This Mindset Shift Will Make Your Customers Fall in Love With You

And boost your ROI at the same time.

Joshua VanDeBrake
Nov 2, 2020 · 8 min read
Photo adapted by STIL on Unsplash

every one of his adventures, Indiana Jones travels to a foreign land to uncover an ancient artifact. Without fail, he runs into opposing forces along the way who are also searching for that same thing but with a far more nefarious use in mind.

During one of his adventures, Indy (what his friends call him) seeks the Holy Grail — like the actual Holy Grail, the one that is traditionally thought to be the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper. The climactic scene takes place in an ancient room that’s filled with untold riches. And on one shelf is a collection of various goblets, glasses, and cups.

Then the bad guy enters brandishing a gun and demands, “Which one is it?!” To which, the tomb’s guardian replies, “You must choose. But choose wisely, for as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.”

The bad guy looks around, considers the options, and chooses the biggest, flashiest goblet. He drinks from it and smiles. After a brief pause, theatrics ensue — in a matter of seconds, he literally withers away and dies of old age. According to the guardian, “He chose poorly.”

Indy, in all his professorial wisdom, surveys the collection and picks up the plainest, most unassuming goblet — “the cup of a carpenter” as he describes it. He drinks from it and the guardian smiles, saying, “you have chosen wisely.”

The Holy Grail of marketing

The shiny, new tools that launch, which promise to drive untold levels of growth for marketers are like that big, gold, flashy goblet — they look nice but they’re really just a distraction from what you know will work. The plain goblet, on the other hand, is like the tried-and-true tools and channels that actually deliver results.

Unlike Indiana Jones, we don’t have to travel around the world into ancient tombs to achieve the remarkable. Instead, we can engineer these things within our businesses. Case in point: word of mouth, which is regarded as the holy grail of marketing.

Here’s why.

People buy from you, then they tell their friends, then those friends buy and tell everyone they know, and so on. Your business rakes in tons of profit, all while your customers are happily bringing in new customers for you, who in turn do the same. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

But the sad reality for most businesses is that they’ll never reach this point with their customers and never get to reap the benefits. Sure, businesses may try to get their customers to refer friends and colleagues, but most miss two vital pieces required to ever achieve this. That’s what we’re going to look at.

To understand what turns customers into raving fans, let’s back up and understand what normally goes wrong.

A typical buyer’s journey

he typical model for the buyer’s journey goes something like this: awareness > consideration > decision. There are variations on the exact terminology, but it generally follows a 3-part journey that begins with the buyer becoming aware of their need, considering potential solutions, and deciding to go one of those routes.

From a marketer’s point of view, it looks more like this: make a potential buyer aware of your product, deliver content that nudges their consideration towards you, and finally make the offer that converts them into a customer.

While these journeys achieve the goal of getting a buyer, they feel like they’re missing something. They fall short because the traditional acquisition model misses the 2 final steps that actually turn customers into raving fans who help grow your business.

Two additional steps

First, I’d like to adjust the terminology that we’re using. Instead of “buyer’s journey” we’re going to call it the “customer’s journey” because your customer’s journey doesn’t stop the minute they buy your product.

Another term for this practice is “lifecycle marketing.”

Once someone becomes a customer, the relationship evolves into something new. Your customer enters the next two phases: delight and advocacy.

  • In the delight phase, your job is to make sure your customer is so satisfied and happy that they’ll want to recommend your company and products to others.
  • In the advocacy phase, your job is to give your best customers an easy and incentivized way to refer more potential customers like them.

Phase 4: Delight your customers

Before you make the “ask” for a referral, your need to make sure your customer is so happy that they’ll want to recommend your products to their friends. This is a simple concept that is overlooked way too often.

It takes time, effort, and intention but the effect is enormous. Doing this creates loyal customers who love your brand.

Let’s look at an example of a company that does this well: Sephora.

Sephora sells makeup, hair products, and other beauty items through retail locations around the world as well as an online store. And they do an incredible job creating loyalty; to make their most loyal customers feel special, they invite them to become part of a powerful loyalty program.

As part of their customer tracking program, Sephora identifies which customers are most loyal and invites them into an exclusive club, which has different levels, based on how much a customer spends in a year (Insider, VIB, and Rouge). Oh, and it’s free to join, with immediate benefits. These benefits include special discounts, free samples, loyalty points, and a birthday gift. All of these things elevate the customer’s experience and reward them for shopping with Sephora.

Through this loyalty program, Sephora continues developing and evolving their customer relationships. They recognize that a customer’s journey continues long after the first purchase. And by focusing on these high-value customers, Sephora reinforces and cements their brand with those customers and gets them to happily buy even more products. In doing this, it ends up turning great customers into brand loyalists and fans.

