It’s fairly safe to state that, even at the age of 26, my mother is still my biggest fan.
I’m sure a few of you know what I’m talking about: not content with just being a mother, she’s a full-time enthusiast of everything I put my mind to and has been since I learnt to stand on my own two feet. Admittedly, it’s likely to do with the fact that she has helped sculpt me from a quiet, homework-dodging, computer-shy, head-banging teen into the independent, confident designer and marketing guru that I am today (ahem!). But enough tooting my own horn, what I’m trying to say is, the majority of us are lucky enough to have a ‘biggest fan’ in our lives. And likewise, we all have that certain someone we can’t help but admire and draw inspiration from just because they are who they are and do what they do.
So, when it comes to marketing your business, why is it important to have fans and not just customers?
Now that such a high percentage of business is online it’s easier than ever for customers to come and find you and, if you provide a good service, it’s likely those customers will return – but with so much online business comes an awful lot of online competitors and so how you hold on to these customers is more important than ever. This is where having fans comes in – building a loyal fan base is so much more crucial than one-off (or even returning) custom and here’s why:
Fans will promote your business for you.
Have a think about some of the big names – Apple, McDonalds, Starbucks. They all have a loyal fan base who will quite happily promote them and their products for them. Equally, they will also have loyal droves of haters, but I will get onto that momentarily…
The importance being that you can’t put a price on having an army of dedicated supporters ready to fly the flag for your business simply because they like the cut of your jib.
Turning customers into fans…
So how do we turn customers into fans? Barry didn’t just wake up one day surrounded by ‘Fanilows’, nor Slipknot by ‘Maggots’ or Justin by ‘Beliebers’ (although the latest scandal shows a slight exception on that last one). You have to work at it.
A lot of it is about offering an experience that goes above and beyond the competition: injecting a bit of personality into what you do, taking some risks and breaking some rules…having said that, here are some rules I’ve set out to give you a hand! (It’s okay, you can break them if you want).
Offer quality – Yes, the first rule of fan-club is of course to offer a good product or service. If you offer something that customers love, they will be instant fan-converts, tell just about anyone who listens and defend your honour should you come up against negative press.
Get yourself out there – It’s very important to get yourself out there and yes, this means some social media interaction. Whatever your business or product, find the right platforms for you, brand them up and use them – now!
Listen to your audience – Do some research. Who are your customers? What do they want/like/look for in terms of online experience?
Do something cool – A personalised approach to marketing is an important rule of fan-club. People like to see cool stuff they can share, whether it be funny, interesting, clever, beautiful or inspiring. One of my favourite examples is Nescafe’s revealing of their new tin last year. In a brilliantly interactive campaign, they hid their new tin within coffee beans and uploaded it as their Facebook cover photo. The more page likes, the more coffee beans they removed:
Such a simple but effective case of customer interaction.Tread carefully though: what you do can depend on the nature of your business – if you own a funeral directory, running a joke of the week is not so cool.
Be consistent – This is a tricky one. Sometimes the time just doesn’t offer itself up, so set a plan. If you don’t have the time or staff to dedicate to daily online presence then set out your goals from the get-go. Even if you make your presence known two or three times a week, this is better than a whole day of social interaction followed by weeks of silence.
Take some risks – By all means have a look at how other businesses similar to yours have tackled their online marketing, but don’t be afraid to do something different. Not everyone will like your choices. In fact, I’ll use yesterday’s popular example of Seth MacFarlane’s decision to kill off the major character Brian Griffin in Family Guy: not everyone likes his choice, some people have responded by swearing off the show for good (after they’ve watched at least one episode to slate the new Vinnie dog I’m sure!) but hey, no one’s talking about South Park today. Well, except me– I am, after all, Matt and Trey’s biggest fan.
Tackle the bad press head on – We’re only human! We all make bad choices or errors and unfortunately, people are quicker to complain than they are to compliment. Online platforms can magnify these mistakes or bad reviews, but the way you handle them is what can really make or break you. One of my favourite examples being of the American Red Cross accidental ‘drunken’ tweet – they handled what I’m sure was a horrifying mistake with not only professionalism but with humour too, flipping the situation and gaining massive respect points.
Creating fans instead of customers is not a quick, nor straight forward task – it’s not just about driving sales nowadays and this is a change that a lot of businesses have had trouble coming to terms with. But it’s time to start looking at your strategy, making some plans and taking some risks that even Mother would approve of.