What is the difference between a good friend and a great friend?
A close friend and I used to joke that a good friend will take your call in the middle of the night, get out of bed and bail you out of jail. A great friend, however, will be sitting next to you in the detention cell saying, "Damn, that was fun."
While mentioned in jest, the analogy between great friends and companies should not be lost on entrepreneurs. Too many startups create a brand and a culture by combining a catchy trademark, a buzzword-filled vision and an eye-popping color palette, but miss the big picture. Instead, focus on developing your company's customer relationships much as you would foster a friendship -- not just a good friendship, but a great friendship.
Many people are still friends with their first college roommate. Why? Because of the powerful experience you both had the year you met. For many people, college provides their first occasion of living on their own and being responsible for their life, all while being immersed in an exciting setting with scores of others undergoing the same thing. It's natural to bond with others under these circumstances.
If you want to build unbreakable bonds with clients, consider treating customers like a trusted college roommate. Here are some tips:
1. Make a memorable first impression.
First impressions are everything. More than likely, you left a unique first impression with the great friends in your life. Your exchanges were exciting and memorable, which is what drew you together. Your company's brand should be no less exciting in the early stages if you want to nurture a long-term relationship. You may not be able to control the exact circumstances when you meet your customers, but you can do a number of things to prepare the setting.
2. Stand for (or against) something.
With your closest friends, you share common interests and passions, be it football, politics or a hobby like home brewing. While your company may sell a product or service that customers want, in order to build a loyal following and encourage repeat customers, connect with their interests and passions.
3. Grow with your customers.
Good friendships are nurtured over time, by growing and becoming stronger through shared experiences. If you want to nurture a similar bond with customers, be part of their lives. This does not mean filling their inboxes with generic email ads Instead be comfortably present through appropriate activity on social media. Keep your company's website updated with meaningful and useful content that adds value to customers' lives.
4. Change your customers' lives.
When I reflect back on the great friendships I've had, I see that my best attributes have been enriched and influenced by the people involved. Great company brands do the same: They enrich and influence the lives of their customers. While not every company can literally change people's lives, your business can have a positive influence on your customers' lives.
In the end, you are hoping that your customers stay out of jail. But be prepared to be with them in spirit if they decide to take a crazy and adventurous ride.
Have you had a unique experience with a company that prompted you to become a loyal follower?
Related: 7 Ways to Say I Love You