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How to turn customers into brand fanatics

How to turn customers into brand fanatics Ashish Mistry

For businesses of any size, consumer-facing or B2B, the brass ring is getting your customers to be ambassadors for your product. At KontrolFreek, we call our loyal fan base "freeks," but any company can turn its users into company fans or "freaks" of their own. However, mobilizing customers into brand zealots is not an easy task, or something that is done overnight. Some company leaders have built their marketing outreach through award-winning advertising and heavy investment in partnerships. Others use a grassroots approach through online community building and transparent practices. I've always believed in tapping the power of brand enthusiasts and building a two-way relationship to grow a customer base.

Gaming is a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry and becoming one of the most popular pastimes among young adults and adults alike. Even if your business isn't in an industry with millions of enthusiasts readily available, there are many ways to use your valuable customers and turn them into loyal brand "freaks."

Be authentic
Staff your company with people who know your customer best. Building a company that consists of end users is a good starting place to generate authenticity around your product or service. Since we sell products to gamers, it was important to us to have team members that are gamers from the beginning. Filling the company from the top down with people that live the lifestyle of your product will not only give your company authenticity, but it will help speed up the creative process and make outbound communication clear and compelling.

Harness customer feedback
Tracking, responding to, and acting on feedback from your customers -- the good and the bad -- should be one of your biggest priorities as a company. Setting a weekly meeting with separate channel leaders is a great way to share the collective voice on what is happening on each channel. HootSuite, Social Mention, and Twilert are wonderful applications to gauge customer's sentiment.

Respond to customers in a timely manner
The next step is to take action to respond. Always respond to customers quickly and honestly. Whether it's questions about existing products or services, technical difficulties, or suggestions, a quick, honest response (even if you don't have the immediate answer) is always appreciated by customers. A lack of response can be devastating while a quick response can make a world of difference to unhappy customers.

Engage and empower your community
You've fostered a community of fans, now listen to them. Let them tell you what product or service they want to see fill a gap in the market. We have built our whole business on developing products that are conceived by incorporating our customer's feedback. For example, when our fans of first-person shooter games (i.e., Call of Duty, HALO, Gears of War 3) started asking for accessories for old school arcade games like Pac-Man, we dived in further with research and ended up developing a product based entirely on customer demand. The product that came out of this process is one of our most popular accessories to date.

Create a symbiotic relationship with customers
Don't just communicate with customers when you want to sell something -- make engaging a daily activity so that you can keep up with the sentiments of your customer. In today's fast-paced business climate, industries change from day to day so your level of engagement should always remain consistent.

Pick your battles
Once you've built and are continually fostering your active "freak" community, the biggest benefit to your business are these zealous customers talking about your business and products. They talk offline, in online forums, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and the list goes on. While it is tempting to manage all aspects of your brand down to every last "like," favorite, and tweet, sometimes you must loosen the reigns when it comes to managing online content. The only true way to manage this chatter is by deepening engagement.

Say, for example, a fan created his own Facebook page for your company -- do you contact Facebook and ask it to shut down the unauthorized business page, or do you  support the page and encourage further engagement? You never want to alienate your fans; always give your fans a sanctioned and authorized voice if they want one. Promote customers who are promoting your business -- it will undoubtedly make them feel good and compel them to create more content that promotes your business.

When it comes down to it, success is about making products customers want. Perpetuate the cycle of putting your customers first and think about what they want, not what you want to offer them, and you will end up with a few more brand "freaks" along the way.

Ashish Mistry is the CEO of KontrolFreek.

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Ashish Mistry is the President and CEO of KontrolFreek, the leading developer of innovative gaming gear. He develops and oversees the company's strategies across all key business divisions including R&D, marketing, sales, and operations. Under...

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