say it. Do it! Often, the things you can do to turn your customers into die-hard fans are right under your nose. They’re the things you do every day, or those things you do simply because you want to provide your customers with the service they deserve. Kuzmeski tells a story about one of her financial advisor clients who didn’t have to proclaim that he provided excellent service—he lived it. And going the extra mile ended up paying off in a big way.
“One day this financial advisor got a call from a pastor explaining that an elderly woman at his church was completely lost,” relates Kuzmeski. “Her husband had recently passed away, and she didn’t know where any of the important papers regarding her estate were located. The advisor ended up going to her home to help her find her insurance policies and other important files. He ended up helping her uncover documents indicating $700,000 in assets! And he didn’t charge her a penny.
“Based on what he did for her, he created a survivorship program and quickly started receiving referrals from all over his community,” she adds. “Rather than ask to be trusted, he had shown he was trustworthy. Instead of asking her to trust him, he had shown his client she could trust him.”
“Making screaming, loyal fans out of your customers won’t be easy, but it is absolutely possible,” says Kuzmeski. “You simply have to give them a product or service worth going wild about. Hit on all of the absolutes I’ve provided, and before you know it, you’ll have clients who stick with you through thick and thin and cheer you on every chance they get.”
Article written by Dottie DeHart