3 ways to let your customers be the heroes

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Showing customer love is about more than customer service or a sale disguised as an appreciation day. The companies that earn their customers’ respect and recommendations for the long term are the ones that put the spotlight on their fans, not their products.

Here’s how you can make your customers the heroes:

1. Let them make your charity donations
2. Let them contribute to your culture
3. Let them be a part of your family

1. Let them make your charity donations

Lots of businesses donate to charities, and while that’s nice, it’s not always noteworthy. But last year, TD Bank gave 24 customers $30,000 each to complete a charity project of their choice in 24 hours. Their customers hosted a gala for foster girls, restored hiking trails, built wheelchair ramps for neighbors, and bought equipment for local youth sports organizations. They each donated to causes that were personally important to them — TD Bank just financed it. How much more remarkable is that than hosting a fancy fundraiser or just writing a check?

2. Let them contribute to your culture

When The Oatmeal creator began a Kickstarter campaign for their card game, Exploding Kittens, it became the most backed campaign in Kickstarter history. And since the game reached its funding goals in one day — and has raised over 100 times that amount since then — Exploding Kittens turned the focus from raising money to earning extreme fans. Their new campaign goals included stuff like getting 25 goat selfies, 25 “magical enchilada” photos, or five YouTube videos of songs about the game from their fans. And they met all of them. Why so much enthusiasm for these weird challenges? It put the spotlight on the backers — people who are usually invisible in the world of Kickstarter campaigns — and gave them a way to be more personally involved in the making of the game and the community of fans surrounding it.

3. Let them be a part of your family

CitiStorage in New York names the aisles of their warehouse after their customers’ businesses. They invite those customers to their company events and make a big deal out of unveiling the new name. It might seem small, but it’s just one more outward example how they make their customers the center of their focus. They also write handwritten thank-you notes to new customers, and the owner meets with them in-person about once a year so he can stay personally connected to their business. Like most word of mouth marketing, it works because it’s just a small representation of their bigger culture of customer service.

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