In an age of seemingly endless choice for consumers, the days of being forced to be a ‘loyal’ customer of a certain brand are well and truly over.

Where once only a few big names dominated a particular market sector, we often threw our lot in with one, simply because we did not have a lot of choice in the matter.

Now, thankfully, we do, and having a vast range of products and services to choose from means we can influence companies’ dedication to quality – we are no longer ‘prisoners’ to their brand, with limited options.

If they wish to retain our loyalty in a digital age that has opened the market for countless competitors, they need to provide the goods to keep us from going elsewhere.

So how do these brands reconnect with their core base to keep them from straying? The answer is simple…they morph these valuable consumers from mere ‘customers’ to ‘fans’.

It might seem bizarre to think that people rave about a particular brand and follow their activities as they would a simpering boy band in their teenage years…but it happens.

In fact, you, dear reader, are most likely a fan yourself. Of whom, some of you may ask? Well, check your social media feeds for a start.

You might have forgot about it, but the reason you continue to see charming ads for that craft beer you once enjoyed in 2014 is because you ‘liked’ it…making you a fan.

Of course, there are brands you already know you like to the point of fandom, and you aren’t afraid to spread the word. These organisations know that if they treat you right, you’ll take on the role of advertiser for them.

Get a great service and you might spread your story on Facebook or Twitter, just as you would if you suffered as a result of poor Customer Experience, in which case you would also take to a social media platform to vent your frustrations.

The behemoth brands have fans by the bucket load, but for a smaller organisation, cultivating a fanbase can often be a tricky process.

As CX specialist Ian Golding highlights, a decent barometer of success in this field is to compare the amount of ‘likes’ a company has to the number of staff it employs.

More staff than likes? Red flag, insists Ian, for how can you turn customers into fans when you cannot even encourage your own staff into joining the fan club?

Customer evangelism is the dream, and it can be reached in this digital era by engaging people in fun ways and prompting increased interaction.

One firm that well and truly cracked this valuable nut is Californian clothing firm Betabrand, that in 2013 began crowdsourcing ideas for garments, meaning that its customers could literally have a say in the design of what they would eventually wear.

In an interview, the brand’s founder Chris Lindland explained how they fed customer fandom with a process that really lets people get involved.

“Giving over control to our customers is so much more exciting because magical things happen that marketers can’t plan,” he said.

“The best example I can give you – and, sincerely, as funny as the product may be, it’s the most illustrative product we have – is what’s happened to our disco product. We made 100 pairs of Disco Pants on a lark. We’ve sold well more than 20,000 pairs by now.

What happened is, people took photos of themselves wearing this stuff, showing new audiences how to wear and use these products.”

So, for firms seeking to expand their consumer base, it’s time to become a rock star in the eyes of your customers. The results could be fan-tastic!

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