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“I don’t need 15 or 20 customers coming in my store.  I need 100s.” A retail store owner explaining why he was dropping our program.

It was then I realized I was a reformed ad guy.  I was fighting for a targeted marketing program for this upscale niche retailer.  And, he wanted a mass media ad program.  In a former day, I would have delighted in his words and been excited to create such a program.

Instead, that was the moment I realized I had truly gone to the “other side.”  To Zealotry Marketing.  He wanted faceless bodies.  We wanted to build passionate supporters – Zealots.   And, what he wanted was not the right answer.

“I need numbers –  I just need more customers – our people will be able to sell them if I just get them in the store.”

Respectfully, I said “No.  The right 15 to 20 ‘guests’ will be better for your store.” He shakes his head in disdain.

“Why?   They will embrace your store and the reasons you carry the type merchandise you do.  They will value your “value add”, not just be browsing because of a deal that they saw in an ad.  A deal that you offered below cost, by the way, to attract these 100s in the first place.”

“But, here’s the real rub.  The right 15 to 20 customers – they will return.  And, because they highly value what you offer, they will tell their friends.  And, some of those will come to visit.  So, in time we will deliver the 100s, only they will be attracted to your store for the right reasons and are willing to pay for it.”

“Well, you may be right.  But, I don’t have time to wait for that.  I gotta have numbers now.”

We shook hands and departed.  Last I checked, his mass “numbers” approach had not helped his store avoid treading water financially.   So, much for the short term solution.

There are very few quick fixes in marketing.  Most mass media campaigns do not return a positive ROI.  Most referral-based programs do. It’s simply a matter of when.

At heart, great brands deliver a distinctive experience that is personal and can motivate referral.  Zealotry Marketing is about creating programs and touch point channels that encourage such referral.  And, mass media can play a role.  Whether it is communications, service or product, when the program focus tips to mass versus personal, the ability to create Zealots diminishes.  The basis of referral is a one-to-one action.  The basis of creating a sustainable referral program is Zealotry Marketing.  It’s not a quick fix.  But, it is a sure, and profitable fix.

I’m about creating winning programs.

Maybe, that’s why I’m a self-confessed reformed Ad Man.

Frequent buyer programs are frequently misdefined as loyalty programs.   Zealotry is not about “frequency of purchase”.  Your best Zealots may not be heavy spenders or most frequent customers.  But, they remain extremely valuable in terms of referral.   True loyalty is earned by the brand, not bought by frequency of purchase.  Read on …


Let’s just get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as brand loyalty. Each of us likes certain brands and may even love them. We may buy them most of the time, or perhaps even every time. But the idea that we have a true bond with any brand, like the kind of commitment we have in real life with our friends and family, is a farce. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create that kind of loyalty; most of us tell ourselves that’s the end game and it’s always important to aim high.

What it does mean is that we should take a harder look at how we go about creating what we call loyalty. We need to admit that coupons, discounts, points and prizes are just beanbags. We ought to spend more time thinking about the stuff that really matters to people, and serve that up each and every day.

That means products and services that really and truly solve problems and help people live happier lives. Providing a helping hand when someone really needs it, and smiling because we truly mean it. It’s not because the customer is always right (nobody’s perfect). It’s because it’s up to us to make it right. We may not get the same kind of loyalty we enjoy with our family and friends, but we’ll have more fun, and so will everyone else. Loyalty is what we make it. Your thoughts? ~ Tim Manners, editor.

What to do to follow through effectively with customers to create zealotry?

1. Collect data and use it.

First rule of effective marketing is to build a database of your prospects and customers. The more information collected the better. Analyse it. Learn from it and shape your subsequent tactics.

2. Personalize it.

No eblasts. This guest willingly provided you with specific details of their preferences and background. Approach them accordingly.

3. Integrate it.

The worst thing as a customer is to come back for another visit/transaction and have to repeat the whole dialog like its your first-time. Make the data you collected available to all employees. “Nice to see you again, Mr. Tyre. How is that software program working out?”

