Companies can spend so much of their time trying to win over new customers -- or deal with those who are dissatisfied -- that it’s easy to take their biggest fans for granted. Easy, but dangerous.
As former Wired magazine editor Kevin Kelly wrote in an essay that has become famous in business circles, success in any kind of endeavor often comes down to attracting around 1,000 “true fans.” These are not only the people who pay for your products and services and keep coming back for more. They’re the people who are most likely to talk about you to their family, friends and coworkers, or to respond to your latest launches and promotions.
Your biggest fans shouldn’t simply be treated as a predictable source of revenue. They should be valued and positioned as the heart of the community you’re building within your sector and the wider world. Investing in these relationships will not only help ensure growth in your bottom line, but can also inform the direction of your organization and even provide some of the most fulfilling experiences of your career.
If it’s not always clear how to build on the success you’ve had with your true fans, it might be because they don’t present the same kinds of challenges as your other customers or the prospects you have yet to convert. They are not “problems” to be solved, so the long-term payoff of focusing on them isn’t always as clear. The smartest marketers, sales teams and business owners have learned, however, that weaving your biggest fans into the day-to-day work they do will bring benefits that go beyond what they ever expected.
Instead of thinking of your fan base as a goal that you’ve achieved, consider them a foundation for future success. Once you’ve got some, this is what you should think about doing next:
Companies have been known to spend a small fortune on surveys and focus groups as they search for what their market wants most from their products and services, or other pain points that have yet to be addressed. Your biggest fans, however, are often key sources for these kinds of insights, and since they’re already impressed with your company they may be eager to share them.
Some firms have invited their biggest fans to help form a customer advisory council that connects via online portals or even conference calls. Others create more targeted surveys or mechanisms where their biggest fans can offer suggestions on new product features, new categories and even new markets they should enter.
If nothing else, you should be in constant contact with your biggest fans about what’s working (and what’s not) in terms of the customer experience they’re having. Even if they love you, there may still be things that can be improved. This can reduce the service issues you deal with from other segments of your customer base and with future prospects.
For all the talk of “one-to-one” marketing, few firms have mastered it, even with marketing automation tools that are now available to them. Yet personalizing the content you offer customers -- whether it’s an email message, a social post or an online ad -- demonstrates a more sophisticated and respectful approach to marketing and selling. It’s something your biggest fans deserve.
While you’ve hopefully been collecting lots of relevant data from your biggest fans already, you can also create digital experiences that invite them to share even more about their preferences, interests and needs. Then use that group of fans in a pilot project to improve how you could offer greater personalization across the rest of your customer base. This could be as simple as a newsletter that curates the most relevant blog posts for them, an online ad that promotes the most recent versions of their favourite products, or a social post that recognizes and celebrates how long they’ve been a customer.
Determine in advance how you define your biggest fans, whether it’s through repeat business, share of wallet, advocacy, or a combination of things. Then, as you roll out personalization to more of your database, you’ll be able to see how quickly and readily you can turn more of your customers into your biggest fans, too.
Yes, your biggest fans may be quick to recommend you, but only when they feel like it, and they’re essentially doing all that word-of-mouth marketing on their own. It’s not that difficult, however, to empower your biggest fans with tools that can inspire them to do even more.
When you’re launching a major marketing campaign, for instance, think about how you could collaborate with your biggest fans by giving them a first look at new products and services, along with pre-written content they could use, if they wish, to share on social media channels to their own dedicated followers.
Besides just asking for their promotional help, some firms bring their biggest fans directly into such campaigns. You could host a live video chat or Twitter chat, for instance, in which your firm and its biggest fans discuss recent trends in your market. Others turn testimonials and case studies from their biggest fans into blog posts, eBooks, or infographics that they’re eager to share because it raises their profile as well as your firm’s.
This brings up an important last point: making use of your biggest fans is not merely about trying to squeeze more value out of the relationship. It’s a two-way street in which you’re constantly looking for ways to improve their lives while boosting the fortunes of your organization at the same time.
Great companies don’t regard the fans they attract as some kind of lucky break or fluke. They see it as a partnership in which they use the information they exchange to learn more about each other and foster an even larger, more engaged community.