The world we live in is becoming a world where isolation and lack of human connection is the norm. We don’t know our next door neighbors. Technology means we don’t actually have to talk to or interact with anyone. Our jobs take us far away from friends and family.
As I watch these realities day in and day out, I’m struck by the contrast of the rapidly rising trend in the demand for communities. The more our complex world isolates us, the more we seek out human connection and a place to belong.
I listen to conversations about this all the time, whether I’m working with a client, speaking at an event, or just sitting in a coffee shop or in the airport. And here’s what I’ve gotten to: in many ways we long to live and do business the way our grandparents did. We want to know the butcher. We want to talk to the mailman. We want a relationship with the truck farmer at the farmer’s market. We want to be recognized at our favorite Saturday breakfast place.
These longings and wants create an incredible opportunity for businesses that are committed to building communities for both their customers and their employees. Organizations who understand our drive for connection and meaning are perfectly poised to fill these needs and create a lasting bond that increases engagement, loyalty and revenue.
So how do you make this happen? Create a village. Before you start singing “YMCA” (a great community building song by the way!), I have a few ideas to get you started:
- Make sure your community members know their neighbors. Take the lead in making introductions either online or face-to-face rather than hosting a get to know you event and hoping people will show up.
- If at all possible, gather your community for a live event. Virtual communication is great, but nothing replaces the fire-power of real-life connections.
- Have a Welcome Wagon system set up for new people that is composed of other community members working along with specific staff.
- Give members the opportunity to help and support each other by setting up small group discussions based around topics suggested by group members.
- Give your members a way to hold leadership positions in the community and allow them to have a say in how the community is run.
Pick one or two of these ideas and come up with a few small, simple actions you can take to make them happen in the next week. If you get stuck, stop and ask yourself “If this were a real village, what would need to happen?”
And of course I’m always curious about your thoughts. I learn so much from you! Please share your tips and ideas in the comments below and let’s talk about them.
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This Week’s Roundup of Articles and Resources to Help You Build Fierce Loyalty
Talent Culture‘s Meaghan Biro hosts a great weekly podcast with thought leaders and captains of industry who specialize in a spectrum of TalentCulture interests, such as leadership, social business, organizational culture, career strategy, talent management, professional development. I highly recommend it for those working on building an internal culture of Fierce Loyalty.
In today’s world, we live and work in a way that can feel less personal, less connected to the immediate community around us. While we are connected globally, we are more disconnected locally. It’s one of the reasons I believe there is such a strong rise in all things “hyper-local”. We want that feeling of connectedness to our physical community, our neighborhoods, our towns, our cities. It makes us feel anchored in a way nothing else can.
A new magazine has just hit the newstands in Birmingham that is completely focused on creating that feeling in the local business community. It’s call BHM Biz (BHM are the call letters for our airport) and is the brain child of veteran publisher, Joe O’Donnel. Using the magazine to tell great stories about people, organizations and small businesses, Joe wants to give readers to feel like they really know Birmingham’s business community. Such a great answer for our need to feel connected.
I am thrilled to have a regular column in BHM Biz on Community. Rather than tell you about the magazine and my column, I invite you to read it. You’ll feel like a Birmingham insider in no time. 🙂
In my last post, found here, I talked about the difference between having a big customer/client list and having a Fiercely Loyal client community. The first steps to ensuring your organization has the latter is establishing a clear definition for “high quality client relationships”. This is a fundamental building block of Fierce Loyalty, so it is imperative that you and your team members have a clear vision.
I’ve worked with so many organizations who are on a quest to get this right. As they ramp up the conversations about what they consider to be a high quality client relationship, it’s exciting to see the engagement level this topic generates. Everyone, from the receptionist, to the sales team to the designers have strong thoughts and ideas about what this definition should include. The conversation alone creates an internal community building experience (bonus points!).
And while I can’t provide a one-size-fits-all definition of a high quality client relationships for you, I can share a few common themes to get your conversation started:
- It’s about the value you provide rather than the amount of money a client spends. Rather than thinking about what high quality relationships do for your organizations, i.e. “This client generated X number of sales or $XX of business.”, frame your definition around what value you bring to the client, i.e. “Because of the level of service we provide, we are considered a partner rather than a goods or service provider.”
- It’s about what a client says about you to others. Your high value clients talk about you. They rave about the level of service your provide. They refer others to you.
- It’s about longevity. You’re invested in your high value client relationships for the long haul. You see the vision of where they are trying to go and you want to help them get there.
So here’s my challenge to you: bring your team together and start a conversation about how your organization defines a high value client relationships. Use my three ideas above to kick-start the discussion. Bring in the thoughts and opinions of everyone, not just your sales team. Create an organization-wide definition and task every single team member with creating these kinds of relationships.
The world is filled with businesses that measure client value by how much money they spend. By focusing on creating value and building high value relationships that start and end with you, you will stand out from your competitors and lay the foundation for creating a Fiercely Loyal community of clients who will not leave you. And that is the highest value client relationship there is.
One of the biggest mistakes I see organizations make on their quest for Fierce Loyalty is equating a big customer base to a Fiercely Loyal community. After all, isn’t having big audience numbers one of the most highly prized benchmarks? Unfortunately, big audience numbers can be a kind of false prophet, leading organizations to make assumptions about what, exactly they’ve achieved.
Here’s what I mean:
What organizations give you no choice about being a member of their “audience”? Utilities. You have to be a customer of the local water works or power company. Cable is a proprietary industry, meaning you have the choice of exactly one carrier to choose from. We are not customers by choice.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t sit around with my friends talking about much I love my power company or my cable provider. We don’t share stories about why we chose them or give reasons why we will never leave them. In fact, if they come up at all in conversation, the stories are quite the opposite. These are organizations with a huge customer database that have nothing resembling Fierce Loyalty.
If you aren’t one of these kinds of service providers, you may think that puts you in the clear and that the audience members you have are there by choice which means they are Fiercely Loyal. Here’s a question to challenge that mindset: If those audience members could find an organization that could deliver what you deliver at a cheaper price, would they jump ship at lightening speed?
If you are hesitating or already know the answer is “Yes”, I have three ideas to help you move from this kind of transactional relationship with your customers to a Fiercely Loyal relationship:
- Place high value on the quality of the relationships your organization has with customers. This means more than saying it’s important. It means deciding what “high quality” relationships look like.
- Set a strategy for building these kinds of relationships. Will you do focus groups? One on one calls? personal notes? Will you expand your CRM to capture more personal information that will help you build relationships?
- Empower your people to take the necessary time to develop relationships. Are you timing customer calls? Rewarding customer volume rather than customer quality? Giving your people the autonomy to do the little extras to grow a relationship?
Start with these three ideas to reset how you view and how you value efforts to build Fiercely Loyal customer relationships and then add to this list. In fact, I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments below.