There are a number of ways you can reward your best customers. Whether it’s through a loyalty program that offers discounts, exclusivity, or free samples, or something else, it’s a powerful and necessary step in creating raving fans. And it primes them to help spread your message.

Phase 5: Turn them into advocates

Once you’ve developed a truly incredible experience for your customers and tailored the experience to make them feel special, you’re ready to make the ask. So our next step is to build an incentivized referral program.

One of the most famous examples of a successful referral program is Dropbox. It’s a work of genius. Not only that, but it sparked a new type of marketing that would eventually come to be known as growth hacking.

Shortly after their launch, Dropbox was using all of the “normal” acquisition channels for new customers. The problem was, they were losing money on every single new customer acquired because their CAC (customer acquisition cost) was astronomical.

With a little bit of tinkering and brainstorming, the team came up with a referral strategy to incentivize users to invite their friends, family, and colleagues.

It was simple and it was brilliant.

Each new Dropbox user gets 2 GB of free storage when they sign up (a “freemium” business model). And once a user hits that 2 GB threshold, they’re given the option of different plans they can upgrade to. All quite standard for a freemium business. But here’s where it changes.

In addition to those upgrade options, Dropbox also included a unique offer. Instead of purchasing additional storage, the customer can also receive 500 MB of “bonus space” for each friend that joins Dropbox. By referring their friends to Dropbox, customers could avoid the extra storage fees while getting more space. And for Dropbox, the additional bonus space that these customers earn cost them virtually nothing compared to the “old way” of acquiring customers.

Roughly a year into this program, Dropbox acquired nearly 10 million new users — all because of a referral program that gave them immense word-of-mouth marketing value.

A Final detail that determines everything

All that being said, if you’re going to ask for a referral, you need to do it the right way. Most businesses skip the delight phase and go straight to asking for a referral, which is far too soon; and this ask destroys their chances of getting one. Even if a customer does eventually feel confident becoming a champion of your brand and recommending your products, that doesn’t normally happen the minute they become a customer. They first need to be convinced.

If you’ve shopped online in the past decade, you’ve probably found yourself, minutes (or even seconds) after completing a purchase, face-to-face with a pop-up that asks you to refer 2 or 3 friends who might also like to know about the product or service. In the hundreds of times that I’ve come face-to-face with that message, I don’t think I’ve ever done it.

Why would I refer someone when I’ve barely just become a customer myself? Sure, there is an argument to be made about how the ideal time is when a new customer is fresh off the high of a new purchase. But that person hasn’t even received the product yet. They only took the risk of buying something moments ago.

Your customer needs to experience the benefits of their purchase before they put their own reputation on the line to vouch for you. You could have the best product or service in the world but rarely get any referrals because you ask for them way too soon. Timing is key. You first need to delight your customer. Then ask.

Focus on your best customers

The best referrals come from happy current customers. Again, this may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out.

  • Think about your 10 worst customers. Now, imagine 10 new customers exactly like them. How about 100? Or 1,000? Could your business sustain that? What would happen to morale? What would happen to employee turnover? Are your 10 worst customers even profitable for your company?
  • Now, think about your 10 best customers and imagine you got 10 or 100 or 1000 more just like them. You’re probably smiling because you love working with those customers. They are the reason you do this in the first place.

Pro Tip: Your best customers most likely spend time associating with your best prospects — more people just like them.

Final thoughts

Your buyer’s journey does not end at the time of purchase. It evolves.

Your next step is to delight your customer so that they love your brand and products. Make sure to deliver a truly incredible experience before asking for referrals or you’ll risk blowing the whole thing.

Then, present an easy way for them to refer other potential customers and offer a valuable, tangible incentive for them. Financial rewards are often effective, but make it worthwhile — aka not a $5 Starbucks card.

Hopefully, this will result in your best customers referring more who fit their same customer profile.

Then, delight those new customers and continue the process.

Congratulations, you have now established a new channel for effectively acquiring new customers that fit your ideal profile — and probably at a fraction of the cost when compared to traditional acquisition!

And not only that, you might have just unlocked the holy grail of marketing — no ancient tombs, life-risking adventures, or Nazi opponents required.

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Joshua VanDeBrake

Written by

Passionate about Marketing, Startups, & VC. Full-Stack Marketer. Ambivert. Millennial.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

Joshua VanDeBrake

Written by

Passionate about Marketing, Startups, & VC. Full-Stack Marketer. Ambivert. Millennial.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

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