Pepsi or Coke? Ford or Chevy? Yankees or Mets? Bring up these subjects at your next social gathering and you’re likely to hear some noise. People have strong opinions about which is their favorite. That’s because these brands have a loyal following—some would say almost cult-like. Fans sport their logo, sing their jingles, and even meet-up at conventions to celebrate their brand. So how do you start your own business’s cult? Take a look at these ideas to create charged-up customer loyalty for your small business.
The beauty of a strong brand is that you don’t have to worry about attracting customers. Your followers will do the hard work for you. Start by considering these ideas:
- Be Authentic – Consumers today know when a business cares more about their customers than about selling something. They are looking for someone who can answer a question or help them solve a problem. Social media sites like Facebook or Twitter can help you start a conversation. Just be careful not to jump into a sales mode. For example, a local gardening store might post a video about pruning a rose bush. Of course they sell pruning shears too but first they want to help customers solve a problem.
- Establish Yourself as an Authority –Angie’s List has developed a following by becoming the authority on service-based business. By crowd-sourcing reviews of local business, subscribers have come to rely on the website as an authority in areas like home improvement. In fact, they have a 73 percent first-year subscription renewal rate. Look for ways to be seen as knowledgeable in your community. Consider giving a presentation at the next Rotary Club meeting or appear as a guest for a local radio call-in show.
- Let Them Join In – Give people an opportunity to help spread the word. Some restaurants have t-shirts for sale with their logo. One local burger joint gives a free shirt to any customer who can finish its oversized “lumberjack meal” in one sitting. Imagine having bragging rights to be part of that exclusive club! It creates a following that, of course, the big eater will cultivate any chance he/she can.
- Create Rituals – Rituals and norms help to create a unique identity for your business that’s difficult for your competitors to duplicate. For example, the cars used in the ride-sharing app Lyft have pink mustaches on their front bumper. When the car arrives, you hop in the front seat and greet your driver with a friendly fist bump. Rituals like this create a comfort-level with customers and make them feel part of the club.
Creating a cult-like following is not just for big brand names. Small businesses can create enthusiastic supporters too. The key is to authentically help customers solve problems with a memorable experience. Then let your customers join in the fun.