Connecting with customers.
This simple statement encompasses our most basic goal as communicators when developing a marketing communications plan for a client. Every question we ask ourselves during the brainstorm seeks to find ways to enhance our clients’ connection with their customers. What messaging will most influence our audience? How can we grab our audience’s attention and move them to act? How do we turn loyal customers into company promoters? This final question is a large goal for all communications initiatives and, often, is the hardest to achieve.
I recently had an experience that turned me from a loyal “customer” into a company promoter.
Last week I received an email that I was the grand prize winner for a contest entered based on a social media promotion. Yes, I won one of those contests that “no one EVER wins.” The contest awarded me the opportunity to travel to New York City and announce the 4th round pick for my favorite professional football team, The Washington Redskins, during the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Without hesitation I immediately accepted, packed my team jersey and prepared for my trip to the concrete jungle. Over the next few days while working with the Redskins, I turned from just a fan of the team and players into a fan of the entire organization.
My experience varied greatly from many other teams’ fans because the Washington Redskins did four things very well that can be done by any organization that wants to turn customers, fans, or clients into brand evangelists:
From the first email to the last, members of the Redskins organization were constantly making themselves available for answers to questions, comments or concerns. I have to admit at first I thought the email was a scam or a cruel joke. My fears were allayed when the Redskins’ representative provided her email, office phone and even cell phone number in case I needed to reach her with any question. At no point was I ever confused about whom to contact, where to go or what to do because she made sure to let me know she was available. This open communication truly made me connect with the team and feel as though they cared for me as a person.
Don’t Ignore the Little Things
Not only did I win a free trip to the NFL Draft, but I also received free “team swag” and gift cards in a care package. There is just something about receiving free t-shirts that everyone loves. I was asked what sizes I wore and also sent a personalized, hand-written note congratulating me on my grand prize. The extra time and effort the Redskins took to personalize the gift based on my preference was appreciated. In order to gain customer appreciation, companies do not need to shower customers with expensive gifts. Whether it is responding to a customer’s social media mention or sending a card thanking them for their loyalty, it’s the little things that show the customer they are valued by the company.
Rise Above the Rest
When I arrived at the NFL Draft, I was seated in a section with all the other teams’ “Fan Announcers” who had won their respective contests. After being seated for less than 5 minutes, the Redskins representative came down to greet me. I was given a tour of the area where the NFL Draft was taking place, introduced to other Redskins personnel while the team’s representatives offered to take multiple photos of my guest and me to document this incredible experience. They were committed to making my day special.
Throughout the entire day I truly felt like a VIP and everyone from the organization was extremely friendly and wanted to make this experience great. In my discussion with other “Fan Announcers”, I was given a very unique experience. The Redskins went beyond what most other teams did; they decided to make it different by making me feel like part of their team. Not only did I see that extra effort, but other “Fan Announcers” noticed as well. Distinguishing your company from others by interacting with customers and your audience in a unique and meaningful way will grab and hold their attention.
The Redskins representative immediately followed me on Twitter and Instagram in order to share my NFL Draft experience with the team’s fans. Re-tweeting and “liking” all my messages, reposting my photos and engaging in conversation via social media channels made the day that much more exciting. I also had the opportunity to record an interview for the organization’s website after I announced the draft pick, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ghzcVVYkJ4.
Social media interaction is such large part of our culture today and engaging with customers is vital in any strategic communications plan. Through their social media activity I received multiple messages congratulating me on my prize, compliments on my interview and even questions wanting to know what I thought of the 4th round draft pick. Because the Redskins were promoting my experience on their social media channels and even on their website, they were able to extend interest, engage additional fans through my networks and give me the chance to relive this experience again and again. Social media engagement is a way companies can quickly and easily pay attention to their customer’s messages and show they care.
Overall this experience was not only incredible because of my love for sports and the Redskins, but it was a true example for how a company can do a few simple things and turn one fan into a brand fanatic.