Yesterday we defined the different levels of customer engagement that businesses experience and we concluded that the pinnacle we want to aim for is to turn every customer into an advocate. An advocate is someone who speaks up for you, someone who says only positive things about you, someone who becomes almost an unpaid salesperson for your freedom enterprise.
It will come as no surprise that most businesses struggle or indeed fail miserably to attract customers like this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to do. It’s just that most business people over complicate business.
More on that later, but long before we can coerce customers into involuntary outpourings of love for us, we need to find them and attract them to our little enterprise. Everyone out there in the big bad world who might one day buy something from your little business, I’m going to call a Suspect. Suspects have never encountered us, haven’t even heard of us yet, maybe don’t even know they want what we got…man!
So how we gonna get them to buy something from us?
To start with, that’s completely the wrong question. Don’t start with the intention of selling anything to anyone. The only way to do that from a cold start is to join the race to the bottom as far as pricing is concerned, become an annoying twattish, cold calling salesman, or indeed just jump out at them in the street and harangue them into buying some tat from you.
All of the above will result in, at the very most, a one off small sale that will never be repeated. Attracting customers is hard and sometimes expensive, so you must aim for long term relationships with all of your customers, slowly pushing them up the loyalty ladder to becoming advocates for your business.
So, like all good, strong, loving relationships it takes time. We need to start by wooing each individual customer, gradually making sure that they fall under our spell of awesomeness and want to shout our name from the rooftops to all their contacts.
As each little awe struck suspect falls through your trap door of delights to become a prospect, you need to start treating them like they already are an advocate for your business, even before they’ve bought anything. That could take many forms, but will definitely include bending over backwards to help them achieve their goals and dreams, lots of free information that is relevant to helping them do that and truly unlimited support and assistance at all times.
This method of doing business is called permission marketing. You hand out in the places your usual prospects hang out and slowly build a Tribe of people around you who share your values and motivations. Ask them to put their hand up for some free, but valuable information. Ask them if it’s OK for you to keep in touch and promise you won’t bug the tits off them with sales emails and tat. Then, just don’t bug the tits of them with sales emails and tat, but keep in touch regularly or they’ll think you don’t care. Gradually you’ll find that a percentage of them become increasingly engaged with what our doing. Others interest will wain and they’ll drop off your radar. For one of my online enterprises I have about 45% engagement from the email list associated with it and that is good, less is acceptable. When you know these numbers you can start to clean the list and refine your approach.
Of course it goes without saying that whatever you’re selling has to not only be the absolute best it can be, but also has to look, feel, sound and smell like it is the absolute best there is…quality is the only way to go. Lowest price is the fastest way for you to go straight back out of business and will attract all of the wrong, most annoying people who you won’t be able to bring yourself to treat nicely anyway, so make it easy for yourself and stay away fro pricing wars.
Now, all of the above is relatively easy to say and relatively easy to do when it’s just you and a handful of customers, but how do you keep it up when your business grows and maybe you have employees? How on earth do you get employees to repeat your formula?
First thing to say here is that despite what you might read in a shelf full of business books, People cannot be managed; they can only be influenced and it’s this influence, your influence, that is the key to cascading your customer loving principles down through your business.
Easy to say again I hear you scream, but how do you do that? Go back 4 paragraphs and replace the word “suspect” with “employee”. Let me do it for you here:
As each little awe struck new employee (awe struck, because your reputation for being an epic employer goes before you) falls through your trap door of delights to become a prospective long term employee, you need to start treating them like they already are an advocate for your business, even before they’ve sold anything. That could take many forms, but will definitely include bending over backwards to help them achieve their goals and dreams, lots of free information that is relevant to helping them do that and truly unlimited support and assistance at all times.
In fact you can’t stop there. To allow this philosophy to permeate your entire enterprise, regardless of how big it becomes, you need to begin by treating everyone you encounter as if they are already an advocate for your business. This should include all customers, regardless of how small, all employees, regardless of their role, suppliers, neighbours and even competitors. Just start treating everyone like they’re special and you’ll see what I mean.
If you want to study further on similar business philosophies you could read the following books, one of which is my own:
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Next time, we’ll look at some tools you can use to attract suspects into your tribe of prospects.