DISCLAIMER: This article is not aimed at any specific group or groups, or “those other people who are wrong”. We all have a part to play.
You’d have to be living in an air-sealed cave to be unaware of the rise of Fiercely Loyal and Fiercely Dangerous groups around the world. I won’t go into specific details about any of them because all anyone has to do is turn on the news or scroll through Facebook to get more than enough information. However, there is one question I keep hearing from my friends, colleagues and even total strangers on social media about this alarming state of the world, and that is “How did we get here?”
While there are some specific and unique circumstances at play in many situation, I’d like to use the Fierce Loyalty model to unpack how it is these groups/communities have a) come into being and b) gained so much energy so quickly. My hope is, that by understanding how it is happening, we can stop finger-pointing at and begin to understand how to fix it.
So here we go:
Fierce Loyalty Building Block #1 – A Frame of Common Interest and/or Value
The groups I’m talking about in this post most often share one pointed, black and white, all-or-nothing interest or value. This could be a set of religious beliefs, a political point of view, a value/moral system, a hatred for another group, a thirst for power, isolationism, populism, racism (no one groups holds the corner on this one), fear, and the list just keeps going.
What “it” is isn’t nearly as important as the fact that “it” is clear-cut with a razor sharp edge and zero room for any gray areas. You are either in or you are out. And if you are out, you are reprehensible and will be shouted at, shamed and shunned. No discourse. No exchanging of viewpoints. No fact-checking.
In a world that is moving beyond the speed of light, where change is the only constant, where economic booms for some are busts for others, and the divide between the haves and have nots gets wider by the minute, it’s no surprise that there are people who are desperate for something to cling to as their world rocks out of control. People who feel disenfranchised and afraid quickly move into desperation. Enter the clear-cut (some might call it extreme) interest, belief or value that feels like a life preserver.
Building Block #2 – People Who Share This Common Interest of Value
With all media running 24/7 now and social media channels connecting people who would otherwise never meet, finding people who share a common value is easier than ever. Websites, blogs, youtube and even the Dark Web are all portals for spreading whatever message an individual or group wants to spread. It’s never been easier to broadcast a message and it’s never been easier to find others who share a belief or point of view.
This massive flow of information feeds those who are feeling desperate and searching for something that will keep them from drowning. Groups know this and are always on the hunt for recruits to convert to the cause. They know how to find the right people and craft just the right message that will tap their fundamental fears in a way that moves them in a powerful way.
Building Block #3 – Compelling Needs
As I said in my book, Fierce Loyalty, just because someone shares a common interest or value doesn’t necessarily make them candidates for a community. The same holds true for this discussion. Just because someone thinks, feels or believes a certain thing doesn’t mean they will automatically join a group that espouses that point of view. For that to happen, that individual needs to have three compelling needs:
- The Need for Belonging. They want to belong to something that is bigger than themselves. They are looking to be surrounded by like-minded people. Most of the desperate and afraid do not want to feel alone and isolated. They want to be part of a group that feels the same way.
- The Need for Recognition. I’m not talking about prizes and awards. I’m talking about feeling seen and heard. Those who feel disenfranchised also feel like they are practically invisible and voiceless. They are desperate for an opportunity to be seen and heard.
- Anyone feeling desperate and afraid is craving a place to feel safe. Any port in the storm they are experiencing fits the bill.
Fear and desperation push many people to actively seek out somewhere to go, somewhere to be, some group to belong to that makes them feel safe. They may form a group (that’s how many gangs get started). More often, they go looking for a group or organization that already exists so that they can experience an immediate sense of safety and relief.
How they get there isn’t nearly as important as the structure of the organization they join. Which moves us to the next part of the Fierce Loyalty model.
Building Block #4 – A Specific Organizational Structure
Groups and communities that build any kind of Fierce Loyalty vary widely in how they operate. However, they all share three specific organizational elements:
- Connection points. It’s not enough to connect individuals to the organization (which is incredibly important). The real power comes from connecting individuals to each other. These connection points can be as simple as a community meeting or as sophisticated as a secret dark web portal, and everything in between. It’s these connection points that give individuals, and the group as a whole, a sense of growing power and boldness.
