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The Success Strategy Nobody Talks About (Love, So Obvious in Hindsight)

Something extraordinary happens when lovability takes over.

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BY Brian de Haaff - 16 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I am not known for melodrama. (In fact, I have a no drama policy.) But I will admit that there is one word that can stir me up and even cause some anxiety. Maybe a few sleepless nights. That word is love. Specifically how to earn it -- and maintain it -- from a rapidly growing group of customers and employees.

Why do I focus on lovability? Because I believe there is nothing more important to an organization's long-term success than earning customer love.

You achieve this when you turn your vision and hard work into value for customers. You make people's lives easier and better. And you exceed expectations in product quality, performance, and support at every turn.

When you extend an outpouring of love to your customers, you will see something extraordinary happen -- customers will love you back. And when your customers love you back, they will actively work to contribute to your success. The end result is rapid growth that is both sustainable and profitable.

It is the great business secret that should not be a secret at all, the word that all CEOs should obsess over. We were shocked (and flattered) when practically since day one, Aha! customers have told us they "loved" us -- they were were delighted with our product and how we treated them. Even more interesting, the outpouring of love correlated with our rapid growth. We made what we call "lovability" a metric, an important part of measuring our business.

It seemed so obvious in hindsight. Love propelled us forward. Yet nobody was talking about it. That is why we are publishing a provocative new book explaining how we make this method work. Even if you are not a CEO, you will find something in the book to inspire -- because couldn't the world use more love right now?

Of course, Aha! is not the only company that takes this approach. Smart CEOs know the importance of putting love at center stage. Here are four examples:

Tim Cook, Apple
Cook once said, "We're pretty simple people at Apple. We focus on making the world's best products and enriching people's lives." And he has a straightforward strategy for understanding what people need -- email. Cook receives 700 to 800 customer emails a day, and he actually reads the majority of them. He even wakes up at 3:45 a.m. every day to make this happen. The loss of sleep seems to be paying off -- Apple's average brand loyalty globally is a staggering 87 percent.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb
Despite his company's $31 billion valuation, Chesky has never been growth-obsessed. Instead he has focused on creating real value -- understanding his customers' problems and delivering a service that they need. He knows that when you do this, growth takes care of itself. He shared why this love-focused approach works, saying, "If you have 100 people [who] absolutely love your product they will tell 100 people, and then they will tell 100 people or even 10 people -- and then this thing will grow."

Rose Marcario, Patagonia
Ever since Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia in 1970, he has kept the same promise to customers -- to be environmentally and socially conscious. And current CEO Marcario continues to deliver on that promise today. For example, she pushed the company to start shipping products in recyclable bags. And she has taken steps to ensure that every worker who makes Patagonia products earns a fair wage and enjoys safe working conditions. Customers trust -- and passionately love -- the outdoor retailer. And in 2015, just two years after Marcario took the lead, Patagonia experienced the most profitable year in its history.

Ron Rudzin, Saatva
Rudzin's customer-driven approach is the reason the mattress startup became the fastest-growing private retailer in 2016. He focused on building a product people could love and be proud of -- even if it came at an added cost to the company. "We did everything possible to make sure we were American made, American supplied, ethically sourced, and ethically built. It did cost us more money," Rudzin has said. In short, he has shown love by putting value over profit. And if you read the glowing reviews on Saatva's products, it is clear that customers are reciprocating his love.

Love is the most powerful business tool we have. And those who pursue more and more of it will always have the competitive advantage.

That is why I do not fret over hyped-up numbers. I focus on love. And yes, that causes me some anxiety -- but it is worth it. I know that love is the only way to achieve meaningful growth and make people happy in the process.

How have companies earned your love?