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Affinity!

Affinity! That illusive icon in the distance that every company wants to attain. When you have it, you’re golden. When you don’t, everything’s a struggle.
It’s that tight grouping and bond a customer has with a company, a brand.
And every company — small or big — can create it, keep it, grow it or lose it.
Do you know what forms that bond for you and your company? Because that, baby, is the secret sauce of company growth and success.
5 things I think create customer affinity.
1. Quality. The components, and the final product. Does it do what it needs to do and thus create value. In the case of a Bottega handbag, it’s the use of vegetable dyes that causes leather to be incredibly soft, but in the case of the wall street journal it is the invisible resources of great writers and editors who take the time to develop an idea that needs developing.
2. Workmanship. The way stuff is produced ultimately matters.
3. Buying experience. What is it like to buy the product. Is it being sold by a surly teenager, a condescending matriarch or a joyous enthusiast of the product. Look at the Apple retail store vs. The best buy retail shop. Paying about the same, training actually about the same, and yet one experience is clearly screening in people who want to enable a great experience.
4. The post-buying experience. I make a point of saying this because to me it’s just as important as what happens before the credit card is swiped. If I decide I don’t like the color I picked or the whatever, I want the opportunity to come back. Not as a 2nd class citizen because I don’t have new dollars to spend but as a client who has already paid and already shown my commitment. Most of us treat prospects as better than our customers. Do you? I have a cue of what I’ll work on and I always work on current client work before I talk to new people.. And some would argue that that is the wrong priorities for someone who also needs to make rain. But I know that every time I satisfy (or not in case of the competitors), I give them a reason to refer me and a reason to buy us again. I don’t have to worry about replacing that customer. I just need to keep the ones that already love it.
5. How you use market power. Here’s the thing. A company once they really start making it sometimes try and figure out how to “profit optimize”. By hiring lower quality people, or by making things repeatable and losing the Zen of the sales process or some other thing that fundamentally “streamlines” out the special experience of what you have made. One company I know has raised their prices by 500% as soon as they gained category leadership. Whole I commend that at some level, it has to come in balance for affinity. I, for example, throw a thought leadership dinner. Major who’s who people come to it, but the first seats go to clients first. You know why? Because it’s my way of subtly saying thank you for believing in us, supporting us and co-creating with us the firm we’ve become. Without them, we’d not be here holding such market authority and sway. So after you’ve arrived, don’t’ dump the people who helped you along the way. Celebrate them.

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