- Support points. Building on connection points, support points allow individuals to give and get support to and from each other. It’s between the connection points and support points that organized action is devised. Support from other members of the group also emboldens members into drastic and catastrophic action. With a team cheering them on, they feel more important than they’ve ever felt in their lives.
- While it may seem like these groups are anything but predictable, nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone knows what the rules are, who is in charge, how and where the group meets, how communication is handled, and how you get kicked out (or worse). While these groups can appear messy and disorganized at times, those inside the group trust it’s predictable operation.
Building Block #5 – The Evolution of Fierce Loyalty
Many groups never move into this evolutionary process. Maybe they can’t get their organizational structure stable enough or they don’t have a consistent number of perspective members with compelling needs. Whatever the reason, only a limited few move to this level. However, those that do also have the potential to be the most dangerous. Here are the Hallmarks of a Fiercely Loyal group:
- They wear the uniform, the armband, the tattoo, the haircut, the t-shirt, the bumper sticker, the hat, whatever it is that displays to everyone that they are members of the group. Belonging is part of their identity in the world and they are permanently in “recruiting” mode. Their opinions and zealousness can make others uncomfortable, yet they seem oblivious. At their worst, their pride drives them to do despicable things in the name of group loyalty.
- In these groups, trust is critical glue that holds the group together. And yet, trust can be fickle. If it serves the group, or group leaders, or even an individual, trust can go out the window in a coup, a PR debacle, or internal “restructuring”.
- This is what really separates the wheat from the chaff. Members of these groups have a passionate relationship with the group. It is entrenched in who they are in the world. And, like many passions, it makes many members blind to reality and drives actions in the name of the cause that are inexplicable to the rest of the world.
Fierce Loyalty is a powerful motivator – for groups, tribes, peoples, perhaps the most powerful there is. But as we’re seeing all too clearly in the current climate, and as we’ve seen throughout history, it can be used in the service of good, just as it can be manipulated for evil intent. Where does your Fierce Loyalty lie?
In Part 2 of this article, I’m going to use the Fierce Loyalty Accelerators to illustrate how these groups have gained so much momentum so quickly. I hope you’ll stay tuned.
Culture is not created in a vacuum. It is not something that is isolated and independently manufactured inside an organization, inside a brand, inside a neighborhood, a city, a state, a country or a world. Culture exists like air exists. It’s all around us all the time. And, like air, we can choose what kind we want to live in and what we are willing to do, or not do, to have it. Or we can choose to ignore our roles and responsibilities in shaping it. Either way, it’s a choice we make and our Culture reflects that choice.
“Some things don’t matter much. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person’s heart–now, that matters. The whole problem with people is…they know what matters, but they don’t choose it…The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” ― Sue Monk Kidd
I get it. I’m as guilty as the next person of thinking “Isn’t fixing this someone else’s job?” “This really needs to be fixed, but I’m so busy.” “The problem feels so big, there’s no way I can do anything that will change it.” And my personal favorite “If those people would just do XYZ, then everything would be just fine.” My list goes on and on. And in the end, it’s just a list of excuses that absolves me of actively choosing what matters and actively doing what matters. Really matters.
I read this post by Anne Lamott over the weekend about choosing and doing what matters as the only way there is to combat the heartbreaking culture we seem to be living in. As always, she nails it. And instead of doing what I usually do, ie. reading it, saying “that’s great” and continuing on with my standard behavior, I’ve decided to actively, consciously choose to put my focus, my words and my actions on what matters, every day. My goal is to do it for the next 30 days and I invite you to join me.
I’ve set up a Facebook page called Choosing What Matters where I will post how I’m choosing what matters, inspiring stories of people, organizations, companies – anyone doing what matters, my challenges with choosing what matters, etc. I’d like the group that joins me to do the same. There may only be a small group of us and that’s fine. Or it may only be me. And that’s fine, too. 🙂 What matters, is choosing what matters.
