Craving Fans: 5 Steps to Grow Customers
As a street-savvy franchise owner, you've done your homework. Your "shiny object" of brand, service, or product has been selected carefully, with an eye to profits and market-share. Now, you want to assess the current economic climate, to discover whether it best supports a full speed ahead approach or a careful step-by-step advance. The truth is that franchises have been known to both bottom-out and burst sales records in a variety of economic situations. Your best bet is to focus on using time-proven methods to grow a "demand for ownership" of your "shiny object" among customers and prospects.
The following five suggestions can help your franchise thrive through building a craving for ownership of your product, even in a down economy.
- Consistently meet or exceed the promise of your product, brand, or service
- Create a sense of immediacy
- Instill comfortable familiarity
- Provide uncommon courtesy
- Always sweat the small stuff
Keep in mind the power of human instincts to attract your clients to the "shiny object" of your brand, product, or service. Following these five steps will not only inspire customers to grab your product, but will build an unwavering fanaticism, a loyalty that ensures they won't let go!
Consistently Meet or Exceed the Promise of your Product, Brand, or Service
Let's start with the basics. If you make outlandish promises you can't keep, you'll never create fans. As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." This is not to say that every product must be of premium quality. After all, not every car is a Mercedes. However, the promise must fit the facts. If it's a cheap product that works for a while then self-destructs, say so and price it accordingly. Customers with limited budgets appreciate these options. But don't give the impression that $1.50 will buy something that qualifies as a family heirloom. By the same token, if your product, brand, or service is elite in its field, toot that horn! Make your promise, then stand behind it. It's the best way to grow appreciation for your "shiny object," and keep your customers coming back.
Create a Sense of Immediacy
Immediacy means, "You've got to get it now." It may seem crude, but building urgency around your product also builds demand. Keep in mind, however, that creating a desire to grab your product must be followed by a passion to not let go. To do this, the immediacy must be real. Fabricating artificial immediacy may prompt customers to grab, but does not build loyalty. The next time a competitive product comes by, they'll switch. In contrast, a real sense of urgency might exist for a limited edition product that will truly go out of production. Or, it could inspire the desire for ownership of an item with a specially reduced price, only available for a short time.
Your most effective priorities should center around an urgency connected to the "shiny object," itself. Such a sense of immediacy does not depend on gimmicks. It motivates based on the inherent attributes of your shiny object.
Instill Comfortable Familiarity
Comfortable familiarity is also known as brand inertia, and is one of the best ways to make sure your customers keep a strong hold on your product, brand, or service. Your goal is to make clients feel so comfortable that the energy or risk required to change is just not worth it. High-end car dealers are exceptionally skilled at this. Two days after you buy the car, they call to make sure everything is OK. A week later, they send a postcard thanking you for the purchase. A few weeks after that, you start receiving a special magazine all about your car and the lifestyle associated with ownership of it. They offer free oil changes and carwashes. They send you friendly reminders about service. And, heaven forbid if there's a problem! They'll do back flips to ensure your long-term satisfaction. This attention makes it very difficult to buy elsewhere, because customers are so comfortable, so familiar, that they not only don't want to try another option, but are thrilled to recommend you to family and friends.
Provide Uncommon Courtesy
People expect a certain level of service and courtesy in every transaction. Even when making purchases on the Internet, they expect polite confirmation of each order. But common courtesy is only the entrance price to the game, and sadly lacking in most companies. To win, you must practice uncommon courtesy. This is the kind of interaction that sets companies apart, creating a true bond between the customer and your "shiny object."
For example, many retailers have instituted policies that encourage employees to personally accompany customers when they ask where to find an item. The customer's "shiny object" is not casually mentioned as being somewhere between aisle ten and aisle twelve. Vons grocery stores have realized that most supermarkets have the same goods with competitive prices. By instructing employees to escort customers to their products, they've singled their store out as a provider of uncommon courtesy. Too often we find cashiers at the checkout stand mumbling something indistinguishable to us, or chatting about weekend activities with another employee. But at Starbuck's and Peet's Coffee & Tea (two companies hotly competing for the same market), counter servers seem genuine, sincere, and happy, as they cheerfully greet you. This is a hallmark of uncommon courtesy.
Always Sweat the Small Stuff
I have nothing against Richard Carlson's book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. Its relevant, clever, and makes pleasant reading. But just as this philosophy succeeds in smoothing our personal lives, the opposite is true when it comes to business. Companies either win or lose customers by "sweating the small stuff." Simple things like following up on phone calls, greeting customers by name, and saying thanks with a smile, go a long way to making your "shiny object" into something the customer wants not only to grab but hang onto.
Information may be power, but if not acted upon it's worthless. This treasure trove of knowledge can gear up your franchise marketing efforts, as you start a new year. Your future in franchise marketing can be "full speed ahead" when you build a desire for ownership in customers and prospects!
David LaBonte is a seasoned marketing professional, with over 30 years of experience. President and partner of AdMatrix, an Orange County, California-based marketing/advertising agency, LaBonte teaches futuristic marketing techniques to clients across the country. Author of the book, Shiny Objects Marketing (published by Wiley and Sons), LaBonte writes articles for marketing publications and blogs, and trains entrepreneurs in his successful marketing philosophy, called Shiny Objects Marketing. For more information, call 714.769.1521 or go to www.shinyobjectsmarketing.com.
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