Loyal patrons are the foundation of any successful brand. But what’s the secret sauce? What instills loyalty, anyhow?
In short: personal experiences.
In fact, usually it’s repeated, positive personal experiences.
Loyal patrons are loyal not just because they know what you do, but they know firsthand how you do it, and they like how knowing that feels for them. Loyalty is based on emotion, the feelings people associate with you. Loyalty comes from trust, which begins with expectations that are fulfilled, well and consistently, over time.
In some cases, loyalty can go pretty far, bordering on the irrational. Similar to sports teams (any Redskins fans reading?) and crimes, when someone feels that their relationship with you is not only rewarding enough for them to keep engaging with you, but also important enough to them to weather a degree of discomfort, inconvenience, ridicule or punishment for you, that’s loyalty. As a brand, you’re especially lucky if someone can’t explain why they are willing to go to those lengths and stick their neck out for you.
Which means that the way people feel about you matters a lot. The cliché about people not remembering what you said, but how what you said made them feel, also applies to business. People may not remember the details of you or your work or mission, but they do remember how your interactions with them made them feel. So the quality of the contact with your patrons – in their eyes – matters a lot.
So, you’re confident you’re providing fabulous experiences for your audiences. But how can you instill fierce loyalty in them?
1. For your current audiences: focus on the feeling.
One of my former colleagues used to say, “joy is a strategy.” Try it out! Think of how you want your patrons to feel as a result of interacting with you (joy) and tweak your approach to reward them with exactly that, as much as you can.
Map out every possible step of their journey with you, from what they hear about you out in the world to their experience on your website, to how things go with you in person, to how you plan to follow up with them. Look at the places where you can bake in a more joyful, rewarding experience for them. Articulate the clear, visible value or benefit to them for being part of what you do if possible.
Test. Gather feedback about how it’s going. Recalibrate. Repeat.
2. For people who are not yet aware of you (read: new audiences):
First, remember: loyalty is earned. Be humble. You can’t be trusted, let alone be the source of undying loyalty, if you’re not even on someone’s radar to begin with. Truly new audiences don’t know who you are yet, nor why your work matters, because they haven’t yet had a personal experience with you. And there’s the opportunity. People must directly come into contact with you before they can form any sort of emotional connection with you that can lead to loyalty down the road.
Which means you need to be where they are. Go into missionary mode. Get out of the office, observe your target audiences in their natural habitat and gather insights that can help you deliver experiences that are not just positive, but also rewarding enough to entice them to want to encounter you again.
Then what? How do we get on the road to loyalty from there? See #1 above and goose it up.
So try it out. Develop an obsessive need to reward your clients. Repeatedly. Then see what happens.
The best part is – and this is the secret to loyalty – the joy strategy works both ways. The more we reward our patrons, the more fun, exciting and rewarding our work ends up being, too.
Now that can be transformational.