I wanted to talk in very broad strokes today about why it pays to have a fan-centric brand. And what I mean by that is a brand that places a premium on connecting more closely with its most passionate customers.
But before we get into this post, I want to start with a very simple and profound truth: When your brand participates in a conversation it changes that conversation. Think about the online (and offline) conversation that your customers are having about and around your brand. When you take an active role in that conversation, it changes. When you interact with your customers and they with you, both groups have a higher level of understanding of the other’s POV. This is why it floors me to see so many companies that are scared to death of engaging with their customers online. Yes. it can be scary if you’ve never done so, but the opportunities are enormous.
This is why cultivating more interaction with your customers is so important: Because interaction leads to understanding. And without understanding there cannot be trust. Think about the people that you trust. Can you think of anyone that you trust even though you don’t understand who they are or what they stand for and believe in? I bet you can’t, I know I can’t.
You want more interaction with your customers because that can lead to trust. And without trust, you cannot have advocacy.
Then the process is: Interactions > Understanding > Trust > Advocacy
So then the starting point is to focus on having more interactions and engagement with your customers. Social media helps with this as it gives you a constant way to monitor online conversations and respond.
But it has to be your focus to want to engage your customers. Which is why I laid out this process because that level of engagement is the starting point for cultivating advocates/fans.
Now, if we are saying that you need to engage with your customers in order to eventually create advocates, then how do you explain the fact that Apple has such devoted fans?
This was truly the beauty of Steve Jobs and why he was such a visionary CEO. Jobs had the ability to understand today, what products customers would want tomorrow. For example, roll back the clock to 1999 or so when Napster was about to forever change the music industry. Many artists, such as Metallica, saw Napster and peer to peer file-sharing as a huge threat to their business and a lost of income. Jobs understood that Napster had changed our behavior, and as a result, we wouldn’t want to buy $17.99 CDs anymore just to get the 2-3 songs we wanted to hear. We wanted a way to buy songs individually.
Enter iTunes. And of course, we needed a way to store all these digital files and take them with us.
Enter the iPod. Where the music industry saw the threat posed by file-sharing, Jobs saw the opportunity, and capitalized on it. Because Jobs was the rare visionary CEO that had an uncanny understanding of his customers and what they wanted.
When did everyone decide that they wanted a smartphone with a scrolling interface? 2 seconds after they saw Jobs debut it on the iPhone in 2007. Jobs understood Apple’s customers and what they wanted in his products. Which is why his customers trusted Apple to create the products they wanted, and this is why the brand had such devoted advocates.
The odds are that your brand does not have a visionary CEO like Jobs. So you do need to interact with your customers so they can understand you, and vice versa. But that just means you have one extra step to take to create a truly fan-centric brand.
Oh and PS: Guess who’s blogging again? 😉