The Secret Sauce for Creating Gold Medal Relationships

By Stanford Smith, Contributing {grow} Columinst

My wife and I are infected by Olympics fever.

We watch the Olympic trials together every night.  Inspired by track and field hopeful we have intensified our jogging and 5K training schedules.  Our children have been enrolled in gymnastics and registered for mini-triathalons in an attempt to see if there is a future gold medalist in our midst.

We’ve got it bad.

The #1 reason for our obsessive devotion to the Olympics is NBC’s superb ability to tell a story.  These stories pull the audience into the life of the Olympian.  We feel connected to Gabby Douglas’ life, challenges, and triumphs as she lines up for her vault.   Missteps and wobbles (on the rare occasion they happen)  hurts us as if it were our own child or friend.  We pump our fist and smile with pride when she sticks her dismount like we trained alongside her for years.

It occurred to me that businesses pay an enormous amount to earn the same loyalty and devotion from its consumers.  You would think that the billions would translate into cult-like dedication.  In some cases it has, try attacking Apple or criticizing Southwest Airlines and you’ll see what I mean.

But, most businesses have failed, despite their healthy ad budgets to achieve a fraction of the love my family shows to future Olympians we just met last night.


Here are a few causes:

1. Weak Storytelling:

I believe that consumers want to connect with the people behind the business.  They enjoy hearing about the local grocer who only buys produce from farmers in a 10 mile radius.  They want to know why a laptop was built with aluminum versus plastic. They care about a company’s effort to fight adult illiteracy in their community.

The problem is that businesses have their heads up their arses.  They think that abstract soundbites and clever taglines are stories.  They aren’t.

2. Wrong Hero

Have you ever seen a business Twitter stream choked with self-congratulatory tweets? How about the commercial that waxes eloquent about a company’s commitment and 100 years in business?  While this information has some merit, it’s missing a key component –  the customer.  Customers pay attention to companies because they solve specific problems.
Successful companies craft their stories around the customers and position them as the hero.  Their social media strategies create close bonds with their customers directing them to information that enriches their lives. In these stories, the company is the mentor and ally supporting and guiding the customer.

Pop quiz – who is the hero in the Harley-Davidson story?  The motorcycles or the rider?  Yep, the hog rider.  The motorcycle is a prop that helps the rider live out their dreams of conquering the open road and connecting with other rebels.

3. Monologue versus Dialogue

It’s shocking that some companies still question the merit of openly interacting with their customers.  Even now companies hide behind perfunctory press releases and turn-off their blog comments.  This behavior supposes that customers need to be handled like a live grenade.  Customer dialogue is confined to hermetically sealed focus groups and choreographed performances.

The problem is that customers expect transparency.  In fact, customers distrust businesses that can’t empower their employees.  Look to Comcast for a powerful lesson in employee trust and customer dialogue.  Comcast knows that the “cable company” isn’t on the list of beloved companies.  They seem to have the most to gain from carefully staging every interaction.

To Comcast’s credit, they committed to a different course.  They put their reputation on the line by interacting with customers through their Twitter channel.  At any time you can contact a comcast rep via Twitter.  These reps are empowered to send offer advice and check on repair status. These conversation happen in plain view for customers and competitors to observe.  While Twitter hasn’t completely rehabilitated Comcast’s reputation it is building the company’s position as a customer-centric organization.

Social Media’s Secret Sauce

With all of the breathless speculation about the latest trends and tools, It’s easy to overlook the simplicity of social media.  It really comes down to telling a story that focuses on the customer as hero.  From their invest time in creating relevant, informative, and transparent dialogue between your team and customers.

That’s the secret sauce and it’s critical that you use it now before your competitors do.  Right?

Contributing Columnist Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass!


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