Passion Can Be A Competitive Differentiator

What are you passionate about? Could that passion be leveraged in such a way to get your customers to buy from you? People are naturally attracted to others who are passionate about what they do. There’s an old saying, “Enthusiasm is contagious.” The same can be said for passion.

I had a chance to reconnect with David Meerman Scott, author of Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans. I covered his book when it first came out more than two years ago and remembered there was some great commentary on creating passion. The book states that the most powerful marketing force in the world is passionate fans.

The word fans is a great way to describe passionate customers, and these fans will:

· Come back for more.

· Spend more than an average customer.

· Give another chance if there’s a misstep or problem.

· Be less sensitive to price.

· Become an extension of your marketing department.

Furthermore, these fans are not just repeat customers. They are loyal customers.

Scott talks about the iconic band, The Grateful Dead, for an example of passionate fans. Three original members of the Grateful Dead continue to tour as Dead & Company 57 years after their founding. Consider that Dead fans:

· Come back for more, often seeing their favorite band in concert numerous times.

· Pay more for the best seats.

· Travel across the country (or farther) to see their band. Money and a little inconvenience will not get in the way of another “Dead Experience.”

· Are raving fans, evangelizing the band and getting their friends to listen too. The fans helped make the band successful.

So, where does passion come from? Where does it start? For the most part, it starts with the company, and often its people, specifically its leadership, which creates a culture that fuels contagious passion that extends to customers. For example, if there were a passion meter, The Grateful Dead would rank very high. As they were coming into stardom, they were talented musicians who excelled in their music, worked harder, performed longer and delivered a concert performance that made their audience want to come back for more. In short, they loved what they did, and they loved their fans. Their fans reciprocated by showing their love.

Call it mutual love—or mutual passion. It’s a two-way street. And, with that said, consider this:

When there’s passion on both sides, the combination of the two is greater than the sum of its parts.

In the 1970s, Mike Yager, a young entrepreneur, started Mid America Motorworks, a mail-order store for aftermarket Corvette parts, with a $500 loan and a lot of passion for Corvettes. In the beginning, the company had a two-page, black-and-white mail order form with a few replacement parts and accessories for Corvettes. Today, according to its website, the company sends out more than 4.5 million full-color, 300-page catalogs. Yager turned his passion into a thriving business. If you ever have a chance to walk through the Mid America Motorworks offices, you’ll find motivated people who are passionate about cars and helping customers. Yager makes sure he hires the right people with a passion for what the company is about. For his customers, Yager has annual events where thousands of passionate “fans” come to the company’s headquarters in Effingham, IL. It really is a contagious experience! Yager’s title sums up why this works. He’s not only the CEO, but he’s also the Chief Cheerleader.

Back to David Meerman Scott, who is clearly passionate about his favorite band. Beyond proving his passion for the band by attending 84 Grateful Dead concerts over the years, Scott took his passion to the next level when he had the opportunity to buy founding member and guitarist Bob Weir’s guitar, named the “No Fun Guitar” because of a sticker that was adhered to the front. Weir played that guitar in over 100 shows from 1983 through 1985. Scott was able to authenticate the guitar and bought it.

And like a true fan and not just a collector, in spite of the high price he paid for the guitar, he didn’t put the artifact away to hoard the joy of this iconic instrument for himself. He wants the world to experience the guitar. Today he loans it out to Grateful Dead tribute bands for them and their audiences to enjoy. “Having the guitar as part of the show steps up everyone’s game, including the fans who loved the experience,” says Scott.

Ultimately, it’s not just a passionate company. It’s not just a passionate customer base. It’s the combination of the two, and as the old saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a synergy between a company/brand and its fans (passionate customers). This is how companies, brands—and bands—get big.

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Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. 

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