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Lou Imbriano

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How To Turn Your Customers Into Fans

Posted: 09/26/11 03:23 PM ET

As someone who comes from the sports and entertainment world, I view consumers from a different perspective than those who work in most "mainstream" businesses.

In our industry, consumers are fans, viewers or listeners. But the reality is, they're still very much consumers. The question is, should every other industry view their consumers as something more? Should they take a page out of our playbook and look at consumers the way we do? I think so.

Every company has Season Ticket Holders, they just don't view them that way. For example, the "regular" customers at a restaurant are, in fact, Season Ticket Holders. In sports, once someone makes this type of commitment to the team, we do not stop there and say, "Thank you for coming, we will come see you next year to sign you up again," (at least the well-run teams don't.) No, teams keep the dialog going and ask questions to learn more about their season ticket holders in order to sell them merchandise, special events and other revenue generating mechanisms that are associated with the team's brand.

As a small business, you are at a disadvantage if your consumer is not painting their face with your company's colors and wearing a "Tony's Pizzeria" jersey with your name on it like a sports fan would do. But teams and rock bands do not own the patent on fandom. Apple has consumers waiting in lines for new products prior to stores opening. Dunkin Donuts customers carry around "Souvenir Cups." Don't kid yourself, these consumers are fans.

Your company most likely has fans as well, but you just don't look at them that way. Your goal should be to identify these fans. To do so, pay attention and keep your eyes open for clues that may not be as blatant as a painted face, but still indicate fandom. But more importantly, if you want to grow your business, you need to convert all your consumers into fans. Fans will always spend more than casual consumers.

Many small businesses focus purely on the product that they are delivering to their customers to keep them coming back. While a solid product is important, just how different is that product from your competitor's? To turn your consumers into fans, you have to go beyond the product and capture these elements of brand fandom. Let's go back to the restaurant example:

1) Provide a personal tie-in to the company or people working there:
Waiters and waitresses should not only be taking orders, they should also be taking notes and getting a deeper understanding of your customers' preferences and who they truly are. All employees should know these details and utilize them to create a stronger bond. The more you know about your customer, the more you can use commonality to your favor.

2) Make your customer feel like they matter: If you are the owner or the chef, come over to the tables and say hello. Chat with the customers, get to know them, and make them feel like you genuinely care about them and their business. (By the way, it helps when you actually, genuinely care). If you consistently make them feel special, they will return for that feeling time and again.

3) Go Above and beyond expectations: Continuing with the restaurant example, send over a favorite dessert on the house; to make them feel special, bring over a new dish to be sampled, because you want "their opinion". Make them know through these extras that they are important to you. Always have something "in your back pocket" to pleasantly surprise your customers and spring it on them at just the right moment. Everybody wants a little more than they bargained for -- Give it to them.

These are just a few techniques that help convert the casual customer in to a fan of your brand. You should implement tactics like the ones above to grow your customers' avidity and transform them into core fans who will be with you for a lifetime of purchases. It's important to remember that when consumers are fans, they do not mind paying if there is true value in what you offer and if you make them feel special. Converting customers into fans is a game-changer when it comes to generating incremental revenue.

In Winning the Customer, we elaborate on this notion, how to identify the levels of fandom, and the different stages of avidity. We also discuss tactics to implement once you have converted them into a fan that will capitalize on this concept and lead those key customers to spending more with you. You may typically view consumers just as folks who buy a product or service from your organization. Stop looking at them in only that manner; realize that they have the potential to become fans and help your business flourish. Any company can have transactional consumers, but to guarantee long-term sustainability, your organization wants customers who are always screaming for more.

 

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