Now that football season has started, fans everywhere are geared up to watch their favorite teams prove themselves with smart plays and all the guts and glory that goes along with America’s most popular sport. Without a doubt, the NFL has some of the best customer engagement and most loyal followers of any business on the books. But what does that have to do with us?

Well, just because the NFL isn’t a small business doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from them when it comes to building a stronger business and increasing customer engagement.

Between successfully building massive followings for individual teams and continuing to increase viewership through the very-lucrative fantasy football industry, the NFL can serve as a prime example to motivate small business owners everywhere to build up their businesses by actively working to improve customer engagement, and thus, increase their following.

The football analogy is more beneficial than you might think when it comes to contemplating business strategies. Generally, it takes both smart plays and good players to win a football game, and, ironically enough, that’s also what you need to ‘win’ in business.

Top 3 Lessons to Learn From Football

Here are the three most important lessons you can learn from the NFL about how to increase your customer engagement and build a better following for your business.

  • A modest following of devoted fans beats out a larger following of indifferent fans any day of the week. Example: Green Bay Packers. This team has a fan base that extends across the country and even overseas at an international level.

o Green Bay, WI has a population of about 106,000. Compared to cities with millions of residents, like LA, who can’t seem to keep a team-following if their economy depended on it, the Packers are definitely doing it right.

o What’s the difference between Green Bay and LA? Fan loyalty and passion about the team. As they say in Wisconsin, once a Packers fan, always a Packers fan.

  • Blocking and tackling are still the best ways to win a game. Fake punts and Hail Marys may be entertaining to watch, and once in a while they may help you win a game, but for the most part, it’s the tried and true methods that help the team the most.

o When football players block and tackle, they protect the ball, their quarterbacks, avoid fumbles and interceptions, and make simple tackles.

o It works the same way with business. You don’t want to fumble the ball with your customers, and you should pursue simple methods that are proven to work instead of dumping your entire strategy and starting from scratch with the newest trend.

  • Get the right players on your team. The NFL leveled the playing field back in 1994 by capping the amount of money that any team can spend on their players. Therefore, to get the best (and the right combination of) players, individual teams spend significant amounts of time scouting for talent and evaluating potential ‘hires.’

o Let’s compare this to business. Whether you use sub-contractors for specific tasks or hire consulting firms to help you in particular areas of your business, you still need great people on your team.

o Regardless of who you work with outside of your company, to ‘win’ in business, you need team players who can not only get the job done, but do it well. And, since most businesses have no salary cap, you’ll need to work especially hard to find the best candidates for your team.

How to Build a Loyal Following

Want to know the ‘secret’ to increasing customer engagement? It’s no secret, really! At the end of the day, it comes down to remembering that each and every one of your customers is an actual person, with thoughts, feelings, personalities, and the like. They, just like you, want to be treated with respect and dignity (think: Golden Rule).

One of the most prevalent errors in the realm of marketing, especially online marketing, is catering to the business’s interests (for example, selling more products) rather than putting the customer’s best interests first (sadly, some people may not need your products).

If your bottom line is to sell more products, even at the expense of potential customers who don’t need or can’t afford your products, you are almost guaranteed to lose loyalty to your brand.

Instead of simply focusing on selling more products, focus on selling loyalty to your brand. Focus on showing (notice we said showing, not telling) your audience why, when the time comes that they do need (or can afford) your product, that they should buy from you.

Start by asking questions to help engage your audience. Get to know them, what they really want, what they need, what they care about the most. Follow up by answering their questions honestly. Trust is one of the best ways to build loyalty to a brand.

Tell your audience real-life success stories, and invite them to share their stories with you. In many ways, relationship-building is the key to engaging current and potential customers.

In essence, if you value your customers’ opinions and treat them like human beings, they will in turn be more likely to trust your brand and have more loyalty to your company overall.

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