How To Create Customers For Life

Let's be honest, there may be no such thing as a customer for life. As marketers and salespeople, we're competing for attention with 250 million other websites many of which are offering the exact same products and services that we've claimed as our own specialities. Consumers are emboldened, empowered and fickle, choosing to spend more and more of their buyer's journey online. In fact, right now, only 20 percent of today's customer journey is happening in real life, making it harder to keep their attention and their loyalty.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. There's huge value in focusing on your true fans. With the cost of acquiring a new customer coming in almost 500% more than it does to keep current ones, this strategy is probably the most effective thing you can do from a business and marketing perspective.

Zero in on Your True Fans
Over the course of your professional life you'll work with a sea of customers, but amongst those will be a group who truly appreciate your skills, value your approach and genuinely enjoy working with you. These are your true fans.

Rather than try to turn each and every client into a repeat customer or brand advocate, focus on the individuals who rave about your products or services and happily recommend you to family and friends.

How can you spot a true fan? Let's say you are an artist or a musician. In those cases, "A true fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans," according to The Technium. If you're not a rockstar don't fret, most businesses won't be able to gain a groupies fanaticism, but the sentiment is the same. Be so good that your customers adore you.

Start by focusing on the customers in your base. Then identify those willing brand advocates and intentionally cultivate and nurture your list of a 100 then 1,000 true fans.

These true fans will become your promoters, cheerleaders and the number one source of all your referrals.

But how will you keep in touch with them? Read on.

Create a Community for the Fans, Not for You
Once you've identified your 1,000 true fans (or have begun the process), you'll need to think about how you can create a true fan community. This may seem easy - put together an email list, start a private Facebook group - but nurturing a group of this size does take time and intention.

Writer Jeff Goins says, "If you want to reach other humans, act like one. Simple, right? Hardly. A lot of people turn into robots when they get on the Internet or step into the spotlight. Either they become complete jerks or turn into formal ambassadors of snobbery. You can be different - talk like a real person, be accessible and show your scars (don't be afraid to be a little vulnerable)."

In addition to being authentic and reachable, it's also critical to ask your fans what they want. While you are working with them to market your business, at the core, it should be about what they get from the relationship. Actually poll your best customers to ask them what they like and what they can't stand. Ask how and when they prefer to be contacted. Find out what information is most valuable to them. Goins advises, "When you make your platform about other people, they'll make it about you."

Turn Fans Into Friends
So you've identified your 1,000 true fans and you're working hard to create a community they love belonging to, but how can you take that true fan and bring them closer to being a customer for life? Well, start by treating them less like a fan and more like a friend.

In a piece for Duct Tape Marketing Rachel Daley explains, "Your customers are your friends. Okay, maybe not exactly, but this is what I mean: Friendships take work before, during, and after you become friends. Customer relationships take work before, during, and after a sale." With that in mind, Daley says there are several things you can do to show your clients the same consideration you'd show a friend:
- Keep in touch
- Show gratitude
- Go out of your way for them
- Know them on a deeper level
- Respect them as human beings

In 2016 there are more ways to keep in touch than ever. Acknowledge major life moments they share on social media, invite them to exclusive events, send thoughtful gifts and snail mail notes for special occasions. Make them the hero of your story, and always respect their feedback and requests.

When you start acting like a friend, you'll get one (or 1,000) in return.

Turn Friends Into Lead Generators
The power of the 1,000 true fans, who are now friends, is when they become your primary source of lead generation. Think about it. When a company, service or individual person is recommended to you by a family member or a friend, you value that recommendation more, right?

Turning your existing customers into megaphones for your business not only makes sense, it's more profitable. On average, loyal customers are worth 10x as much as their first purchase. In fact, the average repeat customer spends 67% more in their 31st - 36th month of their relationship with a business than in months 0-6.

It's undeniable that satisfied customers are your best resource for uncovering new leads. In a column for Forbes, Kern Lewis explains, "You cannot have a more motivated prospect arrive in your office than someone sent there by a raving fan."

If your 1,000 true fans are willing to help promote your business, how can you best leverage that goodwill? Lewis offers a few expert tips:
- Create a sheet with your core value proposition and a handful of example clients and results
- Provide instructions on how to go on Google, Yelp (or any industry-specific review site) to post a review
- Let your tribe know you cherish their referrals and will treat them like gold.

If you really want to kick it up a notch, invite your true fans to participate in the content you create. Film their testimonials, write a profile on what makes them special, share their story on your website, highlight them on social.

If you give your true fans a reason to take time out of their day to help you, they will continue to do so. When you prioritize making them look good, it shows you value their time, their friendship and their endorsement.

Customers for Life
Creating customers for life takes work. It requires you as a business owner or salesperson to embrace a customer-first mindset and prioritize customer satisfaction above short-term gains. By focusing on your most valuable customers to nurture those relationships actively, you're making a commitment to go above and beyond a simple "hello" or "happy birthday" on Facebook, and really thinking about what matters to them and how to deliver on those expectations.

If you are able to focus, be intentional, create a community and make you tribe the hero of your story, your customers will surely be yours for life.