Gain Their Loyalty. Stop Giving Them What They Want.

We all know that loyal clients, customers, readers, etc. are the bread and butter of whatever endeavor you happen to be embarking on.  Bloggers want readers to become fans, retailers want customers to become repeat customers, and service businesses want clients to remain loyal and maybe even refer them to others.  And just how are we supposed to get that type of loyalty?

Many experts will tell you that you have to give them what they want.  They suggest asking them in a number of ways exactly what they want.  Which sounds great doesn’t it?  Except for one thing.

[clickToTweet tweet=”What people think they want quite possibly isn’t at all what they need. Give ’em what they need.” quote=”What people think they want quite possibly isn’t at all what they need.”]

To begin with, people will often have a hard time putting their finger on just what it is they truly want.  They may have some hazy vision of it in their head, but when asked to actually put it into words they are at a loss. For example, people may contact a virtual assistant without knowing just what a virtual assistant can do or how they would put those skills to use to grow their business.  I’m sure I’m not the only virtual services provider that has had someone schedule a consultation and when asked what they specifically were in need of answered with “I thought you’d be able to tell me that.”  It’s the reason I now have an intake process that includes worksheets for determining needs.

But I didn’t say that showing them what they want would gain their loyalty.  It may make them appreciative, but it won’t necessarily gain you their loyalty.  In fact, I’ve had folks go through my intake process only to take the information and find someone else with lower rates.  Of course, many of them also came back a month or so later, but that’s for a different blog post.   The thing is that simply giving them what they want, or what they think they want, means that you filling an order of sorts with nothing to make you stand out from the others that could fill their orders.   Not to mention if what they want turns out to be wrong it associates you with a mistake in their minds.   Which is why you should be less focused on what they want and more focused on what they need.

Isn’t it the same thing?  Not necessarily.  I love the following quote by Henry Ford:

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses. — Henry Ford

If Ford had simply given his customers what they wanted he might have tried breeding horses or creating a feed that increased speed in horses.  No matter what he might have done, it would never have allowed horses to reach the speed of the automobiles he did end up creating.  Instead of focusing on their want of faster horses, he saw through to their need of getting from one place to another faster and answered it with something they never envisioned themselves.

Ford isn’t the only one to do it.  When the iPhone was first introduced people were skeptical about the expensive phone with things that a phone didn’t really need.  Today I guarantee that I’m in a large majority of people who rely on their iPhone to help with getting directions, sending me reminders and just about everything in between.   I never wanted an iPhone, heck, I never could have envisioned an iPhone, but I sure did need it.

If you want to talk loyalty I don’t think you can argue that both Ford and Apple have highly loyal customers.  In fact, Apple customers may just be the most loyal consumers out there.   Why?  Because they had the vision and focus to meet needs rather than wants.  I’d be willing to bet that most companies with a loyal customer base do the same.

The next time one of your clients, customers or readers explains what they want, don’t be in such a rush to give it to them.  Think about it for a bit and see if they actually need something else.  Fill that need and you’ll find you’ve gained their loyalty.

Do you have something to add?  Agree? Disagree?  I welcome your comments and ideas!


Tina Marie Hilton provides online technology services to forward thinking businesses. She writes on her Tips from T.Marie business blog to share insight and information with other small businesses and entrepreneurs. It also makes her feel like that certificate in creative writing isn't going to waste completely.