Loyalty is a quickly-shifting thing. By taking a role in customers' own stories, you can increase your chances of keeping customers - or even winning them away from the competition.
I try to buy local, as close to the source as I can. I would rather go cake-less than buy eggs from the supermarket. I have a farm I go to.
Yet even though the friendly farmer and his wife got Sunshine through her toddler breakfasts, and saw me through the several dozen muffins I made and ate in the early days after Bright was born, I have found another.
Perhaps my usual farm is more authentic: there is mud, and a rusty tractor, men in wellies, and a lot of mended chicken wire. I can see the chickens running around, sometimes in the road, so I know they are free-range. They’re always busy when I come to get a tray of mediums. It’s a proper working farm.
But today I visited the Egg Shed, just in view of the lovely Wymondham Abbey. And to my shame I find myself thinking of defecting.
Why am I so easily swayed? Is my loyalty so shallow that I would be wooed by a bit of bunting and few pretty hen-shaped signs?
I didn’t even meet Annabel, whose shed it apparently is. But I can see she has been lovingly painting her sheds duck-egg blue, hanging hand-lettered signs, and making preserves I can’t wait to spread on my toast.
And I can see…
- That she’s expecting me: there are signs to make it easy to know where to go.
- That she trusts me: there is an honesty box for the eggs.
- That she’s interested in my opinion: the walls of the shed are covered in little notes and drawings of feedback from others who’ve bought eggs there.
- That she wants me to be comfortable: there is a kitchen (sadly closed Mondays) where I can make myself a cup of tea and buy a bit of homemade cake.
Whoever Annabel is, I feel like I already know her better than I know my farmers who I’ve been buying from all this time, and that she knows me pretty well, too.
The question is, is story anything to do with this appeal?
The story is not about us
In too many businesses, owners tell themselves a story in which they are the main characters, and customers are people who wander in and out of the saga of their lives.
When I am trying to spend money with a business, I am the main character, asking you to help me with my problem (however small).
This is very much like story. In familiar terms:
If Little Red Riding Hood were the customer, be the woodsman who chops the wolf to pieces.
If Jack (of Beanstalk fame) were the customer, be the mysterious bean trader who starts Jack on his adventures.
If Cinderella were the customer, be the fairy godmother who transforms rags and pumpkins and mice into happily-ever-after.
If I’m buying eggs, make this otherwise dreary task feel a tiny bit special, and something to look forward to.
Truth be told, I will probably keep going to my regular egg farmer – I’m made of stronger stuff than to desert old friends who’ve always been there. But even as aware as I am of the phenomena, the effect was powerful – and in most cases, “loyalty” only goes as far as how we feel while we are buying.
I am working with a local shop that is trying to regenerate itself to be more personal. I’d be fascinated to know of the local touches you’ve discovered that made you feel like a loyal customer and advocate – we could all learn from that! Feel free to share in the comments or get in touch.
To learn more about story and your business, get in touch with me on the White Dot Business Writing Blog . I'd love to hear your story.
Member since: 23rd September 2013
I’m Director and Shop Manager of Kett's Books, a social enterprise bookshop in Wymondham, and I write the White Dot Business Writing Blog. Life in the bookshop keeps the business writing advice real.