Make Them Love You… or Hate You

Posted June 24th, 2010 in Small Business Tips by Patrick

angry-babyLet’s face it, not everyone can love you. I am one of those personality types that tries to please everyone, so it usually bothers me if someone has a bone to pick with me or my ideas. However, I’ve gradually learned that detractors can be as valuable as fans.

If you are doing something truly great, unique, or exciting in your small business – there are bound to be people who will have a problem with it. When someone takes a shot at you or your brand in a public/online space, you quickly learn who your evangelists are as they jump to your defense.

Consider this: whether they love you or hate you, they’re talking about you. So why play it safe and shoot for the middle?

There’s nothing that convinces the undecided like passionate supporters, and these fans are key to spreading your message.

I recently heard a story about the owner of a small pizza parlor long ago. This owner, let’s call him Hank, had a very small budget compared with the large Pizza Huts and Dominos of his neighbourhood.

This happened years ago, when businesses still advertised in phone books. The big chains, of course, could afford huge, full page ads which Hank could not compete with. He decided instead to run a small promotion of his own: for every competitors’ ad that customers ripped out of the phone book and brought to his store, Hank would give away an order of wings.

The customers came swarming, and Hank quickly saw that the cost of the wing giveaway was more than absorbed by the increased spike in business. His competitors understandably hated what he was doing: complaining, cajoling and even leaving him threats. However, his customers understood a great offer when they saw one, spread the word, and Hank’s business boomed because of his somewhat controversial move.

So the takeaway is this: don’t be afraid to polarize people. Ask yourself how you can stick your thumb in your competitors’ eye. Chances are, it will make your customers love you even more.

What moves could you make in your business that might tick off a few competitors?

For more, one of Apple’s original marketers, Guy Kawasaki wrote an excellent post on innovation.

How to Build an Army of Brand Loyalists

Posted March 30th, 2010 in Branding, Getting Visitors, Small Business Tips, social media by admin

Build an Army of Brand Loyalists - Jonathan KayGuest Post – Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual phone systems. He is extremely passionate about helping / meeting new entrepreneurs and always excited to learn about their unique journey. Find Jonathan on Twitter @GrasshopperBuzz or via email at jkay(at)

Having now lived through over a year of my first recession, I have learned a lot. Mistakes and tough times always seem to lead to opportunities and takeaways. The last year or two really taught me the importance of the customer, and the emphasis that needs to be placed on them. With entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for any way possible to save money, “Customer Acquisition Cost” has become an increasingly important metric. It’s simple… the less money it costs you to acquire a customer, the larger the profit margin.

This leads me to a real passion of mine: Brand Loyalists.

A brand loyalist isn’t just a happy user of your product/service: they yell from the roof tops about you, helping to market and sell your product! With all the social media channels available now, there are more and more people telling you what they need, and asking for advice. Having an Army of Brand Champions out there provides a powerful and unbiased sale that is impossible to reproduce. More so, real brand loyalists will spend the time to give you constructive, uncensored feedback. This will only help make your product/service stronger, and increase customer satisfaction in the long run.

Ok. So now you know how important brand loyalists are; the harsh reality is they are difficult to achieve. And, a simple discount or promotion code just won’t cut it. I have been fortunate early in my career to work with a handful of really successful and genuine entrepreneurs. This firsthand experience has helped me develop a certain level of expertise in this area, and below are some helpful tips I have learned along the way:

1. Add Value First
When a customer engages your brand and purchases your product/service they don’t expect you to add value above and beyond what they paid for. This creates an opportunity to WOW your customer and really exceed their expectations. Small efforts make a difference: engage new customers on Twitter and thank them, start discussions about your product, and if you or a colleague is traveling why not reach out to a few local customers and take them out to dinner or drinks. By engaging your customer right away you will make a connection they will never forget.

2. Listen. Then Listen Some More
Have you ever tried flat out asking your customers what they want? What they need? Simple…yes, but trust me it works. Why not just pick up the phone and ask them? It is important to remember that your customers drive the direction of your business. At Grasshopper, all managers call 5 new customers ever week. We ask how the setup process went, what we could be doing better, what we are missing, and how we could help? Listening is a powerful tool. By making people feel actively involved (not through boring surveys) in shaping important features/practices, you will build incredible brand loyalty.

3. Make a Human Connection
It’s important to let your customers know that you are more than just a brand – you are actually real people too. Make an effort from to have less formal conversations. A great example of this is our co-founder David Hauser (@dh). You will find him doing anything from thanking customers to talking about his Iron Man training.

4. Promote Your Customers
People never forget when you make a connection, or open a door for them. Make an effort to be constantly reaching out to your customer base, learn about them and their businesses. The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.

5. Build a Culture of Responsibility
You need to empower your employees to help your customers (and not just your support team). There is no reason everyone should not be concerned with how your customers feel about your product/service. Make an effort to always follow up after resolving a customer issue, this will make people feel heard, appreciated, and create a loyalist for life.