“A highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow.” – “The Engaged Workplace,” The Gallup Organization
Most marketing professionals spend their days in a world of SEO, click-throughs, brand messaging, online advertising rates, demographics, market segmentation. There is a lot to think about . . . and the list of things to manage goes on and on from there.
But I would like to share this rather iconoclastic idea with you . . .
Customers want to do business with companies they have fallen in love with.
I don’t mean that they want to like your company or recognize your logo or think your ad copy is clever. I mean that they have to fall in crazy love with you. They have to think about what they just bought from you when they put their heads down on their pillows at the end of the day, they have to call their friends and rave about you. And when nobody is watching, they should feel compelled to look at what you have sold them and maybe even get goosebumps.
And I would like to share a second idea with you . . .
The key to getting customers to fall in love with your company is to get everyone in your organization to fall in love with you first.
You see, love radiates. When your people love your company, love your vision, love your products, love each other and love your customers, that’s a kind of love that can’t be contained. You become the company that people want to do business with. Why? Because they are in love with you. And again, I am talking in extremes, not describing a company where employees don’t mind their jobs, or where they report low levels of frustration. I am talking about a company where people go to bed every night thinking about new solutions to share with their teams, where they wake up in the morning itching to get to work, where their infectious enthusiasm jumps to every customer they see every day. And, just in case you missed it when I wrote about it a minute ago, makes those customers love you.
How Do Customers Fall in Love with You? Through Experiences
Think of it like online dating. People identify potential romantic partners by looking at their pictures and profiles online. But generally speaking, falling in love is a face-to-face experience. And the same is true if you want customers to fall in love with your company.
I am talking about experiences like these that I have seen firsthand:
- A colleague of mine was not happy when the hard drive failed on her six month-old MacBook Pro computer. She had taken computers to computer stores before, and was expecting a miserable experience. But something amazing happened. Even though she had to leave her computer at the Apple store for repairs, she left feeling elated and excited to be an Apple customer. How was that possible? Simply because the employees in the store loved Apple, so she fell in love with Apple too. She couldn’t fully explain it herself.
- Derek and Susan, a young married couple, bought their first house and bought new carpeting from a Carpet One® store. They liked showroom salesperson, who spent a lot of time patiently helping them select products and colors. But the love happened when the carpet installers arrived, complimented the customers on the products they had selected, explained everything they were going to do, offered the customers different installation options for stairs and closets and delivered true “kid glove” treatment at every step.
- Barry, a writer who is on our marketing team, had a leaking Moen bathroom faucet. Because he had installed the faucets more than a decade earlier, he thought he would have to buy a new set. Without high expectations, he called Moen where a very pleasant woman overnighted him replacement parts not once, but twice until everything was working perfectly. No fee, part of the warranty. She told him, “When you do business with us, lifetime guarantee means lifetime guarantee.” Will Barry buy faucets from any other company? Not likely.
Building an Engaged Company Culture
Let me restate my belief that you get people to fall in love with your company by getting your employees to fall in love with it first. How can you do that? By creating a partnership with them where they engage their emotions, minds and hearts in the process of working alongside you. Here are some ways to do that that have I seen work beautifully in the companies I have worked in and led:
- Create a personal development plan for and with each employee and revisit it at short, regular intervals. Ask people about their dreams and professional goals, and find ways to make sure your company is the place they can happen.
- Encourage, solicit, capture, develop and implement ideas. I favor open meetings where you capture ideas on whiteboards, discuss them, and put them into practice whenever possible. If you cannot utilize an idea, explain why and engage with its creator to come up with more. Above all, never let an idea go unnoticed or die.
- Provide excellent training. It is the best way to remove obstacles that prevent people from doing their jobs comfortably, even beautifully. In your training, be sure to tell your company story and talk about your company’s mission, so everyone knows that they are part of something meaningful and unique.
- Offer a high level of autonomy to employees. If they are passionate about something they would like to do, let them try them you possibly can – even if you suspect that things might not work out perfectly. Good leaders are willing to be proven wrong.
- Provide benefits that are measurably better than those offered by other companies where your employees could apply for jobs if they left you. If you don’t, they will be on the job market. If you do, they will fall in love with you.
- Hire people with the right attitude. Attitude is infectious. Good attitudes can spread throughout an entire organization. Unfortunately, a negative one can too.
- Let people help develop your company’s vision. I like to begin meetings by asking attendees to describe the company’s vision in their own words. When people help shape who you are and what you will become, chances are much better that they won’t just come to work and do what is expected of them. They will fall in love with you.
What Gallup Discovered about High Engagement Levels
Gallup, the consulting and polling company, conducts ongoing studies of the impact that employee engagement can have on company success. On June 7, 2016, Gallup summarized its most recent findings in an article in the Gallup Business Journal, “Managing in Tough Financial Times: Does Engagement Help?”
To quote from that article, “Gallup research shows a relationship between high levels of engagement and confidence in a company’s future, and further — that the best leaders create a sense of hope and optimism among employees. What happens if leaders mismanage fear and uncertainty? Engagement levels can drop, putting a company at risk for lost productivity, negative customer experiences and flight of top talent.”
In Summary . . .
Is getting people infatuated with you all you need to do to succeed? No, you need to keep communicating with them, answering questions, providing product support and engaging in a myriad of other smart activities. But I believe that it all starts with internal engagement. It is true in many areas of life, and it is true in marketing too. Without love, not much will happen.