We’re deep into sports season, and we recently dressed up in our favorite fanatic gear, ate wings and fries, and hung out with our clients. Yes, the picture was staged, but the love for the teams was as authentic as it gets. We had an HBCU grad representing her alma mater, Nashville natives showing love for two home teams, a northeast transplant sporting a New York jersey, and two fans of an SEC powerhouse. As brand builders we thought, “what’s the secret to creating fanatics?” We know it’s not all about winning, because honestly, when’s the last time your team won a championship? Rather, we all love our teams because they offer us something deeper; an emotional connection that weathers the good, bad and sometimes borderline depressing.

Then another question presented itself; “is it possible to create that fanatic loyalty for any brand?” We think so. It requires thought, planning and of course, lots of heart. But then again, that’s what we do! JMC helps small businesses increase brand awareness with their intended audiences. In this blog, we’ve compiled 10 ideas that inspire the type of brand loyalty that produces life-long fans and customers.

1. Start with excellent customer service. This almost goes without saying, but first things first. No matter the size of a business, great service is a must. When going above and beyond for your customers is a part of your company’s DNA, you’ll have a solid foundation on which to build lasting relationships.

2. Communicate your unique story. Identify the “it” factor that sets your business apart from the competition, and craft that uniqueness into a memorable story. Companies have traditionally done this in different ways, like clever slogans and logos, catchy jingles or visually stunning videos. Use the method that fits your company’s personality and share your message with clarity and style.

3. Evoke emotion. Develop a connection with your audience that transcends technology, templates, and all other business components that can become commodities. Remember the human element of things. At the end of the day, we’re all people who want to feel good and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

4. Invite people into your fold. Make your company attractive with a culture that’s easy to buy into. Recruit and retain knowledgeable, trustworthy and kind team members to represent your brand, and maintain a positive reputation in business and in the community. Good people beget good people; invite your fans to be an active participant in your company’s overall success story.

5. Learn from losses. Every business has been there; they drop the ball or get defeated by a tough opponent. Do what it takes to make the situation right with your vendors, customers and everyone in your network; even if it means taking an immediate loss or financial hit to gain a long-term win.

6. Spread the word. The best – and most economical – advertisement is a happy customer. Testimonials from satisfied clients have powered many businesses over the years. Combine this “old-school” word-of-mouth marketing tactic with today’s endless media platforms to supercharge your brand awareness.

7. Show appreciation. Remember, without fans, your brand is irrelevant. The public has LOTS of choices in the marketplace; give folks a reason to keep your business top of mind. That may include giveaways, discounts or birthday cards. Get creative and show some love!

8. Understand value. Lower prices aren’t always synonymous with value. Most customers are looking for quality, reliability and a positive experience. Don’t be afraid to offer those things for a few extra bucks if it means that your customers will be happy.

9. Listen to the data. If you have the right measurement tools in place, your customers are probably communicating to you their preferences, likes and dislikes. Listen to the feedback – verbal, non-verbal, and everything in between – to ensure that you’re in tune with what they actually want.

10. Be consistent. Putting these ideas into practice with consistency can be challenging. Most small businesses are busy delivering their products and services, while marketing can sometimes get pushed to the back burner. Do a periodic audit of your branding efforts and make the necessary adjustments if you’re off target.

As you prepare for your next quarter or fiscal year, include a plan that invests in intentional brand branding and fanatic cultivation!