Many years ago, on a sales call to pitch some software, I witnessed something that I’ll never forget. We had arrived at the prospect’s offices, someone had taken us to a conference room, and we were waiting for the rest of the attendees to arrive.
“Are we ready to start?” our sales guy asked.
“We’re just waiting on one more,” came the response.
Not long after that, an engineer arrived and walked to his seat — but not before making a statement. Before he sat in his chair, he slammed his coffee cup right in the middle of the conference table…and left it there for all to see. It bore the logo of our largest competitor.
It’s one of the boldest and brashest statements of customer loyalty that I’ve ever seen in the twenty some odd years in the business.
I’ve thought about that moment many times and keep churning through the same set of questions? How did he become so loyal? What made him such a raving fan? Was it the software? Could he really have loved it that much? Was it the people? The support? What makes someone so loyal, that they’ll throw away all objectivity — not even considering alternatives — even if they those alternatives are demonstrably better?
I’ve come up with a few answers over the years. My firm belief is that it is a combination of a good product, great people, and a community of the like-minded.
If you don’t have a good product, don’t pass “Go,” don’t collect $200 — you are already dead. If you have a great product but your “customer-facing” folks have the personality of Mr. Spock, you’re leaving yourself wide open to competitor who may develop both. And lastly, there has to be a community of like-minded individuals — other people, like our coffee-cup-guy, who love the product, and are willing to go out of their way to gather, whether it be online or off line.
Back in the old days, we used to have “User’s Groups,” corporate sponsored meeting
that brought these “birds-of-a-feather” types together, where they could talk with our technical experts, share their ideas with other like-minded customers, all in an atmosphere that fostered more conversation.
These User Group Meetings were effective, but at the same time, expensive, for both the company and the attendees who traveled.
And that’s where New Media comes in. With the time-shifted nature of internet-based content, there is a way to cater to this audience. Your company has all sorts of tools to engage these customers — audio, video, text, social networks, etc… And even better, by using these technologies, you aren’t limited to one or two days per year to gather your loyal customers. Instead, your efforts will have affect 24 x 7 all over the globe.
So, this New Media Evangelist has to ask. What is your company doing right now to develop your own coffee-cup slamming customers?