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What it Really Takes to Turn Customers into Your Biggest Fans

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

All too often, I hear entrepreneurs talk about turning leads into customers. They’re not wrong, but focusing on conversion rates alone is short-sighted. This metric implies that the most important part of the buyer journey is getting someone from being interested in what you do to paying for what you do. I’ve found that the most successful business owners think in terms of taking leads from initial capture to becoming customers to raving fans. Here’s my take on what that takes.

1. Design the right expectations

Users of your products or services only become raving fans because you exceed expectations. The best way to ensure this happens is by designing customer expectations from the very beginning. You do this through the marketing and sales process.

When someone buys from you for the first time, what is their experience? What are their expectations for what they’ll get from your offerings? Overpromising isn’t the way to go; you’ll almost always under-deliver. Try to set accurate expectations so you have room to surprise and delight customers beyond what they imagine you’ll do. This starts the relationship by stacking the ledger in your favor, with buyers thinking, “Wow, I’m getting more than I paid for.”

Another key part is understanding who will get the most from your solutions. If you offer residential cleaning services and someone requests your services for their commercial space, you must have the presence of mind to say no (politely, of course). Taking on a client outside your target will only lead to unmet expectations, which can sour your reputation. To exceed expectations, you have to make sure you’re taking on customers for whom you can deliver on expectations in the first place.

Related: Life’s Too Short to Work With Incompatible People — Follow These 3 Secrets To Building High-Performing Teams

2. Move the finish line

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs focus exclusively on the customer acquisition process. They might design the initial experience to exceed expectations and even offer first-time buyers a special offer or discount. But once a purchase happens, the attention often drops off dramatically. There aren’t enough hours, so their focus shifts from the customer who bought something from them to new leads.

If you want raving fans, you must move the finish line from getting the sale to wowing that customer on an ongoing basis. Naturally, the next question I get is: “How can I do this? It takes too much time.” Yes, if you were to try to delight customers individually, you’d never be able to. But you can if you use personalized automation, which blends AI (artificial intelligence) and what I like to call HI (human intelligence). The blend of the two helps you scale your relationship nurturing without feeling sterile or pre-programmed.

Related: How to Use AI to Drive Growth and Improve Customer Interactions

3. Show care with your time

There’s an old saying that care is spelled “t-i-m-e,” and few sayings are spot-on. The main reason leads fail to turn into raving fans is because the business is under-investing in their customers’ success. Entrepreneurs have to care just as much about their customers’ wins as they do.

They must care enough to allocate budget and resources to keep their customers happy. They have to recognize the profit from the “three Rs” — Reviews, Referrals, and Repeat Business — and create processes around incentivizing them.

Of course, you have to be talking to your customers to know if you’re satisfying them. This is where automation can also play a helpful role by allowing you to send customized surveys or messages that ask for feedback on how you’re doing. Then, you can design a process around acting on that feedback (when applicable).

When you consistently communicate with your customers and proactively request their insights, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re creating raving fans. In addition, your customers will feel heard, which leads to improved retention and satisfaction, which can lead to positive reviews, referrals or repeat business. And that’s the cycle you’re hoping for when you invest the time into customers past their first sale.

Related: How to Keep Up With Customer Expectations

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