4. Respond in kind.

If you have asked for a response – survey for instance, or if a note or phone call has been made, then respond. Net Promoter suggests your top people should be responding to the negative comments, not merely those that are gushing praises. Addressing negative situations helps prevent negative word-of-mouth and often gains the respect of the person.

5. Don’t give them another card.

Promotional and loyalty companies will no doubt disagree, but do consumers really want another “loyalty/frequency” card to keep up with? It has become me-too marketing and most often has a negative payout. Again, a well-planned and executed database and directed strategy can accomplish more, at less cost and without requiring your customer to jump through hoops in order to be delighted.

6. Announced “loyalty” rewards are expected. Unannounced rewards delight.

An announced/promoted loyalty program is done so to help make the purchase in the first place. An unannounced reward is more of a true “thank you” for your loyalty. Is your objective one of discounting to gain multiple purchases or to thank your guest for attending, purchasing or sharing their experience with others?

Of course, every reader will not read your ad.  And, its not likely any reader will respond directly to you.  Then, consider having 500,000 followers – at no media cost.  And, they can respond directly to your communications.   Check out why one company has 50o,000 followers on Twitter.   It’s not why you think it is …

Did you know that JetBlue has over 507,000 followers on Twitter? (as of 13 May, 2009). Yes, that’s more than half a million “fans” of the brand who choose to be exposed to the airline’s 140 character-long short messages. And this is almost 20 times greater than the second most followed airline, Southwest, which has just over 27,000 followers. But why? What is it that JetBlue does that makes it such a loved brand on Twitter?

Here are some stats for those of you who like numbers. Of the last 62 messages JetBlue sent out,
42 were replies to others (68%)
33 contained external links (53%)
12 were free tips, like how to overcome jetlag (20%)
10 answered customer service  queries (16%)
9 had sales offers/promotions of some sort (14%)
6 were Re-tweets (including one from SimpliFlying!) (10%)

It’s NOT just about selling on Twitter.

The numbers tell a story. Do you realize that the overwhelming majority of messages were interacting with individuals, as they were replies. And there were less than 10 messages that were trying to drive sales. The key – JetBlue adds value to their “followers” through interaction, and doesn’t only see Twitter as a medium for additional sales.

I’ve seen airlines pop-up on Twitter recently that have only been releasing deals! Well, if they really want to do that, then have they should set the expectations right, like @delloutlet, which only sends out special special offers.
From:  Shashank Nigam,  an aviation blog

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

Companies with a limited marketing staff or one that has fewer than 100 employees simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to internally execute social media effectively.

So, what are the characteristics one should look for?  This may be surprising, but knowledge of the medium is less important than the following:  understanding your brand; what messages will invite conversation; who are the posters/readers; the experience/knowledge to respond on the fly.   Ford Motor Company is an excellent example of how to respond and engage readers.

Sage advice:  Resist the temptation to hand all of the social networking duties to that one young hipster in your office who appears to “get it.” Otherwise you risk losing control of your brand message and turning a meager publicity effort into a public embarrassment.

If you’re going to start a Facebook or Twitter account for your company, give the responsibility to someone with poise, maturity, and tact, and then give them the freedom to do it their own way and figure it out for themselves. Ignore the “rules,” avoid the “gurus,” and let common social courtesy be your guide.

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

Think about it – if one of your friends kept interrupting your conversations with advertising talk, he/she wouldn’t be your friend very long.  That is the reality of social media.   It is the media built by consumers.  They, not programmers, editors or advertisers ultimately control the content of the medium.

Some quick facts:
•    Consumers do want to see companies engaged in social media, but in a dialog format, versus pitches of products
•    Permission marketing is even more critical than email – in social media, readers can respond back to everyone
•    Whether your company chooses to participate or not, your company is likely being talked about by someone in one or more mediums
•    It’s a great way to “road test” concepts, ideas or engage your best customers
•    It’s a great way to put a human face to a company

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

In my experience, and from grumblings I’ve heard elsewhere, customer service is not the biggest thing Comcast has going for them from a business standpoint.

