On this blog, and with my clients, I preach loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.
If people feel loyal to you, they’ll stick by your side and won’t move away from you to the competition.
If people feel like they know you and they like you as a human being, they’ll be 1,253x more likely to do business with you than to hire a cheaper agency just for the sake of saving some cash.
They trust *you*, which is the thing that matters the most.
But what if you’re blogging your heart out and feel like no matter how many embarrassing stories you tell or how much you expose in the name of transparency, you’re only just scratching the surface?
The truth is, especially if you’re the face behind your business, those things help a lot. So much you should never underestimate them.
When I stopped preaching copywriting advice at people and started giving business and copywriting advice from the story-telling perspective of my own experience, I noticed a huge difference in how engaged my subscribers were.
They felt like they *knew* me (because, honestly, they do know me now), and they had no problem replying with their own issues at hand.
And when you’re trying to create loyalty between you and your audience, that’s the thing you’re looking for to know when you’ve really won it.
But, instead of giving you more advice on how to create loyalty by going balls-out with telling your own story, let’s talk about some non-writing strategic tactics you can implement.
Ain’t Nobody Want a Gold Digger
“Large, publicly traded companies often choose to make favorable impressions on the investment community by behaving towards customers, to put it in relationship terms, like classic gold-diggers.
“Gold-diggers pretend to be interested in you, but all they really want is your money.” –The Human Brand
And, like, don’t you just f*ing hate it when someone treats you this way?
It’s really prevalent at networking events.
You go to meet other business people in your city, and there’s always this small handful of noobs there handing out their business cards and getting yours.
And two days after you gave them your business card, you regret it.
You handed it over because you could sense that new, fresh, enthusiastic feeling in them.
But… turns out that enthusiasm was just desperation to suck money out of you.
Because two days later, you get emails from them telling you how great it was to meet you and what won-der-ful they work they could do for you at a discounted “locals only” price.
Not only that, but they’re spamming the phone number listed on your business card with annoying coupon codes.
And, like, of course you know you’re never buying from them at this point.
Because they’re gold diggers. Only after you for your money, not your warmth, your personality, or your expertise. They only care about what you can do for them, not the other way around.
And interestingly, there’s a really popular business strategy around creating loyalty that 9 times out of 10, does just the opposite.
The Messed Up Advice on Customer Loyalty Programs
For the most part, as a consumer, I like customer loyalty programs.
The first one that comes to mind, of course, is the program I’m a part of with American Airlines: I use one of their credit cards for all of my personal expenses, and in exchange I get points I can use to buy flights.
And I haven’t purchased a single full-price plane ticket since 2014.
I like this program because, obviously, I get free plane flights without really doing anything extra.
And on the surface, I feel like I totally prefer American Airlines over other airline services.
But… do I really?
I think if another airline service decided to offer a mouth-dropping better offer than American, I’d use up my points with American and then promptly jump ship.
“This is certainly not relationship-based loyalty to a company or brand that we trust and prefer to patronize. It’s a financial rebate or discount for making repeated purchases, whether or not we like and trust the seller.” –The Human Brand
Annndd…. all those years of reading the advice that you should do the “free coffee cup” loyalty programs with your customers to make them more loyal to you….
Crashing down like the Challenger space shuttle.
“Our continued purchases are typically not a sign of our loyalty. Rather, they are more often a sign that we are essentially being held hostage, unable to switch to a better alternative without significant negative consequences of some kind.” –The Human Brand
And that last quote is why I’m still using the same business credit card, even though I hate their reward redemption structure. (Well, that and a bit of laziness.)
But you see where this is going, right?
And I think if you’re 100% honest with yourself, you’ll admit the same things about the reward and rebate programs you’re a part of.
Sure…. you might truly, genuinely love one of the companies that offers such a program to you.
But be honest for a second.
If you really love them that much, you’d still be around even if they didn’t offer it, wouldn’t you?
And THAT my friends, is the kind of loyalty you want to create in your business.
Community vs. Transaction
Because, really, how loyal you feel to someone depends on this one core factor:
When you interact, do you feel like it’s solely an item-for-money exchange? Or do you feel like there’s a magical layer of “they actually care about you” on top of it?
Because if that feeling of caring and communal communication is taken away, all you’ve got is an item-for-money exchange.
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with those exchanges (I make them all the time with the purchases I make), if you can add that extra level of caring, people will love you more and come back to shop with you more.
In the physical retail world, it’s why I’ve made Trader Joe’s my first stop for grocery shopping.
Almost every time I check out there, the cashier talks to me about my day and makes small talk about the yummy items I’m purchasing. And while in the long-term of life those conversations are inconsequential, I feel noticed, I feel valued, and I feel like they care about me.
We talk recipe suggestions and cooking tactics while they’re ringing up my items, we put them in my bags, and I insert my credit card.
And that makes a HUGE f*ing difference.
Because honestly, Trader Joe’s isn’t the best grocery store for me. Whole Foods is another store I love, and while they do have great loyalty measures and have a better selection for a person like me on a plant-based diet, that magical conversational touch isn’t there as much as it is with TJ’s.
In the online business world, I’ve found that I’m a HUGE fan of the businesses who have an active Facebook community I’m a part of.
I don’t mean those communities that are nothing but pitch-fests.
I mean those communities that probably don’t let you pitch your business, but everyone there is happy and constantly helping out everyone else in the group when they ask a question.
Those communities you love to be a part of because you know you can ask a question and get an answer.
And you know when you give advice on another question, people will read it and genuinely thank you for it.
And looking at things from the perspective of a detached third party, the products these people have might not be any better than their competition’s.
But because they’ve created these communities that genuinely care about me, I’m 100% buying anything they sell as long as it’s remotely related to my needs. Just because I’m so grateful for their care and their non-gold-digger attitude and the fact that I feel like we’re all already best friends.
What All This Means for Your Business
So, I’ve just made a pretty strong case for why we should all run Facebook groups.
But to be 100% honest with you… I don’t have a Facebook group, nor do I have the desire to create one right now.
They’re a lot of work to build up and maintain, and I just don’t want to do it.
But I think the need to focus on community over transactions in the way we deal with our prospective audience is clear.
In my business, it means being balls-out honest anytime someone responds to one of my emails or messages me with a question.
In your business, it might mean you do something like making those little chat windows available for people to ask questions as they’re browsing your website.
If you’re a big company, it might mean not making people jump through a million “press 3” and “say yes now” loops just to talk to a human being for help.
Or if you do have one of these “free coffee cup” loyalty programs in place, it might mean taking the time to get to know your most frequent participants, so they become even more loyal to your brand, and you multiply the power of word of mouth in your business.
But whatever it is, it all boils down to this one concept: Community > Transactions.