There’s a lot that gets said about customer loyalty or brand loyalty these days. On this subject I would like to offer one thought.
A company has true customer loyalty when, rather than get enraged, their customers will make excuses for the company when the company or its products screw up.
Case in point. I love Apple. I love the company. I love the products. I love the ads. I’m one of those people who says “you can have my Mac, when you pull it away from my cold, dead hands.” I’ve been using a Mac since 1987 when I started working for Apple during business school. When I bought my G5 last summer at the local Apple store, more things could not have gone wrong. The first thing that went wrong is that when I went to pick up my new computer after I had left my old Mac with them to transfer the data to the new Mac, they sent me home with someone else’s computer. This I discovered when I carefully unwrapped that huge box and set up the Mac in its new home, only to find out that someone else’s files where on the desktop. Oops! The Apple store had also forgotten to give me my old computer back, and in my delirious excitement over the new one, I had forgotten too.
Small companies have to work hard to get visibility, especially when the market is crowded with competitors all vying for the same business. In high tech they face the added dilemma that IT departments don’t want to buy from a small unknown vendor, and the vendor can’t become large and reputable unless it has major customers. So, how does a company become better known with limited resources? By becoming an industry thought leader.
What’s a thought leader?
A thought leader is a recognized leader in one’s field. What differentiates a thought leader from any other knowledgeable company, is the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.
Trust is built on reputation and reputation is generally NOT built on advertising. It is built on what others say about you. Become a thought leader in your field and it won’t matter as much how big you are. Companies will look to you for insight and vision. Journalists will quote you, analysts will call you, websites will link to you.
How does one become a thought leader?
Before one takes the first actionable step, a fundamental shift in mindset is needed. Thought leadership requires a spirit of generosity – generosity of one’s time, intelligence and knowledge. It requires a trust that by being open with what you know, and by sharing your time and knowledge, the world will reward your efforts. With that in mind, here are steps that will help you on your way to being a thought leader:
Twelve Steps to Great Presentations
Youve been asked to give a talk about your area of expertise to a group interested in learning what you have to say. How do you ensure that your talk will be successful? That you will engage your audience, exceed their expectations, and position yourself as a thought leader on the subject?
1. Know your audience what do they care about?
The best advice I was ever given regarding speaking to an audience was to think less of what I wanted to say, and more of what the audience wanted to hear. In other words, speak to their listening. Will you be speaking to business executives or college students? What does your audience expect to learn from their interaction with you? Try to gauge this well, make sure you deliver upon it, and then if you have more to add, do so. Once you have an audience engaged and they trust that listening to you wont be a waste of time you can give them what they want plus more.