Most online communities are free to use, and free to join. This doesn’t mean that members should be treated any worse than fee-paying customers, though and this article will explain why.
What is a customer?
As far as I am concerned, anyone that interacts with me or a site I run is a customer. If I receive an email from a reader of this blog, I consider them to be a customer. If someone emails Just Chat for help, I consider them to be a customer. By using this mindset, you will be far more concerned with satisfying your members and visitors – you already know that if customers aren’t happy, they will shop elsewhere. Visitors and members to your website are no different.
Customers need to be satisfied
If customers aren’t satisfied, they will leave. If your members aren’t satisfied, they will leave. It doesn’t matter how long they have been a member for – it is possible to alienate even your most loyal members to the point where they leave.
Remember that it is significantly more expensive to attract new customers than to retain current ones. Work hard to satisfy every member you have – don’t even give them the excuse to look for your competitors.
Customers need to feel valued
If customers do not feel valued, they will be less loyal to your site. Customers now know their true value – they know that you need them and in return they want to feel needed themselves. Use every opportunity to remind your members how valuable you consider them to be. Thank them for being a member of your site, use custom forum ranks, individually welcome new members. Just make sure your members know that you value them.
Customers need to be attracted
When a new business starts up, it will advertise to attract customers and create brand awareness. You need to do the same with your website. Get the word out – exchange links, advertise and ensure you offer something unique.
Make sure that when a new potential customer arrives at your site, they want to join. Make sure that you reply to any emails they send or questions they have. Even if they aren’t yet a member, they are already a customer.
Even if you have a large member base it is still important that your community attracts ‘fresh blood’ to keep the atmosphere fresh and lively -just because you have lots of members, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels!
Customers need to be retained
As I mentioned earlier, it is far more costly to attract new customers than it is to keep existing ones. For your community to develop a personality and a unique atmosphere, it needs committed, loyal, long term members. Think of long term members as the glue that ‘sticks’ new members to your site.
If you alienate your long term members, you will experience problems. Long term members are likely to have a lot of influence over other members – instead of upsetting one member, you will indirectly be upsetting many more.
Customers need to be your # 1 cheerleaders
What do you pay more attention to? A TV ad telling you how great a product is, or a friend telling you how great a product is? I would imagine most of us would agree that a recommendation from a friend is far more effective than any other. You want your customers to be so happy with your site that they tell everyone one they know. They will only do this though, if you are delighting them.
If your customers become your greatest cheerleaders, your community is destined for success.
Have you ever thought of members and visitors to your website as customers or do you think that thinking of them in this way is wrong? What do you think of the points I have raised in this article? What have I left out? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.