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How to Build an Army of Brand Loyalists

Guest Post – Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual phone systems. He is extremely passionate about helping / meeting new entrepreneurs and always excited to learn about their unique journey. Find Jonathan on Twitter @GrasshopperBuzz or via email at jkay(at)grasshopper.com.

Having now lived through over a year of my first recession, I have learned a lot. Mistakes and tough times always seem to lead to opportunities and takeaways. The last year or two really taught me the importance of the customer, and the emphasis that needs to be placed on them. With entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for any way possible to save money, “Customer Acquisition Cost” has become an increasingly important metric. It’s simple… the less money it costs you to acquire a customer, the larger the profit margin.

This leads me to a real passion of mine: Brand Loyalists.

A brand loyalist isn’t just a happy user of your product/service: they yell from the roof tops about you, helping to market and sell your product! With all the social media channels available now, there are more and more people telling you what they need, and asking for advice. Having an Army of Brand Champions out there provides a powerful and unbiased sale that is impossible to reproduce. More so, real brand loyalists will spend the time to give you constructive, uncensored feedback. This will only help make your product/service stronger, and increase customer satisfaction in the long run.

Ok. So now you know how important brand loyalists are; the harsh reality is they are difficult to achieve. And, a simple discount or promotion code just won’t cut it. I have been fortunate early in my career to work with a handful of really successful and genuine entrepreneurs. This firsthand experience has helped me develop a certain level of expertise in this area, and below are some helpful tips I have learned along the way:

1. Add Value First
When a customer engages your brand and purchases your product/service they don’t expect you to add value above and beyond what they paid for. This creates an opportunity to WOW your customer and really exceed their expectations. Small efforts make a difference: engage new customers on Twitter and thank them, start discussions about your product, and if you or a colleague is traveling why not reach out to a few local customers and take them out to dinner or drinks. By engaging your customer right away you will make a connection they will never forget.

2. Listen. Then Listen Some More
Have you ever tried flat out asking your customers what they want? What they need? Simple…yes, but trust me it works. Why not just pick up the phone and ask them? It is important to remember that your customers drive the direction of your business. At Grasshopper, all managers call 5 new customers ever week. We ask how the setup process went, what we could be doing better, what we are missing, and how we could help? Listening is a powerful tool. By making people feel actively involved (not through boring surveys) in shaping important features/practices, you will build incredible brand loyalty.

3. Make a Human Connection
It’s important to let your customers know that you are more than just a brand - you are actually real people too. Make an effort from to have less formal conversations. A great example of this is our co-founder David Hauser (@dh). You will find him doing anything from thanking customers to talking about his Iron Man training.

4. Promote Your Customers
People never forget when you make a connection, or open a door for them. Make an effort to be constantly reaching out to your customer base, learn about them and their businesses. The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.

5. Build a Culture of Responsibility
You need to empower your employees to help your customers (and not just your support team). There is no reason everyone should not be concerned with how your customers feel about your product/service. Make an effort to always follow up after resolving a customer issue, this will make people feel heard, appreciated, and create a loyalist for life.