From Customers to Friends to Fans

Close your eyes and visualize your customers using your product or service.  What do you see?  How do you feel?  Can you do it?

What I see with many of my clients is that an exercise like this just feels funny and they are not able to really know what their customers think and feel in their day to day life.  What does your product mean to their life?  Does it change it?  Make it easier?  

By learning the answers to these questions we are able to not only focus our marketing message, but also improve upon that crucial customer experience.  If your product or service is EXACTLY what your customer needs or wants, then you no longer have a customer, but a Fan and Evangelist.  

Of course, the question becomes, HOW???

The answer is fairly simple.  Listen, engage, repeat.  

Use the tools that are available today.  Try out the new ones.  Find ways to make THE CONVERSATION part of your daily routine.  There are far too many tools to list here today (although I have one in the works), but here is what I use.

Listening

Google Reader, Twollow, Social Too, Tweet Deck, Twitter Hawk, Friend Feed, Google Alerts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace (one of my clients in largely focused in the indie music scene), 

Engage

Tweet Deck, Twitter Hawk, Social Too, Facebook, Twitter Search, GMail, Comments, Blogging, Phone (I’m a dinosaur, I know), Skype (less and less lately with the advent of…), TokBox. 

You will see quite a bit of overlap between the two lists as many of these tools are more like places than tools.  When using Twitter, you can be a fly on the wall and watch the conversation, or actively engage in it.  

When your customers start knowing you personally they become friends.  When they start to love your product or service they become fans.

What do you use to engage the crowd?  When was the last time you made a change to your service based on a Facebook post?  Would you consider your customers friends?  Does your business have any fans?