“Don’t buy furniture that’s too comfortable.”
That was the advice my boyfriend at the time gave me a few years ago.
His rationale was that if your furniture is too comfortable, your guests won’t want to leave.
His advice made total sense. That is if you don’t want to create a welcome and comfortable environment for your visitors.
That wasn’t my goal. So I ignored his advice, and bought super comfortable furniture.
But here’s the thing: Even though I found his point of view odd, it’s one far too many entrepreneurs adopt.
Lots of businesses both large and small, treat their customers as if they don’t want them to stick around. They treat them like a transaction. Like people whose money they want to take, and then shoo them away as quickly as possible.
But if you want to do well in your business, you’ll recognize that this isn’t a smart strategy at all. Because smart business owners know that to get the biggest prize of all, they need comfortable furniture.
The grand prize all smart business owners want
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton, Founder Walmart
Your business exists to serve your customers.
So, to have a business that thrives, you need to have customers. But not just any customers. You need loyal customers.
That’s the prize smart business owners work so diligently to have.
Kevin Kelly defined the benefit of loyal customers this way:
“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing… They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”
A loyal customer, or true fan, is a gift that keeps on giving. They come back to you again and again. They buy more, tell others about you, and they tend to stick around even when you’re not quite at your best.
Research shows that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer, than to service an existing one.
Research also shows that increasing customer retention by just 5 percent, can increase company profits between 25 percent and 100 percent.
Lots of companies have recognized how valuable raving fan customers are. As a result, they spend boat loads of resources on loyalty and engagement programs to keep customers coming back.
And if you want to build a business that thrives, you need to roll out the red carpet for your customers too.
How to create a loyal customer
You’ve got to plan for it.
Begin with the end in mind, and then work backwards from there.
For instance, in my ex-boyfriend’s world, he knew he didn’t want guests to stay long in his home. So his plan to induce that outcome was to have uncomfortable furniture.
If you’ve decided that creating loyal customers is your end goal, then you have to create an environment that allows for that.
And the best way to earn your customers’ love is to move beyond the transaction. You’ve got to create some type of deeper, emotional connection with them.
Entrepreneurs can create emotional bonds with their customers through their people, products, and processes.
Here’s how a few businesses who’ve earned my loyalty used these methods to connect with me on a deeper level.
While camped out in Buenos Aires for about a month, I frequented a restaurant around the corner from my apartment.
The food was good. The prices were a little higher than I’d like.
And although there were tons of other restaurants in my neighborhood, I continued to go back to Decata. At least once a week. Mostly several times a week.
The reason why?
For the kisses.
In Argentine culture, you embrace and kiss loved ones, and acquaintances when you see them and when you leave.
For me, the kisses were an outward expression of the relationship I developed with the guys at the restaurant. They symbolized I was more than just the customer ordering a salmon caesar salad.
Every time I walked in someone would say, “Hola Sonia!”
There’d be conversation while I was waiting for my food (most of the time I took it to go). When I’d walk by the restaurant as I was roaming the streets, it’d be the same thing, “Hola Sonia!”
We’d chat. They’d tell me of places I needed to visit for festivals, tango lessons, and good live music.
And of course, there’d be more kisses.
So I kept going back. Even with the slightly higher prices.
‘Cause then I’d get to feed my belly, and check in with my guys.
Smart businesses build relationships with their customers. They know the long-term value of a loyal customer, is worth exponentially more than any one transaction. Relationships build loyalty.
You can build relationships with your customers, by allowing them to connect with you, the person. Instead of just you, the business.
How do you build relationships with customers? The same way you do with other people in your life. You talk to them. You listen to them. You share with each other.
This works both with online and offline companies.
So as you work to grow your base of customers, make sure you plan for ways to connect with them on a personal level.
I’ve mentioned previously that I’m a Seth Godin superfan. Peep my collection of his books:
At this moment, Seth and I are not best buds. So what connects me to him isn’t a relationship. It’s his work. His books. His blog posts. His ideas.
But even I was a little skeptical when he launched his last book, What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn). It’s not because I didn’t think it’d be good.
It was because Seth assumed that I would love the book. He assumed I’d be so delighted by it, that I’d want to share it.
So when I bought one book, he sent me two. One for me, one to give away.
I thought it was gutsy.
But you know what? The book really was that good.
It inspired me. It challenged me. It spoke to my soul.
And it compelled me to want to share it. So I bought more books.
I’m not alone in my desire to spread the word about this masterpiece. Here’s an interesting stat Seth quoted a few weeks ago on his blog:
“For every order that is sold to a new customer, eleven are re-orders, sold to readers who are buying more copies to share.”
Loyal customers buy more. They spread the word about you to their friends. That’s happened for years with Seth’s work. But with this latest book, it’s occurring in massive numbers.
If your goal is to create an emotional connection with your customers through your products, you’ve got to have some guts. You’ve gotta have guts enough to create something you’re sure is pretty darn good.
Of course, I don’t think anyone sets out to create a product that’s mediocre or sub-par. And if you do, you’re probably not expecting to get a bunch of raving fans as a result.
You want to create products your customers have a special connection with. To do that, you’ve got to put a special amount of effort into creating them.
Here’s what Seth had to say about what it took to get to the final product with his latest book:
“The biggest challenge when I was working on the book was, “Is this enough?” You know I’m going way out on a limb, both financially and organizationally to do this. “Have I put enough tears into this book, because I am not going to get a chance to do it again?” And I will confess that when I wrote the last essay in the book I was in tears, and as I hold the book in my hand, I’m super pleased with it. There is very little other than the seven typos that I want to fix.”
People develop connections with products that they can feel the love in. It’s not just for the sake of what the product does. It’s about how that product (or what the product does) makes them feel.
Are there enough tears in what you create?
Are you producing products that are so good, they transcend their functional benefits? Are you delivering products that foster an emotional connection?
I love Chipotle.
And the more I got serious about the quality of the food I was putting in my body, the more my love for Chipotle grew.
My love affair began when I learned of their processes to bring me high quality ingredients for my delicioso burritos.
Then they eliminated all GMOs from their ingredients. I didn’t think it was possible to love Chipotle more. But it was!
I am loyal to Chipotle, because of what they stand for. Lots of people are.
That’s why every time I go, the line is super long. Like, rapped around the restaurant long. And out the door long.
And even with these monstrously long lines, I wait. Because I have a connection with this company that goes beyond burrito bowls and guacamole.
Lots of people do. That’s a big reason why they’ve got such a massive amount of raving fans.
Fans who aren’t afraid to publicly express their love. Check out some of their love letters:
What is it about the process that you use in your business that your customers will value? Do your values and the way you do business offer up any reasons to deepen the connection to your customers?
It’s time to go get your fans
Building a business is a lot of work.
Getting customers into your business is a lot of work.
So it’s crazy to invest a ton of time and resources into bringing new customers into your business, only to have them walk out of your life forever after a single interaction. No bueno.
That’s why smart business owners work to create loyal customers.
And if you make creating true fans your priority, you’ll get the best prize of all.
You’ll create a group of people who can’t get enough of you. Who’ll buy your stuff. Who’ll sing your praises. Who’ll feel connected to you at a deeper level.
All because you made their life better in some way.
Your business exists to serve your customers.
Make sure you create a plan that makes them stick to you.
Instead of making them want to run away.