Your company must make them FEEL something.

If  you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I have a huge Business Crush on Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks.  Dino Dogan would tell you that ‘we all do,’ and he’s probably right.  What Howard, or more How do you create passion for your brand?correctly, what Starbucks does to illicit these emotions from customers is that they prompt them, continually.

I’ve written repeatedly that “It’s not about the coffee.”  I don’t even drink coffee; I’m a hard core tea addict.  Starbucks has decent tea and a great Chai, but even that’s not why I keep coming back.  It’s the entire customer experience that keeps me loyal.

In my past life when I supervised 18 Sales Reps. spread out across the Eastern half of the US, Starbucks-Everywhere was my office.  We could sit for hours in a pleasant environment , use the free wireless, and never ever feel rushed.  Not only did I spend thousands of dollars a year at the chain, I became a brand loyalist and incredibly grateful for their hospitality.

And they keep on doing things that make me feel passionately about the brand.  Last year it was the Indivisible campaign; I wear my bracelet and drink from my Indivisible mug every morning.

Recently, Starbucks began offering reusable $1 mugs to cut down on waste.  Of course I bought one, because I care about the environment and feel like I’m part of the Starbucks mission.  Now, my reusable cup )pictured here) already has my favorite drink permanently written on it.  Most of the time I don’t even need to tell my local Baristas what I want, because they know me … another customer service moment that connects me to the brand.

Perhaps you too have a major Starbucks connection, or perhaps you’re a contrarian who swears by Dunkin Donuts.  The point is, the brands that you are passionate about have done something to trigger that passion.  What is it that makes you want to evangelize for a brand?

The next, logical question is: What do you do to create that same loyalty and zeal in your own customers?  Because you know, it doesn’t happen by accident.

Starbucks sells a lot more than coffee

I have a brilliant but antagonistic friend who has big issues with my deep admiration for Howard Schultz;  he doesn’t understand how I can admire a man who figured out a way to charge $4 for coffee. I don’t admire Schultz simply for his genuine rags to riches story, or his Indivisible campaign… although the latter is something that I think is remarkably inspiring.

My admiration for Schultz and the company he created began when I fell in love with his product… and in case you didn’t notice, his product is NOT coffee.  As a VP- Sales who traveled extensively to manage Sales Reps Starbucks isn't about the coffeeworking primarily out of their vehicles, I spent hours upon hours having meetings in Starbucks.  I don’t even drink coffee, but I am intensely loyal to the brand that Schultz built.  Here’s why:

1. Consistent quality products; I’m a big tea drinker – try getting a decent cuppa anywhere outside of a major metropolitan area that ISN’T Starbucks.

2. Always friendly and helpful employees.

3. Comfortable and attractive interiors.

4. Never the feeling that you’ve overstayed your welcome.

5. Free wi-fi

I know there are plenty of Starbucks haters who deride the demise of the independent coffee house, and I totally get that… but most of us living outside of major cities never had a decent coffee shop, let alone a pleasant place to meet for a leisurely hour.  Starbucks sold, and we BOUGHT, and experience.  A pleasant, warm, quality experience that did not exist before they built it.

The question for your company is: what’s the experience you’re building for your customers? If it’s just product, you’re in trouble, because there’s always a newer, shinier product that comes along to entice them away.  What about the experience of dealing with you will build this sort of loyalty?  It’s NEVER been just about the coffee for Starbucks.    It can’t be just about the product for you either.



“Social Media Marketing” is a Misnomer

Because really, if all you’re doing is marketing on Social Media, you won’t succeed. I can just about guarantee that if all your Facebook Page or Twitter account does is “sell” or “market” you’ll end up with few fans/followers and no one will hear your incessant cry for customers. What effective businesses do online is Social Media Relationship Building – they carry on conversations with people who have an interest in what they do. Ideally there is not one designated marketing employee broadcasting the message a company wants heard, but instead, many employees or customers talking about your company, what makes it unique, and why you’re good at what you do.

In creating a Social Media/Policy with a client recently they asked the oft repeated “well, WHO will be making these posts?” I answered: I hope all of you. Some will post about their enthusiasm for certain projects, some will post about the company’s involvement in the local community, and some will extoll the virtues of a co-worker. Of course I always advise companies to create a clear policy, especially regarding what, if anything, is not to be discussed, but in general I say “let them have at it.” You should not be afraid of what your employees think about what you do, and chances are that you will discover who the most enthusiastic, creative ones of the lot are if you foster an environment that encourages independent thinking…Social Media is the perfect platform for that.

The next question is: What do we do if a disgruntled client or angry competitor posts negative comments? My answer is always, you should be happy – because if they do they are allowing you the opportunity to gracefully address their anger, angst or disappointment. If done correctly, even if you cannot repair the particular individual’s view of your company, you can let the world see that you do care about your clients and that you are more than willing to discuss anything on their mind. You can also go a long way in developing a top level customer service culture when your employees see you listen to and deal with the negative.

Additionally, if you are using Social Media properly to build relationships, at some point you will actually have to step away from your computer and meet up with them in Real Life. Yep, I said it – the old fashioned practice of actually looking someone in the eye and having a conversation is still effective believe it or not. It may be that you are at a specific meet up or networking event, or speaking to a large audience… whatever the case may be, you have to put yourself out there in real life for your followers to actually see you in the flesh at some point. THAT is when the relationship is solidified – why do you think politicians spend years glad handing before the big race? We still need to know that you’re real, and that split second of personal attention is invaluable.

The lessons? Stop with the constant self promotion and provide your followers with great content, ‘free’ advice, and allow and encourage them to have a voice in the Social Media Conversation. Make your company as ‘human’ and open as possible. Then, create or attend real life events that allows your followers to get to know you and your company on an entirely different level and THEN you will be utilizing Social Media to its fullest potential by building relationships.