In a world where a business’ dirty (and clean) laundry is no more than two clicks away, it’s important not simply to try and make customers, but to try and make customers for life. How can you do this? Simple: earn customer loyalty by being helpful.
Lay a foundation for helpfulness
One of the rules of establishing great business relationships and creating customer loyalty is to go above and beyond what is required of you and really wow your customers. Not only does an exceptional experience create delight, it opens up the possibility of referrals, as well as raving fans. When your commitment to your customers is genuine, they know it, but you might wonder if creating a great experience requires a sale. Not always. Think about all of the groundwork that needs to be created before the thought of purchasing even crosses your future customers' minds.
Laying a solid foundation of being helpful can lead a future customer to your front door without a targeted sales pitch if you do the pre-point of purchase work. Marketing guru Jay Baer’s biggest platform is based on smart marketing and providing more than just a product or service. He says that when you sell something, you make a customer, but when you help someone, you make a customer for life: YOUtility. This is marketing that is so useful and has so much intrinsic value that people would actually pay for it. It is marketing that people cherish, not just what people tolerate.
We are all competing against the massive amounts of online noise that exists: Facebook newsfeeds, YouTube videos, even our own friends and families. And, according to Google, 77 percent of TV viewers use another device while watching TV, which gives us a good idea of how consumers' attention is being occupied. Your business is competing against everything, so it's not about marketing better than the competition, it's about making yourself more interesting than what's in people's social feeds and inboxes.
However, do consider that when we offer genuine helpfulness or usefulness, people respond. For example, Jonah Berger of Wharton Marketing discovered in a study on New York Times articles, that useful articles were forwarded 30 percent more than average articles. When people perceive helpfulness or value from something, they want to consume and share it.
Sometimes putting forth the resources to be helpful can delay a sale, but it is often delayed until the time is right and the customer is ready to buy.
Win the ZMOT
What Google refers to as the Zero Moment of Truth is all about understanding what your customer wants and delivering it to them. When you know what your audience is looking for, you can be helpful in steering their decision making process towards your business and subsequently be in the right place at the right time to meet their needs.
While we are being bombarded with more information, we actually need more information than ever before we make a purchase decision. Google claims that 5.3 sources of information was required in 2010 before making a purchase and in 2011, the average person needed 10.4 sources of information before making a purchase. It can be surmised that we need more information because we have more information readily available to us in the palms of our hands and people don't want to have to take any extra steps in order to make decisions.
Don't have ulterior motives
When a company is helpful to a consumer—not always a customer—it establishes transparency and a willingness to take a stance that isn't necessary to advancing the brand or agenda. It really showers that a company cares. However, the moment the message becomes even remotely self-serving, it becomes painfully obvious and comes off as disingenuous. As David Mead writes on the Start With Why blog, it is easy to spot when a message doesn't evolve naturally or as a result of a culture; it feels contrived and inauthentic. If your business or your employees aren't passionate about being helpful, it will be obvious to your audience.
Become relevant in real time
Jay Baer is of the opinion that your business is far better off being massively useful in one particular set of circumstances than being kind of useful all the time. When you are the very best solution for a particular question, problem or point in time, you become massively helpful to your audience, so give yourself permission to make the story bigger—market sideways. When you give people marketing tools that are interesting and relevant, but not about your goods and services, it transcends the transaction and allows you to give people for information and allows you to be active in a far broader way. When a company creates content that will help educate me prior to making a significant purchase, I should feel like they really do want to assist me in my research and ultimate goal of making an informed decision. While they might hope that down the road when I'm prepared to make my purchase, their whitepaper on common questions about 15-gallon fish tanks or instructional video on installing tile will remain in my mind, it still shows genuine care for the audience. And people respond to that.