Do you want “Ambassadors” for your business? You should, they are the most effective free advertising that you can have for your business. They refer you, bring people to you, and they want to make sure you are successful. Recently the Journal of Consumer Research pre-released a piece of empirical research for the February issue that identifies the factors that create ambassadors.
The article entitled Place Attachment in Commercial Settings: A Gift Economy Perspective. The research specifically looked at what factors contribute to clients attachment to a particular business and further looked at are the resultant behaviors of clients who become your ambassadors.
Factors that can turn clients into Ambassadors
1. Familiarity. This is more than just being acquainted with your place of business. This is knowing your business story. It is knowing the names of the people who work there and their stories. It is your people knowing the names and stories of your clients. It is a place where the client knows the “ins” and “outs” of your place of business. It is a place where they feel comfortable. They feel like they have the “inside scoop” if you will on your business. They have been allowed backstage and they know the secrets. Everyone wants to know they have access to the “backstage”. When they feel they have that access the are familiar.
While at first thought you may say, “this is not for a business like mine”…Look this is about relationships…the fact of the matter is people get familiar when they are on the inside, that only happens on a personal level, probably the only level you shield from your consumer.
Do not underestimate how your personal relationships translate. When people get to know you personally they feel like your place of business is a welcoming place where they can come back again and again.
Do your current and past clients like to come back? Have you given them a reason to just hang out or feel comfortable asking questions? How well do they know your staff? Do they know your story? Everyone business has something or can do something to give their clients the familiarity they desire.
Have you thought about things you can do to invite them to come back without having to buy something? Perhaps you have a conference room they can use? On cold days or early mornings could they get a cup of coffee if they wanted one? Do you have a notary? Can the make a free copy? Can they have access to your wi-fi? I know these may sound silly on the face, but remember if people feel comfortable with you, your people and your place of business, psychologically iff you give people a reason to come back they will, and they will bring their friends.
2. Authenticity. How genuine are you as the person you say your are, the people you brag about and the appearance and feel of your place of business? Are you willing to take the next step in the relationship process or do the people who come to your business just think you are only about doing business. Do they really believe you care the way you say you do? How about your place of business surroundings…does it look like a place people would like to come to or does it look stuffy, slummy, or it just doesn’t fit?
Keep in mind authenticity is a perception. Every aspect of your business plays a part in the perception of authenticity. From the look of your office to the people and attitudes in it. This means that when you really say you care about the person more so than the sale that you are genuine in developing a personal relationship with that person. What is more, how about your staff are they willing to be open to being authentic with other people or are they simply performing a job.
Authenticity can be tricky because while it implies integrity it really is about being the person, the team, the business that goes beyond business and is truly interested in the personal lives of those that come through your door and that you demonstrate that. Authenticity is what happens beyond the transaction. The question is are you the nice person outside of the office as you acted when you made the sale, and are you willing to let those clients be a part of your life outside of your place of business?
3. Security. You probably do not think about your business as a “safe” place. As a matter of fact you probably take it for granted. However, from your client’s perspective is your place a safe harbor for them. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. When they come to your place of business are they free from the negativity that the world generally puts on them? So they know that they can come to your place of business and get support, positive feedback, and comfort? Is there tension in your office? When they come in do they know that they are going to be completely at ease that they know they will be supported, encouraged, even comforted? Do they know that when they come to your place of business they have escaped the world even for a moment?
A major part of safety and security is just being able to listen. However, the other part is what you are not paying attention to, and that is the general feel of your business. Do the employees feel like they are walking on egg shells? Are they waiting for the hammer to fall? If your employees are stressed and worried, then you can be assured that people will not find your place a safe place. Do people feel welcome, or just another person who should take a number and what for it to be called?
Is your place give people a feeling of warmth or cold hearted ruthless business people? Remember every buying decision no matter how small or big is emotional. Your business surroundings and people set the tone for the emotions of every person that comes through your threshold. Be honest with yourself what is the tone, mood, and emotions of your place of business? You cannot have ambassadors if they do not have a safe place to come.
Putting It All Together Creating “Homeyness”
So where does that lead us? Well according to the research all of these factors lead to what clients describe as “homeyness”. It is not a very scientific term, but it is what your clients are looking for if they have familiarity, authenticity, and security, they feel like it is homey. At let’s be honest “home is where the heart is”.
None of this is going to happen if you simply leave your relationship on a transaction level. Homeyness is personal not transactional.
What are the Results of All This Effort? Amazing Ambassadors Who Give Back!
What I found so awesome about this study was how these clients respond to places that give them familiarity, authenticity, and security leading to homeyness is that they want to reciprocate back to the business. How? Here are a three ways clients reciprocate.
1. Volunteering. When you have a established a place where people perceive “homeyness” they have a tendency to want to volunteer to help you. It could be something small like take our your trash, or it could be something bigger like helping you move furniture or help with an event.
One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses make is when they have established a sense of homeyness is not allowing their clients to be part of the business. Give opportunities for people to volunteer. Perhaps you have not thought about it, but if you are what you say you are there are clients out there who want to give back to you. It is okay to ask, but always remember those 4 magical words…”but it’s your choice”. You will be pleasantly surprised.
2. Over-reciprocation. This occurs when people bring lavish gifts or perhaps spend more money than they probably should, or want to come back even if some place else is less expensive. The reason they are coming back is not because of your product or service it is because of you creating a relationship that created homeyness for their client that they rarely get any where else and they treasure it.
3. Ambassadorship. This is when folks want to bring their friends and family to a safe, authentic, familiar place because they know that when they bring their friends they are going to get the same treatment. As matter of fact these ambassadors cannot wait to bring people in, because they feel like they know you, your staff, and some of the inside things that the average person does not know about you and your stories.
Further as ambassadors they feel like they are members of the private club. After all membership does have it’s privileges. They are on the inside and they want people to enjoy what they enjoy, they want to be the person that introduces the owner to their close friends, family, and close business associates. They see you as a treasure, and they want those people close to them to share in the treasure with them.
Do your clients see your place of business as a “treasure”? If not, then there are only three things that are inhibiting you…familiarity, authenticity, and security. You will find if you focus on these three things in your business, people will not only come to your door to do business with you, but they will want to come back be a part of your team, and bring their friends.
Experiment Time: Something Simple The Power of Being Personal
So I was telling this to a real estate business owner that I consult. I suggested they try to create more of a personal feel rather than simply talking about business. I simply told her that when she calls a client on the phone ask something about their personal life that you know rather than jumping into the conversation about business.
What happened the first call she made she knew that the person just had a new baby. The conversations started like this: “So how is the new mommy”? Reply: “I am so glad you asked!” The conversation continued for a few minutes the business question was then asked and the person on the other line said, “I am so glad you called thank you!”
My client said, “Wow! I need to do this more often, it made the call go so much smoother and easier, I feel good too!”
Nothing more needs to be said…we have a winner!
People become your ambassadors based on the different types of personal relationships that are formed between you and your employees inside and outside of your place of business. It must be part of your business DNA to allow and be open to these relationships where your clients will experience that sense of familiarity, authenticity, or security, leading to “homeness”…which means they will come back for more and bring their friends.
Folks we need to understand that people want more from a business than a transaction of money…they want real authentic people that transact into familiar relationships that they can be secure and feel at home in.
Stay Successful My Friends!
Jay Izso, Internet Doctor®
- Alain Debenedetti, Harmen Oppewal, and Zeynep Arsel.Place Attachment in Commercial Settings: A Gift Economy Perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, February 2014