4 Customer Involvement Opportunities to Increase Engagement

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Superfans" by Pat Flynn. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s the importance of customer involvement? How can you get customers more involved with your business?

In Superfans, Patt Flynn explains that fans will become much more attached to your brand if they feel like they’re a part of the company. Flynn offers four methods for making your fans part of the company: letting fans make decisions, giving them a look behind the scenes, sharing the spotlight, and hiring your superfans.

Let’s look at the four ways to get customers involved emotionally and financially.

#1: Let Fans Make Decisions

Flynn argues that people love a chance to make decisions for a company. When they help steer the direction of the brand, even in small ways, your fans will feel like they have contributed to the company. This sense of contribution gives fans a feeling of ownership of the brand and its successes. You could hold a poll to let fans vote on a new product, logo, or live event. Even small decisions like fonts and website designs can instill this feeling of contribution.

Flynn explains this customer involvement tactic has two other added benefits.

  • This also helps build the “team” mentality in which your customers see themselves as being on the company’s side. 
  • This also gives them the feeling that your company listens to them and that their voice matters. 

(Shortform note: Flynn explains how letting customers make decisions can make them feel more attached to the brand, but this practice also leads to a stronger connection by creating a reciprocal sense of trust. When you let your fans make decisions, this shows people you trust them. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to trust those who trust them first. Researchers have found that trust is usually subconscious, and has to be earned. However, once you earn someone’s trust, they are hardwired to continue trusting you. Letting your fans make a decision shows them that you trust their judgment, thereby showing them that they can trust your brand.)

#2: Let Fans Look Behind the Scenes

Flynn explains that fans love knowing how things are made, and taking them behind the scenes would be a great customer involvement opportunity. This is why factory tours and “behind the scenes” movie documentaries are so popular. Seeing the process gives customers a sense of connection, not just to the product or service, but also to the people and organization behind it. You could achieve this by guiding a video-tour of your office or production space, highlighting some of your employees on company media, or creating a chart of your production process. This will give your fans more reason to emotionally invest in the company. 

(Shortform note: Understanding the neurological nature of curiosity can explain how “behind the scenes” knowledge creates positive experiences for your customers. Though not all scientists agree on a working definition of curiosity, most describe it as a state where knowledge-seeking becomes active. Studies have found that when we are in a state of curiosity, obtaining the desired knowledge activates our reward centers—releasing chemicals that provide positive feelings. Therefore, by arousing your customers’ curiosity and then satisfying it, you provide the positive feelings that move your customers up the levels of fandom.)

#3: Share the Spotlight

Flynn recommends prominently featuring success stories of loyal customers in your online presence as another customer involvement opportunity. People will feel more involved with the company when they have an opportunity to represent it. Find enthusiastic customers who have stuck with the company and feature their pictures and stories on your website, advertisements, or social media accounts. Making superfans the face of your company provides four key benefits: 

  1. The fans who are featured will feel like they are part of the team and become even more attached to the brand. 
  2. The fans who use the service but aren’t featured may find these stories of success with the product more relatable than conventional advertising. 
  3. This will give other fans a reason to invest more, because they think someday they might be featured, too.
  4. This will reinforce a sense of community. When you show your fans that it’s not all about you and your company, but instead it’s about the entire community of fans, this will instill a stronger sense that your fandom really is a team.

Creating Roles for Your Fan Community

Brand community experts confirm Flynn’s assertion that the strongest communities are not those centered on their leaders, but those that center members and provide them with important roles. Researchers build on Flynn’s ideas for community member roles by identifying many ways members contribute to brand communities. Here we’ll take a look at a few common roles in fan communities, and how they relate to the benefits of making fans the face of your brand. 

  • Evangelizers are your brand’s fan ambassadors. Making them the face of the organization will give them a larger platform to spread the company message and convince peers who may be skeptical of conventional advertising.
  • Customizers try to improve the brand and community by bringing new ideas to the table and calling attention to problems that need to be addressed. Making them the face of your community can show other community members that their input is welcome and important.
  • Supporters are team players and facilitators. They are attentive to a community’s needs and move as needed to fulfill them. Making supporters the face of the company shows fans that there are many ways to contribute, and that their contributions will be recognized and appreciated.

#4: Hire Your Superfans

Lastly, Flynn writes that the fourth customer involvement tactic is to hire them to actually join the company. In fact, your superfans may become some of your best employees. Because they are already committed to the success of the company, they can translate that passion into meaningful contributions. You can start looking to hire superfans by identifying those who are eager to contribute to the company and reach out to them when job opportunities open up. Or you can simply advertise your openings on channels that superfans would follow and see who shows up.

Hiring your fans also shows other fans that you are serious about fan contributions and open to really making this a team effort. This will remind fans that their emotional investments in the brand will be rewarded, inspiring them to continue investing and moving up the levels of fandom.

The Value of Employee Alignment

Hiring experts agree with Flynn on the importance of hiring people who want to contribute to your company. They stress that one of the most important considerations in hiring is alignment: whether an employee shares the company’s goals, mission, and business philosophy. When employees aren’t aligned with your company’s mission, they will put in less effort and leave the company faster, requiring you to spend even more on recruitment and training.

However, some business experts advise that this consideration doesn’t end at the hiring stage. In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras argue that successful companies continuously invest in building their workplace culture. They immerse employees in their leadership philosophies and goals to maintain alignment and devotion year after year.

4 Customer Involvement Opportunities to Increase Engagement

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Pat Flynn's "Superfans" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Superfans summary:

  • How to turn ordinary customers into passionate, lifelong fans
  • The importance of creating a product or service with value
  • Why you should make fans feel like they're a part of your company

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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