Jon Acuff at ICON14: Empathy and Generosity For Building Loyal Customers

Jon Acuff

I know you have heard this over and over again — social media is about people, your customers and your fans. You have to be personal. You have to build a tribe.

Although as an entrepreneur, you haven’t had time to think about it because social media never sleeps and you are already being pulled in more than two directions — marketing, HR, manager, busted AC…

Jon Acuff, who is New York Times bestselling author of four books, gave a talk at ICON14 — The Secret Rythm of Social Media. His talk was an insight into how to build tribes with empathy and generosity, so irrespective what new social site crops up, you can still apply the same principles to leverage it.

It’s simple. Jon has two rules: You have to be empathetic and generous.

Show Empathy

A lot of us think empathy means understanding someone’s problem. Helping them solve their problem. But sometimes empathy is not about fixing a problem. Sometimes a customer does not have a problem that needs to be solved. All they need is an ear. Sometimes, empathy is just knowing that your customer exists and Southwest Airlines does this really well.

Here is a good example of a conversation between Jon and Southwest Airlines. Jon tweeted about their VIP lounge (hint: Southwest airlines does not have a VIP lounge).

southwest airlines, Jon Acuff

Did you see how Southwest replied to back to him? They know what they are doing there.

Jon continues the banter. This time around they googled him, so they knew a bit more about him. Take a look.

Southwest Airlines, Jon Acuff

Just knowing who your customers are is empathy. Southwest Airlines have a lots of followers and they still took the time know a bit about Jon. If a company that size can do it, so can we. Good word of mouth goes a long way for business of any size. Yes, even farther than your PPC ads.

So, how do you have empathy? Obviously, you need to listen first. Learn to see what matters. You can use alerts to notify you of conversations but if you over automate, you miss the human part.

Jon tweeted lyrics to a Skee-Lo’s song, “I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller …” and he got an automated tweet him from a company selling heel lifts.

You gotta know how to pay attention and use their language not yours.

Here are three things you need to know about empathy

1. Empathy always leads to opportunities

He got invited to speak at a meet up for about 60 people. Only it turned to be a meet up with 5 people in a Starbucks portion of the Barnes and Nobles.

But, he still gave the talk like there were 50 people. He showed empathy. This led to an invitation by a teacher to talk to a class. He tweeted about this which led another speaking opportunity.

2. Get out of the way

Support your customers and make it about them.

After Jon published his book Start, he created a facebook group for his 3000+ fans. He eventually had to shut it down for unknown reasons. But, he quickly regrouped the community. He invited his select fans with an “Adventurers Wanted” message and launched Dreamers and Builders.

He motivated them but with his daily involvement, but he didn’t control it. Instead, he let his fans run with it. He made them admins and let them manage the groups. As Cat Knarr said, “Jon’s involvement gave the group legitimacy, but his willingness to release control gave it viral power.” They not only promote his content but promote each other as well.

You primary job is to bring the community together. Be part of the conversations and the community. Be involved but other than that stay out of the way. Let the community direct itself organically.

3. Care about what they care about

Justin Timberlake saw someone take a selfie at his concert, he bent down and looked straight into the camera. It was only a 2 min interaction, but it was empathy. That picture went viral. Beyonce too did a similar thing for a fan.

You don’t have to be a Justin Timberlake to show empathy and you definitely don’t need hundreds of thousands of fans. One small business owner of a chimney cleaning company did this too. His business relied on one a year cleaning service and emergency cleaning. What he did was brilliant. He knew people don’t throw away pictures of their dogs; they put it on their fridge. So, he printed pictures of people’s dogs and gave it to them. Each of those pictures had a name, number and his business name in the corner. What better way to care about what they care about. And it keeps you top of mind and builds opportunities.

Empathy doesn’t have to be hard.

Be Generous

We are running so hard, we don’t do the math. We run so fast, we get greedy. We are not generous.

Jon was once at a newly opened burger joint in Alphretta, Georgia with a group of 7. They had ordered appetizers — toast crackers with dip. It so happened that the balance was a bit off and they were left with dip but not chips when they got done with it. So, he asked the waiter if they can get more chips. To his surprise, the waiter says, “Let me check”. He comes back a few minutes later and says they can’t.

Those toast crackers would have costed maybe 50 cents. Not much considering how it cost to get the customers in and also the LTV of the customers. Instead, they chose to risk 8 customers never stepping foot in their restaurant again just so they save 50 cents worth of chips.

Customers will always remember your generosity. They will never forget your greed.

So, don’t over-monetize it everything right away. Especially if you are in the for the long term. And as Jon’s friend Roy Williams says, your first rule of generosity should be “Always leave something on the table”

It does not stop there. Generosity means at lot more than throwing in a little extra for your customers and readers. It also means creating value.

Magdalene, a Nashville based organization offers two-year housing and rehab facility to help get prostitutes off the street. For a lot of these women, for the first time, they had keys to the doors that locked.

So, Jon decided he wanted bring awareness to this organization and help people like Terry who was getting help at Magdalene. But, he just didn’t tweet and tell his followers to check them out or donate money.

Instead, he wrote a blog post about it — It took me 13 years to learn this blogging lesson. He told a story about Terry who was trying to raise money to go to school, but he also created real value for the readers by giving them a new perspective on blogging. This made it memorable, helped spread the word about the organization and about Terry.

Being generous and empathetic helps you know your customers and build a personal relationship with them. It definitely generates a lot of opportunities and referrals for you, but if you are doing it with the idea of getting something in return then that is generosity. Being genuine will bring longer lasting results and it won’t seem like just another chore.

Author: MailLift

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