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Building an Army of Brand Loyalists

To say Jonathan Kay, Ambassador of Buzz for Grasshopper.com, is passionate about Brand Loyalists would be an understatement. This week, I’m lucky to be joined by Jonathan as he presents a compelling case for why Brand Loyalists are critically important to your business and shares two proven strategies for building your own army of followers.

Go on to Twitter right now and say something bad about FreshBooks or Zappos. Wait 15 minutes and see what happens. I bet you some random customer comes immediately to their defense exclaiming about Zappos VIP customer service and next day delivery, or about FreshBooks great seminars and customer dinners. But who are these people…are they paid by the companies? (No. But they should!) They are Brand Loyalists. Now don’t confuse this with simply being happy users of their product /service.  These Brand Champions yell from the rooftops about you, they help you not only market, but sell your product as well.

So, how do you earn this type of loyalty?  There are a handful of strategies that have been successful for me in the past, two of which I feel especially passionate about:

Add Value First
When a customer engages your brand and purchases your product/service they don’t expect you to add any value beyond what they paid for. This immediately creates an opportunity to exceed expectations and WOW your customer.

Jonathan:At Grasshopper we are believers that small efforts make a difference. We try and take the time to thank customers who mention they signed up on Twitter, learn more about their product or business, and if an employee is traveling for work we try and reach out to a handful of local customers to take them out for dinner and drinks!

Personally, I had an experience with this when I signed up for my first Social Fresh Conference.  Social Fresh is a social media focused conference founded and ran by Jason Keath. Within 15 minutes of signing up and submitting my payment I got a warm email from Jason introducing himself and asking me what I was looking forward to specifically, he simply wanted to chat on the phone and learn more about me (as he does for everyone who attends his event). Not only was I wowed and now highly recommend his events, but because of this call we were able to identify an area where we overlapped and could work together.

Shawn: That immediately reminded me of the time I bought a couch from Haverty’s Furniture when I was living in North Carolina.  A few days after I made the purchase I received a hand written thank you note from my salesperson in the mail. I’ve purchased a lot of things over the years but I can count on one hand the number of times I was contacted after the fact.

But make no mistake about it, adding value exponentially outweighs a hand written thank you note. If I’d bought the world’s lousiest couch, those thank yous would be a small consolation when I am sitting on the floor trying to watch TV. Whether it’s for buying furniture, or for following you on Twitter, a little thank you can go a long way.

Listen. Then Listen Some More.
It is important to remember that your customers drive the direction of your business. Have you ever tried flat out asking your customers what they want? What they need? Listening is powerful, and by making people feel actively involved in shaping important pieces of your business, you will build incredible brand loyalty.

Jonathan: At Grasshopper we have a program called “Manager Engagement Calls.” Every manager and member of our senior management team makes 5 calls each week to new customers. The goal is to learn how their set up process went, if we are presenting material in a clear and understandable fashion, and most importantly what could we be doing better.

Personally, I had a very moving experience with a company called BuzzStream. The designed a creative Social CRM solution that makes my job a lot easier. When I signed up I realized there were one or two features missing that I thought were essential for me, and for other users of their product. I voiced my opinion via email, and within 48 hours got an out of the blue call from Paul May their CEO/Co-founder. Not only did he care about my feedback, but he used it to implement a good solution. I now tell everyone I know about their service.

Shawn: A few months ago, I actually had a vendor initiate a call to discuss areas in which they had underperformed and their plans to improve their level of service over the short- and long-term. Had they not said anything, I’m not even sure I would have noticed the things they brought to my attention but, because they did, I came away thoroughly impressed by their willingness to take ownership of the things they didn’t do well and to provide detailed countermeasures.

Think back to all of your experiences as a consumer of products and services. How many times has a company 1) provided a vehicle for you to provide feedback 2) acknowledged you were heard and 3) actually acted on what you had to say? I’m guessing your hit rate is well below 20%. What’s that say about your ability to create an active base of brand loyalists?

Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual phone systems for entrepreneurs. 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.

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com). Find Shawn on Twitter @ShawnGraham or via email at shawn(at)courtingyourcareer.com.