The Importance of Building Real World Fans

Social media has become second nature for many small business owners and startup entrepreneurs. Business owners spend significant time – and sometimes money as well – seeking fans, likes and followers on all kinds of social platforms, from Facebook and Twitter, to LinkedIn, Quora, Tumblr and Pinterest, among others.

But while fussing over online followers, business owners sometimes forget that making customers fans in the real world is also vitally important. Turning someone into a fan of your business means more than convincing them to click a link or check a box online.  Maribeth Kuzmeski, founder of Illinois-based Red Zone Marketing, says that customer loyalty is similar to team loyalty. In order to get customers or clients to become true fans of your business they have to develop a strong emotional connection similar to one you might feel for your favorite sports teams. Success hinges on what you offer and how you offer it. You can get others to connect to your company, product or service by delivering that offer with passion. 

The passion part is your differentiator. Few businesses act with real enthusiasm toward customers. So when you apply passion to what you do, people take notice. In short, you develop fans.  

Here are four essentials for building real world fans:

Real World Fans1. Offer something unique. Whatever you offer customers can’t be merely better; it has to be different. To gain die-hard fans, offer or do something that no one else dares. Consider Buc-ee’s Beaver in Texas. Customers rave about it online; they write glowing blog posts, Facebook items and Yelp reviews about Buc-ee’s.

 And all this for a small chain of gas stations and convenience stores!  Google it and you’re likely to see a quote like “Buc-ee’s is the coolest gas station I know!” So how does a humble gas station earn such kudos? They’re different. For example, they’ve focused on one thing people dread most about gas stations: the bathrooms. Every Buc-ee’s has super clean, over-sized bathrooms, and full-time attendants to keep them in shape. Their motto is “Cleanest bathrooms in America.”

Think about what people dislike most about your industry, service or product. What solutions can you offer? It’s a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition and create buzz in the process.

2. Create something valuable. This has two parts. First, you need something valuable to say — a message, tip or other piece of information your customers will want to pass along. Now make it easy for them to share that message.  The rule is this:  When it’s really easy for customers to share stories about your product, service, business or brand, they will.

3. Separate features and benefits. Too many businesses still highlight product or service features rather than the benefits.  Customer aren’t so much interested in features – they want the benefits those features bring. Benefits are value statements about your product or service, with an emphasis on what’s in it for the customer. For example, “open 24 hours” is a feature. The benefit to customers is knowing you’ll always be open when they need you.

Small businesses routinely point out features and leave it up to customers and prospects to connect the dots and fill in the benefits blanks.  But remember: You’re an expert on your products and services; they aren’t. When you sell features alone, you’re asking the customer to do all the work.

4. Don’t just talk, act. Often, the things you can do to turn your customers into die-hard fans are right under your nose. They’re things you do daily or simply because you want to provide customers with above-and-beyond service. One of Kuzmeski’s clients, a financial advisor, did this.  One day he got a call from a pastor who said an elderly woman at his church was having difficulty,” relates Kuzmeski. Her husband had died and she didn’t know where any of the important papers regarding her estate were located. The advisor went to her home and helped her find everything, and didn’t charge her a penny. Later he created a program to help others in the same predicament and started receiving referrals from all over his community.


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About the Author

Daniel Kehrer, headshotDaniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., is a nationally-known, award-winning expert on small and local business, start-ups, content marketing, entrepreneurship and social media, with an MBA from UCLA/Anderson. Read more of Daniel's tips, follow him at and connect on LinkedIn at
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