Customers as Friends: 4 Ways to Create Brand Loyalists

Do you have a favorite establishment that you visit routinely? I do. Would you even go so far to say you’re a bonafide brand loyalist? Meaning, whenever possible (without being obnoxious), you sing the praises of your favorite brand to friends, family and colleagues? Yep. I do that, too. See the picture to the left for my vice.

And do you know why it’s my vice? It’s because this particular brand does something that no other business does for me. In addition to having a great product that speaks for itself, the employees of this company have befriended me. Before I even pull up to the window, they’ve greeted me by name, asked how my dogs are doing, commented on my new haircut and have my drink ready to go. They already know what I want before I even reach the window. (Which is helpful given my indecisive nature.) And that is why I’m a Dutch Bros. brand loyalist.

Is this something only restaurants, coffee purveyors and retail stores can do? Certainly not. Any business can cultivate brand loyalists, though it takes work. Lots of “going the extra mile.” But the benefits are endless considering you’ll not only develop deeper relationships with your customers that may very well result in creating lifelong customers, but it makes the job of marketing a whole lot easier.

Here are a four easy ways your business can begin cultivating brand loyalists or “friendomers.” Friend + customer = friendomer. (Yes, I did in fact just make up that word. Feel free to spread it liberally.)

Take some time to focus

Lines may form, call queues may build. Remain cognizant of performing efficiently but above all, give each customer as much time as necessary. Encourage your employees to engage customers in small talk and get to know a little about their lives – not just what kind of coffee they’re ordering or what service they’d like to add on to their account.

For example, if a customer calls in to make a change to their account before leaving on vacation, make note of it. Imagine how that customer will feel next time they call in and the employee helping them asks, “How did you like Fiji?” Do you think that customer will remember that conversation? You bet they will…

Incentivize Them

Customer loyalty programs are becoming the norm, so your customers have come to expect it. You may not win any loyalists for this step alone, but it’s a critical piece of the equation. We’re all familiar with them. In fact you probably have at least one or all of the following on your keychain right now: a supermarket, video rental, retail, gas, or coffee rewards card. If you don’t currently have some type of loyalty program in place, change that. ASAP. But don’t just do it for the sake of doing it. Do it in a way that really makes the offer compelling.

At Dutch Bros., not only do I keep my coffee punch card nestled securely in my visor flap, but I’m enrolled in the mobile VIP club that alerts me of generous weekly promotions. I actually anticipate those text messages. Can you imagine that? If you’d like to kickstart a loyalty program, you can either run a few appropriate keywords through a search engine and find multiple customer loyalty management companies that can help, or you can visit this resource list compiled by PR guru Kevin Laverty.

Better yet, Surprise Them

This is where it gets interesting…and with its unlimited potential, it could really help you build a diehard cadre of “friendomers.” Have you looked into Foursquare or Gowalla? If you haven’t I won’t judge, but I feel compelled to command encourage you to take a closer look at both. Both Gowalla and Foursquare are geo-location apps that are picking up serious steam among social media users.

Indeed, the growing popularity of smart phones and geo-location apps is a trend worth noting…so what are you going to do to capitalize on it? One great way to build a “friendomer”? Reward them with a free meal or deep discount on their 10th check in. If a customer holds onto the mayorship for more than a month, give them free meals until someone knocks them out of their position. There are loads of ways to have fun with this, and the potential is hard to deny. Jay Baer said it best in his post, Ignore Foursquare at Your Peril – An Analysis of Potential. It’s worth checking out.

This concept doesn’t just work for brick-and-mortar businesses though. If you’re a consultant or own a small creative agency and have been working with a client consistently, why not cut them a significant deal on the 5th or 6th project? Obviously they like your work. Go the extra mile to make them a lifelong client. Be more than a business partner. Be a friend.

Spread the Mindset

Sure you see the value of creating raving fans out of your customers, but that vision has to extend beyond the owners/management staff. Empower your employees to read between the lines and provide a little extra something to customers if the occasion calls for it. By all means, don’t encourage them to “give away the farm” but DO encourage them to recognize situations to connect with customers, and give them the license to act on those situations.

For example, one of your employees may have found out through a conversation with a customer that this is their 20th purchase with your company. Provide them with a toolbox of “incentive” goodies that they can take liberty in doling out to repeat customers. This simple act will speak volumes. And chances are, that customer is going to tell a friend about that interaction.

So does building a base of “friendomers” require some extra effort from you and your staff? Sure. But hopefully you’ll find the investment justifies the effort.

Let’s keep this list going. In addition to those mentioned above, what has your company done to build brand loyalty? Drop them in the comments…

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