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The Cult of Customer Loyalty and How Tech Companies Can Harness It

By Todd Berkowitz | November 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

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With a few exceptions, most products that drive insane, almost cult-like levels of loyalty and attention are consumer-driven, popular with young kids and often passing fads. (Anyone remember Silly Bands? And will anyone see Rainbow Looms next summer?) Or they are parodied in movies (Think Woody Harrelson’s addiction to Twinkies despite the country being taken over by Zombies!).

But then along comes Minecraft. For those of you not familiar with the game, more than 12 million copies have been sold on mobile phones, tablets, gaming consoles and PCs. It’s not exactly high-tech as it’s graphics rival the old Pong games and nearly everything is made out of blocks.  (See an example below).

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But millions of people, from 7 year-olds to adults are pretty much addicted to the game. And it shows no signs of abating. There are some incredibly complex worlds and when they aren’t playing the game, fans flock to Youtube to watch videos created by users. (A search on YouTube for Minecraft returns 30 million results, one channel has nearly 10 million subscribers and several videos have more than 15 million views.) This is probably not lost on any parents whose kids are Minecraft fans as talking to them while playing (or watching a video) is almost pointless and dragging them away from the game can cause huge arguments.

The Minecraft phenomenon has multiple ramifications for technology providers, some which have immediate impacts and others which might not be felt for a while. These include:

  • Some of the biggest users will likely end up being computer programmers when they get older (or in the case of older fans, very soon) and they might end up working for your company
  • At its essence, Minecraft is about building worlds in incredibly flexible and creative ways, and the designers constantly adds new capabilities to feed that creativity; If Minecraft players become developers or users of business software, they will likely expect the flexibility and constant innovation
  • We always hear about the fickleness of “Milennials” since they grew up in a world with very low switching costs and far more choices in everything they do, but the loyalty they exhibit to the game, even with new, potentially better options available, breaks that stereotype

I am not an expert in software development or user experience, so I’ll leave those implications to others. But the Technology Go-to-Market team spends a lot of time talking about customer experience and loyalty. My colleague Hank Barnes has a great Webinar called “Making Customer Experience Core to Your Go-to-Market Strategy” (subscription required) if you want a great overview. But many of my conversations with clients talk about how critical it is to develop a loyal customer base that advocates on behalf of their companies.

I’m not saying that tech companies should try to build up Minecraft-like loyalty within their customer base. A router doesn’t have the same appeal as a game and cloud infrastructure isn’t going to cause people to flock to YouTube to post videos. But there are things that providers can do that will drive a lot of loyalty including:

  • Fostering a culture of customer loyalty, in part by having Account Managers and other customer-facing resources engage early and often to help their customers get maximum value from their investments
  • Developing a formal customer advocacy program with dedicated resources
  • Facilitating a community of users through a collaboration platform and YouTube channel
  • Allowing input to the product prioritization process and being transparent with the progress of requests (See this post for more)
  • Allocating a portion of the development resources specifically to addressing the needs of current customers

Earlier this year, we surveyed more than 500 buyers of B2B technology. One of the questions focused on post-sales activities (including many from marketing) and how those activities influence a buyer’s decision to stay as a customer and/or make additional purchases. The chart below shows the percentage of respondents who rated the activity as extremely important.

 

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Except for social media, all of the activities had an response score of more than 3.5 (out of a possible 7) which indicates the deal doesn’t stop after the sale. Unlike a game such as Minecraft, B2B providers need to engage early and often, both directly and indirectly to build customer loyalty.

We’ll continue to write about customer experience, loyalty and marketing this year and next. In the meantime, take a look at Hank’s corollary to this post on destroying customer loyalty through stupidity.

 

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