Print is not Dead. In doing research for a client project, I came across this fascinating infographic from Super Lawyer Magazine. While many say that “print is dead” as a way to communicate with your community, these stats tell a much different story.
Safe & Inclusive Event Design. This is a robust guide from Mozilla Clubs, particularly focused on designing safe and inclusive events for women and girls. However, I think all event planner can learn a great deal about what it takes to create a community on the ground for any event audience. Pay particular attention to the section on Designing for Participation.
Different by Design. If you want a Fiercely Loyal internal culture, you’ve got to intentionally create it. Don’t just take my word for it. Take the time to dig into this Global Human Capital Report from Deloitte. Organization Design in the NUMBER ONE trend for 2016. Glad we’re on to something here. 🙂
If you like keeping up with my latest thoughts and resources on growing a Fiercely Loyal community, you will love my bi-weekly newsletter, The Fierce Loyalty Field Report. Subscribe here:
No doubt most everyone has heard about Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya’s announcement that he would be giving all of his 2,000 full-time workers awards that could be worth up to 10% of the privately held company’s future value if it goes public or is sold. When I heard it, my immediate thought was “Wow! That’s how you build a Fiercely Loyal employer brand”
If you aren’t familiar with the term “Employer Brand” here’s a quick definition from SHRM:
An employer brand is an important part of the employee value proposition and is essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees. It encompasses an organization’s mission, values, culture and personality. A positive employer brand communicates that the organization is a good employer and a great place to work. Employer brand affects recruitment of new employees, retention and engagement of current employees, and the overall perception of the organization in the market.
While the idea of having an Employer Brand isn’t new (it’s been around since the mid-1990’s), organizations are drastically shifting the way they view this concept. What was once a sole function of HR is now owned and lead from the top of the organization. Even more exciting is that these c-suite leaders are focused on building community into their Employer Brand concept.
Why are top leaders willing to invest their personal time in creating a cutting-edge employee value proposition? Because the competition for top talent is fiercer than ever and the cost of employee turnover is staggering (some estimates put it at 250% of annual salary). Creating a stellar Employer Brand and company culture is just smart business.
You may already be crystal clear on your Employer Brand. If so, congratulations on a job well done. If you are a little fuzzy on your Employer Brand, here are a few ideas to help bring it into focus:
- Ask yourself why your current people work for you and why a potential job candidate would choose to work for you over another company.
- Check your recruiting stats and see how many potential job candidates are referrals from current employees.
- Dip into any customer-facing social media streams, both formal and informal, to hear and see how your employer brand is being communicated.
- Poll your senior level managers and ask them to articulate your Employer Brand.
- Study other organizations like Google, Amtrak, UnitedHealth Group, Ritz-Carlton, LinkedIn, Marriott, Ferrero, IKEA, and Nike that have a clear and powerful Employer Brand.
What do you think are the must-have characteristics of a strong Employer Brand? Please share in the comments. I’d love to discuss@
Every business out there wants one – a Fiercely Loyal community of raving fans who are fantastic customers and raving evangelists. One of the tools businesses use to create that kind of community is a Loyalty Program. In my client work, I see a ton of loyalty programs and I’m going to share what it takes to build one that creates Fierce Loyalty.
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1.Put your customer loyalty program front and center on your website.
Often when I’m doing preliminary research on a client, I look to see if and how they reward their clients and customers. My heart always sinks a little when I hit their home page and I don’t instantly see it. Then I start digging around.
Sometimes I find a link to the rewards program tucked away on a corner of the home page or on a drop down menu. Sometimes I don’t find it until I’ve clicked around on a few pages and luck up on it. And sometimes I don’t know I’ve found it because the name of the loyalty program doesn’t instantly tell me that is what I’m looking at.
Most customers and potential customers won’t be as persistent as I am in tracking down a customer loyalty program. If they don’t see it right away, if it isn’t 100% obvious, you’ve lost the opportunity to get them interested. So make sure it’s right in front of them.
2. Make the sign-up process simple and stream-lined.
Next to a hard-to-locate loyalty program, nothing bothers me more than a complicated sign up process that asks twenty questions.
