Love the People Who Love You

So, you've taken the plunge and started your own company. Maybe you lost your job and it feels like the best thing to do, or the only thing to do. Maybe you're following a dream. But either way, this statement is 100% true:

You can't exist without customers.

Really. Can you think of one company on the planet that has absolutely no customers?

So, what if you stopped thinking about customers as customers?

What if you started thinking about them as your best friends? Would you love them more, trust them more? What if you and your staff woke up every single day looking for ways to lift them up? To make them smile. To inspire them. What if instead of shouting from a megaphone "BUY FROM ME" through traditional advertising mediums like radio and print and direct mail campaigns, you started thinking of ways to have a conversation with your company's very best friends? What if you turned your customers into your advocates? Advocates who would go out and talk about you with a genuine desire to tell others how great you are.

There are so many new ways to find, connect and support your company's best friends these days. And so many companies, start-ups and larger ones alike, are attacking these shiny new social media tools like Facebook and Twitter as new ways to shout their marketing messages AT their customers.

Well, guess what? We don't like it. Nobody likes being shouted at. Period. It's why we largely ignore marketing messages, both traditional and new media marketing messages.

The most successful companies see new technology and communication tools as an opportunity to have a conversation with their customers. To engage and actually talk WITH them, not at them. To connect with their customers as real people. To be human. To listen and respond to issues and concerns. And to shine a light on the the folks who love them.

So, if your customers are your best friends, what will you do differently today?

1. You'd never talk AT them, but instead talk WITH them.
2. You'd know how you fit into their lives. You'd know and understand their hopes and dreams.
3. You'd listen to them. Really listen.
4. You'd thank them when they help you out. You'd help them when they need you. (Never, by the way, underestimate the power of hand written letter in these days of hastily written emails. We cherish real letters these days.)
5. You'd do things without being asked. Just to make their lives better.
6. You'd remember birthdays and other special occasions.
7. You'd share knowledge with them.
8. You'd share your stories with them. You'd let them in on your secrets. You'd trust them.
9. You'd invite them over.
10. You'd respect them. And take their ideas seriously.

Studies have shown that companies with a large percentage of employees who have close daily contact to customers are wildly more innovative. And innovation absolutely equals growth. Empower your employees and urge them to get close to your customers.

Invite your customers, your best friends, in. Let them see you as human beings. Not marketers. See them as humans. Be their very best friends. Love them. And I promise you -- they will love you back. Because this is also 100% true: Love is a circular transaction.