Superfans Bring the WOW

    Social Survey’s Create WOW Summit, held last week in San Ramon, CA, featured speaker Brittany Hodak, who’s keynote “Creating Superfans: Why the 5-Star Review is Only the Beginning,” focused on developing experiences that delight customers and turn them into advocates for your brand.

    Hodak, co-founder of The Superfan Company, defined Superfans this way: “A  customer who over-indexes in his or her affinity for a brand, person, service, or entity, thereby increasing the chance he or she will advocate on its behalf as part of everyday life.”

    While superfans are influencers in their own way, they differ from the typical influencer in that you can’t buy superfans – you can only create them, Hodak  noted. And if you can do this successfully, superfans are worth their weight in gold. 

    Developing this type of fan is crucial for those in the highly-competitive mortgage space who are increasingly leveraging technology (including social media) to expand their brand reach, find leads, and convert prospects into business.

    Shawn Bowling, a loan officer with USA Mortgage, knows how valuable superfans can be. Prior to Hodak’s keynote, Social Survey recognized Bowling as its #1 Top Performer in 2018. Based in Ohio, Bowling achieved that status by garnering 243 reviews with an average rating of 4.97 stars out of 5 stars.

    A short interview with Bowling revealed that he uses many of the techniques advocated by Hodak to create superfans. These happy customers leave him great reviews, which helps fuel even more business.

    This goes to a key point made by Hodak, who used this quote from Shiv Singh to succinctly illustrate why superfans are so important: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.”

    And while it’s great to get 5-star reviews, Hodak explained that it “is exponentially better” to have customers refer your business to their friends without you asking them to do so. According to Nielsen, 83% of people trust recommendations from their friends and family members. 

    Any business can toot its own horn and promote itself. But when paying customers write positive reviews and extol the virtues of a product, service or company, it carries much more weight.

    Having superfans who are willing to spread the good word for you is free. And the more advocates your brand or company has, the fewer ads you need to buy, Hodak noted. That’s a win-win.

    Additionally, superfans are also much more engaged. They do more – watch more, share more, buy more, evangelize more, participate more, help more.

    Hodak added that the main reason that people do things, is because they are asked to. She implored people to simply ask customers to recommend them to a friend or family member. 

    Riding the WAVE

    Creating superfans takes effort. Hodak explained, what she calls the WAVE method, whereby customers are Welcomed, Appreciated, Validated, Engaged – a process that when executed properly turns customers into superfans.

    Welcomed is about creating a sense of belonging for a customer. When customers don’t feel welcomed by a company, they take their dollars and influence elsewhere – often to a competitor.

    Appreciated is letting a customer know their business matters to you, and that you’re thankful to have it. This is where Hodak advocates for companies to embrace The Platinum Rule, which takes the Golden Rule a step further. The Golden Rule is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. But the Platinum rule states that you should treat others the way they want to be treated. The key to this is listening, asking questions and understanding what is important to potential customers. 

    Validated means that you want customers to walk away from any interaction with your business thinking that their opinions and concerns matter to you. Validation gives people a sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves and helps form the beginning stages of community. Validation is the cornerstone of understanding, Hodak said.

    Engagement is the final stage of WAVE. Feeling engaged means a customer is excited about their active participation with your brand, product, or service. Customer engagement is about creating deep connections with customers that drive purchase decisions, interaction, and participation, over time.

    Turning Customers into Superfans

    Once Hodak outlined the basic tenets of superfandom and their benefits, she dove into some examples of how to make it happen.

    Hodak explained that you must ultimately figure out a way to connect your story to theirs. She added that the why and the who are more important than the how. She gave an example of making sure to acknowledge your grandmother’s birthday. You can send grandma a card, use the phone, text, email, or do it in person. Hodak stressed that it’s not about how you wish your grandmother a happy birthday that is important. It’s the why (it’s grandma’s birthday) and who (well, it’s your grandmother!).

    In connecting your message to others, your story is the why. The customer (or potential customer) is the who. This can mean sharing something personal or finding common ground to establish that intersection and create a connection or bond. That personal feeling gives a customer a reason to trust you, to feel more engaged, and ultimately want to share their positive experience with their circle of family and friends. Again, referrals.

    A critical component is of your story is articulating what is truly unique about your brand and making it so specific that it’s “uncopyable.” Think about what differentiates your business from the pack.

    For a company, that also requires all employees to know the unique company narrative and be able to clearly communicate it to customers. Employees need to focus on how the company story relates to the customer, and to understand exactly who that customer is. 

    In most cases, this can be done by determining what questions employees will ask customers, and knowing why those questions are important. To accomplish that, employees need to listen, retain and repeat. This often involves using a CRM system to capture information.

    Hodak used an example of reaching out to people to wish them a Happy Half-Birthday. This all started when she was a child. She felt that a winter birthday left her with fewer party options than her summer birthday cousins, who had pool parties and outdoor celebrations. Jealous of those birthday events, she began celebrating her half-birthday. This tradition stuck with her, and she began acknowledging half birthdays for others. Anyone can wish someone a happy birthday on the actual date, but she separates herself from the pack with the half-birthday wishes.

    The next step, according to Hodak, is personalization. Everyone wants to feel special. You need to make each person feel as though they are your most important customer.

    Satisfied Customers Stick Around

    Finally, the goal is to exceed expectations. Everyone has had a subpar customer service experience at some point. In fact, one study stated that 97% of people said that the quality of customer service played a role in their choice of and loyalty to a brand. 

    And while customer service is not the only factor to create superfans, bad experiences can derail sales and even translate to customers switching brands. Sixty-seven percent of people said they are willing to switch brands based on poor customer service. Forbes reported that an estimated $75 billion in annual lost revenue is due to poor customer service.

    Mortgage professionals will find that delighting customers makes all the difference in turning them into superfans, which benefits everyone involved. So get in your CRM and mark those half-birthdays, favorite colors, and foam preference on their soy lattes. And don’t forget to WAVE.