6 Steps for Successfully Nurturing Your Loyalists

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*Janelle Aslam is the founder of Start Something Solutions 

Most marketers yearn to connect with consumers by spending heavily on traditional and digital marketing.  Yet many are forgetting about their free resource: their biggest fans. Word of mouth has always been the best marketing, both before and after the digital age. These loyal fans already believe and espouse in your services. They brag and recommend your business to others without prompting.  And they would love to be recognized. 

The great thing about these fans is that you don’t have to convince them to love you, they already do! They are just as excited about your brand objective and will share the benefits and help you grow your audience beyond what you could do on your own.  And while this group is easier to work with than most other groups, it is not one to be forgotten and abused.    

If you want a healthy relationship with your brand community, you should consciously work at it. Your partnership with your most loyal fans is vital to your organization just as your personal partner is vital to your happiness.  Adhere to these six steps, recommended by leading marriage therapists, to ensure your brand ambassadors are feeling your love:

1. Seek advocates who share similar values

The best brand ambassadors are those that are recommending products not because of monetary gain, but because they truly believe in the value that your product brings to them. You want to connect with consumer groups who already love your products.  It’s okay, and actually more profitable, to not target every consumer. Just like dating, you need to pass on several mates who are not a great fit; you need to find your perfect match.

2. Listen to your partners

Provide an open door mechanism that allows them to share their comments (whether it’s social media or a brand community page) in the means and timing that is most convenient for your loyalists.  Listen to your brand advocates with an open heart. Don’t just ask about your product and service, but also query on the likes and dislikes of your competitive set. You may be inclined to only listen to the positive praise, but the complaints are where the great insights lie. Remind them often that you love to hear from them.  

3. Speak their 'love' language

Shift your marketing from a content-centric to an audience-centric approach. How your loyalists define your product/service are often different than the ‘corporate’ terms you use to market your business. You need to use their ‘voice’ in order to resonate with your target audience.  And who better to speak on your behalf and in words that compel your target than your actual user? 

4. Work together 

Most businesses take their loyalists for granted; your consumers need to be catered to as well. Make sure that there is a reason for your brand to not only exist but to truly delight their functional and emotional wants. Reward your loyalists with gifts they would appreciate. Provide your fans early access to your new products; they will be delighted to have an exclusive first access and will be more inclined to send feedback and tout the product.  Similar to reviewing your ideas with your spouse before executing them, you should vet your new products and marketing campaigns with your loyalists first before releasing it to the world. 

5. Grow together or not

Your partner is not a static object; their needs change; the same goes for your brand ambassadors.  Expecting both to remain the same is unrealistic and unfair. While your loyalists bought your product in the beginning due to a hope that you would serve their need, you can’t assume that need state will stay the same. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand the reason for their negative comments and show your consumer that you are acting on their recommendations. As each of you grows, you may need a new relationship status, whether that means elevating their status to speak on your behalf or severing ties.  

6. Take care of yourself

Make sure that your needs are being met as well. You can’t take care of your loyalists if you are not happy and don’t grow yourself. You will have dissatisfied consumers and ones that you will not be able to appease. While some prefer cash incentives, most are happy with occasional product samples and other perks.  Don’t break your spirit or bank account by trying to appease every consumer. Take a break from your advocates occasionally. 

Any type of relationship takes work to ensure both parties are happy.  But by consciously working on this list, just as you do with your personal relationship, you should be able to mutually build your brand objectives.  Nurture your relationship with your consumer and they will help you in return! 

Start Something Solutions was created to bridge consumer needs and wants with company objectives.  Our advisory firm helps you get to the heart of your target and align your product and marketing to what’s profitable and efficient for both parties. Email me anytime at Janelle@startsometingsolutions.com; I look forward to helping your relationship grow!

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The founder of Start Something Solutions, Janelle Aslam, has an MBA from Cornell University and a Bachelors from Miami University (the one in Ohio). After graduating from Miami, she worked as a business analyst, account manager, and marketing manager for Nestle Purina. She then aided SC Johnson in developing their shopper marketing role, including consulting with several northeast retailers. While she loved working for SC Johnson, she left for a New Jersey-based company so she could manage a brand and be close to her husband's family. She started on the Claritin brand team with Schering Plough and then spent the next two years launching Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotics. After a buyout from Merck, Janelle joined Hisamitsu to market Salonpas within the US. Most recently, Janelle served as Director of Marketing for Freshpet, building the brand, launching several new products and implementing processes to aid the rapid growth of the organization.