I often talk about the importance of the relationship between company and customer/client.

The one question I’m frequently asked, though, is “Do customers/clients really want a relationship with my company?”

In my work I often argue that many organizations are struggling from a common addiction – the new customer addition. In my book coming out later this year, I say it’s like an addiction to sex. Acquisition of new customers is sexy, but retention, and keeping them, is boring.
The reality however, is that customers don’t want just “sex,” they really do want LOVE.

But the pitfall of suggesting they want love is the belief that all customers want/desire/need a relationship with your company. Not all of them do. Sometimes they don’t want a “partner,” but rather, they just want a buddy – to know you’re there when they need you.
Sometimes, however,  more important than the relationship between customer and company is the relationship of customer to customer and client to client – this is your community.

I believe that like Monopoly, brands and companies who build and structure communities will Pass Go, Collect Cash, and Win every time. I don’t believe this is even a choice anymore, but a necessity.

When companies are able to facilitate and bring together groups of customers who share similar interests/goals/desires, then the company benefits by becoming the essential pillar of support for that group. You become the ultimate value provider.

And what happens next is really interesting… The relationship between customer and company, that I began this post with, suddenly becomes stronger and more valuable on its own.

Here are three real life examples:

If you run a company that services people who like custom wheels for their cars, they’re probably more interested in a relationship with others who share similar interests. Can you facilitate that?

If you’re a franchisor, it’s less valuable to your customers to be pushing information to them. More valuable is connecting them with others wearing the same shoes, and dealing with the same challenges.
If you’re a Professional Trade Association, you almost have no other option but to build and facilitate a new sense of community amongst your members. Long gone are the days of the yearly soirée and the monthly newsletter being enough to keep members engaged.

Here’s a few questions to consider on the topic of community:

How can you better unite your customers around a common interest/goal/desire?

How does your company perpetuate a sense of community amongst your customers?

What structures do we have in place to facilitate community?