There are times when marketing is marketing, sales is sales, and operations is operations. But, from a brand standpoint – the customer experience crosses all platforms and thus businesses are forced to integrate, communicate and work together to ensure the experience is both consistent and pleasant.

There are also times when this is challenging for businesses, to instantly align all departments for a consistent brand experience. For this reason, we applaud Comcast at taking action at making the customer service experience just a little bit better and more personal for their customers.

While 800#’s are jammed with customer complaints and questions, Comcast decided to take their service arm online @ComcastCares via Twitter to, as Frank the Director of Digital Care for Comcast says, “meet Customers where they are, listen and assist when we can.”

The customer service Comcast provides through Twitter is personal, immediate, informative and credible. And, as Frank points out, it is delivered in a manner that the customer chooses, through a medium they are already using.

And most importantly, taking a chunk of the operations and service arms of their business in this manner has led to Zealotry actions amidst consumers. Word-of-mouth, people are talking about their Twitter customer service in a positive manner. Referral – people are recommending others contact them via Twitter. And Comcast is turning potentially negative customer experiences into positive ones, turning detractors into supporters, even more, into potential Zealots for the Comcast brand.

Go ahead & follow them @ComcastCares. And follow us too while you’re at it @FindingZealots.

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

When looking for and growing the Zealots for your own brand, don’t look to far. Start first by looking at the employees of your company, those that are representing and living the brand each and every day. Zealotry should start here.

From a feature by Cool News it is easy to see the Four Seasons gets this concept.

“Workers, he says, are vital assets who should be treated accordingly. At most hotel companies, he notes, housekeepers, cooks, bell staff, waiters and clerks are often the lowest paid and ‘the least motivated people.’ But at the Four Seasons, those who might otherwise be considered the most expendable ‘had to come first,’ because they were the ones ‘who could make or break a five-star service reputation’.”

Involving and engaging your employees in your brand – from the lowest to the highest ranks – will ensure without a doubt they are spreading the good word to their peers. Constantly educating, from brand history to the latest news and developments, will empower your people to tell your story both to current guests and to potential guests as well.

Are your employees Zealots? How have you engaged your staff?

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

One of the key tenants in Zealotry Marketing is simply involving your Zealots in your brand.  A quick example of how to do so can be found in a recent email blast from Martha Stewart.

For those who signed up to receive information from Martha Stewart Weddings, a quick poll went out via email with three magazine cover designs, asking readers which they liked best and why. This is right on so many levels for working the Zealots in the database.

First, they feel like an insider. They have been given a sneak peak at the inner workings of the publication and the brand, and they’ve had a voice in shaping the brand – even better. Their opinion matters and will make a difference on the newsstand.

Second, talk about referral. Once that magazine hits the super market shelves, you better be sure those Zealots will sneak a peak at the cover and tell their friends about it. “Oh I choose the other one, it was much better for the Summer issue” or “That is the cover I selected, they asked my opinion of three choices.” Good, bad or indifferent – their chatter about the publication is sure to leave an impression.
Way to go, Martha!  A simply way to use email to involve your Zealots and engage them in the brand experience.

OK, have you noticed the number of businesses offering their customers a free or nearly free promotional stunt?
For instance, Steak n Shake rolled back prices on their burgers to 15¢ one morning from 8 – 11am.   Others have played out similar deals.

But, who really wants a burger at 8 in the morning at ANY price?

In these times declining sales and drastically reduced budgets, such marketing “get rich” schemes abound.  These stunts are some marketing types clever ploy to get free publicity – which they will get, if they are the first on the block to do so.  But, do they really impact sales?  Certainly not ROI.   Is it drawing new customers?  Debatable.   Creating more zealots?  You can decide.  If it were my business, though, I’d instruct my store managers to recognize regulars and do some unexpected act of kindness towards them.  Personal recognition and unexpected rewards are the basis of referral.   Not fighting others for some limited time deal.

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