Think of your sign up process as your first coffee date with someone. This is your chance to make a good impression, help the other person relax and feel comfortable with you. This is not the time to barrage your date with a million questions. If this date goes well, there will be plenty of time to get those questions answered. All you want right now is to get to that second date.
When you set up your sign up process, keep your questions brief – no more than five that can be answered quickly. And once your “date” presses the join button, deliver one great benefit instantly to seal the deal.
3.Connect members with each other.
When I was doing research for my book, Fierce Loyalty, I read a lot of the recent Happiness Research to see if I could find some connection between happiness and loyalty.
I was surprised to discover that the two things we crave most in our search for happiness – more than money, more than the pursuit of pleasure – are connection and engagement. And once we find a source for that kind of happiness, we are hard-pressed to ever abandon it. We become fiercely loyal.
By creating mechanisms that connect members of your loyalty program to each as well as to you, you become a place where connection and engagement happen. More important, you become a source of happiness for your members. And they’ll keep coming back to you for more.
4. Regularly feature a member of your loyalty program on your site.
One of the fastest ways to grow fierce loyalty is to make your members feel really, really important. By featuring them on your site, you not only make them feel important, you make them the stars of the show.
On your home page (or another prominent page), have a space that is specifically dedicated to your Star Member. Post their pictures, where they live, and their favorite products. Better yet, have them send a picture with their favorite products.
The benefit of this strategy is twofold; 1) Your members will feel important (see above) and 2) They will want to show off their star turn on your site and send you lots of fresh, new traffic who will have a great incentive for joining your loyalty program.
5. Allow your members to contribute content to your site.
Closely related to #4, this is another way to make your members feel important. By featuring content produced by your members you put them front and center. They will feel an increased ownership and investment in making your company a success.
Set aside some dedicated space for your community members to post product reviews, videos or short articles. During the holiday season, ask them to post gift suggestions for their particular market segment to help other shoppers make great selections. Ask them to submit a product photo that could be featured in your upcoming catalog.
Make the process, rules and parameters for submitting content crystal clear. Let members know how content will be selected for inclusion. If there is something specific you are looking for (a written review, a video review, etc.) make that clear, as well. This will leave everyone with a feeling of fairness whether or not their content gets chosen.
6. Give members the feeling of exclusivity.
We all love belonging to groups, clubs and organizations that are exclusively for us and people who are like us. When you create this kind of experience for your members, they will know that they are in a community that will speak to their specific wants and needs.
What privileges and offers can you give your loyalty members that aren’t available to your regular customers? In addition to exclusive discounts, consider offering “first dibs” on hot new items, or access to an expert to help with specific problems, or a community webcast on how to make the most of the latest industry trends.
The better you make your exclusive membership experience, the more your members are going to talk about it. And the more non-members are going to want it.
7. Ask for referrals and recommendations.
When I ask my clients if they ask their customers for referrals or recommendations, they often proudly point to a form that says something like “Please share the names of three friends who would enjoy knowing about us.” And when I ask about the kind of results this form is producing, I usually hear crickets.
In this day of spam and junk mail, people are increasing hesitant to give up the contact information of their friends and family. Simply asking them to do so will yield lackluster results. So what’s the secret to revving up the referral engine?
Exchange something you value (products, goods, services, etc.) for something your members value (the contact information of their friends and family). Make the offer too irresistible to pass up. You could offer a coupon code for a significant discount or the ability to choose one of your three most popular products or a thirty minute consult. And be sure these rewards are given when the referral is made, not when the referral becomes a customer.
Firing up Fierce Loyalty requires committed thought and action. To have the thing everyone else wants – a fiercely loyal community of raving fans – will require effort. So look over these ideas and choose one or two that stand out to you. Write them down. Before today is over, choose one action you can take to bring those ideas to life. It may be a conversation you need to have, a decision you need to make or some research you need to do. The point is to take action instead of filing these ideas away somewhere and never looking at them again.
If you really want to raise the Fierce Loyalty stakes, post your choices and the action you’re going to take in the comments below.