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Riding the Wave: The Benefits of Building and Maintaining a Cult Following

Numerous companies began with a cult following and grew so successfully that they have gained a global following with hundreds of millions of devotees. Examples include tech companies Apple and BlackBerry, food and beverage manufacturers such as Snapple, and gaming companies like Blizzard Entertainment (the maker of World of Warcraft video games).

While the cult appeal of consumer-oriented companies is understood, B2B companies also can benefit from this model and develop methods to leverage the knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm that come with a cult following. When it becomes clear that your company is building a cult following, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at how others have handled the same issue.

Leveraging the Passion

Ardent devotees not only love the product, but they also often can provide honest and critical feedback to the company. Those highly motivated and intelligent people do not simply belt out “Hallelujah” with every product rollout. Rather, they have constructive ideas about how to enhance the product or how to most effectively meet the needs of specific audiences. Therefore, listening to the ideas of devotees can prove invaluable. In fact, learning to incorporate this direct feedback into your company's game plan is probably the most important philosophical shift for a company managing a passionate fan base.

Nurturing an open corporate environment in which customer suggestions are not only encouraged and considered but also have the potential to be implemented is the cornerstone of building an involved fan base. Listening to suggestions from customers may allow you to implement fresh ideas. More important, it may help you understand your offering through your customers’ eyes, heightening your awareness of what they want and need, ultimately making your decision-making smarter.

To achieve that, customers should be aware of how they can submit product development suggestions and what the process will be once they do so. That would facilitate greater customer involvement and promote transparent.

On the other hand, you want your company to be perceived as innovative, as opposed to one that is simply marching to the beat of its customers. Customer suggestions certainly do not replace your own R&D efforts, but the former can help supplement the latter. In addition, not every suggestion is feasible or aligned with the company’s goals.

Therefore it is important to provide guidance and outline your vision to customers. Once that has been conveyed, it would be much easier for customers to furnish valuable suggestions that align with your road map. Looking at the examples provided earlier, a company that incorporates customer suggestions into its road map would be able to produce a workable, sensible end product that will appeal to customers.

Ultimately, when exchanging ideas with customers, you will not be able to accept each suggestion or product wrinkle being offered. However, it may be worthwhile to assess every suggestion and let the customers know you are doing so. Establishing an internal process to review those suggestions would help you do this efficiently.

Finally, to expand the dialogue with your most fervent fans, have them take part in the beta testing process of your product. Regularly consulting with a core group of evangelists can strengthen your connection with all of your customers and portray your company as one truly synchronized with its community. It's worth noting that, in most cases, not only are these fans happy to participate but they are also motivated by a strong internal drive and they derive great satisfaction from being part of the process.

On the list of corporate priorities, the rank of maintaining a dialogue with your fans is worth re-examining. Nurturing an open culture, in which suggestions may be systematically implemented, building a group of evangelists, and promoting overall transparency will not only help you build stronger customer relationships but can also lead to a much deeper understanding of your customers. That, in turn, would allow you to innovate and enhance your offering in a way that will be truly embraced by your customers. Regardless of your company’s size, if you can successfully tap into your fan base, you will quickly realize that it can help evolve your company from a cult hit into a bona fide icon.

Saar Bitner (s.bitner@sysaid.com) is Sales & Marketing Director at SysAid Technologies Ltd., a leading global provider of IT Service Management and Customer Service Support (CSS) software. Used by more than 60,000 organizations in 127 countries, SysAid customers span all industries and company sizes, from small start-ups, to SMBs, and large enterprises.

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