To Nurture Business Customer Loyalty, Foster Community

Connecting customers with each other to discuss common challenges builds tight bonds with you.

learn more about Mark Woollen

By Mark Woollen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."

In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, a person who has done something for someone is more likely to repeat the favor than if they had received a favor in the first place. Humans are, by nature, loyal beings who aim to please and are likely to repeat behavior. Loyalty is a powerful force and the most ideal form is one that is exercised not by feelings of presumed obligation, but by a genuine desire to remain dedicated.

Related: 6 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

The concept of loyalty in business isn't new. It has long been top-of-mind for companies. Every road warrior is familiar with an airline's mileage loyalty program. For example, think about how often you have watched family or colleagues scramble to book travel at the end of the year to keep their mileages status intact, even if they had a negative experience with the airline brand. Why? Customer loyalty.

In a society where one's attention span is the length of 140 characters, it is more difficult than ever to foster customer loyalty before they move onto the next thing, yet cultivating loyalty is crucial to establishing a solid customer base and a successful career in sales.

To create loyalty in this real-time, connected era, foster a community. One can accomplish this by keeping near-constant contact with your customers, seeking their advice on topics where you are not an expert and listening to their feedback. Establish and curate a community of like-minded individuals who will benefit from knowing and sharing ideas, questions and solutions with one another.

Related: How a B2B Website Made an Emotional Connection With Customers -- And Saw Conversions Soar

Successful salespeople create customer communities of CIOs, CMOs and, more recently, CSOs (Chief Sales Officers) who provide a place for like minded individuals to talk shop. Having a strong relationship with various communities of customers allows salespeople to learn directly from them and build their own roadmap to cultivating customer loyalty. Communities provide unparalleled visibility into a customer's wants and needs.

When a customer doesn't know what they want or need yet, that same community is a great place to discover best practices or tips from experts. And if a salesperson is a part of this organic discovery and sharing process, they're able to position themselves as the expert. Integrating with, and fostering, customer communities allows salespeople to understand the needs of the industry better than anyone.

Loyalty means nothing if it is independent of a community. Community is nothing if not occupied by loyal members. Community begets loyalty, and loyalty is a derivative of community. For example, take the buzz around the U.S. soccer team at the World Cup. We saw a phrase from a U.S. soccer chant grow into a vibrant community, all centered on the hashtag #IBelieveThatWeWillWin. Fair-weather fans flocked to participate in the community and joined the fan base for the first time. Loyalty developed around the team that previously didn't exist and as a result, we're seeing a new rise around soccer in the U.S.

Loyalty and community go hand-in-hand. You can't have one without the other. I find myself using community more than ever now. Loyalty and community is what every salesperson should strive to create and build, every day. It is crucial to the success of any company.

Related: The Shocking Truth: Customers Don't Want to Engage With Your Company

Mark Woollen

SVP Product Marketing, Sales Cloud at salesforce.com

Mark Woollen is Sr. Vice President of Product Marketing for Sales Cloud at salesforce.com where he is responsible for the positioning and go-to-market strategy for Sales Cloud, the world’s number one sales app.  Mr. Woollen has more than 18 years of sales, marketing and development experience, with a history of redefining market segments and delivering products that are easy to use and drive improved productivity.

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